From the “What’s wrong with this picture?” department
Fr. Sibley does not say why, exactly, he was ordered to be “silent in the public forum for the next six months”. Such orders (I am informed by my sources) come from his bishop, Edward J. O’Donnell. Fr. Sibley, good priest that he is, has obeyed. I, however, am not under holy obedience to the good bishop and note that it is worth knowing that Fr. Sibley’s bishop, the bishop of Lafayette LA, is the guy who, incredibly, caved in to some ignoramuses a few years back and decided that Flannery O’Connor’s “The Artificial Nigger” was “racist” since it had “nigger” in the title. A piece from New Oxford Review tells the tale:
Flannery O’Connor: And Her Own Received Her Not
The Catholic bishop of Lafayette, Louisiana, has banned Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor’s book A Good Man Is Hard to Find from Opelousas Catholic High School. Why? Because, according to Rod Dreher, writing in The Weekly Standard (Sept. 11), certain black parents protested that the book “contains characters who use the words `nigger’ and `pickaninny.’”"Pickaninny”? Why, we haven’t heard that word used in thirty years. Indeed, we forgot what it meant, and had to look it up. But, thanks to the Bishop of Lafayette, that word is now back on our map. We do remember what the word “nigger” means, but again, we haven’t heard it used in thirty years, with one exception: When among blacks we do on occasion hear them call one another “nigger.” In his righteous zeal to be politically correct, the Bishop of Lafayette, one Edward J. O’Donnell, decreed that “no similar books” may replace O’Connor’s, meaning other books containing racially offensive words in any context. As Dreher notes, the students at Opelousas Catholic High therefore won’t be reading Mark Twain or William Faulkner or even the black writers Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, or James Baldwin. Golly, the old Index of Forbidden Books didn’t come close to being this censorious! Oddly enough, Flannery O’Connor was not a racist, A Good Man Is Hard to Find is anti-racist, and, as Dreher notes, O’Connor is “widely held to be the greatest Catholic fiction writer of twentieth-century America.” But all that counted for nothing. Dear reader, perhaps you have children in a Catholic high school. Have you bothered to peruse the literature they’re required to read? If you have, maybe you’ve noticed blasphemous words, the Lord’s name taken in vain, obscene words, graphic sex scenes, advocacy of moral relativism and nihilism, etc. If Flannery O’Connor, a solidly orthodox Catholic, can be banned, maybe you shouldn’t have to put up with some of the junk your teenagers are forced to read. In banning O’Connor for offending racial sensibilities, Bishop O’Donnell wrote: “No one can tell another person whether or not he or she should be offended. That is simply a matter of fact and should be respected in so far as possible.” If giving offense must be respected in the case of O’Connor, surely it must be respected in any imaginable case. There are six Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Lafayette. We don’t know what kind of literature is required reading in those schools. But if you’re a parent with a child in one of those schools, this is your golden opportunity to scrutinize that literature and let the bishop know if there’s anything that offends your moral or theological sensibilities. And while you’re at it, examine the religion textbooks.
The bright side: Fr. Sibley (one dimly hopes) might not have been silenced for his tart observations on the Scandal. One cherishes the flickering hope that the bishop is not solely concerned with muzzling richly deserved criticism of the current crop of episcopal office holders and their catastrophic misgovernance of the Church. The bad news: if Fr. Sibley was not muzzled for this, then he was probably muzzled for his equally tart and funny observations on various loony religious notions, riverboat priestesses, and other non-Scandal related hilarities by a bishop whose PC-sensitivities have led him to be unable to read good writing intelligently.
I hesitate in this case to urge people to write the good bishop since I have the feeling that all bleats of protest will simply result in more punishment for Fr. Bryce. But I am frankly stunned at this action. I hope the good bishop offers some public explanation for it.
Oh, and Bishop O’Donnell: I am offended at your treatment of Fr. Sibley. Deeply offended.