Among the six new cardinals Pope Benedict announced last week, Archbishop Tagle of the Philippines is a figure who has drawn the most attention.
During his Intervention at the recent synod on the New Evangelization of Bishops, Archbishop Tagle stated:
“The Church must learn humility from Jesus…..The Church must discover the power of silence. Confronted with the sorrows, doubts and uncertainties of people she cannot pretend to give easy solutions. In Jesus, silence becomes the way of attentive listening, compassion and prayer. It is the way to truth.”
At a synod deliberating how best the Church ought to speak the Gospel in our world today, Archbishop Tagle suggests not speaking at all. Commentators at Rorate Caeli have suggested the cardinal-elect “just wants the Church to shut up.” Or that he is promoting “syncretism” or “indifference” – that the truths of the faith do not matter.
I believe the Archbishop’s words have been misconstrued. He points to the example of our Lord. Our Lord spent 3 years in public ministry – He spent 30 years as a humble worker in Nazareth. No doubt, these days too were part of the work of redemption. There is great evil in our world today. Many ask why the clergy are not more explicit in condemning it. Yet, Jesus was silent during His passion – the moment in human history. Jesus turned the tables of the money changers – but he also shared and dined at the tables of Pharisees and sinners.
We all know the experience of being in a meeting when one person dominates the conversation and never lets another speak. We also know those persons who listen carefully throughout the meeting and then say a few words. Which words do we take more seriously? Which is the impression – fair or unfair – that most people have of the Church?
There are no doubt times the Church must speak loudly. Could there also times when the Church needs to be quiet? What time are we living in now?