Monday, 2 October 2017

The Power of Silence (3)

In this third post, I consider a further aspect of Silence. In the first, I reflected on its positive powers; in the second, on the evils of imposed Silence with regard to the truth. In this one, I am concerned with Silence from our bishops and their agencies (one may also read across from this to silence from our Holy Father).

When the scandalous document Made in God's Image first came to my attention, I wrote to several bishops and the Director of the CES, as did others. Their responses fell into three categories (with one exception). Most simply did not reply. A few told us that we were writing to the wrong person. And from the remainder, we got the famous Q letter (see here and here).  Given that Q addresses none of the issues raised, I think that counts as Silence - a refusal to engage with the issues.

Given that I thought this important, I wrote again to +McMahon as head of the relevant bishop's committee, and received an assurance that he would discuss the matter with the head of the CES. That could be read as a sincere next step, or a brush-off. So I wrote again, asking for an assurance that when he had done so, he would communicate the outcome: as the issues are important, I should be told if I am wrong, or changes should be undertaken if I am right. The response (you guessed it) Silence.

In the meantime, I heard that several bishops had refused to allow Made in God's Image to be issued in their dioceses. But oddly, I could find no public reasons for that. So I wrote to them, asking about that, and asking whether my making a noise about all this was unhelpful in some way I didn't know, and whether I should, therefore desist. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I have been silent about this for a while: I was awaiting responses to these various letters.)

Three of them have not replied; one, my own good bishop, has done so. He did not address my questions head on, but instead referred me to +McMahon.

So how am I to read all this Silence? If several bishops believe the document is not in conformity with Catholic teaching, why will they not say so? Surely considerations of a facade of unity are less important than the corruption of Catholic teachers and children by wrong teaching?

It may be, of course, that their are tactical reasons for their silence, as they seek to address the issue behind the scenes. But I specifically asked if I should shut up about this, and not one of them said I should.  So I interpret that silence as tacit permission to keep making a noise about it.

And now a rumour reaches me that the CES has announced to the bishops that the document will be revised and reissued. Is that true? If so, does it concede there is something wrong with the first iteration? If so, teachers deserve to be told.  But d'you know what? There will be Silence.


With all respect to their Lordships, this is a very unwise path to tread. Whilst I understand the positive Power of Silence as alluded to by Cardinal Sarah (see the first post in this series), the Silence of teachers when error is promulgated (or of leaders when evil is perpetrated)  is not discretion, but dereliction.

Episcopal silence has already done tremendous damage in this country, and the culture of Silence (I had almost written omertà) has facilitated the unfortunate Conry episode,  the deception of the faithful about the leadership of CAFOD, and countless cases of abuse; quite apart from the silence about all the difficult parts of Catholic teaching over the past 50 years (with a few honourable exceptions).

Pray, then, for our bishops, that they may all be worthy successors to St John Fisher.


umblepie said...

Thanks for this update. 'Well done, good and faithful servant'.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks for this, and for your previous (unpublished) comment. For some reason Blogger only let me read the first half of it, so if you would like to email me, my email address is benny (dot) trovato (at) gmail (dot) com