Monday 6 October 2014

More on Ignorance, and other, darker, matters

I have been brooding more on ignorance, and particularly what one might call 'tactical ignorance.' (I do like finding ever-more evocative adjectives to place in front of 'ignorance').

Remember this?

Bishop Conry is asked whether the Church might quietly change its mind in a hundred years' time (on the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood). He replies: 'Well, according to Pope John Paul the Second this was a definitive statement, wasn't it. But, um, I couldn't possibly comment.' (chuckle). It is the knowing chuckle that gets me every time. He is joined in it by the interviewer and the other interviewee, one Professor Beattie...

It reminded me of another profession of ignorance: 

Stephen Sackur: Some of their (ie CofE) vicars are also prepared to sanction gay unions. That church is showing flexibility. Is the Catholic church not going to have to do the same eventually?

+Nichols: I don't know. Who knows what's down the road?

It seems to me that in both cases, a profession of ignorance was used tactically, to avoid giving a straight answer. 

And again I was reminded of the incident in St Luke, Chapter 20, to which I referred yesterday.

Could it really be that our bishops (one ex- and one now a cardinal) both used this tactic to avoid saying (or even teaching) the truth? And if so, was that for fear of what the people might say if they told the truth?  Or, for fear of revealing that they really don't believe aspects of the Faith it is their vocation and duty to uphold?

These are worrying questions.

Unfortunately they are not the full extent of my current worries.

I have also been reflecting on the start of my brother's illustrious career in Her Majesty's Armed Forces. Many years ago, when he was undertaking his initial officer training, he was asked if there were anything in his background which might be an embarrassment (or worse) to him, should it come to light later.

The MOD made it clear than anything confessed now, unless a serious criminal issue, would not stand in his way; but that it was essential that he did confess anything of that nature. As he explained it to me, it was to ensure that he could never be the subject of moral duress or blackmail. So he owned up to having been a regular at a pub where plenty of dope was smoked, and to having smoked some himself.

He was reminded that he should not do so any more, and that was that. And, as I say, he subsequently had an illustrious career, and, I am sure, was never compromised in his duty to his Queen or Country by any shadow from the past.

And so we return to the subject of the hierarchy in this country. We know from his own admission, that +Conry allowed his illicit affairs to affect his  behaviour in office: he refrained from preaching on sexual morality. We also know that ++O'Brien was only 'outed' when he offended his former lovers by preaching in a way they didn't like.

We also know that many other odd things are said, done, glossed over or permitted by other members of the hierarchy. We know that reports of +Conry's misbehaviour were submitted to the highest levels: and yet we hear of the 'shock' of the news of his resignation and the reasons for it.  

All of which raises the question, how are we to trust our bishops?

How can we be confident that when ++Nichols (to take an example at random, you understand) refuses to teach clearly that the Church can never sanction gay unions, or permits the scandalous dissident LGBT Masses, that he is doing so in good conscience? Is it not at least conceivable that he is under duress? That someone, somewhere has something on him?

When our letters are unanswered, is it because the poor bishop has so many letters from so many nutters, that he simply can't get through them all? Or is it because we have asked questions to which he really does not wish to give an answer?

We really should not have to think like that about our hierarchy: but that seems to me (and not only to me) to be, as the unlovely phrase has it, the situation in which we find ourselves.

Of course, there are those amongst the hierarchy who do not excite such suspicions: I do not want to tar all of them with this very sticky brush. There are some who teach and preach the Faith without equivocation, and whom nobody has any reason to suspect knew anything of these murky affairs. And then there are the others. 

We must pray for all our bishops, of course. Naturally enough, the Devil will always seek to attack the Holy Father and the bishops as a priority: I am quite sure that they are subject to spiritual assault far beyond anything I can imagine. Nonetheless, in this instance prayer is not enough. We need to make clear to CBCEW what we expect: and that includes apologies, explanations, and reform. We need to know that they have learned from these terrible debacles, and they need to earn our trust again.


Ttony said...

Excellent post!

annmarie said...

In the jungle of lies that afflicts society (equal marriage, termination of pregnancy putting a positive gloss on grave sins that entrap many) one sentence thunders through my mind: "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."

We have the privilege of knowing that truth, taught us by Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium. It is our duty and our privilege to communicate that truth, so that we may live in true freedom and move into the fullness of life we were created to enjoy.

Every time we fail to proclaim that truth, we are selling our fellow-citizens (and ourselves) short. They deserve better (and so do we).

Maria said...

I seem to remember that faithful Catholics were told they should "hold their tongues" and refrain from comment on the LGBT masses.
I agree with Ttony - this is an excellent post .

pattif said...


Genty said...

Well said. The smoke of obfuscation is making my eyes smart.

Patricius said...

"We know from his own admission, that +Conry allowed his illicit affairs to affect his behaviour in office: he refrained from preaching on sexual morality."

Henceforth perhaps this kind of behaviour might be referred to as "doing a Conry".

Left-footer said...

I agree absolutely with Ben.

The effect of the duplicity of Bishops is the loss of all trust in anything they say, and a protestantish flight to Scripture as rather more trustworthy.

The guilt of the Church hierarchy in the lapsing of Catholics is no small matter.