The Holy Father's trip to Britain will be miserable for everyone if we don't change our tone

Is there a tendency these days for Catholic laymen to sit on the sidelines shouting abuse at bishops, priests and Church bureaucrats? Maybe there is. I have done it often enough myself

Perhaps “shouting” is unfair, but consider the flap over the Birmingham Oratory and its refusal to say why it has sent three of its members on indefinite leave. Many might believe, as I do, that it is no business of ours, that it is for the Oratory to decide how to conduct its internal affairs. The Church is not a democracy, thank God. But the young firebrands of the blogosphere will have none of this. They think that the Oratory should give an account of its conduct in this matter, and believe that its silence is in the highest degree sinister.

It is never very easy to get a grip on conspiracy theories, but the line the firebrands are pushing seems to be this: that the three Oratorians have been moved precisely because they are good, brave, orthodox Catholics, and blameless in every conceivable way (as I am happy to believe they are). But why remove good men from their posts? That’s easy. Because our wicked bishops want them out of the way for the Pope’s visit. The three men would only cause embarrassment by speaking up for the truths of our religion, especially in matters of sexual morality. It’s a plot, in other words, by the NuChurch.

James Preece is in many ways an admirable young man, and he clearly loves the Church. He runs Catholic and Loving It and has a hand in the UNOFFICIAL Website of the Papal Visit to the United Kingdom. Many will think that it was wrong to exclude him from Catholic Voices, the team set up to prepare the public for the Pope’s visit. But he seems to have lost it as far as the Birmingham Oratory is concerned. He is very, very cross. Consider this:

“Unfortunately, when you are three humble holy men standing in the path of Archbishop Nichols and his plan for an all encompassing Church where anybody and everybody can believe whatever they like … then you tend to get squashed.”

Go here for the full post.

It is an extraordinary charge. The Archbishop may have been derelict in certain areas — some find him wanting in his media statements on sex education and contraception – but nothing can justify the accusation that he is plotting to destroy the Church (for that would be the result of his “plan” for a Church ”where everybody can believe whatever they like”). It rather looks as though Mr Preece has been carried away by his emotions.

Perhaps the same can be said of some of the Oratory’s parishioners in Birmingham. A couple of days ago a group of them released the text of an open letter to Father Felix Selden CO, Delegate of the Apostolic See for the Confederation of the Oratory, in which they told him that the souls of their children were at risk because of the suspension of the three holy men. (“Our children’s very souls are at stake and we will not be silence [sic]”.)

Here, from that letter, is a sentence that did not quite work for me:

“We will not easily forget the look of bewilderment on our children’s faces when they heard from the pulpit the announcement of the expulsion of these three holy men with no explanation, and the difficult task we have (and continue to have) in trying to mitigate the enormous scandal that has been done to these little ones.”

I once had children of my own, but never children such as these. I’d quite like to know how little the “little ones” are and what their parents are doing to mitigate the “enormous scandal”. If they are trying to mitigate it by talking about it all the time and sharing their misgivings with their children, they will fail. It’s easy to speak from a distance, of course, but a better ploy in such circumstances might be to smile reassuringly and say that it is a very complicated matter and best left to Mummy and Daddy, and certainly nothing to worry about or lose sleep over.

Here’s a thought: perhaps it is time for temperance all round. If we don’t all calm down, if the hissing and spitting does not stop, the Pope’s visit will be a misery for everyone, not least for the Holy Father himself.