Monday, March 11, 2013

Why Keep Things Hidden?

One of the most familiar passages in the New Testament is the "light of the world" teaching by Christ in Matthew 5. Anyone who has been a Christian or even a church attender for any length of time will instantly recognize it:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

We who are followers of Christ, disciples of the Lamb that was slain, are the light of the world. We are to be a beacon of the hope of the resurrection and the new life that awaits believers. Even in our suffering we are an example of a different way. Our very lives are to be a public witness of Christ who dwells in us and has transformed us. As Christ taught we cannot do that is secret or behind closed doors.

For example, when the church convened what is known as the Jerusalem Council, they apparently didn't meet behind closed doors to consider this very important question. We see in Acts 15 that they gathered together to deliberate the question of circumcision for Gentile converts in . The debate was conducted by the apostles and the elders but when consensus was achieved the church selected men to send out with the word to the rest of the church.

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, (Acts 15:22 )

So the whole church approved of the men being sent with this very important message. They didn't pick men in secret or conduct their business out the sight from prying eyes. Certainly the church would listen especially and heed the voices of the elders and the apostles but they likewise would have observed what was going on. It is far easier to trust a process that is transparent, one you can see, than one conducted in secrecy with a promise of "trust us".

This was on my mind as the conclave convenes to select a new pope with the cardinals being sworn to secrecy and the whole place being swept for bugs so no one can listen in. What is being discussed behind a veil of secrecy that the church these men allegedly lead cannot hear? These men, so called "princes of the church" selecting a man who presumes to call himself the successor of Peter, the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, are having conversations that must be kept hidden from the very people who will adore and follow the next pope? What might be said? Something about the cover up of pedophile "priests"? We already know about that and the Roman Catholic Church if anything should be more open about it, not less. Conversations that imply pragmatic or political motivations for who is selected? We know that too. For a group that has been rightly raked over the coals for a culture of secrecy it would seem to me that deliberations over the next pope should be open and available to all. Let the people who must affirm the next pope in an exalted role see the selection process.

Of course there are plenty of examples of meetings being held behind closed doors in Protestant and evangelical groups as well. I am not talking about issues of sinful conduct being discussed in confidence, I am talking about general functions of the church. Closed door meetings, secret votes, vague budgets. Thing done in secrecy, done in the dark so to speak.

Leaders in the church are not part of a religious board of directors who meet in conference rooms to decide the fate of the church. Deliberations should be held in the open. Let those who would lead do so in the light of day, especially when trust has been broken so many times in the past. A system of secrecy and leaks and speculation should give way to one of openness and transparency. Let the people see what goes on behind closed doors and then see how that changes the decision making process.


Anonymous said...

The Conclave of Cardinals is less about secrecy and secret decisions and such and more about removing the cardninals from the potential influences of the world so they can focus on listening to the Holy Spirit in coming to their decision.

You and I have some of the same hang ups of the hierarchal structure of the RC church. But, giving them some grace, it makes sense. These men are representatives of different regions of the world, giving voice for the people that they pastor and lead. It would be a little hard for all 1 billion catholics in the world to attend either directly or virtually and give input and actually have it make sense. Instead, these are delegates. Much like not every Christian was present at the Jerusalem council but representatives of the different viewpoints and discernment was done by the leadership.

This is what's going on there... nothing nefarious or especially corrupt, just men who have been delegated the responsibility for leading the church coming together to jointly discern a decisions based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit and upon the input of the congregants whom they represent.

In short... give them a little grace, k? :-)

Arthur Sido said...

I remain skeptical that the decision has much to do with the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

I would be far more likely to give them some grace if they would deliberate before the world, or at least before the Roman church. As it is neither you nor I have much idea of what is going on behind closed doors and, more importantly since I reject any notion of authority attributed to the Roman hierarchy, neither do rank and file Roman Catholics.

BFrei46 said...

Art, would you mind if I posted your article here on the Protestant/Catholic debate board...I mean if you really want answers..?

BFrei46 said...

Art, did you want me to ask a few Roman Catholics this question? Mostly, just because I doubt any Roman Catholics read your blog...jus' sayin'

Aussie John said...


I applaud "abnormals" graciousness, but fear his education is very wanting in this area,e.g. the doctrine of mentalis restrictio or mental reservation

Anonymous said...

Again, their deliberations are not kept secret for any nefarious reason... they are secret because they want to keep out influences that would skew their decision away.

As mentioned, I have my own hang ups with the RC hierarchy... but to assign motive from a distance as you have is more troubling to me than any RC hierarchal structure.

I understand that your background within the Mormon church (I read your article) probably plays into this... which should probably suggest that you examine your own motives for why you find the process as distasteful as it is... are you assigning motives to the RC unfairly because of hurt done to you by others?

In any case, it's moot now... there's a new pope. And my God bless him as he steps into the role to lead the RC church.

Arthur Sido said...


" but to assign motive from a distance as you have is more troubling to me than any RC hierarchal structure."

Aren't you doing the same thing by assuming that they are hiding behind a veil of secrecy because they are trying to seek the Holy Spirit and avoid influences from the outside world? I certainly recognize my bias against authoritarian leadership and secrecy from our time as mormons but I also see an awful lot of parallels between the two groups.

Given the history of the Roman hierarchy I don't think I am making an unwarranted leap by asking a question about secrecy even as I utterly reject any sort of authority stemming from this role.

Arthur Sido said...

Bryan, feel free to cross post this. You might be surprised, I do get the occasional Catholic reader and I do try to take pains to differentiate between Catholics as individuals and the Roman institution.

Anonymous said...


My statements about their reasons are not my assumptions... it is what they are saying they are doing. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I'm trying to follow a Christian character. If I am called to love, as I believe I am, isn't love supposed to trust?

As for Aussie John's comment... I'm not entirely certain what the reference is to the doctrine of mental reservation as applies to what I was saying... If he would care to explain, I can engage the comment better.

Anonymous said...

Let me add that, in light of the man who was elevated as Pope and what he has been displaying as his character in the last few days, I lean even more towards the movement of the Holy Spirit than any nefarious character. Pope Francis is certainly displaying a very Christ-like attitude in his execution of pastor of the Roman Catholic church...

Arthur Sido said...

Let me just say this. There is an old saying, talk is cheap.

Anonymous said...

more than talk, Arthur:

1) Francis declined the red stole and the gilded cross for his announcement
2) Francis declined the papal limosine for transportation
3) Francis paid for his hotel and carried out his own luggage
4) Francis rode the bus with the other cardinals rather than take the special papal transportation
5) Francis, in his Thursday homily, used Italian (a more accessible language) rather than Latin (not many outside of the RC speak it regularly any more).
6) Francis, in his Thursday homily, said this:

When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross, and when we confess without the cross, we are not disciples of Christ. We are mundane; we are all but disciples of our Lord.

Seems to me that he's turning the Vatican upside down... and he's been pope for less than a week... Praying that this continues... but yes, talk is cheap... but he seems to be doing more than talking.

Arthur Sido said...

We will see. Those are certainly nice steps to see. It has been less than a week after all. Will he reject the heretical historical teaching of Rome on issues like Mariolatry, on transubstantiation, on the Roman priesthood? Will he sell off the treasures of Rome, many purchased by ill-gotten theft from the naive and ignorant who believed that giving money to Rome would buy favor with God? Will he allow men to address him as "Holy Father" and permit men to kneel before him and kiss his ring? Time will tell. I fear that another old saying about power corrupting is an old saying because it has far too often been proven true.

Anonymous said...

In response to what you want to see... The Pope is still Catholic... and since he's 76 years old, turning the barque of Christ is going to that extent is going to take a LOT longer than years he has left...

...and I challenge that, as much as we dislike Catholic expression of the faith, their rituals and such, what matters is the fruit... and I know too many Catholics putting out Jesus fruit to let such "disputable matters" get in the way of working together as a body for the Kingdom.

Arthur Sido said...

Robert, I am not sure I can be more plain about my sharp distinction between Catholics who are Christians and the Roman Catholic Church which is at its core an anti-Christian organization. As I states elsewhere my issue is not with Jorge, it is with the papacy and since so many religious people seem unable or unwilling to distinguish between Rome and the Church, I feel compelled to do so whether it is popular or not.