Saturday, 21 August 2010

Visitor send Oratorian to South Africa

The Catholic Herald - Huw Twiston Davies - 20.8.2010

One of the three men removed from the Birmingham Oratory in May is to be sent to South Africa, it has been announced.

Fr Felix Selden, Apostolic Visitor of the Holy See for the Oratorians, said that Brother Lewis Berry will be sent to the Oratory in Port Elizabeth for "a period of at least one year" starting in the first week of September.

It will mean that Brother Lewis, who ran the website for the Cause of Cardinal John Henry Newman, will miss the beatification of the founder of the Birmingham community in September.

Fr Selden added that the decision was made "after consulting the Fathers", and considering Brother Lewis's own views.

He said Brother Lewis's formation "will best be met in an Oratorian community that will afford him greater opportunities for a varied programme of pastoral work, as the Church requires of a deacon".

Brother Lewis is one of the so-called "Birmingham Three", along with Fr Philip Cleevely and Fr Dermot Fenlon. He has been staying with his parents in France since he was sent away from the Oratory in the spring.

Fr Fenlon was sent to Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire, and Fr Cleevely to Plus-carden Abbey in Moray, Scotland. A statement on their futures is expected within the next few weeks but none is likely to return to the Oratory.

The three were "ordered to go on retreat after disagreements with the rest of the community", and were "told to spend time in prayer for an indefinite period" by Fr Selden.

" Fr Selden added that Brother Lewis "has welcomed the opportunity" and is "now preparing for this next stage of his formation".

Fr Selden also requested "that the Oratorian community in Birmingham be allowed to continue its work without hindrance", insisting that the visitation to the Oratory had been "chiefly concerned with the community's own internal life and discipline". Controversy continues to surround the treatment of the three, however, some Oratory parishioners and others have sharply criticised the decision to remove them.

JackValero, spokesman for the Newman Cause, has also confirmed that the three are not guilty of any wrongdoing.

In an article in Irish Independent, journalist Ruth Dudley Edwards entered the fray, accusing Fr Selden of "authoritarianism" and said that the three had been "gagged".

She said that Fr Fenlon was a "close friend" at both University College, Dublin and Cambridge University, and that he was "a distinguished academic who became a priest of impeccable orthodoxy".

She said the three were "in perfect theological harmony" with the Pope.

Cardinal John Henry Newman founded the first Oratory in Britain in Maryvale near Birmingham in 1848, which later moved into a disused gin factory in the city centre.