Friday, 27 May 2011

"Today is the feast of St Philip Neri"

Catholic Family News - 26.5.2011
SAINT PHILIP ROMOLO NERI, also known as Apostle of Rome, was an Italian priest, noted for founding the 'Congregation of the Oratory'.
He was born in Florence, the youngest child of Francesco, a lawyer, and his wife Lucrezia da Mosciano, whose family were nobility in the service of the state. Neri was carefully brought up, and received his early teaching from the friars at San Marco, the famous Dominican monastery in Florence. He was accustomed in later life to ascribe most of his progress to the teaching of two amongst them, Zenobio de' Medici and Servanzio Mini. At the age of 18, Philip was sent to his uncle, Romolo, a wealthy merchant at San Germano, a Neapolitan town near the base of Monte Cassino, to assist him in his business, and with the hope that he might inherit his uncle's fortune. He did gain Romolo's confidence and affection, but soon after coming to San Germano Philip had a conversion. He no longer cared for things of the world, and chose to relocate to Rome in 1533.

After arriving in Rome, he became a tutor in the house of a Florentine aristocrat named Galeotto Caccia. After two years he began to pursue his own studies (for a period of three years) under the guidance of the Augustinians. Following this, he began those labours amongst the sick and poor which gained him in later life the title of 'Apostle of Rome', and also ministering to the prostitutes of the city. In 1538 he entered on the home mission work for which he became famous; like Socrates he travelled throughout the city, seeking opportunities of entering into conversation with people, and of leading them on to consider the topics he desired to set before them.

In 1548 he founded (with his confessor, Fr Persiano Rossa) the confraternity of the Santissima Trinita de' Pellegrini e de' Convalescenti, whose primary object was to minister to the needs of the thousands of poor pilgrims who flock to Rome, especially in years of jubilee, and also to relieve the patients discharged from hospitals but who were still too weak for labour. In 1551 he passed through all the minor orders, and was ordained deacon, and finally priest (on 23 May). He thought of going to India as a missionary, but was dissuaded by his friends who saw that there was abundant work to be done in Rome. Accordingly he settled down, with some companions, at the hospital of San Girolamo della Carità, and while there tentatively began, in 1556, the institute with which his name is more especially connected, that of the Oratory. The scheme at first was no more than a series of evening meetings in a hall (the Oratory), at which there were prayers, hymns, readings from Scripture, from the church fathers, and from the Martyrology, followed by a lecture, or by discussion of some religious question proposed for consideration. The musical selections (settings of scenes from sacred history) were called oratorios. The scheme was developed, and the members of the society undertook various kinds of mission work throughout Rome, notably the preaching of sermons in different churches every evening, a completely new idea at that time. He also spent much of his time hearing confessions, and effected many conversions in this way.

In 1564 the Florentines requested that he leave San Girolamo, and to oversee their church in Rome, San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, then newly built. He was at first reluctant, but by consent of Pope Pius IV he accepted, while retaining the charge of San Girolamo, where the exercises of the Oratory were kept up. At this time the new society included amongst its members Caesar Baronius, the ecclesiastical historian, Francesco Maria Tarugi, afterwards Archbishop of Avignon, and Ottavio Paravicini, all three subsequently cardinals, and also Gallonius, author of a well-known work on the Sufferings of the Martyrs, Ancina, Bordoni, and other men of ability and distinction. In 1574, the Florentines built a large oratory or mission-room for the society, next to San Giovanni, in order to save them the fatigue of the daily journey to and from San Girolamo, and to provide a more convenient place of assembly, and the headquarters were transferred there. As the community grew, and its mission work extended, the need for a church entirely its own, and not subject to other claims, as were San Girolamo and San Giovanni, made itself felt, and the offer of the small parish church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, conveniently situated in the middle of Rome, was made and accepted. The building, however, was not large enough for their purpose, was pulled down, and a splendid church erected on the site.

It was immediately after taking possession of their new quarters that Neri formally organized, under permission of a papal bull dated July 15, 1575, a community of secular priests, called the Congregation of the Oratory. The new church was consecrated early in 1577, and the clergy of the new society at once resigned the charge of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini; but Neri himself did not leave San Girolamo until 1583, and then only by virtue of an injunction of the pope that he, as the superior, should reside at the chief house of his congregation. He was at first elected for a term of three years (as is usual in modern societies), but in 1587 was nominated superior for life. He was, however, entirely free from personal ambition, and had no desire to be general over a number of dependent houses, so that he desired that all congregations formed on his model outside Rome should be autonomous, governing themselves, and without endeavouring to retain control over any new colonies they might themselves send out-a regulation afterwards formally confirmed by a brief of Gregory XV in 1622.
Philip died around the end of the day on 25 May 1595, Corpus Christi that year, after having spent the day hearing confessions and receiving visitors. About midnight he began haemorrhaging, and Baronius read the commendatory prayers over him. Baronius asked that he would bless his spiritual sons before dying, and though he could no longer speak, he blessed them with the sign of the cross and died.
St Philip Neri was beatified by Paul V in 1615, and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622. [Wikipedia]

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Revealed: The Terrible Crime of Fr Cleevely

Catholic and Loving It! blog - James Preece - 19.5.2011

I have heard from several sources, that Fr Philip Cleevely would sometimes (or often, depending on the source) stay up too late and be difficult to wake up in the morning. A crime I am often guilty of myself...

This is put forward as an "explanation" for his being evicted from his home, named and shamed in The Tablet, made to miss the beatification of the founder of his community, excluded from a Papal visit to his own home and forced to start a new life in another country.

Presumably the idea is that Canada is on a time zone he can handle?

Seriously? After more than a year this is the best you can come up with?

Let's get some perspective!

For three years, the Cardinal Archbishop of Barcelona has refused to act against a priest in his diocese who boasts openly of having financed abortions.

Now, the priest is a subject of a new book in Catalonian, “Fr. Manel: Closer to earth than to heaven”, which describes the ever-growing popularity of his charitable work with Spanish celebrities. In addition to repeating his claim of having paid for abortions, Fr. Manel Pousa says he has performed “blessings” of homosexual unions, and endorses the creation of female “priests”, according to reports in the Spanish media.

He also states that he regards clerical celibacy as optional, and says he has a girlfriend—but claims that their relationship is celibate.

Although Pousa has never retracted any of his statements, his prelate, Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, has only given Manel a verbal “warning”, leaving him in his place to continue his leadership of his parish and his other activities.


If priests who finance abortions and admit to having a girlfriend are given nothing more than 'a verbal "warning"' then do you seriously expect me to believe that Fr Cleevely has had his entire ecclesiastical career called in to question because he finds it hard to get up in the morning?


Monday, 16 May 2011

Where are they now? Part 3 - Fr Gareth Jones

Catholic Paterfamilias blog - 15.5.2011
Apologies for the delay in getting the third part of the trilogy up. The Blogger problems on Thursday and Friday caused mayhem (and I have a life outside of blogging).
You might remember Fr Gareth Jones from the Birmingham Oratory saga as the canonist used by Fathers Selden and Harrison.

Ruth Dudley Edwards, in one of her Standpoint articles, described Father Gareth Jones as a "bizarre choice as canonical adviser" and stated that "As a cleric, Jones rarely stays long anywhere: in the Birmingham Oratory, he was twice a novice under Fenlon and was twice asked to leave because he did not fit in."

Anyway, Fr Jones got the chaplaincy at Cardiff University a few months before The Birmingham Oratory Three got their marching orders.
As some will recollect, the reason for the vacancy at Cardiff coming up for Fr Jones to step into was that his predecessor in the position made some comments regarded as thought crimes in Nuchurch circles. What the predecessor said was:
“Let me tell you of course before you go too far, most of the offences are being committed by homosexuals.” He continued in this vein, saying, “stick to the facts: the vast majority of the abuse cases in this country – certainly in America – were not taken against what I would call children, but 95% of the time, taken against teenage boys. Now what does that tell you? Now that is a fact."

The quote above was taken from an old online edition of the the Cardiff University student newspaper on Thursday of last week. However, it would seem that their website has been updated since I copied it and the original article from which the quote was taken is no longer available online.

The predecessor even had the temerity to say the above in front of a live TV audience. Now I have to confess that I have not read the Ryan report and cannot comment on it. However, the predecessor was the communications officer for the Archdiocese or Cardiff and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of what he said.

Having the temerity to say publicly what he had said, the predecessor obviously had to go (can't have the good ship Nuchurch being rocked by anyone talking about facts and the like - heck they might next go completely off piste and talk about Humanae Vitae or something equally damaging to the Nuchurch brand).
So we have the predecessor out and Fr Jones in at Cardiff. Then a few months later we have Fr Jones in Birmingham and out go Fr Dermot Fenlon, Fr Philip Cleevely and Br Lewis Berry (remember that's after Fr Jones had been in and out and in and out of the Birmingham Oratory trying his vocation).

If anyone is struggling to keep up with all of this in and out stuff, just think of it as being a bit like the clerical equivalent of a Key Stone Cops movie - but without the laughs.

My guess is that Fr Jones won't stay long as a university chaplain. He's on the way up the slippery pole of clerical promotion and has a patron in high places. Wales has proven to be fertile grounds for promotion before for others - so why not again?

Oh yes, in case anyone has forgotten, Fr Jones was one of those who made Fr Dermot Fenlon homeless by removing him from his home. Wouldn't it be interesting to know exactly what Fr Jones' patron knew about the reasons for the removal of the Birmingham Oratory Three from their home?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The story in pictures...


Birmingham Three Press Conference

"If your name's not down you're not coming in!"


Fr Dermot Fenlon exiled for a year today...and it's still a scandal

Smeaton's Corner blog - 12.5.2011

Last year, prior to the Papal visit to England three Oratorians were ordered to "spend time in prayer" at three separate monasteries hundreds of miles apart and indefinitely. Of the three, Father Dermot Fenlon (described by the Oratory's own spokesman as "entireley guiltless of any wrong doing whatsoever") remains silenced and in exile.

It's no insignificant thing to be ordered out of your home. It's not clear whether Father Fenlon will ever be allowed to come back. Nobody other than Father Fenlon knows all the details of what has happened since in the year of his exile, but an unexpected eviction is quite a serious punishment. Especially when you consider that Father Fenlon was sixty eight when he was exiled.
The eviction occurred last year, 13 May 2010, just weeks before the Pope was to visit England to beatify Cardinal Newman, founder of the Birmingham Oratory.

The official line is that this is an internal matter. But that's where things get even more confusing. Jack Valero, spokesperson for Opus Dei, who was made spokesperson for the Birmingham Oratory on this case last year, said that 'healing' was required both for the community at the Oratory and those who were exiled. But the rest of the community hasn't been exiled. The rest of them have been able to continue living at the Oratory, serving as priests. Their healing regime has been quite different to Father Fenlon's. In the words of Ruth Dudley Edwards, journalist and long-time friend of Father Fenlon, his healing process has involved his reputation being trashed and being moved all over the place. It seems that a major part of Father Fenlon's healing has been to be forced to become a vagrant in exile.

According to Jack Valero, the healing was required to resolve things like things like "pride, anger, disobedience, disunity, nastiness, dissention, the breakdown of charity, that kind of thing." So it would seem that something has gone wrong at the Birmingham Oratory. But apparently Father Fenlon didn't do anything wrong. So why he was exiled from his home? Why can he still not come back?

When Ruth Dudley Edwards told Jack Valero that "Dermot Fenlon has lived in that place for twenty years and it was to be his home forever. His reputation has been trashed, all over the place. Where can he go? He’s at the moment, he’s a vagrant.

Jack Valero said: "well it must have been serious, it must have been a very serious thing to have gone on in that house for that to happen. That’s what I am saying, it's very serious things going on in that house."

Jack Valero didn't directly accuse Father Fenlon of anything, because Father Fenlon, as Jack admits, has done nothing wrong. But this association with him and pride, nastiness (and the list goes on) is a further slur on the good man's reputation.
Because Father Fenlon was ordered not to speak publicly, he has never been able to defend himself publicly.
Since then, things have gone pretty quiet. It was a contentious issue within a small corner of the Catholic population last year, but it seems to have really slipped under the radar now.
But Fr Fenlon still can't come home. His suffering is just being ignored really. Forgotten about.
You can learn more on this most pressing and most serious issue within the life of the Church in England here and here.
The story in pictures...

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The crisis one year on. No coincidences

CF News - 12.5.2011
AN INTERVIEW with Dr Thomas Ward, Vice-President of the National Association of Catholic Families, Corresponding Member of the Pontifical Council for Life.

CF NEWS : Dr Ward, you say there are some remarkable coincidences in the story of the expulsion of three members of the Birmingham Oratory, exactly one year ago this week.

Dr WARD : I believe that what has happened must be looked at spiritually. Yes, and there are remarkable coincidences. Note the date May 13th.

First, on May 13 1917 at Fatima in Portugal.

This is the day on which Our Lady appeared to those three young children, and asked Lúcia Santos and her younger cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto "Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?" Lucia as spokesman for all three readily agreed: "Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort."

Our Lady finished with a request: "Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war." With that she began to rise into the air, moving towards the east until she disappeared.

Second, it was on May 13th 1981 that Blessed John Paul II was shot in Rome.

And here I'd like to draw attention to his consistent care for families. On that fine May day Pope John Paul II had intended to announce the establishment of a new Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. Only moments before he could do so, he was shot by Mehemit Ali Agca. He owed his survival, he was convinced, to the protection of Our Lady of Fatima.

As a young bishop in Krakow he established an institute for the study and pastoral care of families; in 1980 he called the first of all his synods of the world's bishops- and the topic was the family. One year later he issued his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, upon which the National Association of Catholic Families is based. Throughout his pontificate Familiaris Consortio remained his favourite Apostolic Exhortation. He consistently proclaimed that the role of parents as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. It is irreplaceable, inalienable, and incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others. Later in 1981 he created the Pontifical Council for the Family.

The next year, on the anniversary of the apparition, the promulgation of the Pontifical Institute, and its Apostolic Constitution, was issued - and he entrusted this Institute to the care of Our Lady of Fatima.

Thirdly, on May 13th 2010 there was a significant event in Birmingham, England.

It was on this day, in the immediate run-up to the beatification of the founder of the Birmingham Oratory, Cardinal Newman, three of its members were summarily ordered by the Papal Visitor, Fr. Felix Selden to quit their home at 12 hours notice. For two of them, the Oratory had been their home for twenty years. One was almost 69 years of age.

They were told that they had to go away and pray for an "indefinite period " initially in separate monasteries in England, Scotland and France. Many wondered at the time whether this was to be until after the Papal visit. They were not to communicate with one another.

The question of whether or not these three virtuous and highly intelligent men were ever going to be allowed back to their home was formally put, by a parishioner to the assistant to the Papal Visitor, Fr. Ignatius Harrison of the London Oratory. The question was twice answered with silence.

A yet more disturbing question also put by a parishioner-- on whether Frs. Fenlon and Cleevely were then at imminent risk of being ordered to go abroad -- was also met with silence. (Incidentally, Brother Lewis Berry had been sent to France some five weeks previously.)

CF NEWS : I believe that not one priest in the country spoke up for them. How can you explain this?

TW : Good priests are busy men and there was a great deal of disinformation in the media. This disinformation caused confusion in spite of the valiant efforts of individual lay people to get the truth through. Here I am thinking of James Preece with his blog "Catholic and Loving it" [], John Smeaton [] and of course yourself on CFNEWS. This was one reason for the clerical silence.

The other reason was much more worrying. The penalties that the three Oratorians had suffered were draconian and it was universally agreed that they are virtuous men who are innocent of any wrong doing. For example, on May 26, 2010 their brother Oratorian and their then Provost, Fr. Duffield said in reply to a letter: "I agree with what you say about Fathers Dermot, Philip and Lewis and with the specific examples you give of their virtues. All three have been my friends for many years. They have not done anything wrong" and the matters involved are private and "do not involve any wrong-doing". In a letter to an enquirer (June 5, 2010) the spokesman of the Oratory wrote : "These good and holy men have led exemplary lives and offered wonderful pastoral care to the parishioners of the Oratory "

As I said the other reason for the silence of the priests was more worrying. It was fear. Having seen what happened to the Oratorians they wondered what might to happen to them if they too were outspoken.

CF NEWS : So what were these "virtuous" and "innocent" and "exemplary " members of Birmingham Oratory guilty of?

TW : I believe that the short answer is that they had been guilty of being outspoken defenders of the Papal Magisterium and that they had without compromise (and most unfashionably in England) publicly taught and defended Humanae Vitae and the Church's teaching on abortion.

With great courage and high intelligence Fr Cleevely had defended the inalienable rights of parents to be the primary educators of their children by publishing a radical critique of the Catholic Education Service's notorious policy of collaboration with the State on sex "education". These sensitive and cultivated men had thus bravely and knowingly risked incurring the anger of the episcopate.

I believe that Fr Cleevely also had incurred the anger of the hierarchy by being guilty of criticising Cherie Blair's proposed meeting with Jack Sullivan who was miraculously cured by the intercession of Blessed John Cardinal Newman.

I believe that they had, in a word, been found guilty of mounting an unambiguous defence of Catholic moral teaching on life and the family on the (now muted) Oratory website - a website that was, before the Beatification, one of the most prestigious platforms in the world from which to mount this defence.

CF NEWS : We cannot avoid referring to the fact that an allegation of "homophobia" had been mentioned.

TW: Yes this cruel and untrue accusation was raised in blogs and was implicit in an article the 21st of May 2010 by Ruth Gledhill.

CF NEWS : So, what is the impact in practice of all of this is for Catholic families?

TW : Not long before the eviction of the three Oratorians from their home their web site was put under the control of Mr. Jack Valero then simultaneously spokesman for the Birmingham Oratory, head of the semi-official organisation Catholic Voices and press spokesman for Opus Dei. Strong statements from the Birmingham Oratory website ceased. 

The impact of these events is that Catholic families can no longer expect the clear, strong and public support of their priests on parental rights and sexual morality. This is sad and deeply regrettable. However it has the consequence that if we wish the promotion of the catechesis on the family of Pope John Paul, as confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI, we ourselves as families must live and promote it.

Blessed Pope John Paul the Great pray for Catholic families and their priests.
St Philip Neri pray for all Oratorians involved in this crisis.

Silence about the Birmingham Three endangers other "good and holy men"

Friday, 13 May 2011

John Smeaton - 13.5.2011
I have long referred on this blog to the co-operation between the Catholic authorities in England and Wales and the Government in its attack on families, on parents as the primary educators of their children, on the innocence and welfare of schoolchildren, and on the sanctity of human life.

Things could not be more serious: and still those episcopal policies, such as lending support to the previous government's legislative proposals which would have facilitated the corruption of our children, remain in force, not least through the continued employment of Greg Pope at the Catholic Education Service (see below).

This evening, on the first anniversary of the expulsion of three "good and holy men" from the Birmingham Oratory, I find myself wondering whether the Birmingham Three, their confreres, and even those apparently acting in authority over them, are all, somewhere along the ecclesiastical line, perhaps unwitting instruments of this policy of co-operation between State and Church - at the expense of the lives of unborn children, of marriage and the family.

Let's look at some of the past year's events:

We had the story in The Times a year ago with its hints of alleged homophobia - re-cycled by A Reluctant Sinner.

Importantly, we had the unequivocal confirmation from a Birmingham Oratory spokesman that the three Oratorians were "entirely guiltless of any wrong-doing whatsoever, including, specifically, sexual misdemeanours or homophobia".

Equally importantly, however, they remain in exile, in spite of assurances from a Birmingham Oratory spokesman in June 2010 that the Three "can come back soon and continue as normal"

Mud sticks. And since their exile we've had Archbishop Nichols undermining Pope Benedict's teaching on gay unions*, just the day after His Holiness returned from England to Rome.

Before their exile, the Birmingham Oratory website was boldly denouncing the previous government's legislative proposals which would have enabled the promotion and facilitation of abortion, contraception and homosexuality in schools, including Catholic schools. These shocking proposals - fortunately defeated following a strong campaign by SPUC, Catholic clergy, head teachers and school governors and three Catholic bishops - were painted in a good light by Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

And Archbishop Nichols has continued to back the appointment of Greg Pope, the anti-life, anti-family former Member of Parliament as deputy director of the Catholic Education Service as does Bishop McMahon, Archbishop Nichols's successor as chairman of the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW).

Many Catholic clergy, three Catholic bishops, and others put up a brave fight against the policy of the bishops' conference of England and Wales on the Children Schools and Families bill - and not least through their courage - we won that campaign.

But silence about the unjust fate of the Birmingham Three - with the exception of lay bloggers - exposes those churchmen and churchwomen who dare to speak out boldly about the wickedness of episcopal policies to a similar fate; and it leaves families, children, parents and unborn children to the tender mercies of the realpolitik of the bishops' conference of England and Wales. God help us.

In a fascinating interview about the Birmingham Three Dr Tom Ward is asked about the silence of the Catholic clergy in publicly challenging what happened.

Dr Ward, a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, says:

"Good priests are busy men and there was a great deal of disinformation in the media. This disinformation caused confusion in spite of the valiant efforts of individual lay people to get the truth through ... This was one reason for the clerical silence.

"The other reason was much more worrying. The penalties that the three Oratorians had suffered were draconian and it was universally agreed that they are virtuous men who are innocent of any wrong doing. For example, on May 26, 2010 their brother Oratorian and their then Provost, Fr. Duffield said in reply to a letter: 'I agree with what you say about Fathers Dermot, Philip and Lewis and with the specific examples you give of their virtues. All three have been my friends for many years. They have not done anything wrong" and the matters involved are private and "do not involve any wrong-doing'. In a letter to an enquirer (June 5, 2010) the spokesman of the Oratory wrote : 'These good and holy men have led exemplary lives and offered wonderful pastoral care to the parishioners of the Oratory'.
"As I said the other reason for the silence of the priests was more worrying. It was fear. Having seen what happened to the Oratorians they wondered what might to happen to them if they too were outspoken."

Quite so Dr Ward.
*Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, teaches in paragraph 97 of Evangelium Vitae that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.

Friday, 13 May 2011

For nothing is covered that shall not be revealed

The Birmingham Three: One Year On

Catholic and Loving It! blog - 13.5.2011

Today marks 365 days of exile for Brother Lewis Berry, Fr Philip Cleevely and Fr Dermot Fenlon.

I wonder, is it "soon" yet?

The Church is divided between those who believe in compromise with the world, cosying up to the establishment and being respectable... and those who believe fidelity to the truth is worth being unpopular.

The Birmingham Three were removed because their presence was making it impossible for lukewarm celebrity Catholics so snuggle up to the Beatification for a bit of publicity. Just like the Vaughan School is being attacked because it's admission policy makes it impossible for rich people in Kensington to get a place.

These things are all about silencing the faithful and accomodating those with power, influence and "prestige". Grubby poor people with too many children are not going to be financing the next multi-million eco-friendly offices of the ministry of social justice voices...

My suggestion to bloggers, families in Birmingham and Vaughan parents? Get united. Start supporting each other and let the exile of the Birmingham Three be the moment hundreds of faithful Catholics rose up to stand in their place.

Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for us.

Corresopondence to CF News

Correspondence to Catholic Family News - 12.5.2011

Father Dermot Fenlon

A GROUP of Birmingham Oratory parishioners and members of the National Association of Catholic Families email : 'It scarcely seems credible that a whole year has passed since Father Dermot Fenlon, Father Philip Cleevely and Brother Lewis Berry were sent away from the Birmingham Oratory, the Oratory of Cardinal Newman, that had been their home for many years. No adequate explanation for their banishment has ever been given to their dismayed and puzzled parishioners, though we have received assurances that 'they have done nothing wrong'. We still await their return a year later, while Father Dermot's confessional with his name still above it remains empty of his presence.

It is noteworthy to us as parents that these three good men were indefatigable in defending the rights of parents as the primary educators and protectors of their children. They defended the Church's teaching in such controversial areas as the nature of marriage and were not afraid to challenge the homosexual rights agenda when it conflicted with such teaching. Their loss is a personal one to parishioners for whom they were a reliable spiritual guide, but further than that, as parents, we feel considerably more exposed thanks to their inexplicably unjust removal. We believe that an inquiry into the conduct of the Visitation is long overdue. Parents have few defenders of their rights left to them: whether our pastors are restored to us or not, we have only been strengthened in our resolve to uphold those rights.'

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Hello to our new visitors...

...from Slovenia, Chile, Japan, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan, you are very welcome!

Where are they now? Part 2 - Fr Ignatius Harrison

Catholic Paterfamilias blog - 11.5.2011

As with Monday's post, I can't actually say where he is right this minute as he has not let me know (and, to be fair, I did not ask him).

Interestingly, the Fr Ignatius Harrison I refer to is the same Fr Ignatius Harrison who in 1998 wrote an obituary for a fellow Oratorian priest who was HIV+ and was alleged to have sexually assaulted boys of school age. As to the ins and outs of that case and what may or may not have been known by those involved, I refer you directly to the Telegraph and Daily Mail articles on it.

Jump forward from 1998 to this time last year and where is Fr Ignatius Harrison? Well, 13 May 2010 was the date when Fr Dermot Fenlon, Fr Philip Cleevely and Br Lewis Berry were given their marching orders from the Birmingham Oratory by Fr Harrison and Co.

So why were the Birmingham Oratory Three given their marching orders? Well, let's look at the Times report on the issue of 21 May 2010 and what an Oratory Spokesman was quoted as saying:

... the disputes centred around Newman’s beatification but at the heart of it were allegations relating to Father Chavasse. “It seemed better for him to stand down so that the matter could be looked into properly,” he said.

“Around 2½ years ago, in the autumn of 2007, Father Chavasse began to form an intense but physically chaste friendship with a young man, then aged 20, which the Fathers of Birmingham Oratory regarded as imprudent.”

In light of the Times article, it would seem that the three who regarded the friendship as imprudent got the boot. They have not returned to the Birmingham Oratory (other than possibly to collect their possessions). However, Fr Chavasse is back in situ at the Birmingham Oratory (or at least until today this link showed him back in situ). Notwithstanding what the last link might say, Fr Dermot Fenlon and his confrères are not.
It's worth noting that the same Oratory spokesman who fed the information to the Times referred to above also subsequently:

"confirmed unequivocally that the (Birmingham Oratory) Three are entirely guiltless of any wrong-doing whatsoever, including, specifically, sexual misdemeanours or homophobia."

So, to conclude none of this makes any sense at all. Three men who regarded something that was imprudent as being imprudent and are "entirely guiltless of any wrong-doing whatsoever" got the boot - that's an intriguing form of justice.

Dare one suggest without accusation of paranoia that what happened at the Birmingham Oratory last year is just part of a wider agenda? I suppose I could always ask Fr Harrison.....

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Earthquake at the Birmingham Oratory?

As thousands of people evacuate Rome over fear of tomorrow's predicted 'big one', Free the B3: Justice for Fr Fenlon looks back (with the benefit of hindsight) at another earthquake...

"Earthquake at the Birmingham Oratory: Fr Chavasse steps down as Provost and 'Actor' of the Newman Cause" by Damian Thompson - Daily Telegraph blogs - 15.12.2009

The article opens with the question "what on earth is going on at the Birmingham Oratory?" and it outlines the changes taking place at the Oratory as per the newsletter
The second paragraph is interesting.  "Rumours of trouble at the Oratory have been vigorously circulated for months, and it’s no secret that there was a furious falling-out between the Oratory and its former press officer, Peter Jennings, who was also press officer to the then Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols."

Peter Jennings, what this Peter Jennings?

Thompson goes on to ask two very pertinent questions followed by the remark "I'm sure Archbishop Nichols could tell us, though I don’t think he will." 

Archbishop Nichols?  Hang on, didn't Jack Valero tell us this was an internal matter?

As for the earthquake in Rome, well Raffaele Bendani's prediction for a quake in 1924 was 2 days out, so that would suggest tremors on 13th May... 

Marian devotion, Marian vocation

"You get to know Newman and you realize that he is Marian.  The story, as I’ve said, of his turning to the Church in the 1830s and 1940s is connected with that Marian devotion.  But it doesn’t come out very much in letters at the time and subsequently.  It’s in his privacy of his prayers and devotions and his diaries that one sees the very beginning of what became the very Marian vocation of Newman.”

- Fr Dermot Fenlon CO

Rosa Mystica

Rosa Pope John Paul II
MARY is the most beautiful flower that ever was seen in the spiritual world. It is by the power of God's grace that from this barren and desolate earth there have ever sprung up at all flowers of holiness and glory. And Mary is the Queen of them. She is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore she is called the Rose, for the rose is fitly called of all flowers the most beautiful.

But moreover, she is the Mystical, or hidden Rose; for mystical means hidden. How is she now "hidden" from us more than are other saints? What means this singular appellation, which we apply to her specially? The answer to this question introduces us to a third reason for believing in the reunion of her sacred body to her soul, and its assumption into heaven soon after her death, instead of its lingering in the grave until the General Resurrection at the last day.

It is this:- if her body was not taken into heaven, where is it? how comes it that it is hidden from us? why do we not hear of her tomb as being here or there? why are not pilgrimages made to it? why are not relics producible of her, as of the saints in general? Is it not even a natural instinct which makes us reverent towards the places where our dead are buried? We bury our great men honourably.

St. Peter speaks of the sepulchre of David as known in his day, though he had died many hundred years before. When our Lord's body was taken down from the Cross, He was placed in an honourable tomb. Such too had been the honour already paid to St. John Baptist, his tomb being spoken of by St. Mark as generally known. Christians from the earliest times went from other countries to Jerusalem to see the holy places. And, when the time of persecution was over, they paid still more attention to the bodies of the Saints, as of St. Stephen, St. Mark, St. Barnabas, St. Peter, St. Paul, and other Apostles and Martyrs. These were transported to great cities, and portions of them sent to this place or that. Thus, from the first to this day it has been a great feature and characteristic of the Church to be most tender and reverent towards the bodies of the Saints.

Now, if there was anyone who more than all would be preciously taken care of, it would be Our Lady. Why then do we hear nothing of the Blessed Virgin's body and its separate relics? Why is she thus the hidden Rose? Is it conceivable that they who had been so reverent and careful of the bodies of the Saints and Martyrs should neglect her--her who was the Queen of Martyrs and the Queen of Saints, who was the very Mother of our Lord? It is impossible. Why then is she thus the hidden Rose? Plainly because that sacred body is in heaven, not on earth.

- Blessed John Henry Newman

Monday, 9 May 2011

Where are they now? Part 1 - Fr Felix Selden - 9.5.2011

To be honest, I have no idea where he is just now but he might be indulging one of the shared interests that he has in common with certain other catholic luminaries. I tried stamp collecting when I was about 7 but gave it up as a dead loss - maybe I should have stuck with it.

What I am more intrigued by is where he was this time last year and the discussions between him, Fr Ignatius Harrison and Fr Gareth Jones and others involved in the evisceration of the Birmingham Oratory. The Birmingham Oratory was vocally defending the rights of the family and parents as the primary educators of their children.

Sophie Scholl, the White Rose, and Conscience

From Supremacy and Survival: The English Reformation blogspot on 9.5.2011

Sophie Scholl, White Rose objector to Nazi rule in Germany, was born on May 9, 1921; she was guillotined on February 22, 1943. Scholl is one of the most admired women in 20th Century German history--but what does she have to do with the subject of this blog?

According to this Catholic Herald story from 2009, she and her White Rose compatriots were very much influenced by Blessed John Henry Newman, particularly by his teachings on conscience:

Cardinal John Henry Newman was an inspiration of Germany's greatest heroine in defying Adolf Hitler, scholars have claimed.

New documents unearthed by German academics have revealed that the writings of the 19th-century English theologian were a direct influence on Sophie Scholl, who was beheaded for circulating leaflets urging students at Munich University to rise up against Nazi terror.

Scholl, a student who was 21 at the time of her death in February 1943, is a legend in Germany, with two films made about her life and more than 190 schools named after her. She was also voted "woman of the 20th century" by readers of Brigitte, a women's magazine, and a popular 2003 television series called Greatest Germans declared her to be the greatest German woman of all time
But behind her heroism was the "theology of conscience" expounded by Cardinal Newman, according to Professor Günther Biemer, the leading German interpreter of Newman, and Jakob Knab, an expert on the life of Sophie Scholl, who will later this year publish research in Newman Studien on the White Rose resistance movement, to which she belonged.
The researchers also found a link between Scholl and Pope Benedict XVI in the scholar who inspired her study of Blessed John Henry Newman:

He added: "The religious question at the heart of the White Rose has not been adequately acknowledged and it is only through the work of Guenter Biemer and Jakob Knab that Newman's influence... can be identified as highly significant."
In his speech Fr Fenlon explained that Sophie, a Lutheran, was introduced to the works of Newman by a scholar called Theodor Haecker, who had written to the Birmingham Oratory in 1920 asking for copies of Newman's work, which he wanted to translate into German. . . .

It was through Haecker that the young Joseph Ratzinger - the future Pope Benedict XVI - learned to admire Newman, who died in Birmingham in 1890.

Conscience is a subtext throughout the history of the English Reformation and its aftermath--beginning with Henry VIII's "tender conscience" about having married his brother's widow. Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons centers St. Thomas More's heroism on his defense of the rights of conscience. Blessed John Henry Newman, as I've posted before, defended the rights and outlined the responsibilities of conscience, properly understood, in reaction to English concerns about the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

Sophie Scholl's birthday

Memorial to White Rose
On 22 February 1943, Sophie Scholl was guillotined by the Nazi Regime.  She and two other members of the White Rose resistance movement, her brother Hans Scholl and Christopher Probst, were executed for fighting against the tyranny of the State with words.
Today would have been Sophie Scholl's 90th birthday.

Fr Dermot has a scholarly interest in Sophie Scholl and the White Rose resistence movement, particularly in the influence and great inspiration of Blessed John Henry Newman on the movement.      

Here is an extract from Fr Dermot Fenlon's paper "From the White Star to the White Rose.  J.H. Newman and the Conscience of the State".

Newman's question, Haecker's pedagogy, Hartnagel's testimony: it is not idle to speak of prophetic witness.  Science without God, education without a heart, produced its nemesis in the Third Reich.  The White Rose struggled to resist it.  But for the Rose to flower there was need, not of the blood of students.  There was need of the blood of Christ, interceding for a fallen humanity.  Haecker, Muth, Edith Stein: the school of Newman was the seed ground nurturing a small and heroic movement of German writers, some of whome stand to us as saints and martyrs bearing the witness of effective intercession through the power of Christ's Passion, the source of salvation in the night of terror.  Christopher Probst, together with Fritz Hartnagel, belongs to that moment of witness.  Willi Graf and Kurt Huber found their way into this company of saints.  Hans Scholl?  If we are to believe his sister Inge, his request to be received into the Catholic Church points in the same direction.  And Sophie?

One of Sophie Scholl's letters

Sophie Scholl is singular.  Her letters, from the invasion of France in 1940, disclose a spiritual evolution breathtaking in its sensitivity, sincerity and depth.  It is not an exaggeration to suggest that these letters entitle her to recognition as a writer in the company of Anne Frank or Simone Weil.  It must never be forgotten that it was through her influence, her letters and her personal gifts that Fritz Hartnagel found in Newman those 'drops of precious wine' that brought him to the testimony of truth in the horror of the Russian Holocaust.  After the war FritzHartnagel married Sophie's sister Elisabeth.  He insisted Sophie should not be commemorated as a saint.  Her letters make it clear that Sophie would have been the first to agree.  Hartnagel's fidelity to the truth of her memory, his refusal to simplify or exaggerate, are exemplary, and should remain exemplary for us.  Because of Sophie Scholl he became, without knowing it, on the Russian front at Mariupol in 1943, the decisive recipient of Germany's kairos for Newman.  We should all keep his name before us in our prayers.

In the darkness of Hitler's Germany, Newman brought home to those prepared to hear, the presence, power and redemptive realiy of the Cross of Christ. 

(taken from Internationale Cardinal-Newman-Studien Vol 20 pp.72)

Fr Dermot Fenlon was present at the launch of Frank McDonough's biography of Sophie Scholl on 22 February 2010 and is personally thanked in the author's acknowledgements.  

In April 2010 Fr Dermot Fenlon attended the funeral of Christoph Probst's son Michael in Bavaria.  There was a profusion of white roses at his gravesite.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


What is exclaustration?

An indult that is granted by a bishop for diocesan communities and by the Holy See for institutes of pontifical right, and that permits religious to live outside the community for a specified time. The religious remain bound by their vows and by the obligations of their profession so far as they are compatible with their status. (Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary)

Involuntary exclaustration

Can. 686 §1. With the consent of the council, the supreme moderator for a grave cause can grant an indult of exclaustration to a member professed by perpetual vows, but not for more than three years, and if it concerns a cleric, with the prior consent of the ordinary of the place in which he must reside. To extend an indult or to grant it for more than three years is reserved to the Holy See, or to the diocesan bishop if it concerns institutes of diocesan right.

What is the effect of exclaustration?

Can. 687 An exclaustrated member is considered freed from the obligations which cannot be reconciled with the new condition of his or her life, yet remains dependent upon and under the care of superiors and also of the local ordinary, especially if the member is a cleric. The member can wear the habit of the institute unless the indult determines otherwise. Nevertheless, the member lacks active and passive voice.

Code of Canon Law

355 days of unjust exile for Fr Dermot Fenlon - 3.5.2011

The Free the B3: Justice for Fr. Dermot Fenlon blog shows the counter at 355 days today. Not much longer and we'll hit the anniversary of Fr Dermot's unjust expulsion from his home.
Fathers Selden, Harrison and Jones really should be ashamed of themselves but I doubt whether they are.