17 May 2014

Unity Before Truth?

Mark Lambert, @sitsio, linked to a wonderful diocese-by-diocese round-up by ACTA which contains many gems, but none quite as good as this.  Portsmouth Diocese ACTA had a meeting with the new Bishop (I get the impression this was somewhat to their surprise)

"Other areas of concern (some of which were raised with the bishop) included ... the translation of the Missal (the bishop favours letting it bed down – we said attendance would continue to haemorrhage)"

It seems surreal that a group of people most representative of those who have presided over the decimation of Church attendance since the mid-1960s should imagine that they have just noticed that the churches suddenly seem emptier, and that it is all down to the new translation.

I can imagine that the Bishop was extremely polite and let this go, but should he have?

Dr Shaw has argued, here, here and here, that the Bishops' putting up with significant dissent in order that those dissenting should not leave the Church, is a fundamentally flawed argument:

"The underlying misjudgment, in my view, is a failure to understand how much damage dissent does. The Faith is passed on, the life of grace is developed, nearly always in the context of institutions: the home, the school, the parish. This is logical because Catholic institutions manifest the community of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, in a tangible way, to us as individuals. These institutions can be turned into a nightmare of conflict, or just rendered completely useless, by a minority of dissidents, if they are given a free hand."

In a tweet yesterday evening, Mark said that this sort of thing happens when you consider that unity has priority over truth.  I think this is a profoundly accurate insight into one of the ways in which things have gone wrong.

I'm sure that "unity before truth" is not the way any of the Bishops would characterise their actions: they will think that they are tolerating legitimate freedom of divergence; they will think that they are being charitable; they may secretly agree with the dissenters; they may simply be hoping that they die off before they can do any damage.  But I think that they are more frightened by disunity. 

Disunity is to Catholicism what anarchy is to civil society: it removes the foundation on which the edifice stands.  The Bishops are right to fear it, but they won't protect the Church from disunity by moving the boundaries to accommodate dissent, or by gagging those who call dissent for what it is: they will protect the Church from disunity by facing up to those who wish to disunite it, just as society has to stand up to anarchists.

The truth is the best weapon that there is against dissenters because it preserves our unity.  We may lose the odd dissenter, but the unity shared not just by those who don't dissent with each other, but with all of the generations who have gone before us as well, comes from the truth. 

Unity can't produce the truth, but the truth guarantees unity.


Anonymous said...

I think Bp Egan rather than denounce dissent keeps insisting on 'orthodoxy' and keeps saying he expects it, and keeps teaching it.

It is no wonder that Portsmouth has the highest number of seminarians this year than it has had in a long time. The same is so in Shrewsbury where Bp Davis is having the same effect.

I suspect where ACTA is made welcome by Bishops the Church is dying on its feet.

Sue Sims said...

Bishop Egan is that cliche, a breath of fresh air - in this case, the 'breath' is the Holy Spirit. After our previous bishop - a good man, but one who wanted to please everyone - it's wonderful to have +Philip.