Soon following World War II, a Swiss Catholic philosopher and former medical student named Max Picard published a little book titled "The World of Silence."
Trappist Father Thomas Merton praised this book in his own modern classic, "Thoughts in Solitude." Picard's book is in print and remains indispensable reading for anyone interested in the importance and value of silence in the modern world.
Unlike Picard's book, Diarmaid MacCulloch's "Silence: A Christian History" addresses the phenomenon of silence as both a positive and a negative reality. He examines silence as a historian and as both presence (positive) and absence (negative). One example of the latter is a section of MacCulloch's book titled "Gay Anglo-Catholics."
In this section, the author examines silence as a refusal to discuss homoeroticism in the 19th-century Church of England and in the Oxford Movement, led by Blessed John Henry Newman in the 1830s to draw Anglicans to their Catholic roots. Ordained an Anglican priest, the future cardinal joined the Catholic Church at the age of 44. MacCulloch leaves no doubt that he believes that Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) was homosexual and engaged in homosexual relationships.
Father Ian Ker, the author of the definitive biography of Cardinal Newman, as well as more than 20 other books about him, has called claims the cardinal was gay "absolute rubbish."
Knighted in 2012 and a professor of the history of the Christian church at Oxford University, MacCulloch investigates silence in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, in the history of monasticism, in the Eastern schism, in the Protestant and Anglo-Catholic Reformations and in the Counter-Reformation launched by the Council of Trent. Finally, MacCulloch attempts to access the silences behind the "noise" of human events in the history of Christianity, after which he recommends for the believer "a Resurrection silence."
"Silence: A Christian History" is a scholarly historical study that is accessible to any educated reader. It is clearly written from a Church of England theological perspective, and it offers many insights that anyone intrigued by the topic will find rewarding.