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The Dome of the Birmingham Oratory, on Hagley Road

News from the Birmingham Oratory, which next month the pope will visit on September 19th, the day he beatifies Cardinal Newman.  Newman's old home is now mired in a deepening scandal: this started with the ex-Provost having a 'chaste but intense' relationship with a young man and went on to see three of its tiny community banished to separate monasteries. These three — two priests and a brother — have become known as the ‘Birmingham Three', as a sense of injustice mounts about their fate.

I'll be writing in the next issue venomously about the scandalous way in which these men have been treated, and of the apparent inability of the Catholic Church to learn the downside of secrecy and authoritarianism. But for now I'm just putting it on the record that, in a lengthy interview with me, the ubiquitous Jack Valero of Opus Dei, spokesman  for the Newman canonisation cause and the Birmingham Oratory, has confirmed unequivocally that the Three are entirely guiltless of any wrong-doing whatsoever, including, specifically, sexual misdemeanours or homophobia.

The Birmingham Three have been gagged so cannot defend any speculation about them.  And speculation there has been. Until now, the main official communication from the Oratory has been a comment that it was 'an internal matter': the laity were enjoined to stop asking questions. But those who know that the punishment of the Three exceeds that of your average clerical child-molester have been speculating all over the religious blogosphere. Are they homosexual? Homophobic? Are they fanatical fundamentalists? Or victims of a political archbishop who will allow Newman to become a gay icon?  Since one of the three is my dear old friend Father Dermot Fenlon, late of Gonville and Caius, this atheist has been following events and speculation closely. Quite apart from anything else, events cast an extraordinary light on institutional cruelty.

Steve Jones
September 2nd, 2010
5:09 AM
Mr Bradley, what are you doing in a seminary if you are gay? You are being unfair to your self.

t bradley
August 27th, 2010
5:08 AM
As a gay semianrian at The Beda in Rome I was shocked at the level of gay sexual activity and my attempts to raise my concerns with Vincent Nichols, then Inspector of seminaries, have been ignored and denied.

August 21st, 2010
5:08 PM
Sounds like a plot for Tom Hanks next film.

August 21st, 2010
7:08 AM
I to am an Oratory parishioner and I do not accept that we have been lied to from the pulpit. This is an internal, domestic matter and thanks to the rubbish on various blogs and in the media lives and reputations are being needlessly destroyed.

August 14th, 2010
6:08 AM
It seems from a report in the Catholic Herald that youngest member of the trio is on point of being sent to a rather new Oratory in South Africa for at least a year! Four months ago this young man had good reason to expect to be ordained priest in October of this year. What are the grounds for this draconian treatment? I appreciate that they may relate to confidential matters, but the implication is that the THREE have done something gravely sinful. It appears they are not free to tell us their own story ie to defend themselves. But by keeping them on a short uncertain leash, they are bound to string along with the Powers-That-Be

Francesca Murphy
August 11th, 2010
10:08 AM
in the next world ...? maybe?

August 10th, 2010
6:08 AM
This is an important article. The English Catholic authorities have treated lay people with contempt since the 1960s and the Birmingham Three affair is just another example.

August 8th, 2010
5:08 PM
Thank God a journalist of the calibre of Dr Ruth Dudley Edwards is at last investigating what she rightly refers to as "the institutional cruelty" which has been meted out to these three exceptional men, Fr Dermot, Fr Philip and Br Lewis, who as the infallible Jack Valero says have done nothing wrong.

August 6th, 2010
1:08 PM
I am a parishioner at the Birmingham Oratory and I appreciate your assistance in trying to get to the bottom of this grave injustice to Father Fenlon and the two others. We have been lied to in the pulpit about this. When will they learn?

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