Daily Gleaning - Code of Silence
In today's Morning Prayer, we read John 7 and noted the Pharisees and religious authorities who plotted to condemn Jesus in secret, ignored the evidence that He was the Christ, and smeared the witness (Nicodemus) with personal insults. Nicodemus for his part reminded the judges what the Law requires:
- An open trial
- Adherence to the rules of evidence and testimony
- Unbiased judges
His accusers, facing their deceit and not wishing to repent of it, declared a code of silence:
[The Pharisees said] "Doth any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees believe in him?" ... Nicodemus said unto them... "Doth our Law judge a man before it hear him, and know what he hath done?" They answered, and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no Prophet. And every man went unto his own house. (John 7:48-53)
So why is this important? It is important because it provides some context for how and under what circumstances a church, and by extension any governing authority has authority to restrict a member's (citizen's) conscience or speech. For example when we read Article XXXIII, we should assume that it applies only when the conditions of the Law (above) have been met.
XXXIII. Of Excommunicated Persons, how they are to be avoided.
THAT persons which by open denunciation of the Church is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church and excommunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful as an heathen and publican, until he be openly reconciled by penance and received into the Church by a judge that hath authority thereto.
Let us remember the martyrs of the Reformation who were sentenced on the basis of flimsy evidence behind the closed doors of biased courts (or without a trial at all), and then condemned to public execution.