Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Telegraph's Damian Thompson questions "savage punishment" of Birmingham Oratorians

John Smeaton – 27.7.2010


The Telegraph's Damian Thompson has reproduced an open letter to Father Felix Selden, the Vatican's apostolic visitor to the Oratory, written by parishioners of the Birmingham Oratory, England. This letter is a response to the unexplained removal of Fr Dermot Fenlon, Fr Philip Cleevely and Brother Lewis Berry from the Birmingham Oratory. They have been sent to separate monasteries for an undisclosed amount of time. Mr Thompson notes a real need for transparency since this matter has continued for several months now.

The letter is an impassioned plea, requesting to know when the two priests and religious brother will return, if at all. The important role these Oratorians have as shepherds is clearly perceived throughout, and is now accentuated by their sudden and unexplained removal. Mr Thompson poses the question:
"But why were these three Oratorians given this savage punishment? Their supporters have been trying to find out, to no avail: all we have to go on are rumours about “disputes over the beatification of Newman”, which could mean anything. If these Birmingham Oratorians are innocent of wrongdoing, should they really be excluded from the greatest moment in the history of their Congregation?"
I have raised the question in a number of posts (7 June 2010, 17 June 2010, 3 July 2010) as to whether their removal can be traced to the clear, coherent critique made by these Oratorians against the obvious and very serious dangers posed by the former government’s sex and relationships education proposals contained within the Children, Schools and Families bill, a stance sharply at variance with Archbishop Nichols and the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales.

As I've said before: What on earth are Catholics and non-Catholics to make of the situation? On the one hand three staunch pro-life, pro-family advocates suffer apparently peremptory ecclesiastical injustice. On the other hand Archbishop Nichols, just a couple of months ago, was painting the previous government's intentions on sex and relatonships education in an entirely postive light - when those intentions included continuing to enable the promotion and facilitation of abortion, contraception and homosexuality in schools, including Catholic schools.