Two words on the Birmingham Three
First there were the rumors; then came the bloggers; last came an open letter from the parishioners, asking the Birmingham Oratory to provide information as to why three of his members (Fr Dermot Fenlon, Fr Philip Cleevely and Brother Lewis Berry) have been sent away – several hundreds miles away from each other – for an undetermined period of time.
The Birmingham Oratory does not make any comment besides informing that there is no question of impropriety, but still the call for explanations doesn’t abate.
I do not agree with those who say that the Birmingham Oratorians should provide some form of “transparency”; nor do I believe that in these matters you have to speak in order for others to shut up. In situations like these, people never shut up. Whatever you say only gives them ammunition for the next round of rumors.
The three beloved and esteemed Oratorians are clearly above suspicion. There is therefore no question of the three being in any way slandered or compromised. Consequently, there is no need to start any crusade for their protection. For the same reason, there is no ground for concern that the spotless reputation of the Oratorians may itself suffer. There is, in fact, no problem you and I need to know.
The fundamental question here is whether one trusts the Oratorians. If one does, the need to know why certain decisions have been taken is just not there. If one doesn’t, it is not clear why the Oratorians should busy themselves giving “explanations” which would only aliment further rumors as to the “real motives” of whatever they might say.
Even in these post-V II times, the parishioners do not own a religious order. Attending Mass at their church does not give them any special right to information or control. They must decide, as everyone else, whether they trust the Oratorians and draw the consequences from their decision.
I personally support the decision of the Oratorians to remain silent on the matter and am extremely confident that this will remain the case whatever the level of noisy (and nosy) complaint in the future. It is good to see that there is at least one institution reacting to this modern mania that everything must always be put in front of the public, let alone that the public has the right to be informed of everything.
The Church is not a reality show. If the Oratory has decided that it is better to be silent on the matter, this means that they have thought this the proper conduct and in my eyes we should respect their call instead of starting the bickering and the peeping into other people’s affairs.