Birmingham Three: this suppression will not stand!

However much the powers that be sit on this, the scandal of the Birmingham Three just won’t go away, in fact it spreads further and further. Here is Ruth Dudley Edwards in today’s Sunday Independent:

What Father Selden had reckoned without was the blogosphere. By the time I heard what had happened to Dermot, speculation was rampant, much of it of the ‘no-smoke-without-fire’ variety. By the time he was permitted to go to the US to do some teaching, he found that there was a widespread belief that to have been punished with indefinite exile suggested ‘The Birmingham Three’, as they are known by sympathisers, were guilty of some terrible sexual sins. Yet on the blogs there were also many, many supporters who believe they have been victimised by the establishment for being forthright defenders of Catholic values in the face of secularist threats (Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, is not in favour of too much challenging of the state) and for having eloquently resisted attempts to co-opt Newman as a gay icon.

All three had been looking forward to the papal visit as the high point of their clerical careers, but although it appears that Father Chavasse will be back for it, the others will remain exiled: three Oratorians who are in complete theological harmony with Pope Benedict are being kept as far away from him as possible. Enquiries from the laity to Father Selden have resulted in a patronising brush-off: the official line is that they were a cause of disunity.

As I write, Brother Berry has been ordered to South Africa for at least a year and the Oratory spokesman tells me the other two await imminent sentence. Their defenders have formed an alliance that includes right-wing Catholics, people of other religions and none, and gays as well as straights, for from personal knowledge I can testify that there is nothing homophobic about Dermot Fenlon, who was much sought-after as a confessor.

Read the whole thing here, and also please visit the Free the Birmingham Oratory Three blog. One understands, of course, that such as Selden and Harrison aren’t used to having to explain themselves to the great unwashed, and don’t particularly like the idea, but if I was advising them (hello Jack) my advice would be to get this resolved as soon as possible, preferably by bringing the Three home. Otherwise this fiasco runs the risk of overshadowing the Newman beatification.

A few further thoughts. Firstly, the splitting up of the Three enables them to be picked off individually, or at least for pressure to be brought on the younger two – Fr Dermot is not known for his fear of rocking the boat, and would be a tough man to pressurise. Secondly, since it’s being spun that Fr Chavasse will soon be returning to Brum, it would seem to me that his exile was not punitive but designed to protect him. Thirdly, why exactly are the Oratorians being allowed to investigate themselves?

I humbly suggest that there are a few people in Rome who might find this fiasco interesting.


  1. August 16, 2010 at 1:15 am

    […] of the “Splintered Sunrise” blog,  labouring under the misaprehension that it is “left wing” in the […]

  2. robert said,

    August 16, 2010 at 2:11 am

    Looks like you’ve got a stalker Splinty. Poor old Shiraz seems to have major issues with Catholicism.

  3. Phil said,

    August 16, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Steady. Remember the Orwell rule – just because something’s in the Daily Telegraph, that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

  4. Petrus said,

    August 18, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    a tabloid could have real field day with the headlines on this:

    e.g. “Sons of Newman kept well away from Successor of St. Peter”

    Saint Maria Goretti’s killer Alessandro Serenelli attended her canonisation ceremony in 1950!

    Deacon Jack Sullivan who was cured by Newman’s intercession will assist at the liturgy of the beatification of Ven John Henry Newman – and how fitting that is!

    1. Deacon Brother Lewis Berry [who has ‘done nothing wrong’ (Oratory Spokesman) will assist at the beatification of John Henry Newman??? – NO he is told to go to an Oratory in SA -presumably a gay-friendly one to be deprogrammed from Fenlon’s ‘influence’

    2. Frs Fenlon and Cleevley who have ‘done nothing wrong’ (Oratory Spokesman) will concelebrate at the beatification of their holy founder and welcome the Holy Father to his Community???

    Sadly the answer to the first two is unlikely to be in the affirmative given the hint in Mr. Valero’s BBC W Midlands Radio comments:

    “we don’t know when they come back….”

    3. Fr Chavasse [former Provost](who perhaps more than anyone else could call for the restoration of ALL three)- will he be at the beatification??

    Perhaps…and indeed as you say most likely,as Valero also stated in the BBC W MIdlands programme:

    “..some of them may be treated differently”

    But then maybe the real clue to the outcome of question 3 is in the words of the reply to BBC journalist Steven Sackur on the programme ‘HardTalk’

    Sackur: ‘Some of their vicars are also prepared to sanction gay unions. That church is showing flexibility. Is the Catholic church not going to have to do the same eventually?’

    Nichols: ‘I don’t know. Who knows what’s down the road?’

  5. Petruvius said,

    August 18, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    The BBC Will & Testament blog is running with this now.

    “To the supporters of the Three, their plight is a draconian injustice of medieval proportions. Is it appropriate, they ask, that three brothers should be ordered to leave their spiritual home and commanded to remain in prayer, to refuse all media requests for interviews, and to make no efforts to communicate with each other? Is this how the church should behave in the 21st century?”

  6. leftfooter said,

    August 18, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Nichols is a twerp.

  7. leftofcentre said,

    August 19, 2010 at 10:09 am

    jack valero, the pr guy for the oratory, is going to be debating ruth dudley edwards on the brum3 on the bbc on sunday morning …

  8. Vespasian said,

    August 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    The more the church tries to keep things quiet the more they make themselves look bad

  9. Brigada Flores Magon said,

    August 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Sorry to be pedantic about the cartoon but Oratorian birettas come without pom-poms. I must get out more.

  10. mundabor said,

    August 28, 2010 at 1:18 am

    Another beautiful example of a journalist (ruth dudley edwards) thinking that she is important.

    The simple truth is that whether something is important or not; whether the Oratorians should talk to the public or not; who has the right to know etc. is not for her to decide. She really hasn’t any say in the matter. Really.

    Of course, being a journalist, she ‘ll need some stories and of course, being a journalist, she’ll think that Harrison & Co. care of what she writes.

    I think she is badly wrong on both counts.

    To have additional evidence of her skewed perspective, please just look at the justification as to why the Oratorians should do as she says: that “Their defenders have formed an alliance that includes right-wing Catholics, people of other religions and none”.

    “Defenders”? “Alliance”? What is this, the First Crusade? Seriously, who the lady thinks she is?

    I am of course not in the mind of the Oratorians, but it would be the greatest fun to see journalists becoming hysteric because they are not acted upon – and dealing as if the world were imploding because of this – and the Oratorians fully ignoring them until the three come back *when the Oratorians say so*.


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