Row over nun's attack on Cardinal Hume
by Jonathan Petre
WESTMINSTER diocese this week responded to a bitter attack on Cardinal Hume by a Jamaican-born nun after the diocese cut off funds to her North London Caribbean community centre.
The attack, carried in the newspaper The Voice last week, came after two years of deadlock between the diocesan authorities and the priest in charge of the centre.
The nun, Sr Joseph, has been working with Fr John Robson at the centre since he founded it in 1974. Originally it was supported and funded by the diocese, but two years ago Cardinal Hume asked Fr Robson to take up a new post in Westminster.
Fr Robson refused to go because he claimed that he had been led to understand that he would be able to remain at the centre for as long as he wished.
The diocese then cut off funds to the centre, and started a new centre, under a new coordinator, just 200 yards down the road.
Sr Joseph said last week that she and Fr Robson were shocked by the diocese's decision. "In the Church situation where they've made a decision to stop funding, there's no way they'll fund until we give up the work."
She made plain her feeling that the Cardinal himself could have done more to solve the problem. "He has ignored me and taken away my religious staus," she said. "I'd love to face the man and tell him what I think."
The diocese's response has come in the form of a letter to the Editor of The Voice from Mgr John Crowley, a Vicar General. The letter says: "The Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster is totally committed to the pastoral care of its Caribbean Community.
"It is grateful to Fr John Robson for his eleven years of dedicated work in that Service, and to Sr Joseph also.
"Two years ago, Cardinal Hume and his area bishops, having consulted widely, decided that the moment had come for a change, if new challenges were to be met.
It was then that Fr Brian Creak was appointed as the coordinator of the Caribbean Pastoral Service within the Westminster Diocese. He had completed part of his studies for the priesthood in the West Indies to prepare himself the better for this important apostolate.
"Through the kindness of Archbishop Pantin (of Port-ofSpain), who knew of Cardinal Flume's concern for the West Indian community, Fr Rudy Mohammed, a Driest of Port-ofSpain, Trinidad, was seconded to work with Fr Creak in the Caribbean Pastoral service.
"Unhappily, Fr Robson felt himself unable to accede to the diocese's wish that the time had come for him to take up other work within the diocese. He was at that time, and subsequently, offered other positions within the diocese.
"However, Westminster's pastoral care of the Caribbean community had to continue and, fortunately, other premises were available in the vicinity. It should be remembered that it was Fr Robson's refusal to leave the centre which necessitated other premises being used for the Caribbean pastoral service.
"Clearly the diocese can only support financially that service which is under its own direction, and so funding of Fr Robson's work has been brought to an end."
Fr Robson told the Catholic Herald this week that he did not want to leave the Caribbean centre he had founded because he was committed to an apostolate for the black community and working for racial harmony.
He said that just after Cardinal Hume had taken office in Westminster he had been told by a top diocesan official that he would be allowed to continue with the work he and Sr Joseph had started.
"I felt I could not comply with the diocese's request that I should take up a new post because of the way things were done, and because of my commitments. I was the founder of this apostolate and 1 was instrumental in spreading it to other dioceses.
"There was a need for more consultation, and a better understanding of how to approach these things. I think the mere fact that the problem has been dragging on for two years shows what I mean."
At the moment Fr Robson's centre, which is in Seven Sisters Road, N4, is subsisting on public donations. It has applied for funding from Hackney council, but so far unsuccessfully.
Fr Brian Creak, co-ordinator of the official centre round the corner in Henry Road, N4, did not wish to comment this week.