Friday, 16 July 2010

Correspondence between Oratory parishioners and Fr Felix Selden

Catholic Family News - 15.7.2010

Agroup of parishioners at the Birmingham Oratory, members of the NACT, have written to Fr Felix Selden C.O. Delegate of the Apostolic See for the Confederation of the Oratory. This a copy of their letter, and his response.

Dear Father Seldon,

We are writing to you in the hope that you will answer our questions about the unexplained expulsion of Father Dermot Fenlon, Father Philip Cleevely and Brother Lewis Berry from the Birmingham Oratory, where we have been parishioners for over fifteen years. We have been assured by Father Richard Duffield, the current Provost, that these men are guilty of no wrong doing, a fact of which we were in any case completely convinced. He does not feel able to give us an explanation, however, and has directed us to you.

It is difficult to overestimate our sense of loss. As parents of six adopted children from a variety of traumatic backgrounds, we have valued Father Dermot's gifts in the Confessional that have done more than anything else to help them cope, with confidence in God's love and mercy. We have hugely appreciated the efforts of Father Philip to uphold with courage those aspects of the Church's moral teaching that many would despise, including, tragically, within the Church itself. Brother Lewis did wonderful work to defend the authentic teaching on conscience of Cardinal Newman, in defence against those elements that would pervert it. On the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, we watched the gallant but elderly Father Winterton stagger about the sanctuary on a stick while the Confessionals remained empty, the names above them all absent. In God's name, why?

Please do not assume that because relatively few have spoken out openly that there is not enormous upset and concern among Birmingham Oratory parishioners and indeed many in the wider church in England. There is considerable unrest and indeed a rising tide of anger which is becoming worse by the day. The vague references to internal disagreements simply do not add up, given the severity of the penalty these men are undergoing.

Please will you tell us whether these men are going to return to the Birmingham Oratory or not? If they are to return, when will that be?

Yours sincerely,

Dear . . . .

Thank you for your letter in which you express your great esteem for members of the Birmingham Oratory which is currently under apostolic visitation. As much as I can understand your concern about missing Oratorians, who assisted so laudably to your family, I ask you to acknowledge the nature of a canonical visitation reserved to the Holy See and conducted in conformity to the Law of the Church and the Constitutions of the Oratory. I hope that you will understand that I cannot disclose any information to externals about persons who are concerned. Several speculations recently spread in the English public about measurements of this visitation have not originated from me and I will presently neither confirm nor repudiate them. Please assure your friends, who are upset, that the scope of this as each canonical visitation is the common good of the Church and the welfare of the concerned community and all her members, who are given sufficient opportunity to bring forward their arguments and always maintain their right to defend their interests according to the norms of the Church. It is not helpful when Catholics without intimate knowledge of the matter spread speculations, or protest against the apostolic visitation in the public sphere, as they create scandal and might dangerously harm the Church and the Oratory of Birmingham.

As far as I know, without exception all Fathers of the community uphold with fervour the entire Magisterium of the Church and the Holy Father as they all do their best to spread the authentic teaching of Cardinal Newman.

Let me end this letter in personally expressing to you my great admiration for your Christian testimony in having adopted six children. This is wonderful, and I am praying for you that you always have the strength and the help of divine grace to give them a good Catholic home and can serve them to become happy and devout Christians!

With all best wishes yours in Christ

Fr Felix Selden CO
Delegrate of the Apostolic See for the Confederation of the Oratory