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'.

 See full-sized image  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.

Vertical shot of a male priest holding finger on lips : Stock Photo
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'.

What was that about perfect love casts out fear in 1 John, if we afraid what is wrong with our love?


Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father your thoughts: "...but those sycophants who drizzle honey into a rulers ear that are the most dangerous, they drag him into their own rather unpleasant world..." put me in mind of what other things might be drizzled in one's ear.

"Sleeping within my orchard,
My custom always of the afternoon,
Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebona in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment; whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body,
And with a sudden vigour it doth posset
And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood. So did it mine;
And a most instant tetter bark'd about,
Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust..." Hamlet ACT 1 Scene 5

Mike Sheil said...

Father, this is beautiful, lyrical even. Thank you.

Mike Sheil said...

Father, this is beautiful, lyrical even. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Had to be in London for a family thing last night - Oh, I sympathise! I had to navigate Victoria in rush hour. As for the Christian tatoo, I gather that Copts will have a tatoo of the cross about their person, certainly for adult baptisms. It really is meant to mark you out in their society.

Jacobi said...

You touch on the great problem in the Church today Father, the false sense of priority.

There are so many problems small and large, but the large ones seem to be ignored while so many of them, the smaller ones, are obsessed with.

An effective smoke -screen, I suppose.

Nicolas Bellord said...

And over on Father Finigan's blog there is the Statement of the British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy to which, you Father, no doubt contributed. Congratulations and I am sure it will go down like a lead balloon in Eccleston Square.

Clare said...

+Vincent Nichols panicked and faltered when the 500 priests asked him to clarify the churches teaching on marriage. That is because there is nothing he can do to stop the holy spirit moving among his priests - and he knows it.
If a priest is afraid to preach the faith, then he should really question if the priesthood is for him. We need strong fearless Fathers, not feminine shrinking violets.

Anonymous said...

Personally I feel many of the bishops Many bishops today are denying the divinity of Christ the Word of God and separating Him into the Man Shepherd. These folks today are not Athanasius who fought the gnostic heresy of Arianism. Is this to be the new heresy the modern scourge of the Catholic Church???

Anita Moore said...

Thank you for this. Men in Holy Orders are given both the divine assistance and the authority to beat back the assaults of the devil. Isn't that what Christ meant when He told His disciples that He had given them the authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions and all the power of the enemy? Then why do so many priests and bishops who claim to be faithful refuse to use it? None of us can serve the Church from under our beds, but especially not the men who have been given the responsibility and authority to be shepherds.

Speaking as one of the lambs, it may seem easy for me to ask my shepherds to be willing to suffer persecution from their faithless higher-ups, but: isn't persecution part of what you signed up for when you received Holy Orders? Isn't that what we all signed up for when we received Baptism and Confirmation? Do you silent shepherds do your sheep more good by suffering unjustly; or by letting us see you stand around, mute and impotent, wringing your hands, while the wolves run riot amongst us? I get that you have to pick your battles. But many of you have gotten so used to passing up opportunities to fight in the name of "picking your battles" that now there is no battle you will fight. Many of you have gotten so used to keeping your mouths shut that now silence is your default setting, even when you should speak up. So the wolves do whatever they want, secure in the knowledge that there will be little or no push-back from the shepherds.

It is very discouraging and demoralizing to us in the pews to see priests and bishops doing nothing in the face of evil. They are, in effect, telling us we are on our own against the forces of hell. But few things are more bracing and invigorating and electrifying than the courage of our own shepherds. So, orthodox and faithful shepherds, fire up your courage, and you may well be surprised by the results amongst your flocks.

Stephen Turton said...

Sometimes when we attempt to get fresh air through Parrhesia, we get anarchy.....

GOR said...

In university we delighted in discussions and debate. It was a heady time, not yet burdened with the obligations and responsibilities of real life - and thus free to question and argue about everything.

The past year and a half are reminiscent of those times. Except that this was not a free-for-all among undergraduates not yet out in the ‘real world’. This was an acrimonious debate among the hierarchical elites, not starry-eyed twenty-somethings.

The scandal for me was that priests and laity had to implore - via letters - the Pope and the hierarchy to defend the Truths of the Catholic Church and be faithful to the Gospel.

When was the last time you saw this, if ever, in your lifetime? That the sheep have to remind the shepherds how to tend the flock, should be chastening to the shepherds.

But somehow I don’t think all the shepherds got the message, starting with Pope Francis. His sometimes bitter words in the final address did little to calm and reassure the flock. One hopes his forthcoming final reflection will be better - but I am not optimistic.

Genty said...

For what it's worth my ploy at Victoria station and any overcrowded area is not to look at the seething hordes of people but rather to target the gaps between them. That way I can usually get through pretty easily and unscathed. It might be a metaphor for finding one's way through the mass of confusion created by a crowd of unruly cardinals and bishops.

gemoftheocean said...

What a perfect post, Fr. Blake. [When a friend of mine was visiting London this summer she saw all the hijabs and asked "what is this, a take over?" and I said "They don't call it "Londinistan" for nothing." ]

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