Saturday, 10 July 2010

"Everything now covered up will be uncovered at the Birmingham Oratory"

John Smeaton on 17.6.2010

I remain perplexed and concerned (following my earlier post) about a very public injustice being done to the members of the Birmingham Oratory, both to those remaining and to the three who have been sent away and separated "for an indefinite period", according to The Tablet (21st May, 2010): Fr Philip Cleevely, Fr Dermot Fenlon and Brother Lewis Berry. This injustice is manifestly being perpretrated by forces external to the Birmingham Oratory.

The Tablet's report speaks of an internal disagreement ...
"A spokesman for the Oratory described the decision as an 'internal domestic affair' but said that there had been disagreements in the community about how best to approach the beatification of their founder Cardinal John Henry Newman"
... but this explanation simply doesn't fit the facts - and neither does A Reluctant Sinner's suggestion that it's a case of three conservative members of the Community versus the others. All members of the Birmingham Oratory are "conservatives" on the fundamental moral issues raised in the various news reports about this matter.

It's a known fact that all the Birmingham Oratorians stand wholeheartedly behind the approach adopted by the Birmingham Oratory's Newman Cause blogpost on pro-life issues: for example, the inside story on the meeting between Cherie Blair (pictured), the wife of the former British prime minister and famous dissenter from Catholic church teaching, and Reverend Jack Sullivan, who was healed through Newman’s intercession in 2001.

The banished Oratorian Fathers wrote at the time - with the total backing of all the Oratory community:
"As soon as he was made aware of Mrs Blair’s record of public dissent from the Church’s teaching, Jack requested that all reference to meeting her be removed from the published recollections of his visit. The article on Times Online was duly amended yesterday (November 26th), but unfortunately Jack’s request came too late to remove the reference to Mrs Blair from the print version of the Herald.

"The conjunction of Mrs Blair’s ‘conscientious’ dissent from the teaching of the Church with Jack Sullivan’s apparent endorsement of her could do harm to Newman’s reputation, and that is our reason for posting this clarification. Newman is indeed the great teacher of the rights and duties of conscience. It is of the greatest importance that his teaching is not used to make him the patron of Catholics, like Cherie Blair and others, who in the name of conscience practice dissent from the Church’s teaching ..."
Equally supported by the whole of the Birmingham Oratory was the Newman Cause blogpost criticising The Tablet's "provocative juxtaposition" of placing Newman and conscience in the company of Tony Blair. It stated:
"However many times it is refuted as an interpretation of Newman, the idea that he is the patron of ‘conscientious’ dissent shows a stubborn tendency to resurface.

"It is in this context that The Tablet’s having placed Newman and conscience in the company of Tony Blair amounts to a provocative juxtaposition."
The Newman cause website continued:
"Since becoming a Catholic, Mr Blair has refused every invitation to disown and repent of these things. Although they are simply incompatible with the Catholic Faith and were pursued by him, before he was a Catholic, with every appearance of conviction, Mr Blair has refused since entering the Church to say whether in these respects he has undergone a change of mind and heart. In refusing to clarify his position, he implies that he still believes that they were the right things to do.

"If this implication is correct, some commentators, including Catholics, have sought to justify it by saying that Mr Blair’s silence is because his support for abortion, embryo experimentation, civil partnerships and gay adoption has always been for him, and remains now, a matter of conscience. Now this is the danger in The Tablet’s association of Newman and conscience with the case of Tony Blair. If as a Catholic Mr Blair thinks that his conscience directs him to support such positions, to invoke Newman in defence of his stance would be a travesty. For Newman, no Catholic can be in good conscience in supporting the positions Mr Blair espoused. The impossibility of conscience, enlightened by Faith, justifying adherence to evil is one of the most important of Newman’s lessons for our times."
The Newman Cause blogpost sets out a powerful position, which was fully supported by the whole community, on sexual orientation issues as well as on pro-life matters. Its tone and theme are a world away from the politically-correct environment, whipping up concern about homophobia, portrayed by A Reluctant Sinner and in The Times report about the expulsion of the three Oratorians.

However, "A Reluctant Sinner" with its disingenuous reference to "mere speculation on my part" - is full of very precise details which describe external pressures being brought to bear on the poor Oratorians.

Could it be that external forces who want a Catholic Church which is inclusive of the Blairs' anti-life, anti-family positions are bringing pressures to bear in this situation? How very convenient it would be, especially in the run-up to Pope Benedict's visit, if uncomfortable issues such as the teaching of the Church on contraception, abortion and on homosexuality were also safely hidden away? And how important it is that those on the side of life and the family, especially when it comes to the church's teaching on these matters, and especially as the papal visit to Britain approaches, to bear in mind the words of Jesus Christ:
"Everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. For this reason, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed from the housetops". (Luke, 12, 2-3)
This text also seems most apt in the case of the Birmingham Oratory and the external pressures being brought to bear on its shamefully misrepresented community.