The perils of sincere speech

The perils of sincere speech

When The Family Guy‘s Seth MacFarlane​ was asked recently to comment on the Caitlyn Jenner​ story, he said he’s “too savvy to comment on the issue to the media.”

“Once the outrage industry shuts down, I will be happy to have an adult conversation about all of this stuff anytime anyone wants, but, even though I’m on the side of support, I just don’t think there’s any way to … you just got to play it safe because the climate is just too charged. Anything I say can and will be used against me.”

The outrage industry claimed another scalp in Fr John McKinnon, who in the middle of the Royal Commission hearings on clergy sex abuse in Ballarat, visited Bishop Ronald Mulkearns. The media had staked out the retired bishop’s house, for obvious reasons, and as he was leaving, Fr McKinnon gave a (car) door stop interview. It’s worth watching in full:

Since that interview was broadcast, Fr McKinnon has apologised, directly to parishioners and also via the press. Many people were offended. Many more wish he’d said nothing.

Not me. There’s a lot in this video I disagree with. Personally, I’d like to see Bishop Mulkearns take the stand at the Royal Commission. It’s not only that Bishop Mulkearns — and many other bishops in many other dioceses — moved offenders around. It’s also that they lied about it, even to the parents of those poor children. I would go so far as to say that in this interview, Fr McKinnon defends the indefensible.

But I’d also argue that Fr McKinnon speaks with such sincerity, and with such compassion, that he has nothing to apologise for. He was not defensive, and he was not shrill. On the contrary, he was self-effacing and thoughtful. Fr McKinnon did not persuade me through this interview, but he did give me insight into a different time, and different thinking. Far from silencing this sort of discourse, I think we need more of it. It’s the bread and butter of “adult conversation.”

The right to free speech entitles citizens to hear offensive speech. We are entitled to encounter dangerous ideas. These rights, unfortunately, are under seige — not only by present legislation, but also by our bizarre modern cult of “tolerance.”

Without free speech, it becomes impossible for anyone to speak the truth with love. Caritas in veritate is the duty of every Christian. I think this is what Fr McKinnon was at least attempting here. I’m not sorry Fr McKinnon spoke. I’m grateful.

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