Dear Mr Beard
I was astonished to read on The Argus website the disgusting hit-piece written by Bill Gardner on Fr Ray Blake parish priest of St Mary Magdalen Church.
I have been a parishioner at this church for ten years and in all that time, Fr Blake has been nothing but kind to the poor and homeless of Brighton and Hove.
His original blogpost on which he discussed the poor and the Church was, I thought, excellent. Why, then, was it that Bill Gardner neglected to link to it in his article for The Argus?
In fact, the man who Fr Blake spoke of as someone who, if unrestrained, would indeed take a hat out and do a collection is known to me and I can vouch that he is indeed difficult to cope with. Despite my asking him to desist, he calls at my window at midnight, disturbing me and my neighbours.
He has disturbed Mass several times (a very serious sin in the Catholic Church known as sacrilege) and I believe he has been banned from St Bartholomew's Church, London Road for disturbing their services.
The fact remains, however, that though this person is both irritating and 'messy', that he is still welcomed at St Mary Magdalen Church and finds kindness among its parishioners, as do the homeless and poor of Brighton.
It is also true that while he is given sanctuary at the Church, that he is actually banned from 44 streets in Brighton since he was given a never-ending ASBO. So, in fact, he finds a welcome at the Church whereas he is rejected by the local authorities and the vast majority of Brighton people. The Church offers him charity - a charity which is seldom to be found in the Council, the Police, the probation services and the Courts.
Fr Blake also helps other poor and homeless people who come to his door. They are not all honest and some do indeed lie in order to get money. I know this is true because I am the secretary at the Church and often respond to callers and give from the poor fund established by the Church for their relief. Despite this, if you read his post, it was about how Christians should respond to the poor, not an attack on the poor themselves.
I would like to see The Argus print an apology on their destructive and slanderous piece of journalism and to see Bill Gardner, especially, make a formal apology to my parish priest in the newspaper, since he clearly does not know what he is talking about. He has taken comments made by Fr Blake out of context and not even linked to his original post in order for people to make up their own minds. This I would like to see because The Argus have denigrated the character of a good man who is only kind to the poor of Brighton and Hove, who established one of the two soup runs in the region (no soup runs provided by the Council, you'll notice) in order to feed them and who has to deal with the homeless who come to his door on a daily basis.
This denigration of the character of Fr Blake has now made it into the headlines of the national press, despite the fact that the priest has said nothing wrong and done nothing wrong. He was writing as someone who has to greet the homeless who come to his door every day and night and who even allows a man (an irritating little ********!) who committed sacrilege in his Church to come to Mass and disturb the prayers of his Church while Mass is taking place. By rights, he should have been forcibly removed and forbidden to re-enter as he has been from an Anglican Church, St Bartholomews, since he accidentally set his own head on fire last Christmas while lighting a candle.
I think that he should read it and accept that he is in the wrong. He should also try to restore the damaged reputation of Fr Blake, who has done nothing but good for the homeless of Brighton and was only openly discussing how Christians should respond. If he cannot bring himself to do this, then the least he can do is link to Fr Blake's original post - something he notably failed to do in his article - thereby distorting Fr Ray's message and thoughts on the subject of the poor and the Church.
Parishioner of St Mary Magdalen Church, Brighton
I have just heard that the individual who disturbs Mass has just been evicted, once again, from his hostel in St James's Street, Kemptown, Brighton, so I guess it is not just the parish priest of St Mary Magdalen who finds him irritating and it is not just him who believes he disturbs the peace of those around him. It would appear the homeless hostel funded by Brighton and Hove City Council agree with him.