Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Silencing: Old Tactic That Doesn't Work

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Silencing: Old Tactic That Doesn't Work

Article excerpt

When the church comes knocking on the door to silence prophets and voices of conscience, it is both making a statement -- our way and no other -- and taking a risk. The risk is that such action suggests panic at the center.

Panic, or high anxiety at least, is the only reasonable explanation for the Vatican's silencing of Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent and the curtailing of their ministry to homosexuals (see story on page 12).

Silencing speaks of an institution that has lost its ability to persuade. Yet silencing loses its effectiveness when people ignore the order and keep talking, as they do about women's ordination, for example.

The observer is obliged to ask: What is it about conversation and debate that makes the Roman Catholic church so afraid? Why is the church so fearful of open and honest due process in controverted situations?

Why has the institution so little faith in faith? In God's ability in God's good time to sort the wheat from the weeds when both have grown up together?

School Sr. of Notre Dame Jeannine Gramick finds support for freedom of expression in John XXIII's 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, in Vatican II's 1965 Declaration on Religious Freedom, the 1971 Synod of Bishops. And the scriptures.

Conscience has to speak out even at the risk of being wrong, she contends, "The community is self-correcting," Gramick says, quoting the Pharisee Gamaliel addressing the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:34). "If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin, it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God, you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God. …

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