BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER – snippet 58:
Wylsynn stirred slightly in his chair, and Staynair looked at him.
"I tell you this, Father Paityr, because I refuse to mislead you or any other man as to my own stance upon this point. No man or woman can truly choose to serve God unless they are equally free to refuse to serve Him, and God desires for His people to come to Him clear-eyed and joyously, not cringing in terror of the Inqusition and the damnation of Hell. I intend to make it clear to all that I refuse to abuse the power of this office to dictate to the consciences of priests or the laity. That way lies the very corruption and casual abuse of power 'in the name of God' which has led us to this current break with the Council of Vicars. When Mother Church decides she may command whatever she desires of her children, then the feet of her priesthood are set firmly on the path into darkness. As archbishop, at the head of the Church's hierarchy here in Charis, I may order policy, make decisions, and instruct both the episcopate and the priesthood. And, should those instructions be violated or ignored, I have the right and responsibility to remove those who cannot in conscience obey me from whatever offices they may hold within that hierarchy. But a priest is a priest forever, Father. Unless he be found incontestably guilty of sin and the misuse of his office, no man may take that office from him or deny him his vocation. Nor do I — or any man — have the right to excommunicate, torture, or kill any man or woman who simply does not or cannot believe that which I believe."
Wylsynn said nothing for a moment, then he inhaled deeply.
"Your Eminence, I'm a servant of the Inquisition. I believe you must recognize that I've always attempted to exercise the powers of my office in a way which meets my pastoral responsibilities and tempers discipline with love and understanding. Yet I've dedicated my entire life, my faith in God, to Mother Church's responsibility to preserve God's children from corruption. Not simply to 'convince' them of what their actions should be, but to protect them from the lures of Shan-wei by whatever means may be necessary."
"I realize that, Father. That's the very reason I've been so explicit in defining that doctrinal difference. I have great respect for your personal faith and for your character, both as a man and as a priest. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see you become a part of the process of reforming the Church's abuses — all of her abuses — here in Charis and elsewhere. I fully recognize what a tower of strength you could become in that daunting task. But this isn't a cause upon which any man, be he ever so much a priest, can embark unless he feels confident that it's his cause, and God's, as well as mine. Do you feel that confidence, Father?"
"I don't know," Wylsynn said simply, quietly, meeting Staynair's level gaze with eyes of clear gray honesty. "I know the abuses of which you speak, of which Archbishop Erayk wrote, are real. I know what the Grand Inquisitor and Chancellor intended to happen to Charis, and I know it was wrong. Worse than wrong, it was evil, a betrayal of everything Mother Church is supposed to stand for and defend. Whatever else it might have been, I know it could not have been the will of God. Yet there's a great difference between agreeing that what they've done is wrong and agreeing that what you've done is right."
"I appreciate your honesty, Father. And I trust the clarity of your spiritual vision. I won't try to convert you to my view today. Obviously, until your own faith and your own conscience convince you that what we're trying to accomplish here in Charis is right, no one could expect you to lend yourself to it. But I ask you to consider what you yourself have seen, what Archbishop Erayk has written to you, the words and deeds of the Church of Charis, and the touch of God upon your own heart. Approach it in prayer and sober meditation, Father, not in a white heat. If you find in time that God moves you to embrace our efforts, then we will welcome you as a brother and a fellow servant of God. And if God doesn't move you to join us, we will respect and accept that decision, as well."
"And in the meantime, Your Eminence?"
"And in the meantime, Father, I would be most grateful if you would continue to exercise the office of Intendant here in Charis. As you say, no one in this Kingdom has ever entertained the least doubt of your determination to apply the Proscriptions honestly and fairly. It would be immensely reassuring to all of our people to know you continue in that position in this time of turmoil and change."
"If I were to agree to any such thing, Your Eminence, then I would continue to exercise that office in the way I see fit."
"Which is no more and no less than I would wish of you, Father."
"Even if it brings us into conflict, Your Eminence?"
"Father," Staynair said with a gentle smile, "given the way you've met your responsibilities in the past, I see absolutely no reason to believe that you would find yourself in conflict with me over the matter of the Proscriptions. If we disagree, then, obviously, each of us will attempt to convince the other, but I've never seen you make a capricious decision, or, for that matter, one with which I disagreed. I see no reason to expect you to make any such decision now.
"It's true that we may have some differences of opinion upon the proper use of the coercive authority of your office. As you say, you believe that the Church's responsibility is to protect against corruption by 'whatever means are necessary,' whereas I believe her responsibility is to teach and convince. That external compulsion cannot generate the internal strength to resist darkness and evil when they come upon each and every one of us in our daily lives. I suspect you may now find yourself somewhat more leery of the term 'whatever means are necessary' than you were before the Group of Four's invasion attempt, but I have no doubt we may yet find ourselves on opposite sides over some issue of doctrinal enforcement. If that time comes, I'll certainly attempt to convince you to accept my view of the situation, but you will always have the right to resign your office — and to publicly state your reasons for doing so. And I will never attempt to compel you to accept or publicly endorse my position on any matter in which your conscience cannot agree with me."
"With your permission, Your Eminence, I will say neither yes nor no today," Wylsynn said after a long, thoughtful moment. "As you yourself have suggested, this isn't a decision, a choice, which should be rushed into. I would prefer to meditate and pray that God will show me my direction before I give you an answer."
"I can ask no more than that of any priest, Father." Staynair smiled at the young man, then looked back to Ahdymsyn. "Nor can I ask more than that of any bishop executor," he said with another smile. "Obviously, I would welcome both of you for political reasons, as well as spiritual ones, but neither I nor King Cayleb will attempt to dictate to your consciences. How can we do that, when so much of our quarrel with the Councuil of Vicars lies in its attempt to do just that to all of God's children? Whatever your final decision, however, know this. On my own authority, in the full expectation that King Cayleb will agree, but even if he does not, I grant both of you sanctuary. Whether or not you find it in your hearts and souls to join with us in our effort to transform Mother Church back into what God would truly have her be, you may remain here, in Charis, under the protection of the Church of Charis, for however long you choose."