Sunday, 15 May 2011

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...