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December 30, 2014

Bishops, Buts and B******t

Both sides in the  synod debate are already squaring up for the battle ahead. The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales clearly belongs to the faction favouring the admission of  unrepentant adulterers to Holy Communion.  You can tell this by the way they have constructed the following sentence:

The Synod does not shirk from the truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom, urging us to make the demands of the Kingdom of God, but this must be accompanied with compassion and love, seeing firstly persons who are loved by God.

Now if you summarise that sentence in three words, it means “We are nice.” If you turned the sentence the other way, to say  “[Action] must be  accompanied with compassion and love, seeing firstly persons who are loved by God,  but the Synod does not shirk from the truth of the Gospel and Kingdom, urging us to make the demands of the Kingdom of God”, it would mean something quite different: “We are strict.”

It’s a rhetorical device, employing the golden rule that when you oppose two ideas and put a “but” between them, it’s always the part which follows the “but” which is the most important and the one you want to prevail.

I have summarised the above argument from Fr Hunwicke’s blog. One contributor to his combox puts it neatly, if crudely: “As an advertiser, well versed in this device, said, ‘Before the BUT is b*****t’.”

More about this in my next post.

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