Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Open letter to Fr Felix Selden from Mrs Hiltrud Knab, Bavaria

On Friday Mother Hiltrud made a pilgrimage to Altötting to pray for Fr Dermot and for his cause - the sanctity of life - at the Chapel of the Miraculous Image.  Back in April this year Fr Dermot took a pilgrimage to Altötting as well.

Dear Fr Selden

I will begin, if I may, by introducing myself: my name is Hiltrud Knab, and I was born on 30th July 1930 in Marktbreit. I am the mother of eight children: Barbara Hiltrud (born 1953), Stefanie Maria (1955), Martin Theodor (1956), Claudia Elisabeth (1957), Christine Margarete (1959), Michael Helmut (1961), Ingrid Marie (1962), and Monika Eva (1963). My youngest daughter Monika died from viral encephalitis in 1983.

In gratitude for my eight children, and in the knowledge that every human life, from conception to natural death, is a gift from God, and that the fifth commandment “Thou shalt not kill!” holds true for every life, I founded the “Prayer Circle for Life” (Gebetskreis für das Leben) in 1982. I was inspired by the theme of the Day for Catholics in Essen in 1982: “Choose Life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Since then I have brought my intention for the “protection of unborn children and their mothers” to the Mother of God every week in the Rosary in one of the churches in our town.

In the spring of this year I came to know Fr Dermot Fenlon of the Birmingham Oratory through my son-in-law Jakob Knab. For two weeks he stayed as a guest of the Franciscan nuns at their Convent of St Crescentia. Almost every morning I came across him at Holy Mass, which he concelebrated with the convent chaplains. I found Fr Dermot to be a devout, prayerful and God-fearing priest. I met him in person at the home of my daughter Stefanie and her husband Jakob. Here, too, I sensed how deeply imbued he was by his faith in Jesus Christ. With a combination of my own knowledge of English retained from my schooldays in Marktbreit and Fr Dermot’s broken German we managed to enjoy a very cordial conversation.

He was pleased that I knew of Mary Ward, the great lady of English church history. I told him of the tragic destiny of Mary Ward, who became caught up in the machinery of the hierarchy. The responsible officials of that time were unable to recognise Mary Ward’s charismatic trail-blazing gifts. Whilst I was relating this moving story, Fr Dermot gave me his full attention. It is only in the past few days that I have been made aware that decades ago he was a historian of some repute in the University of Cambridge (Gonville and Caius College).

Fr Dermot also listened with immense sympathy when I told him about my mother, who recited the prayer of John Henry Newman with us when we were children during the dreadful days of the Second World War. It remains one of my best-loved prayers today: “O God, these days are full of affliction, the cause of Christ lies in its final agony ….”.

You, Fr Selden, with your mysterious machinations, have sent a trustworthy and honourable priest into the wilderness. A priest, whose mission and heart’s desire are to preach the word of God and to advance the Kingdom of Heaven. Why have you silenced him? What is the real reason for that? What purpose do you have in mind? Do you really want to destroy the “cause of Christ” in the world and thereby to sacrifice a human being? A verse from St John’s Gospel comes into my mind, when the Jews say to Pilate “We have a law – and by that law he must die” (John 19:7).

Fr Dermot argues unceasingly for the sanctity of human life. It must be respected from conception until natural death as a gift from God. Fr Dermot stands as a symbolic figure for the sanctity of life. What motives do you have, Fr Selden, for banishing one of your brethren, one who speaks out for the protection of human life out of his own deep faith and conviction?

I say to you: whoever kills a human being, whether yet unborn in his mother’s womb or old and no longer in control of his faculties, that person kills the love of God, which strengthens and blesses the person in every phase of his life.

Fr Selden, what heavy guilt could Fr Dermot have brought upon himself, to make you separate him so hard-heartedly and mercilessly from his familiar life in the Birmingham Oratory? Why have you silenced him? What severe offence can you prove against him, that would warrant such an unjust sentence? Do you have an answer to my question? An answer for me, and for all the faithful who “serve life”?

When we read the Bible with an open heart and mind we will discover that the devil attacks those people and those places where the Kingdom of God begins to grow. Do you, Fr Selden, wish to act as the henchman of this bringer of denial and confusion? That would surely be a triumph for Hell! In your capacity as a Catholic priest, you are charged with fighting evil!

So I ask you – no, I beseech you as Delegate of the Apostolic Visitation for the Confederation of the Oratories of St Philip Neri – to prepare a way for grace and justice.

Trusting in the intercession of the tender and immaculate heart of Mary, I beseech you:

Stop the persecution and oppression of Fr Dermot!

Listen to the words of the Judge of the World:

“I was homeless, and you gave me shelter.” (Matthew 25:35)

Listen to your priestly conscience:

Fr Dermot must come home this very week to the Birmingham Oratory!



Hiltrud Knab