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Further to my post Defending the Birmingham Three, I'll be writing in Standpoint on Thursday about some of the most shocking aspects of the treatment of two priests and a brother of the Birmingham Oratory by an Apostolic Visitation.   On Friday, responding to a request from the Oratory spokesman, Opus Dei's Jack Valero, who was to be discussing the story with me on Sunday on radio, our editor Daniel Johnson courteously sent an advance copy which Valero promptly circulated to interested parties.  The result was a threat (unrealised) of legal action from Father Gareth Jones, the - let me pick my words carefully - unusual canonical adviser to the Visitation about whom I had, I felt, been if anything too charitable. 

Father Jones has had an interesting life and arouses strong passions. Much can be found on the internet if you want to learn more about Jones and the exotic cast of characters in this unedifying saga of cruelty, incompetence and secrecy. Among those most discussed are the Viennese Father Felix Selden (top Visitor) and Spanish Jack Valero (who reports to Archbishop Vincent Nichols's Press Secretary), with occasional interesting cameo appearances from the low-key Father Ignatius Harrison, the Provost of the Brompton Oratory (second Visitor) - a man too private or perhaps busy - for he is under investigation himself - to answer correspondence from those in search of the disappeared Oratorians.  

Valero's argument in response to my complaint on Sunday Sequence about the gagging of these men was that it was done to save their reputations: Mother Church knows what's best for them.  Unable to explain what they had done wrong, since he had confirmed they were guilty of none of the sins that the laity speculate about when priests are exiled and silenced, he trashed them comprehensively by positing that disciplinary offences might include ‘pride, anger, disobedience, disunity, nastiness, dissension, the breakdown of charity...very serious things were going on inside that house.'  I've known my friend Father Dermot Fenlon since he was eighteen and he has never done anything nasty.  As for Fathers Jones, Selden, Harrison and Mr Valero:  I couldn't possibly comment.   

The Voice of Carindal Burke's Conscience
August 26th, 2012
10:08 PM
What has Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke to say about the canonical appeal that was filed on Father Dermot Fenlon's behalf with the Apostolic Signatura? This is the question that everyone interested in restoring Dermot Fenlon's good name and repuation must be asking.

January 22nd, 2012
5:01 PM
Hasn't this questionable priest, Fr Jones, now become the vice provost of the Birmingham Oratory. How, if there is a God, did that happen?

Birmingham Oratory Parishioner
August 26th, 2010
2:08 PM
It is a little ironic that those of us who wish to uphold the reputation of priests whom we have known for decades are being accused of the opposite. Father Dermot Fenlon's reputation has been trashed by Jack Valero, Ignatius Harrison and Gareth Jones. What are we supposed to do? Keep quiet about it? The Murphy Report, the episcopal negligence towards our adoption agencies and the collusion with the state to corrupt our children ended my own connivance with the "modest and patient approach" favoured by ecclesiastical authority. I think it is high time the laity protested loudly at the injustices of the institutional church, whether it is covering up clerical abuse or silencing good priests who put their necks on the line to defend our children, as Father Dermot Fenlon does. Eventually, to say nothing in the face of evil is to connive with it.

Loyal and orthodox
August 26th, 2010
9:08 AM
There remains very little information about the situation in the public domain, which means a great majority of the 'new information' is in fact rumour, conjecture or straight-out invention. From the outside, the mutual encouragement between a small group of people to make ever more outrageous and offensive claims is terrifying. The herding behaviour is most evident in the conformity of their turn of phrase. Suddenly Jack Valero is now labelled 'ubiquitous' and the Birmingham 3 'good and holy'. The campaigners have proclaimed themselves to be the holders of the truth! Only they now, it seems, can determine who is good and holy and, they suggest, the Church (or the authorities that represent it) has lost its way. The information is simply not available in the public domain to make informed judgement calls, as they claim. A more modest and patient approach is surely preferable. Rather, the stampede is gaining pace, but in the wrong direction... away from the Church and away from the Truth. For example, there is absolutely nothing that confirms the allegations made about Fr Harrison's role in the situation, yet the group persist in their baseless attack. You might also be familiar with the occasion where the braying mob sought to implicate Fr Finigan. His crime? Not openly supporting their position. The same can be said about any priest in the UK, if withholding comment is a sign of guilt. They say that there is a danger that the Papal Visit is overshadowed by this story. That is their aim! What kind of Catholic seeks to hold the Church to ransom? “Release the three, or we’ll ruin the Papal Visit!”. What is most upsetting is that the campaigners have now taken such a stubborn stance and placed all their emotional eggs in one basket, that they cannot go back on their position. Whatever the reality of the situation, whenever it becomes clear, we can be sure that it will be roundly dismissed by the stampede unless it conforms with the story they have concocted over recent weeks.

August 25th, 2010
5:08 PM
It is a sorry sight to see a growing number of traditional Catholics sucked into the hypercritical hyperbole that surrounds the Birmingham Oratory situation. Indeed, with little basis, they have sought to destroy the reputations of some England's finest priests. Fr Harrison's role in events has been defined only by speculation and his cited motives seem only the product of a creative imagination. Those of us who know him well, know him to be a wonderful priest who cares for his parishioners. Truly a good and holy man who seeks to preserve an authentic interpretation of the Catholic faith in communion with the Holy See. It takes an unusual sort of fanatic to seek to dig into a man's history some 30 years ago in order to find dirt. It takes a unusual sort of Catholic to forget that people change. There was even a time when the braying mob verged on sucking Fr Finigan into the scandal. His crime? Not to comment on his blog in the way that the Birmingham campaigners deigned to be reflective of True Catholicism. But, thank God, that particular accusation fell away. Increasingly, this small group of campaigners are defining themselves as the holders of the Truth. They see themselves as the judges of which individuals are 'good and holy'. Have a read at the blogs and see how that little mantra has become increasingly prevalent. Good and holy, good and holy, good and holy. It is devasting. Because these same people are among the orthodox Catholics that simply must prevail and protect the Truth from liberals who seek to dilute it, yet they have become so overcome by the stampeding herd that they have lost track of which way they are running... away from the Church. PLEASE, all of you. Take a moment. Step back and see what you are doing.

August 24th, 2010
11:08 AM
Thank you Ruth - your careful choice of words has made me laugh, although this is certainly no laughing matter. At last we are getting somewhere thanks to you. Let us now look forward to justice for Fr Dermot, Fr Philip and Br Lewis (and hopefully also for Fr Selden, Fr Harrison, and especially Fr Gareth Jones). If he embarks on legal action against you I will eat my hat.

August 24th, 2010
11:08 AM
Ms Dudley Edwards, Thank you for your good work. I doubt anyone would attempt to sue you, least of all Jones or Ignatius Harrison. The can of worms they would open for themselves would bring them both down. Fr Harrison is the ringleader in all of this. Jones may take the fall but it is Harrison who is really in charge. Born in 1949 in South London Keith Harrison read modern languages at Selwyn College, Cambridge. About 1969 he became a Roman Catholic but was also a very active member of the choir of All Saints Margaret St, the flamboyant Anglo-Catholic London church. In 1978 he wrote an extreme militant tendency type article in the Assistant Librarian called "It's Books I'm into" in which he advocated the replacement of World Literature with comics. Bernard Levin tore it to pieces in the Times. Harrison has always been a very controversial character. Without much serious vetting the rather naive Fathers of the London Oratory accepted him as a novice in 1978 and since then he has used his position to browbeat and manipulate those who have the misfortune to cross his path. Why he became a priest is unknown, but somehow it is difficul;t to imagine such a character in a quiet hardworking parish without endless amounts of money to spend,staff members and novices to mistreat and weeks of time for holidays on southern beaches. A little serious research would uncover a great deal. The Birmingham 3 have committed the "crime" of standing up to a bully who wants to remake their community for the satisfaction of exercising power for its own sake. As to the breakdown of charity mentioned by Valero, well, that's what Fr Harrison does wherever he is. In fact dissension and discord are what he does best. What he preaches and what he practises are two different things, on many levels.

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