Thursday, October 29, 2015
The Age of Parrhesia
I hate going to London, I had to cross it to get to Ware for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Colloquium, nice pictures on Fr Tim's blog and an account on Fr Eds.
The train and Victoria station was packed. I had vague sinful thoughts of forbidding half terms. I actually have a scratch on my leg caused by a Muslim lady pushing a big push chair, not because I was a priest just that she wasn't looking and was distracted by another child and dragging a suitcase. Just to get a breath of fresh air I walked along Buckingham Palace Road to get to the underground, just to get some air, it was as bad. Because of my earlier experience, I became aware of the number of women in ha-jibs. In the anonymity of the mass of people in the city what identified people was the outward religious signs, women veils, and me in my roman collar. I felt a little intimidated, a Christian among Muslims it was the blood, not much, trickling down my leg, and then walking towards me there was an Christian woman, wearing a mantilla over her hair but with a large and elaborate Eritraen cross tattooed on her forehead. The Islamic veil both hides and reveals identity, subsuming it under a religious symbol but she revealed who she was, she was unable to avoid its proclamation. She was well past her youth but she seemed like the embodiment of the Church sent into the world to proclaim the faith indelibly and eternally marked on her smiling face.
One of things I admire about Pope Francis is his call for parrhesia, open and fearless speech. Perhaps the saddest thing about the Synod is that when certain Cardinals did exercise parrhesia those who presented themselves as Pope Francis' allies both in the Synod and outside immediately railed against them as the disloyal enemies of the Pope. In the mad world of any court it is not those who communicate unpleasant truths but those sycophants who drizzle honey into a rulers ear that are the most dangerous, they drag him into their own rather unpleasant world. In the Church they are the one's who protect their backs, the one's who are more committed to their ecclesiastical careers rather than service either to the teaching of Jesus Christ or his people. These are the one's who the Pope should be lambasting as 'Pharisees' or 'Doctor's of the Law', these are the true 'leprous courtiers'.
The Synod having produced such an ambiguous final document, now should be the age of Parrhesia, of openly standing up for Christ and the truths of the faith. We have seen the great damage done by men like Cardinal Danneels who covered up sexual abuse to the point of urging a victim to keep quiet, presumably, "for the sake of the Church" but of course in doing so he damaged even further the credibility of the Belgium Church. The Pope is supporting Bishop Juan Barros Madrid which seems to be destroying both his and the Church's credibility in Chile. The institution of the Church was called into being by Christ for one purpose, to be a witness to the truth. 'The Church ceases to be the Church when it preaches the Church', when its looses its true purpose and becomes concerned more with its own protection and careers of its clergy.
Christian children are today being butchered and crucified because they will not renounce the name of Jesus, they die with it on their lips. It seems to me to be terrible thing that whilst they are dying clergy, bishops and priests, are afraid to raise their voices and hide behind the Church or institutions in the Church. The blood of children which pours out into the dust and their dispossessed parents will condemn the cowardice of clergy who are afraid of their bishops disapproval or the frostiness of their peers or even papal displeasure if the raise their voices.
That splendid letter of the 500 priest of which I was so pleased to be signatory, I am told that many clergy who shared our hopes and intention were afraid to sign it because of fear of their bishop or their brother clergy. Maybe I am mad but a priest is supposed to be a proclaimer of the truth not a whispering conspirator hiding in the shadows. It is sad when the greatest skill a seminarian learns and often considered the best advice that is given him is, 'keep your head down'.
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