Truth and rhetoric

Rhetoric is properly regarded as a science but of the softer kind. That is, it is possible to make verifiable predictions about the effects of various rhetorical skills and techniques. But their accuracy is, like those in, say, psychology or economics, measured by significant statistical probability rather than with a ruler. And since we readily acknowledge the need for effective communication in the Church, it is right to look at this science from time to time.

Plato disapproved of rhetoric. Not only did he rank it as a skill on par with cooking, but he held that its only useful purpose was to mislead the listener or reader, and take him further from the truth. Nevertheless Plato (or Socrates speaking through him) used rhetoric continually while in the very act of insisting on plain speaking.

Aristotle approached the subject with particular care for detail. His Rhetoric is both comprehensive and hard going. But he understood clearly, as the ancients did, that to be effective and persuasive to an audience was a necessary attribute for a man of public affairs. Indeed, even a modern Jesuit school will title its senior class Rhetoric, reminding us that its mastery was the apogee of scholastic success.

I cannot here cover the breadth of rhetoric but we do have, through good fortune, two current and contrasting examples to examine. These are Tiger Woods’s statement about his womanising and the Vatican report following the Pope’s meeting with the Irish bishops. They have in common the need to make the best out of difficult situations, and will both have been the result of careful preparation and expert advice. I am not concerned here with the validity of either, but merely with the rhetoric used.

Tiger Woods’s remarks might be stylised as the apology direct. It is typified by his words: “I want to say to each of you, simply and directly: I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behaviour.” He asserts his recognition that he has let down his family and his friends, he takes full responsibility for his behaviour, and presents the steps he is taking to improve it for the future. His appearance is emotional; he conveys the impression of being near to tears.

This direct approach can be very effective. There is no attempt to hide behind other people. We may be cynical, believing that this verbal and physical vulnerability was a calculated means of appealing for sympathy. But I judge that a large proportion of his audience went away with at least a hope that he would prove his words good in the future.

The Holy Office was faced by a very different situation, and it called for very different, and rather more subtle, techniques. We might describe it as the explanation circumspect.

Perhaps the first thing we note is the use of the rhetoric of omission. The awkward fact that the Pope, when prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had emphasised to all bishops in 2001 that the CDF had exclusive competence in this area, and that all cases were to be reported to it, was never mentioned. Exclusive competence means ultimate responsibility within the Church.

Strong, dramatic language – even if it adds no new information – can often be useful to mask more awkward questions, and the choice of “heinous crime” and “grave sin” was certainly powerful enough to throw into the background, for that moment at least, the ultimately much more serious accusation of organised and official cover-up which had allowed the abuse to spread. I was reminded of the distinguished psychologist, Philip Zimbardo, and his strictures about condemning the bad apples without reviewing the bad barrel.

Switching blame to a more general cause for which no one and everyone may be responsible is often used in rhetoric. In this case a contributor is apparently a weakening of faith which has led to a lack of respect for the human person. We are not told whose faith is weakened. Is it the corrupted teenager? Or the seducing priest? Or the Pontius Pilate bishop? Nor are we told how the one led to the other. But we do not need to know for the rhetoric to work.

Perhaps the one rhetorical move which was missing was the claim that everyone was doing it. Fortunately there was help on hand, and the Bishop of Down and Connor reminded us on Radio 4 last Sunday that abuse was widespread and went beyond “the frontiers of the Catholic Church itself”. This defence has the danger of suggesting that the Church, despite its claim to rigorous moral values, should be judged by the world’s standards and not its own. But it can have the effect of allowing the unwary to think that, if everyone’s doing it, it can’t be as bad as all that.

Naturally there were assurances about how much good work had been done, and was still being done, to ensure that such a situation could not occur again. While such assurances cannot be omitted, they have little effect rhetorically since they are announced every time some large public or private organisation has been caught in flagrante delicto.

I have not attempted to review the whole of the Irish meeting, but only the rhetoric employed. There will in due course be a pastoral letter in which all necessary matters will doubtless be dealt with directly. But together with the Tiger Woods’s apology, we have had an opportunity to look at samples of how rhetoric can serve.

If you believe that either party could have made better or stronger use of rhetoric to achieve the wanted effect, you may care to note down and give us the benefit of your ideas. You may also wish to comment on whether you think that either Tiger Woods or the drafter of the papal report crossed the boundary between rhetoric and “economy with the truth”.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Moral judgment. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Truth and rhetoric

  1. Daisy says:

    Am I allowed on this blog to criticise the Pope directly? As far as I can see. from Quentin’s remarks and my own reading of the report on the Pope and the Irish bishops, a rather shameful misrepresentation has occurred. Could any, apparently objective, chairman of a secular working party get away with failing to mention that he has been in ultimate charge the whole time?
    And it seems extraordinary that very firm remarks were not made about the collusion and contribution of many of the Irish bishops to the scandal. it sounds to me as if the Pope was determined to hush up the whole way in which the Church’s authority, and hold on people, works – in case it might be pointed out how deeply he was personally involved in it. I hope he will prove me wrong in his new encyclical, but I doubt it.
    Now excommunicate me!

  2. st.joseph says:

    Daisy, I wouldn’t worry about being excommunicated- the Church needs people to speak out. With respect of course .If that was the case I would have been excommunicated a 1000 times over in the last 50 years.

    The most that can happen is one will be called a ‘trouble maker’
    But sticks and stones……..

  3. claret says:

    I cannot write for all the posters on here but I find it difficult to respond to the point of this contibution from Quentin because it is , at least for me, and it would seem ‘Daisy’ too, that it is an impossibilty to separate the nuances of the rhetoric of what was said by the Pope from what actually happened in Ireland. (And to a large extent in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.)
    The pain is too great to just look at this as some kind of exercise in the use of words.
    For me there is still a conspiracy of silence. Not planned as such I would concede, but that is the effect.
    No pastoral letters on the subject. No comments of any kind to those who despite everything still loyally sit in the pews totally bewildered at the sinfulness of what has been perpetrated and the way they have been let down. The very words ‘Roman Catholic’ are now synonomous with ‘child abuser.’ (Of course the main victims remain those poor children who suffered so directly.)
    I think Quentin that the theme of rhetoric here is meaningless.

  4. st.joseph says:

    Quentin, I am sorry, but I rather feel the same as Claret at this point I am unable to make a positive comment only
    I think sometimes the Heirarchy think we laity will be content to have the wool pulled over our eyes and respect whatever they say. When they speak Truth-I do respect it. But speaking in false tongues no!
    I will say that Tiger Woods did show some humility when he spoke, but who knows maybe he was only thinking of his career!

  5. Superview says:

    It would be helpful Quentin if you could advise how to see a full copy of the Pope’s statement to the Irish Bishops – or better still give a link. I’ve searched on all manner of terms and can’t get anything. There appears to be nothing on the Vatican website. Searching against the Catholic Herald only gives a news report.
    Could you possibly also source the statement to Bishops in 2001 that you refer to?
    I can understand how people in Ireland, and elsewhere, are feeling about the Pope’s handling of this scandal. Can it be true that the Pope has only accepted the resignation of one of the four bishops who have resigned, and that others guilty of cover-up are being left to decide themselves whether to resign? Can it be true that the Papal Representative (with another silly title) is falling back upon protocol and refusing to attend a parliamentary committee in Ireland?
    I have to say the Vatican does not seem to realise where this is all going – the visit of this Pope to the UK is hardly going to be trouble free. And there are many Catholics who are less than enthusiastic.

  6. Superview, the link to the Pope and the Irish bishops is http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/final-statement-pope-irish-bishops-meeting

    You can download the 2001 letter from http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/04z/z_2001-05-18__CDF__Epistola_%27Ad_Exequendam%27__IT.doc.html
    You’ll get this in Italian only, but if you need a translation I suggest Google translation will help.

    I think your last paragraph is very pertinent; I was of course tackling the question from a rhetorical point of view; but I am pleased that the deeper implications are being taken. It will be interesting to see if we get any readers’ letters reactions.

  7. st.joseph says:

    I read the link on the Pope and Irish Bishops meeting. Also the comments after,.It was upsetting how some of the comments were so blatently angry and bordering on anarchy. I do pray that this will not have a reflection on the Holy Father when he comes to England and make it an excuse to bear grudges against Papal Authority and a means to cause disorder in the Church. As you rightly said in your post on ‘Heathen at the Gate ‘we have some wonderfuly Holy priests who do not deserve this added humiliation and who have served us all with their constant love for The Lord and His Church. We do need to speak out but as I said with respect. We must wait to hear the Holy Fathers Papal Letter. We must not forget true charity in all our communications.We will all be judged for our actions.

  8. st.joseph says:

    Quentin, my last post was addressed to your information on the link. I ought to have said. Also after Holy priests I ought to have put a full stop because the comment after that was mine
    Just not to cause any confusion.

  9. claret says:

    It would seem that we can now add the Sex Education Bill (passed by the House of Commons last week,) to the list of ‘Rhetoric gone wrong’ as the Church has again been duped into believing Government ‘Double Talk’ about Catholic ‘ethos’ being preserved on matters of abortion, homosexuality, marriage and birth control when they are ‘taught’ during sex. education programmes in schools. The Govt. (Ed Balls has confirmed that faith schools MUST teach about abortion being an ‘alternative’ along with a whole list of things that are contrary to catholic ethos.) He has though it would seem been ably assisted by the CES and no less a person that Archbishop Nichols.
    Is there anything left to believe in?

  10. Horace says:

    I am afraid that I only spent two weeks in the class of Rhetoric (where I had been intending to study for an Oxbridge scholarship) because I received a rather tardy notification of a place to study Medicine in Ireland! Still I hope I have some idea of what Quentin is driving at.

    As I see it – there are three confusing features of this discussion.
    The first is the intensely, passionately emotional nature of the subject of sexual abuse of minors.
    The second is the confusion between a sin and a crime; and in the case of a crime the confusion between an ecclesiastical crime and a secular crime.
    Finally the question of discretion or ‘cover up’.

    As to the first there is no argument, but it does make dispassionate consideration difficult.

    As to the second I have commented before:-
    The following quote comes from a discussion in America about sex abuse by clergy (unfortunately I cannot recall the author or source) “The trouble with the Catholic Church is that it regards [sex abuse] as a sin to be forgiven rather than as a crime to be punished.”

    I have read “Exequendam” as suggested by Quentin. My knowledge of Italian is even worse than my knowledge of Latin but a rough translation of the relevant bit would seem to be “the bishops will investigate and identify cases before notifying the Congregation, who will decide whether to leave the case to the same ordinary or call it back to itself”. I assume that these cases were in fact investigated by the relevant bishops and properly notified to Rome and that the Congregation tried the cases in accordance with Canon Law and decreed appropriate punishment.
    No mention is made (as far as I can understand) of referring proven cases to the secular courts to be tried in accordance with the local national law.
    QUESTION Is it the duty of the Church, or any member of the Church – Pope, Bishop, Priest or lay person – when they become aware of a breach of national law to report this to the proper authorities?
    There are, of course, some clear instances – such as information revealed in the Confessional – where it would be wrong to make such a report. I also note in “Exequendam” the implication that proceedings under Canon Law are subject to a requirement of secrecy.
    Absence of any discussion or even mention of this is, as Quentin says, an instance of ‘the rhetoric of omission’.

    Finally:-
    I recall a quote, published recently in the Catholic Herald and attributed to John de Waal:-
    ” . . . Heads and deputies are only human, yes, and will fail from time to time. Governors should deal discreetly with such problems without causing public scandal. This is not hypocrisy but for the good of the school and the individuals concerned.”
    I am sure that no-one would wish to quarrel with this advice – but
    QUESTION when does ‘admirable discretion’ become ‘despicable cover up’?

  11. tim says:

    The cynical answer to Horace’s question is: “When the press get hold of it”.

    More seriously, there is a real dilemma here (or, if not here, then in less extreme situations). It is easy to see, with hindsight, how wrong the authorities were to hush up these appalling crimes. It won’t have been anything like so easy at the time. “Do not bring us to the time of trial”.

  12. Horace, I recall it being argued that the secrecy imposed in “Exequendam” only applied within the canonical procedures – and therefore there was no prohibition on reporting to the civil authorities. I think this is a disingenuous, post factum, excuse. Although it may not have actually said so, I think that anyone reading the instruction would assume that reporting to the civil authority was implicitly forbidden. And I suspect that’s what was intended, until it suddenly became embarrassing.

  13. Superview says:

    Thank you Quentin for the links as requested.
    The link to the National Catholic Reporter’s item on the Pope’s statement was invaluable, especially as the blog that followed it, though shocking in its candidness in parts, led me to this remarkable article:

    http://bishopgeoffrobinson.org/usa_lecture.htm

    I hadn’t heard about this bishop’s views or his book, but it resonates with so much that has been covered in Second Sight, and, I suggest, in your book ‘Autonomy and Obedience in the Catholic Church’.

    I have properly been described as trenchant in some of my views on Second Sight, and in this case I make no apology. It is a matter of conscience to press the point that it is clear that many people simply do not accept that the Vatican – and certainly this pope and the last one – did not know of the widespread abuse and its cover-up; the evidence is overwhelming. Many good things may have been done, but they do not count on the scales of justice and truth in this matter. Doing good is surely what we expect of a pope? But where stands the moral authority of not just the present soiled Hierarchy but Catholicism at large in the face of these facts? Judging by the general moral pomposity to be found weekly in the pages of the Catholic Herald, the ship sails on seemingly oblivious of the hole below the waterline. That is why the need for radical changes is paramount. But how can anything change when our bishops show so little backbone in the face of the Roman Emperor-like Papal Throne? Perhaps it is because they are all, as Bishop Robinson puts it, ‘pope’s men’, when what we need is Christ’s men.

  14. Ion Zone says:

    There is once piece of rhetoric I particularly despise, and that is the use of Occham’s Razor outside the context of a lab or an investigation.

    There are many people who seem to think that it is a logical tool that quickly waves aside God, this is not true, despite starting as a theological tool devised by a monk, at which point it assumed God, Occham’s Razor is, now, a process devised to find the next step in an experiment or investigation. It *cannot* operate in circumstances where immediate testing is impossible as it merely stipulates the next simplest course of enquiry. In a debate, as it is a tool for selecting the simplest explanation, it becomes instantly polarised to the user’s point of view, it isn’t just flawed through bias though, in my opinion, its use in a debate it is fallacy because of two things, first it assumes complete simplicity in a universe keen to prove it wrong at every turn, and second, since Occham’s Razor is a tool of judgement (A ‘guiding principle’ as Wikipedia calls it – which translates as ‘It kinda works for making testing choices in the lab’) it is equally valid to say that God is the simplest explanation.

    Expect plenty of (anti)religious furvor if you blaspheme against it, however.

  15. Ion Zone says:

    “Perhaps it is because they are all, as Bishop Robinson puts it, ‘pope’s men’, when what we need is Christ’s men.”

    Indeed.

  16. My only annoyance with the piece by Bishop Robinson, to which Superview has given us a link, is that I didn’t write it myself. I would urge everyone to follow Superview’s recommendation. I may well have an opportunity to mention the piece in a column, meanwhile I shall shamelessly pinch the ideas.
    Ion Zone, I am a trifle more favourably inclined to occam’s razor than you. (Incidentally it does not occur in his writings.) My reason is that mathematical and scientific development has often found linkages of great beauty in apparently disparate things. For example there are examples of the fibonacci sequence at the subatomic level which, in turn connects to the golden mean, and even to the polyfurcation of the human arterial system.
    But of course I agree that even if the economy of beauty is a hint that we are on the right lines, the hard science has to prove it.

  17. st.joseph says:

    I have read the link on Bishop Robinson. I do not share his opinions.He is blaming the Holy Father for all the sins of the child abusers. I dont agree that the Pope and Cardinals should apologise. There is nothing wrong with the teachings of the Church, only with those who abuse it. Child abuse sad as it is -is not the only cause of the rot in the world. A great cause is the lack of believing what the Church teaches. When he speaks about infallability He forgets the word Wisdom in that context.
    Our Lord said to Peter , ‘Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven Infallability doesnt come into it. Yes he does speak about ‘unhealthy sex’ but he has taken that out of context. He speaks about his views on contraception- that to` me makes him ignorant to the whole Love which Jesus spoke about the relationship He has with His Church as Bride and Bridegroom. On the whole Bishop Robinson’s views are to secular for my mind.If he spent 9 years on the committee to the child abuse I feel it has altered his vision on other matters pertinent to our Faith. I have issues with our Bishops who hasn’t, mine are that they are not speaking out loud enough on other issues of importance. Thats what they are here for.

  18. claret says:

    The Bishops can speak as loud as they want to on all manner of moral and political subjects. However the accusation of ‘child abusers and those who cover up for them’ drowns out all other discussion.
    All moral authority has thus been lost.

  19. Vincent says:

    i would like StJoseph to use his imagination. Suppose it has been established by an official board of enquiry that a hospital has been run very incompetently for a number of years, resulting in great harm to several elderly patients. Let’s imagine further that the chairman has stated that he was ultimately responsible for the older patients, and arranged some years back for every incident in which old patients have not received proper care to be reported to him.

    Would StJoseph not be demanding that this chairman should resign, together with the board of directors?

    I am not asking the Pope to resign. But do you not think that an admission of responsibility, and even a personal apology, would be appropriate?

    Why should the Church’s standards be lower than the secular world?

  20. st.joseph says:

    There are too many people using their imagination, maybe thats the problem!
    We have One Judge who will know the Truth, and none of us will escape Him, even the Pope.

  21. Vincent says:

    I could understand StJoseph arguing that the comparison I made with a hospital chairman does not hold for this reason or that. Or perhaps that the conclusion I invite people to draw does not follow – for which no doubt he would give a good reason. But so far he has not addressed the question. I do hope he will. I trust he is not simply saying that popes always act correctly, and so should always be supported.

  22. st.joseph says:

    Vincent, as far as I am concerned the Holy Father spoke adequately on the subject on the World Over Report in 2003 with a exclusive interview with Raymond Arroyo, as the then Cardinal Ratzinger for the Prefect For the Congregation of the Faith. As far as that goes I was satisfied as to what he said.
    But then of course there will be those who will never be satisfied , until they crucify him like they did Our Lord.

  23. Superview says:

    Since st.joseph joined the Second Sight blog he has been an increasingly enthusiastic participant, and on some topics his overt ‘conviction’ Catholicism illustrates what it means to be an archetypal traditional Catholic weathering the storms that surround the Church.
    However, because I believe it is too important to settle for anything that rings untrue or false, I think that while relying on convictions without evidence is understandable in some circumstances, or at least with strong probabilities, to do so despite the evidence only weakens the witness he admirably seeks to give.
    As far his last posting, above, I am sure he didn’t mean to suggest that any of the critics of Pope Benedict would actually wish him crucified, whether metaphorically or otherwise.

  24. Vincent says:

    I think that StJoseph has really failed to take in the seriousness of what has happened. Here is a quote from the Scottish Sunday Herald. “Of course, countering the Cardinal (O’Brien) on sexual morality is like shooting fish in a barrel, given that no-one could seriously take lessons on family values from an institution that presided over and attempted to cover up the biggest child sexual abuse scandal in history.” This was in the context of Catholics wanting to give sex education in line with Catholic values.

    This is unsurprising and typical, and I can promise you that the Church and the Pope will come under increasing attack along similar lines as the papal visit approaches. I wonder how many marginal Catholics we shall lose, and how many contemplating joining the Church will turn the other way.

    Perhaps the saddest thing of all is that good and, I’m sure, holy people very like St Joseph were just the ones who, through misplaced loyalty, didn’t tell on “father”, couldn’t bring themselves to believe their own children, didn’t go to law and create a great stink because of scandal to their Church, which could do no wrong.

    Remember that this came hard on the heels of an earlier report on Catholic institutions. This is just the first paragraph from the Irish Times “Sexual abuse was “endemic” in State-run institutions for boys and children lived in ‘daily terror’ of being beaten over more than five decades, the long-awaited Commission into Child Abuse report has found.”

    And of course this is only Ireland. Look at the cover up in the USA or Australia, and in this country, too.

    Yes I’ll go to Mass and the Eucharist because that’s the only way I can get the Sacrament. Yes, I’ll pray. Yes, I’ll listen to a sermon from a priest when I find his insights helpful. But until the Church has learnt the use of authority rather than how to abuse it, I’ll make my own mind up about how to be a Catholic in the future. I dare not, for the sake of my soul, do anything else.
    And the Pope will have to realise that at the moment he is looking more like part of the problem than part of the solution.

  25. st.joseph says:

    Vincent, I can see from your outburst of passion, that you obviousley have a great deal of love for the church.
    The only thing for me to say and that is hopefully it will he

  26. st.joseph says:

    be a help for you to understand Gods Love for us all.

    “Hurt is not only healed with an apology. One can only heal oneself with an inner sense of forgiveness from ones own heart.

  27. Vincent says:

    I think it probably better to say nothing further at this stage. StJoseph and I do not speak the same language.

  28. Ion Zone says:

    Biggest child abuse scandal the world has ever seen my ass. I doubt it is even the biggest that Ireland has ever seen. There are an awful lot of Church-hating newspaper reporters now.

  29. Ion Zone says:

    Pardon the unparliamentary language.

    If it is like shooting fish in a barrel it is because we seem paralysed by embarrassment over our faith. How *dare* we believe in a world that does not want us to….
    We refuse to sink to their depths, and all we get is hate in return.

    See you there on Sunday, Vincent.

  30. Ion Zone says:

    Which reminds me, people stick their fingers in their ears when atheists do it. Stalin, out and out, ordered the Russian army to rape Germany in every conceivable manor.

  31. Horace says:

    I am not entirely convinced by Bishop Robinson’s arguments – at least as outlined in the link from Superview (I have not read the book).

    In particular I am worried by the emphasis on celibacy and his rather unusual ideas about sex.
    For example:-
    “an unwanted, unaccepted and unassimilated celibacy” (strong words)
    ” . . the law of priestly celibacy is no more than a law, and yet to change it now could imply that a thousand years of popes had been wrong” (this not what I was taught at school)
    “I do not believe that God gets upset by sexual desires or acts in and of themselves alone” (does he really mean this?)

    I tend to agree with the following extract from a column by Cindy Wooden (current Herald p6).
    [Dr Lutz said]. ” . . Any institution that deals with children and adolescents – whether the church, the school, or an after-school sports programme – “attracts people who are looking for illicit contacts with minors” . . . No scientific research has ever shown a connection between celibacy and a likelihood to sexually abuse children or young people.”

  32. st.joseph says:

    I have tried to do some research on Bishop Robinsons book. and found some comments on it. Sent to me by e.mail so I am unable to forward it on the blog.
    It is from an article printed in the London Tablet -‘ Fundamental flaws in Bishop Robinsons book’.
    I can only make this comment as to use the shorter version is by permission from the author-Dr Andrew Thomas Kania a Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall, the University of Oxford.
    I make the comment below as it find it pertinent to the Bishops thinking.
    According to the Bishop:”What appears to be certain is that we cannot say that it is proven fact that Jesus possessed perfect knowledge and ,therefore, it is not proven fact that Jesus determined all detais of his future church with perfect knowledge and divine authority’ (p.93).
    Maybe if anyone is interested they can find out more from this little piece of info I have given.
    I did not hear about him untill Super View mentioned it on the blog

  33. Just for the record on Bishop Robinson, the Tablet review to which st.joseph refers contains the passage “If Bishop Robinson had written a book solely about his experiences with regard to sexual abuse in the Church, the entire Universal Church would have benefited, irrespective of how candidly he had approached that particular subject.” The problematic aspect of his book is concerned with the two natures of Christ – which is a particularly tricky subject, not related to the topic we are discussing.

  34. st.joseph says:

    Quentin if the Bishop had stuck to the subject of child abuse in the link Superview gave us on his U.S tour I would not have questioned his integrity. The subject was child abuse but maybe I was of the misunderstanding that truth came into it.
    I thought the subject was Truth and rethoric, but I do see what you mean. Thank you for telling me!

    As a Christian I dont find the Divinity of Christ a tricky subject.

  35. Superview says:

    I am simply do not follow the previous comment from st.joseph. I differ from him on several points that we’ve covered in the last month or so, but I have never felt inclined to question his integrity or his desire to speak the truth.
    Bishop Robinson, about whom I knew nothing until a week or two ago, has, it seems to me, drawn with courage and integrity on his experience of helping the victims of child abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, on commission by his fellow Australian bishops, and developed a profoundly intelligent and evidence-based explanation for the utterly shameful situation the Church has found itself (and I almost gag on that, because it is the Hierarchy and not the body of the Church that is culpable, except insofar as we have acquiesced in the cult of the Papacy and the notion that in all things it speaks with the authority of Christ – clearly not).
    Calumny is justly regarded as a sin crying to heaven for vengeance.

  36. I think there is a bit of confusion here. As I understand it from the Tablet review the Bishop’s book (which I haven’t read) tackles the question of child abuse very frankly. But, elsewhere in the book, he suggests that Christ, presumably in his human nature, could not foresee completely the future course of history and that therefore some of his teachings are revisable. Since it took the best part of the the first millennium to sort out the basics of the Hypostatic Union I doubt if we will make much progress here in such a controversial question. In any event, Catholicism is not a solely scripture based religion ; it guarantees scripture, has in part written it, and interprets it through Tradition and teaching authority.

    On Superview’s distinction between Hierarchy and Church, I find a helpful analogy within myself. That is, I am aware of a good side to which I aspire, and a bad side which I too often follow. This makes it easier for me to understand the weak, and sometimes wicked, side of the Church – without of course failing to criticise it, as I criticise myself.

  37. st.joseph says:

    Superview, I have read so much on the subject of child abuse for years.
    I have read the statement from Archbishop George Pell’ 2002.
    and the false accusations towards him.

    A joint Statement by the Catholic Archbishops of Melbourne and Sydney.

    An article from Bishop Wilton Gregory and many many more.
    I am not unaware of the extremenities of the subject.
    I have never heard of Bishops Robinsons report.
    (Ido have friends and family in Australia)

    A book by Michael S Rose Goodbye, Good Men. How Liberals brought Corruption Into the Catholic Church. maybe well worth reading.

    You seem to make out that I am ignoring the fact that there are Bishops who are not responsible for what has happened in the church, and I can see your point about ‘Heirarchy and Church’

    I am sorry that it offends you that we differ in opinion on the Holy Father and the Cardinals standing up and apologising for those who are guilty of their henious crimes.

    I dont mind if you disagree with my comments or if you feel like questioning my interegity, Go Ahead.

    Bishop Robinson was chairman of the committee established by the Australian bishops to co-ordinate a national response to the revelations in the hope that the whole church in that country might speak as one. I question his ability to do that when his opinions on what we believe as catholics-especially a bishop -and -who openly dissents on the teaching of the Magesterium-
    was chosen to speak on behalf of the Church

    We do need reform -away from the Liberals who have over the years corrupted the thinking of many also in our own Country and it is about time that Catholics woke up to the situation and started to impress on our Bishops that ‘enough is enough’
    God knows there are plenty of people who have been trying to do this and being ignored by the Heirarchy-so please dont tell me anything that I dont know already.(I expect I will have my head blown off) But we could start with the Warwick St Masses:
    And I speak as I found!………..
    As I said in past comments, Bishop O ‘Donoghue’s Fit for Mission, Fit for Schools and Fit for Marriage would be a good start, Do the Bishops ‘listen’. NO. Marriage and the Family have been let down by them over the years and it is about time that they woke up
    When I hear statements like this” speaking to Quest a group of homosexual Catholics Mr Terry Prendergast the chief executive and secretary of Marriage Care said “statistically children do best in a family where the adult relationship is steady, stable and loving and he goes on to say-‘ you should note here that I stress adult, not married, since there is no evidence to suggest that children do best with heterosexual couples”
    Terry Prendergast told the RC Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement that the Church must begin to think in terms of the “sacrament of relationships” rather than the sacrament of marriage (Catholic Herald)

    Catholics are asked to give financial support to Marriage Care.Statements like these from Mr Prendergast of that organisation leave them confused, especially when Marriage Care do not teach N.F.P to couples preparing for Marriage(even if they decide not to use the method afterwards)The Church will not have failed in Her duty to inform them.

    I dont think I have heard anyone mention prayer yet- Perhaps we ought to start praying for the Holy Fathers visit here in September- he can do without criticism at the moment-whch only adds fuel to the fire!We may also pray for our priests who must be suffering under all this media ‘misrepresentation.’

    It would be good if we laity could have a naudience with the Holy Father -to lay before him our thoughts

  38. I think that we all understand the differences of opinion which have been expressed towards the end of what, taken as a whole, has been an excellent discussion. But I believe it would be useful now to switch our focus to another subject – The Real Facts of Life, perhaps? Just guidance – not a ruling..

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