Saturday 18 July 2015

More on the Blackfen saga

I do not wish to comment on Fr Fisher (any more than I did on Kieran Conry after his fall) and for similar reasons: it is bad form to kick a man while he is down, and we do not know all the circumstances.

However, as with the Conry affair, I think it raises questions that are both legitimate and important to address, with regard to the episcopal oversight of the affair.

Soon after Fr Fisher's appointment, many were speculating about the bishop's intention in appointing him to the parish. Even given the most charitable of interpretations, it was clear that something had quickly gone very wrong. But there was no episcopal intervention, merely a bland letter.

Now it seems that there were already plenty of reasons to suspect at that time that Fr Fisher might have been in a fragile space, with regard to his faith and his vocation. Either these were known of when he was appointed to Blackfen, in which case I think he was the victim of a gross dereliction of care; or they were not, in which case I think my observations on Toxic Ignorance (which I voiced at the time of the Conry scandal, apply).

For the victims of this are not merely those who loved the traditional Mass at Blackfen, nor just those who liked the new ways at Blackfen, who have lost their new PP after less than a year, but also Fr Fisher himself, who seems to be going through a bad time (and which is really not helped by vitriolic attacks which some have made in comms boxes or on Facebook and Twitter: Catholics should know better than this). What he needed at that time is more likely to have been excellent pastoral support, not being thrown into what was bound to be a very difficult position.

I can only conclude that the crisis in the Church in the country continues, and that a major factor in this is widespread episcopal failure. 

We do have good bishops, of course, and it is important to listen to them and support them. 

And we have others. We must not be led astray by them, nor allow ourselves to be scandalised by them, or led into behaving badly ourselves, in our frustration and anger.

We must pray for them all, and for Fr Fisher, and all affected by the developments at Blackfen.


Jadis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Part-time Pilgrim said...

I think this analysis is unfair. Knowledge and bad judgement by the bishop to toxic ignorance are not the only possibilities. It is also possible that no one could have known the position with Fr Fisher. How can we know about another's internal struggles? And whist we do know that the Bishop responded to concerns by publicly backing his priest's actions we have no idea what was said to Fr Fisher in private. I am sure there are other possibilities. In many circumstances Achb. Smith will need to keep silent to protect Fr Fisher's dignity.
Dr Shaw on his blog refers to a "teacher training course" We don't know the source of this information and we don't know the nature of this course so it would be wrong to assume it was a PGCE at this stage. It may well have been a much shorter "preparing for teaching" or "returning to teaching".
Before making an attack that can't be responded to we need more than "it seems that there were plenty of reasons"
Of course you are quite right that "we do not know the all the circumstances" and that we should pray for Fr Fisher. The rest is at best ill-timed and might have waited until more details emerged and at worst unfair to the bishop in question

Ben Trovato said...


You place me in a slightly difficult position. I don't want to get into dragging everything known about Fr Fisher into the limelight; but there was plenty of evidence in the public domain, before his appointment as PP of Blackfen (for example his Facebook timeline) that suggested he was struggling with both his Faith and his self-identity. People were emailing me all sorts of stuff at the time of his appointment, which I thought better not to publicise. That was the basis for my comments.

Part-time Pilgrim said...


Thanks - that puts your comments in perspective and removes the surprise I felt when reading them. Nevertheless there are still scenarios where ++Smith is not very culpable and I can't see how we can know exactly what passed between them. I won't outline the scenario here in case people think I have some inside knowledge - I certainly don't - but I will email it to you to illustrate what I mean.

I will add that my professional experience of "HR" issues has often had situations where "management", on the basis of publicly know facts, seemed to be acting wrongly when knowledge of all the facts would show things in the opposite light.

Ben Trovato said...


You are right - there are scenarios I can imagine in which ++Smith is not culpable, and perhaps I should extend the same measure of understanding to him as I did to +Campbell when so many others were quick (too quick in my view) to judge him. I think the context affects my perspective: it seemed out of character for +Campbell, whereas I have a gloomier view of ++Smith. If anyone wants to point out to me examples of ++Smith's defending the Faith heroically, I would be very pleased to hear of them, and will revise my views accordingly.

Luke O'Sullivan said...

Alas, this sorry affair seems to present yet another obstacle in my attempts to explore the riches of the Old Rite Mass.

Whilst in university, though there was no motu proprio, there was a sizable community attached to the Latin Mass. I very much enjoyed attending Mass in Latin but found the community which surrounded it to be somewhat fractious. This was not the fault of the genuine Catholics who were a part of this community but the fact remains that in my experience, the Usus Antiquior, like the Latin Mass, attracts some whose primary motivation is not in accord with spirit of the motu proprio. For some, the Latin Mass played the equivalent role of a disco in their social calendar and for others it was a stick to beat "less worthy" Catholics over the head with.

Given the fundamental importance of Mass to the Church and humanity, perhaps I should not be surprised at this? The Devil mist count disrupting Mass and sowing discord through it as one of his primary targets?

In commenting on this post, I don't mean to lay any blame or critcicism at the door of genuine attendees of the Usus Antiquior. It is rather in hope that realise that they need to be aware of these potentially subversive influences and think how best to negate them.

As to the specifics of this case, if indeed the worst case scenario proves to be true and an Ordinary sent a priest who was known to be experiencing a crisis in vocation into a parish to perform a task which was always likely to be decisive then we should not be surprised by the outcome; we should rather pray fervently the preservation of the Faith in these Isles.