Sunday 9 September 2018

Problems with Silence

I have been greatly influenced - and I think largely for the good, by reading Cardinal Sarah's book, The Power of Silence (about which I have previously blogged, here and in the following posts).

One of the fruits of that has been that I have been blogging far less; and praying rather more. And that has delivered a level of peace to my soul.

However, here I am blogging again, and with reason; and my reason is to reflect further on the problems with inappropriate silence.

In this morning's readings (in the new Lectionary) we hear of Our Lord opening the ears and freeing the tongue of the deaf and mute man. The applicability to those in authority was immediately apparent: may they listen to Our Lord's voice, and may the tell forth the truth!

But of course, for each one of us, the readings should speak to us individually.  So I need not only to listen, (and to find the silence to do so) but also to have my tongue freed, to tell forth the truth.

And one of the truths I think it important to tell forth is the problem that arises when those in positions of power, authority and knowledge use silence as a shield.

I won't comment here on our Holy Father, though what I say here may, mutatis mutandis, be applicable. I will limit myself to something I know rather more about, and about which I have previously written. And that is the scandalous CES document, Made in God's Image.

Regular readers will recall that there are many and varied problems with this document (the label CES Scandal will take you to my 35 previous pieces on the subject); and that I had heard a rumour it was to be revised and reissued (see here). In my naive and optimistic way, I had hoped for substantial corrections, but that was not what has happened. It is substantially unchanged, though there are one or two improvements (eg we now know who is responsible for it, and they at least acknowledge more of their unholy sources...).

But the problem with the silence surrounding its production, its reissue, and its blackballing by some dioceses is that it leaves many questions unanswered, and that leads to a culture of suspicion and mistrust that is toxic.

For example, given that the Church faces an unprecedented crisis, centring on problems of chastity and cover up, one can't help wondering why the bishops in our country have commissioned a document that seeks to rehabilitate gravely sinful sexual behaviour? Is it that they are ignorant of the implications of the Stonewall agenda that they are introducing into our schools?  Or is it that they are actively seeking to advance that agenda?  If they are, is that because they (or some of them) are part of the network of homosexuals who we are told have infiltrated our hierarchy, or are beholden to them?

And such questions lead to others: why the silence about this? And why the silence about everything else that is a bit difficult to discuss? Such as who knew about Kieran Conry, and when - and why did they say or do nothing about that scandalous situation? What else are they concealing from us?

And so it goes on; and even the good bishops are enmired in the toxicity: why haven't they spoken out about some of these evils?

And on: how deep is the rot in our hierarchy? How have bishops been selected for appointment? How far back does it go? Does it account for the various CAFOD scandals (qv)?  And on... and on...

You see how it leads us ever deeper into murky waters: that is why the silence of such people on such topics, in such circumstances, is wrong. The good along with the bad are put under a cloud of suspicion; and necessary change is entirely blocked.


Initially when the Holy Father said we should all repent for the errors of the past, and that clericalism was at the root of the problem, I reacted defensively: it's not me who had covered up for McCarrick et al. However, we know that Our Lord uses those in high office to proclaim truths  (the case of Annas springs to mind), even when the apparent meaning is.... (I think I'll leave that sentence unfinished...)

And I reflected that the Holy Father is right: we the laity are complicit in this. I am complicit.  I have failed sufficiently to challenge bad teaching, to call errant priests and prelates to account, as well as to pray and fast as I should. 

I think, in fact, that the laity have struck a complicit bargain with the clergy (which dates back at least to the scandalous clerical response to Humanae Vitae): you go easy on our preferred sins (particularly sins of the flesh) and we'll not be too demanding of you. The laity don't want to be reminded that artificial contraception is gravely sinful, for example; or that divorce and remarriage results in an objective, and scandalous, state of sin. And when they hear clergy defending or promoting other sexual sins, or simply maintaining silence about these ones, it makes them feel better about their own... So they turn a blind eye to things that should be confronted, and don't even notice that they are doing so: internalised clericalism...


So whilst I am still a fan of The Power of Silence, there is a time to speak, and situations in which our silence is a collusion with evil.