Several people have quoted the famous qui tacit consentire principle in the last few days. Who is silent gives consent. I never understood the grammar of that until it was explained to me that the expression should actually be qui tacit consentire videtur: who is silent is seen to give consent. It is of course an important nuance. One might be silent for all kinds of reasons. Being present and being silent are not together the only conditions of an illicit silence.
But it has been illustrative these last few days to see a mist of quiet descend upon us. Hardly a murmur from the quarters one would hope and expect to hear from. Are they saving their powder? Are they in fact in perfect agreement with what has occurred? Are there other factors which are simply not in the public eye? Have they calculated the capacity of their troops for resistance and realised that a counter-offensive is useless?
In a media age I'm sure we make all kinds of assumptions about the possibilties of action. We feel we are informed and can speak our minds. We are confident our education makes us fit for intervention. And we find our suspicions confirmed by every action which does not meet the standards we establish.
And yet, those we expected to speak have only led us to this point. We have been told about the age of the laity for so long. We have been invited to speak in so many other ways. And such dynamics impose necessities of their own on any community in which debate is welcomed. If leadership wishes support, it must be convincing leadership. If unity is required, we must be given a better reason than mere loyalty, especially in areas in which the laity are not only competent but prime shareholders.
But this week? Answer came there none. At least not yet. And two possibilities lie before us: either we can expect things to kick off this week when the bishops publish their pre-election statement - in which case the present lull and the previous spat will soon be forgotten. Or, we will find we were not in a lull of conflict, but in a fog of fear which imposes either a strategy of tippy-toe self-effacement, or one of inaction and confusion.
In the latter case, of course, we might feel all the more strongly that such silence is an act of complicity.