27 February 2009

When is it right to speak out?

Over the last few weeks, I have been following the developments of various issues within the Church which have brought not a little embarrassment and controversy both within and without the Church herself. I am talking about the lifting of the excommunication of the SSPX bishops, the fiasco in the diocese of Linz in Austria and also the article in The Tablet about Fr Tim Finigan.

What has pained me, in all of this, is the way in which some Catholics, in particular, have generally been keen to put over quite negative and critical views of the heirarchy. Having taken one promise of obedience, and soon to take another at my ordination to the priesthood, clearly, I have been concerned as to whether I ought to comment on this blog, or to remain silent 'in print' as it were. Karl Rahner, the Jesuit theologian, said of obedience in regard to the priestly promise made; “real obedience includes the courage to be a troublesome subject”.

It is right, and proper, that we all engage in the debate and put over our views. No one seeks to silence or stop criticism of our leaders. Nor do we seek to prevent healthy dialogue that brings about a strengthening of our shared life in Christ. What is not helpful, however, is when we are so frustrated that we act uncharitably toward one another and effectively draw lines in the sand beyond which we are not prepared to go. There are, nonetheless, times when it is only right and proper that we speak out in the loudest possible terms when we see injustice and harm being done. It is, indeed, the responsibility of all the baptised who share in the prophetic mission of Christ, and to proclaim the Gospel.

It pains me to hear the anti-Semitic views of Bishop Williamson and I very warmly welcome the Vatican's rejection of his ambiguous apology. Ruth Gledhill makes the point that in our modern world we need to hear the rejection of the offending words themselves, not merely the apology for having spoken them. Nothing less than a total repudiation of his views will be acceptable, and if he cannot change his mind, to correct his prejudices, then he ought to remain silent and pray for the grace to see the truth.

Though these may seem like difficult times, when we argue with one another over the detail, and all seems doomed to failure: Let us pray in thanksgiving to God that we enjoy such things as freedom of speech, the education to form, hold and express opinions and the opportunity to share our religion, in season and out of season, with a world increasingly secularised. We must reject that which seeks to destroy rather than unite us.


  1. Dear Paul,

    I to have problems understanding what has been happening in these past few weeks. The thought that has been coming to me is, What sins is worse? Are the comments by Williamson worse that the Oregon abuse scandal? Is the actions of one priest (Fr. Maciel, L.C) worse than the Oregon abuse scandal? I propose a simple question? In all the attacks by the left at these two men really attacks on theology or interpretation/implementation of theology? I say they are, why then is it not fair to turn the mirror around at the roots of Oregon?



  2. Dear Joseph

    I think sin is sin, and in all, it is a turning from the light to embrace the dark. You are right to raise Oregan, in fact, I'm sorry I didn't raise it in my post. It is truly shocking. We should turn the mirror and reflect the light of Christ that we might see aknew the harm that is done. What will we see in the mirror?



Related Posts with Thumbnails