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The Sin of Being Silent

With the growing apostasy in the Church, we see many “conservatives” and “traditionalists” who avoid criticizing Prelates, and even Popes, and thus become accomplices to the apostasy. They flee their obligation of warning others about the gravity of this situation.

To reinforce the importance of this duty, we present today the words of Friar Vincent of Beauvais, a Dominican scholar often consulted by St. Louis IX of France. This monk was the author of a comprehensive compendium of all the knowledge of his time regarding doctrine, history and nature entitled the Speculum Maius - The Great Mirror. The words below were taken from this famous work.

Vincent of Beauvais

Dealing with the peccatum taciturnitatis (sin of being silent) in general, Vincent de Beauvais explains this grave moral fault: “Next we should consider taciturnity. For it is known that just as an excess of loquacity is a vice, so also is, at times, excessive taciturnity. Indeed, ‘There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak’ (Eccles 3:7); St. Isidore: ‘The tongue must be watched, but not inflexibly arrested.’ For it is a vice, by keeping quiet, to allow someone unworthy or unfit to be chosen for promotions and honors, or permit someone worthy to lose his dignity, goods or honor.

“The same can be said if, in meetings of the council, you keep quiet out of ignorance or malice and thus withhold the truth from the other advisers. Likewise, during a court hearing, if you see someone make a fraudulent accusation or be unjustly condemned, you will sin. And if you fail to reprehend the detractors in conversations defaming others by neither excusing nor praising the person defamed, you will sin by remaining silent. Likewise, when you perceive that a word to edify, instruct, exhort or correct someone is necessary, you commit a sin if you withhold that wholesome advice. Hence Isaiah exclaimed: ‘Woe is me, because I have held my peace’ (6:5). The same is said in Ecclesiasticus: ‘And refrain not to speak in the time of salvation’ (4:28).”

This command is directed primarily to the Hierarchs and clerks who keep quiet. Nevertheless, their defection obliges all laymen to speak up, since Vincent de Beauvais, cited below, uses the adverb especially when referring to the Prelates, which means that those who are not vested with priestly dignity have an analogous duty.

“This is obligatory especially for Prelates and all those who direct or take care of souls. This is clearly stated in Exodus: 28, whose precept called for placing little bells alternating with pomegranates hanging from the priestly chasubles so that the priest would be heard as he entered or left the sanctuary and thus would not die. St. Gregory explains this by saying: ‘The priest who enters will die if the sound is not heard, for he will attract for himself the wrath of the Eternal Judge if the sound of preaching does not come from him.’ Likewise, Ezekiel, 33:6: ‘And if the watchman sees the sword coming, and sounds not the trumpet: and the people look not to themselves, and the sword comes, and cuts off a soul from among them: he indeed is taken away in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at the hand of the watchman.’”


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(Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum quadruplex sive speculum maius,
Graz, Akademische Druck-Verlagsanstalt, 1964, col. 1228)

Posted January 1, 2011

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