"Very serious things were going on inside that house."
Jack Valero (pictured), spokesman for the Birmingham Oratory, told Sunday Sequence this week that the so-called "Birmingham Three" have been ordered to stay away from their religious community because of disciplinary matters relating to the internal life of the Birmingham Oratory such as "pride, anger, disobedience, disunity, nastiness, dissension, the breakdown of charity." "Very serious things were going on inside that house," he said.
Replying to claims from Ruth Dudley Edwards that the Three have been exiled and silenced, he said, "When the [Apostolic] Visitation started in April 2009 ... the [Apostolic] vistor, Fr Felix Selden, found the community in Birmingham disintegrating. Its very existence was actually threatened. This man is not an autocrat, as he has been portrayed in the papers or on the blogs. This is a man who went in there and spent a year, from April 2009 to April 2010, trying to help them to sort themselves out privately because these were private discentions within the community, and when this wasn't working, he said, 'Well, I need to do something . . . this community is in danger.' So he thought, well, the answer is for some to absent from this community for a while. But this 'Free the Birmingham Three' campaign -- what is the meaning of this? These three men are not prisoners. They can come and go as they please, they can do pastoral work, they are priests in good standing, they can study, they can publish articles, they can visit friends, their movements are not restrained -- what does it mean?"
When I asked Jack Valero if the Birmingham Three were permitted to give interviews to the press, he said, "They cannot speak about the Visitation because it involves them and other people and the Visitation is still going on . . . and they cannot live in the Birmingham Oratory for the time being and until they are healed and the community is healed. And this involves not just them but the people there. And the idea that there is some conspiracy to silence them -- because they are orthodox or something like that -- is an insult to the people who are left there ... they are all equally orthodox .. they are all equally good. But people sometimes don't get on ... These problems of communities should be sorted out internally .. and it is really bad to speak about them in the media this way."
Jack Valero said he had spoken to one of the priests, Father Philip Cleevely, who would soon be speaking to the press. He also responded to rumours on the blogs that the Oratory's former provost, Fr Paul Chavasse, would be returning to Birmingham in time for the Pope's visit. Jack Valero said this was unlikely, and that it was most likely that Fr Chavasse and the Oratorians being disciplined would remain away from Birmingham until after the papal visit.
Listen to the interview in full on the BBC iPlayer.