Last Sunday I arrived late into Sydney and decided to attend the evening parish mass.
I did nothing at the mass to incite or provoke the unwarranted, aggressive and abusive behaviour towards me by you and the Neocat clergy present.
I am of the understanding that it is a tradition in the Catholic Church to light a candle for the dead. I am at a loss to know why my action to light the candle for my friends Sr Celey Furlong and Nana Judy Gundy, both recently deceased, caused such hostility and abuse.
Four times in the church and in front of the altar I was abused by your Neocat people. I was told “fuck you”, (I lost count after hearing this outburst four times) “how dare you do this (light the candle)”, “get out of this church” and “you are fucking disgusting”. You no doubt heard the abuse as you were present during most of the tirade yet you did nothing. By your silence you condoned this behaviour. I was told by one of your seminarians from Dacyville that you would not allow the lighting of the candle.
Gerry, you claim that the evening mass is an experiment to get the local Redfern people to come to mass. My observations on Sunday were that there were six Neocats and four St Vincent’s regulars. You claim that we are keeping the local community away. I would suggest that you need to look at your behaviour and that of your Neocat priests-in-training because Sunday evening’s events are an example of what keeps people away.
In all the time you have been at St Vincent’s you have preached a religion of sin, damnation and death. There is no sense of the loving, caring God that is reflected constantly in the gospels. My God, Gerry, is a loving compassionate God who brings comfort to us all, especially the poor and oppressed. He gives hope to a world in need of hope. Your god is a god of revenge, fear and judgment who would have us all live in perpetual fear of hell.
I have experienced from both you and Dennis Sudla a sense that the community at St Vincent’s is evil, beyond redemption and to be condemned to hell. This I believe is the nub of why people are not attracted to your Neocat theology. It is dead and lifeless - where there should be joy, love celebration together with liberation and struggle with our broken world, there is only death.
To support this feeling I remind you that when I spoke to you after mass outside the church about the abuse that had just occurred, your response was “are you a sinner?” Gerry, there are many facets of the human spirit. Yes, we are all sinners, but we are also unique and special people. We are God’s people. Yet your only response was to attack. It is easy to denigrate and lay blame onto others as an excuse for your own behaviour. The behaviour in the church on Sunday was an abuse of power and an abuse of the sanctity of the Church.
As time goes by I am coming to the horrifying conclusion that there is an element in the theology preached at St Vincent’s that people with any sort of disability are seen as evidence of God’s punishment. Take, for example, Sudla’s recent attack on a member of the community, singling out his damaged hand. How else would you explain the mindset that informs such behaviour? I would say that Sudla, by his actions, is not a fit or proper person to be a priest. Where is your protest to this outrageous behaviour Gerry? A deafening silence.
This is not what Jesus taught us. The gospels are full of examples of Jesus outreaching with love and acceptance to all; he reserved his condemnation towards church and government authorities that abused their power.
Gerry, you claim authority simply because you are the parish priest. My understanding in life is that I have to earn respect by my actions and in the quality of my relationships. In my profession I deal with people in crisis every day. For me to be respected I need to carefully listen, be empathic, respect cultural differences, and appreciate and respect the world view of others. Then and only then, if I have conveyed an appreciation of where the other is coming from can respect enter into the relationship.
What happened on Sunday was a violation of the church and of me. St Vincent’s has a rich and reflective theology where we have been challenged to share the brokenness of our world with the God who gave himself - “this is my body broken for you”. The community is resolute in its journey and will continue to embrace the Aboriginal people and all those who are on the fringes of our world who find their way to our Church. This is what the gospel asks us to do. Gerry, I urge you, Dennis Sudla and the Neocat fraternity to treat all those who enter our Church with respect and dignity.
In the struggle for justice.