BY HERESIES DISTRESSED – snippet 28:
Clearly, Clyntahn didn’t want to do anything of the sort, and Trynair smiled thinly.
“I didn’t think you would.”
“And we avoid this precisely how?” Clyntahn demanded, his face still dark and his eyes more suspicious than ever.
“We hold our own inquiry, and we conclude that the Charisians were right,” Trynair said flatly.
Trynair didn’t even flinch. It wasn’t as if Clyntahn’s instant, explosive response were something he hadn’t anticipated all along.
“We don’t have any choice, Zhaspahr. Either we hold the inquiry, and at the end of it we condemn Graivyr’s actions, or else Wylsynn and the other waverers on the Council — not to mention secular rulers like Stohnar — realize we’re whitewashing them. We can’t afford that, Zhaspahr. Especially not in light of the evidence Cayleb and his Charisians are prepared to present. Besides, it’s not as if Graivyr was still alive, is it? He’s dead. Nothing we say or do is going to affect him in any way, and even if we end up condemning his actions, we won’t be obliged to punish him; Cayleb’s already taken care of that little chore for us. Besides, think of all the points we’ll get. Faced with proof of wrongdoing by those pledged to Mother Church, even if that proof came from heretics and apostates, we will have acted.”
Clyntahn frowned, but at least he wasn’t shouting anymore, and Trynair pressed his advantage.
“Let’s be clear on one thing here, Zhaspahr. I realize there were special circumstances in Ferayd’s case, but you realize as well as I do that priests actually guilty of the ‘crimes’ Charis has accused them of are subject under Church law to exactly the punishment they received. In fact, according to the Book of Schueler, they were liable to far worse punishment. I know, I know!” He waved his hands as Clinton’s started to fire back. “It should have been done through a proper Church tribunal, and the extenuating circumstances ought to have been taken into consideration. But the fact remains that, aside from the way in which Church law was profaned when a secular authority judged and executed ordained priests, what happened to Graivyr and the others is completely in accordance with charges framed the way Cayleb’s framed these charges. We couldn’t deny that even if we wanted to, and, frankly, we don’t want to. Not at this moment.”
From the look in Clyntahn’s eyes, he, for one, obviously didn’t agree with that last statement. Not deep inside, at any rate. But he clamped his jaw on any protests, and Trynair continued.
“We’re not going to be ready to take the war to Charis until our new fleet is built and manned,” he pointed out. “If we were to declare Holy War tomorrow, it wouldn’t bring the day we could actually begin operations even an hour nearer. But what we can do with that time is use it to improve our own position before the day we can declare Jihad. Convene a special commission to investigate what happened in Ferayd, Zhaspahr. Look at all of the evidence, including anything from Charis. And if your special commission should conclude that Graivyr did what Charis accuses him of doing — and what you and I both know he actually did — say so. Publicly acknowledge what happened, express contrition on behalf of of the Office of Inquisition, possibly even impose a public penance upon yourself — even upon me and the other two — for permitting it to happen. In the end, we’ll emerge with even more moral authority because we dared to admit wrongdoing within the Church at a time like this.”
“I don’t like it.” Clyntahn appeared to be oblivious to the fact that he was repeating something Trynair had already said several times. “I don’t like it a bit. This is a time for strength, not for weakness!”
“It’s a time for guile as well as for open confrontation,” Trynair countered.
“It will delay the final confrontation.”
“Not necessarily. Or, at least, not for long. Remember, we still need to build a navy before we can do anything effective against Charis, anyway.”
Clyntahn fumed silently for several seconds, then drew a deep breath.
“You really think this is necessary?”
“It may not be absolutely necessary,” Trynair acknowledged, “but it’s the best way I can think of to defuse Charis’ attack. For that matter, you know I’ve always thought it would be a mistake to declare Holy War any farther in advance of the ability to take that war to Charis than we can help. I know you and Allayn haven’t agreed with me entirely on that point. And I know Rhobair finds the entire notion of Holy War frightening. This is the best way I can think of to control when and where that declaration gets made. It leaves the initiative in our hands, and it allows us to stake out a claim to the moral high ground. After all, we’ll have shown the world we’re willing to consider genuine charges that servants of Mother Church — as individuals, Zhaspahr, not as Mother Church herself — are capable of criminal acts. And when we condemn Graivyr and the others, it will be one of those ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ affairs. In the end, we’ll actually be able to turn some of this at least partly to our own advantage.”
“If you can call that an ‘advantage,'” Clyntahn muttered. He sat silently for a well over a minute, gazing sightlessly at his own blotter, then shrugged.
“Very well, Zahmsyn,” he said. “We’ll try it your way. As you say,” he showed his teeth in a white smile that contained very little humor, “we’ll have proved our willingness to go the extra mile, to be sure of our ground before we make charges or allegations.”
“Exactly,” Trynair agreed, making no particular effort to hide his relief at Clyntahn’s agreement. “Trust me, if we can establish that, get it fixed in everyone’s mind, we’ll have an enormous advantage in the battle between our propagandists and theirs.”
“Well, in that case,” Clyntahn said, “I suppose it’s time I had Father Dahnyld start pulling copies of Graivyr’s reports. I’ll need them for the investigation, won’t I?”