The woman who infiltrated Israel Folau’s church
THE mother of rising Wallaby debutant Jordan Petaia has been revealed as the woman who infiltrated the church run by fallen Rugby Australia star Israel Folau's father.
Helen Petaia, whose son Jordan scored a try in his first match against Uruguay last week, has admitted she corresponded via Facebook with Folau's cousin Josiah using a false name.
In the correspondence, which has been obtained by the Herald Sun, Ms Petaia probed the 20-year old student, about the beliefs of the Truth of Jesus Christ church which is run by Israel's father Pastor Eni Folau.
Part of the correspondence between the pair was later leaked to a newspaper triggering Josiah Folau's dismissal from this job as a teacher and boarding house supervisor at St Gregory's College, a Catholic private school at Campbelltown in south-west Sydney.
The incident came after Israel Folau was dumped by Rugby Australia over social media posts that suggested homosexuals would go to hell.
Ms Petaia told the Herald Sun that in the aftermath of this sacking Folau was held up as a model of Christianity and she was motivated to reveal the truth about what his church taught.
"I suppose I was concerned with Izzie's influential factor that he, in a sense, was someone who was influential with young people, because I have seen that happen before," she said.
When asked whether her son, Jordan, was among those who she was concerned about she said: "I would say my son amongst other young people. Not just my son".
Calling herself Josie Benc, Ms Petaia had pretended to live near Bondi, though she in fact lives in Queensland, telling Josiah Folau she was at a cross roads and needed "some teaching and Christians to grow with".
She then questioned him for weeks about the church's beliefs, though Mr Folau said he had only been a member for two months at the time they began exchanging messages.
At one point she asked him "is every Catholic going to hell?"
At the time they were writing to each other Israel Folau was suing Rugby Australia and Ms Petaia was particularly interested to find out the Church's attitude to litigation.
"What does the bible say about suing people?" she asked at one point, later saying "I would really like to understand what the bible teaches about suing people for money.
"I wonder if this is something Jesus would ever consider doing since really what's the point (sic).
" (Y) our cousin Israel seems not to understand forgiveness and demonstration of the love of Jesus, he is behaving just like non-believers even though he says he is standing up for all people of faith."
Ms Petaia said her interactions were "almost like a mother trying to talk to her son".
"I think in my interaction with Josiah, who I also think is a lovely young man, he's the same age as my children, I think if you want to give a balanced view of my interactions I've also challenged Josiah on perhaps he's a little bit narrow in his views and beliefs as well, he could be doing so much more if he was having a broader interaction."
Ms Petaia said she believed that the "truth" about the church's teachings should be provided to the Australian Christian Lobby, because it might impact on how they and others were treating the Folau incident and the money being raised for his court case.
She spoke to the head of the ACL Martin Iles, who she said expressed some concern about Folau's views but "said it was more a freedom of religion issue".
"I didn't have an issue if the Australian Christian Lobby wanted to support him and raise money for (Folau) and all of those things but I felt they needed to tell the truth about what his church is all about," she said.
"I personally, and still am, gutted that he's not still playing for the Wallabies. It's just a tragedy on so many levels."
On other occasion she challenged him asking "Why take all that money from Rugby Australia and then destroy the livelihood (sic) of the players he says he cares about?"
Ms Petaia was particularly interested the Church's attitude to litigation
She later travelled from Queensland to Sydney to attend a prayer meeting at the Folaus' church.
Ms Petaia declined to answer questions about whether she had taped the meeting, but said she had evidence of what was said at bible studies but that this had not been shared with anyone.
She said she had not revealed the interactions to Jordan, who she is currently in Japan with for the World Cup.
"I suppose I am not my son, I am an individual with my own identity and I already have a track record of having public views about different things," she said.
This includes once taking on the Australian Taxation Office over a tax bill that crippled her small business and was later retracted by the ATO.