IN A CULTURE that mistakes loudness for authority and screaming for substance, silence is a precious gem.
When we don’t want to soak in the negativity of others, silence is a must. In fact it has meditative and medicinal quality. The American poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau used to believe that there are many fine things we cannot say if we have to shout. And the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Cardinal Robert Sarah even wrote on the power of silence against the dictatorship of noise.
Further, silence is an important component in liturgy and one condition for contemplation.
However, when somebody needs our support, when we need to take a stand, silence is not always golden. When error goes unchallenged, when arrogant pursuit of power and authority struck terror into the hearts of people, when things could not get any worse, one cannot just be reduced to a helpless spectator.
In light of the atrocities committed against drug suspects, a nun activist, and lately priests, it has been amazingly quiet in one corner, our corner.
The only credible and organized network that could stand up to dictators, clowns, and morons, is unusually silent and reluctant to socially engage let alone criticize. Undoubtedly, we value non-confrontational communications, yet it is also seen as disengagement or disinterest, or worse, condoning the situation.
Are the Princes of the Church steering their flock? There seems to be a perceived loss of prophetic voice. We hear hardly a word. Should people look elsewhere for help and guidance? Shall we wait those in the pews to register their discontent?
The impact or lack thereof of the evolving role of Catholic Bishops in public domain as custodians of democracy and human rights is spreading confusion. They are not even trying.
Our Church’s response to scathing attacks and violence has long followed a predictable pattern. We mourn. Offer condolences and prayers. Condemn atrocities. Then wait and hope for speedy solution.
We commend some for their forthright statements but the weight is not the same as an utterance from the whole collegial body of Bishops. Moreover, nobody has taken to the streets and protests never reached a fever pitch.
Or perhaps our Church leaders are just heeding Solomon’s advice: “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life, the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Prov 13:3)
How easily we forget the true nature of our Church and our ministry. The Church should be a liberating agent, not just a charitable institution.
We need church leaders who can go beyond the normal pedantic teaching. They must engage in the life of community and try to remove structural deformities No true servant of the Lord can look the other way when God’s people are in danger.
No true servant of the Lord can remain quite when a fellow servant is being assaulted. The shameless audacity of the powers that be should be met with courage to speak even the inconvenient truth.
Wounds in society which tear at our social fabric and constitute human suffering must be addressed whatever the cost.
The consequences of proclaiming the truth and Gospel values are not always edifying. But still we need to rally our communal spirit to affirm our common dignity.
Keeping quite should not be confused with Jesus’ silence before Pilate. His was not total inactivity, ours is sometimes plain yellow or cowardice.