Saturday, 10 July 2010

"Birmingham Oratory: Am I just being paranoid?"

Catholic and Loving it - James Preece on 10.6.2010

My blog entry on the fight for the real Cardinal Newman attracted quite a lot of attention including a mention by Ruth Gledhil and visits from Vatican City IP addresses.

I've received a lot of supportive emails especially from parishioners at Birmingham who are deeply concerned at the disappearance of much loved priests, upset at what they see as a lie from the pulpit and in a far better position than I am to know what is going on. Some of these people have been going to the Oratory for decades, they know the priests and the community very well and they are deeply concerned about the situation.

That said, I've also received quite a bit of criticism including some from people I respect and trust. These people are mainly saying that they like my blog and I often make good points I am wrong on this one. In fact, they say, I am starting to sound paranoid.

Am I being paranoid?

Or is the situation in England and Wales simply very, very bad?

Let's do a quick recap...

• Oona Stannard director of the Catholic Education Service describes Connexions as "a service to be welcomed". Connexions as a matter of policy promotes contraception and refers young girls for abortion without parental knowledge. Connexions are still to this very day being promoted in Catholic Schools. Archbishop Nichols (at that time the Bishop in charge of education) said and did nothing.
• Birmingham Archdiocese publishes "All That I Am", a sex and relationships education programme. The programme includes DVD clips of 3D animated nudity to be shown to mixed classes of ten year olds. Archbishop Nichol's name appears in the credits. Parents complain but Archbishop Nichols does nothing.
• Terry Prendergast the director of Marriage Care (an organisation funded by the Catholic Church with Archbishop Nichols as president) appeared in the national news saying that homosexuals and unmarried couples could be just as good parents as husbands and wives (link). He attacked Church's teaching on Marriage and Family Life. What did the Archbishop Nichol's do? Nothing. They remained silent and Terry Prendergast remains director of Marriage Care. You pay his wages.
• Director of Catholic Education Service Oona Stannard appears before a parliamentary public bill committee and is asked her views on what age parents should be allowed to withdraw their children from sex education classes. She states that she would like to sit on the fence. Eventually she says she would "err on saying: allow the right of withdrawal until 16". This total failure to defend the rights of parents is recorded on the Bishop's Conference own website here but still the Catholic Bishop's do nothing.
• Ed Balls appears on Radio 4 saying that under his proposed legislation a Catholic school "must give a balanced view on abortion. They must give both sides of the argument. They must explain how to access an abortion." he went on to say that he had "the support of the Catholic Church and Archbishop Nichols" (link). Did Archbishop Nichols speak out saying "You do not have my support!" - No. He remained silent while CES discouraged Catholics from opposing Ball's Bill.
• The Catholic Education Service go beyond parody when they appoint Greg Pope as deputy directory. Greg Pope a retired Labour MP who voted for abortion.

So... the Catholic Bishop's Conference have consistently turned a blind eye. Oona Stannard and Terry Prendegast are bullet proof and Labour are not to be criticised. Is it paranoia to suggest that there may be pattern here? I don't think so. The pattern is plainly obvious: The Bishop's of England and Wales are heavily influenced by modern lefty liberal "progressive" views.

They are couldn't oppose Prendergast because they are terrified of appearing homophobic (besides which they probably agree with him) and they won't oppose sex education or promotion of contraception in schools because they actually think it's a good idea. Why did Ed Balls go on the radio and say he has "the support of the Catholic Church and Archbishop Nichols"? Because he has! He just didn't realise he was supposed to keep quiet about it...

Speaking of keeping quiet, here lies the second piece of the jigsaw puzzle. The Bishop's Conference are also remarkably skilled at getting good men to keep quiet. Unfortunately, I can't give you a detailed list (for obvious reasons) but I have lost count of the number of times a priest or a lay employee of a diocese has said to me "I agree with you James, but I can't say anything because I'm [insert role here] and I have to be loyal to the Bishop". Often they are held hostage by some good work they are doing and worried that speaking out might harm that good work, sometimes they just don't want to lose their job. This leads to absurd situations where many people are aware of a problem but nobody says anything - no wonder we had a sex abuse crisis.

We live in an environment where Terry Prendergast can deny Catholic Teaching on Marriage and receive a whacking great director's salary funded by the Catholic Church but any priest who so much as thinks the words "ad orientem" must sneak around like he is plotting to blow up parliament.

Now the Papal Visit is approaching and even before it happens the mere mention of Pope Benedict is causing all sorts of friction. People like Richard Dawkins and Peter Tatchel are all over the news saying awfully mean things about Catholics and how full of hate we are and the Bishops are very keen not to give them any ammunition. Obviously nobody from the Bishop's Conference is going to say anything that's not politically correct - there will be no mention of contraception or abortion or homosexuality from them - but what about people who won't stick to the plan?

So what about the Birmingham Oratory?

Who are we to believe?

Local parishioners who have known the community for years are saying that they believe the Oratory is being leaned on to make sure that the Papal visit goes smoothly and there are no "unfortunate" remarks. Who tell me that these three men are perhaps not the most traditional but the most outspoken - the people most likely to rock the boat and that they were already causing difficulties by vetoing meetings about a proposed Newman centre.

Or do we believe the Oratory spokesman who is paid by the Bishop's Conference?
Perhaps if the Bishop's Conference did not have such a clear history of supporting people like Terry Prendergast, Oona Stannard, Greg Pope and Ed Balls while forcing good men to act like outlaws, I might find it easier to believe their side of the story.