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PARAPPULLY Jose, New Delhi says,
HOLDING UP TO THE LIGHT - 3
By Jose Parappully
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360° VIEW
New Delhi, Sep. 23. SILENCE KILLS!

Recently I read two books by Timothy Radcliffe, the former Master General of the Dominicans. One - I Call You Friends (2001)- was  written while he was still Master General and the second — What is the Point of Being a Christian? (2005, reprinted five times in 2006)— after he finished his term of office.

What struck me in the first was the forthrightness with which he was able to speak out, knowing the important position he held in the Church and his Order. He wrote: ``our challenge in the Church is to speak words that actually mean something, that have weight and authority.`` And then he asked: ``Do we dare in our Provinces to let surface the differences that divide us, so that we may debate them without fear?`` (p. 241). How many leaders in the Church dare to do that?

Radcliffe wrote further:
I think one of the major challenges...is to grasp responsibility for the challenges of this moment. Responsibility is the ability to respond. Will we? In my own experience as a Provincial, I have seen `the mystery of the disappearing responsibility.` It is as mysterious as a Sherlock Holmes novel. A Chapter sees there is a problem and commissions the Provincial to face it and resolve it. A bold decision must be taken. He tells the Provincial Council to consider. The Council appoints a Commission to consider what is to be done. They take two or three years clarifying exactly what is the problem. And they then commit it to the next Provincial Chapter, and so the cycle of irresponsibility continues. (2005, pp. 247-248)

About centres of learning and formation, he wrote: ``...we must look to our centres of study. Are they places in which our students really learn to think? Are they places in which the issues of the day, of the Church and the world, are debated without fear?`` (p. 251).

The Master General was not afraid to say unpleasant things, unpopular things, ask hard questions, and draw attention to real issues, rather than brush them under the carpet. He did not seem to care too much about how he might be looked at for saying things the way he did. He could call a spade a spade even when in high office.

One reason for his ability to speak forthrightly may be found in his second book — What is the Point of Being a Christian? (2005)— in which he tells us that silence kills, silence is destructive. He points out how the Church today is suffering because of the things not said by the Vatican Council. The Church is suffering because of the silence that was imposed after the publication of Humanae Vitae. The Church is suffering because of the silence imposed on  discussion of women`s ordination. Silence reigns in the corridors of our Catholic Universities where dissenting opinion is suppressed.

Radcliffe wrote:
Not everything can be said. But surely the Church must become a place where reigns scandalous freedom in which we dare to float ideas, test hypotheses, affirm an awkward and unpopular truth, and tell the Emperor that he has no clothes on, or hear that we have none on ourselves. (2005, p. 182)

Silence, when speech is needed, is destructive. So many of us are so fond of such silence. Not only do we not speak up when needed, but we try to silence those who do.

When Francis Moloney, current Salesian Provincial of Australia, and reputed Biblical scholar, spoke some truth about the Magisterium at the recent General Chapter, several in the Assembly felt uncomfortable about what he said and the way he said it, and some even contested what he said.

I have had number of experiences during community assemblies and even during Provincial Chapters where I have been asked, ``Did you need to say all that?`` The truth of what I said was not contested. But the appropriateness of speaking out the truth.

How much harm is being done in our communities and our provinces, because those who should speak out, those who should intervene, do not.

Silence is characteristic of the tomb, and the tomb contains only dead bones, and may be rotting flesh. And we are meant to be people of the Resurrection, wherein truth breaks out of the silence of the tomb, and history and culture are forever transformed.

John XIII felt stifled in the suffocating atmosphere of his Vatican office, and throwing the window open shouted, ``Let the fresh air come in!`` The Author of the Book of Revelation exhorted, ``Listen to what the Spirit is saying...``

Jesus said: ``The truth will make you free.``

Why are we so reluctant to speak the truth? To hear the truth?

Jose Parappully

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