Silence!

Silence gives consent. Do you believe that? But speaking out may cause more harm than good – so we stay silent. The consent is only apparent and the silence is fear of the consequences: but if no one speaks so the wrong continues.

Last week we enjoyed watching Theresa May and Donald Trump smiling with each other and we knew the meeting had gone well. Then Theresa went to Turkey and Donald put an extraordinary banning order on immigrants from certain countries.

As our Prime Minister pointed out in her Turkish news conference, President Trump had the right refuse entry or re-entry to people from other countries. Then No.10 Downing Street issued a statement that the Prime Minister did not agree with what the American President had decreed. Who told her to do that? What right has she to criticise the elected president of a free country? British democracy speaking to American democracy? Friend to friend? Forced-hand prime minister to free spirit president?

My mind flipped. I am back in 1945 and the years following. I come to understand a little of the horror of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and slowly I glimpse a powerless Catholic Church not speaking out, cowed, even supporting the Third Reich.

Would you do that? Browse the public library, or the internet, and start at the end of the story – the deeply ashamed Cardinal Frings (a good man) speaking on behalf of the German hierarchy and apologising for their moral cowardice in not opposing Hitler as they should have done. Read the story and see how the little silence grew into the big silence.

It can happen anywhere. “Power corrupts,” said Lord Acton, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” History tells us this truth and we see it in certain parts of our world today. We must pray that good people in our democracies speak freely and fearlessly (it happens best in democracies) and we listen. We await the Catholic Church’s voices, especially where there is injustice. We heard them in the American election campaign, supporting Donald Trump. Shall we hear them again?

God bless us with moral courage,

Fr John
(5th February 2017)