Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Gossip is not infrequently sinful, especially when it does damage.
Gossip can make a delicate situation intractable.
The situation of the so-called 'Birmingham Three' was never a positive one.
But the gossip has already made a bad situation fifty times worse.
It might well all have blown over by now, but for the gossip.
And good people are fanning the flames, though no doubt with the best intentions.

The only justification for this gossip is old tabloid one
(foot in door, microphone in face)
'the public has a right to know'.
No it doesn't!
'we're just giving you the opportunity to give your side of things,
otherwise we'll write what we think'.

This whole business has the devil's hoofmarks all over it.
Far too many good people have been maligned, on all sides.
Enough, already!
I am going to vet comments on this post very strictly.


motuproprio said...

As my grandmother used to say (and she was a wise old bird) 'Least said soonest mended' - what a strangely old-fashioned sentiment in the internet age.

B flat said...

Having some knowledge of, and affection for, the Birmingham Oratory, I am naturally interested, and have followed the stories on various blogs.

The information I read leaves me as puzzled as the basic facts, which are unexplained.

My overall impression is that there is insufficient trust shown by the authorities of the Congregation of the Oratory, towards the parishioners of the Birmingham Oratory, and friends who wish them well, love and depend on them.

The Birmingham Oratory, and its individual members, are entitled to their privacy, and no ordinary outsider should intrude. But banishments and gagging orders imposed by outside authority cause scandal within the wider Church, where we are taught Christian values of love, honesty, and justice, and the iimperative to act according to Natural Law. The lack of these in what has occurred in the public domain, is the cause of the trouble in my view, and not the talk, which is the expression of a real thirst for good news.

Ttony said...

Father, it seems to me (who knows nothing about what goes on inside an Oratory, never having stepped foot inside one myself)that the "Birmingham 3" story is actually being used as a stick to beat Archbishop Nichols and his perceived stance on the teaching and practice of sexuality (and if the stick breaks in two, then there's another stick to beat Jack Valero with).

Pastor in Monte said...

'Banishment' and 'gagging orders' are very good examples of precisely the sort of inflationary language that has exacerbated this situation.
They also do not describe the reality.

B flat said...

This won't do, Father. You write as if you know the truth of the situation better than I. I have no right to disbelieve you, but you aren't telling us anything.

If their leaving Birmingham, and being separately in distant monasteries "for an indefinite period" was not their decision but that of the Apostolic Visitor, by what word will you describe this absence from Newman's own house, if not "banishment"? When the Beatification process is imminently to be concluded, and the Pope himself is expected, did they absent themselves because they were not needed and wanted a change of air? And if they are not allowed to speak on the matter, please name this more precisely and dispassionately than "gagging order". Suggest words that convey the truth, and I promise to use them.

It is the reality of the situation of these three men and of the Birmingham Oratory, which is distressing. The Oratory is chosen freely as the only place within which the would-be follower of St Philip Neri will live out his whole life and apostolate as a Catholic priest or brother. There is a lifelong commitment to the House and to the Community. In the case of these three, this has been broken at a critical moment in the life of their own house; they are absent and separated from each other, although we are assured that the three are guilty of no wrongdoing.

The Church speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves, like the unborn in the womb, and acts as their protector and advocate. In this case, you are telling us to mind our own business. Why is the decision of a preganant woman to visit an abortion clinic any less private than this case of a religious community? By what right do we interfere and protest? There is a perception of Natural Justice being violated here.

If you know what is going on, can you explain why this apparent injustice is happening?

If you cannot, or don't wish to, then perhaps you should not have raised the matter at all.

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Interesting post..do you mind adding my new blog to your links please Fr?

Adulio said...

They also do not describe the reality...

Presumably you know something more?

I think the "gossip" that you have alluded to would have died out by now if it had not been for the actions of the apostolic visitor and delegate visitors involved.

Liberal Traditionalist said...

It's all very well labelling people as gossips but most of those who really matter, the parishioners in Birmingham, genuinely and firmly see that a grave injustice has been committed

All this has been carried out in an inept fashion without any consideration for the christian principles of justice - at every stage, the authorities have ignored the due processes of Canon Law.

As a result of the Oratory's mishandling, some vile and defamatory allegations have been made against the three on some of the blogs e.g. the Telegraph - none emanating from the parishioners themselves.

For the past three months, the whole issue has been crying out for a mixture of compassion and political expediency - the Oratory cannot see this.

No-one will condemn Fr. Felix Selden if he does the right thing and return all three to Birmingham in advance of the Beatification.

Clara said...

This matter, which is purely domestic in nature, has been blown out of all proportion by a minority of parishioners who think that they have the right to know every detail of the Oratorians' lives. There are many more parishioners who are worried as a result, but who have turned to prayer instead of the sometimes damaging world of the blogosphere. Some very wicked things have been said by those who do not know the true nature of the situation. May I refer you to a blog recently set up, where some brave soul has tried to balance the situation:http://onatalux.blogspot.com.

Anonymous said...

Surely this is a domestic incident for the Birmingham Oratorians? It sounds like personality conflicts that have got out of control in a small setting. I am amazed by the trouble caused by a small group in the congregation and the way it was disseminated by the mischievous Damian Thompson on his often poisonous website.

Conflicts within religious communities are usually solved by dispersal to different houses. It is unfortunate that this should have occurred so close to the Holy Father's visit and the beatification of Cardinal Newman. Will the dispersed be allowed back to meet him?

Pugin described the Oratorians as being old women of both sexes, whatever that means. There is certainly something a little spinsterly about many of them.

df said...

Anonymous - in fact Pugin did not describe Oratorians as 'several old women of both sexes'; this is a description of those who differed with Pugin on his obsession of the Rood-screen. Pugin infers that Oratorians look to these people for support.

"It has been asserted that [the Moderns' - code for the Oratorians] first dislike of screens arose from a desire of literary notoriety; and that, finding several old women of both sexes had taken a most unaccountable and implacable offence at the ancient division of the chancel and the restoration of the Crucifix, which had been so wisely destroyed in the good old days of Queen Bess, they profited by the occasion to increase the sale of a periodical."

Pastor in Monte said...

Thank you, df. I wanted to repudiate that one, too, but lacked the specific reference.

Ben Whitworth said...

Mea culpa. I used the term 'gagging order' in a comment on a BBC blog. If, as is now being said, Fr Cleevely is going to talk to the press, then clearly the term is inappropriate. I want to hear from the 'Three', not because I suspect some skullduggery & want to know the gory details, but quite simply because these are three of the clergy I most like and admire & I am very concerned about what they are continuing to be put through. I quite see that the gossip, which has become vindictive in some corners of the internet, may now itself be a part of the cross that these men have to bear, and for that reason I am going to make this my last comment on the subject. But I will just say this: I will be going to the beatification in Cofton Park. At first, my anticipation of this event was heightened by the thought of seeing Frs Cleevely and Fenlon, and Br Berry, alongside the Holy Father on this historic day in the history of their House. Their absence - and indeed the absence of Fr Chavasse - will, for me, cast a long shadow over the event. I find it very hard to believe that this was unavoidable.