Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Letter of the day: DeSouza, shameless partisan, was no Percival Gibson

Published:Tuesday | December 22, 2015 | 12:42 PM


YOUR EDITORIAL of Sunday, December 20, 2015 equated the outspokenness of Bishop Neville deSouza in the 1970s with that of Bishop Percival Gibson of an earlier era. In so doing, you did a disservice to the work and memory of Bishop Gibson.

I am well aware of the aphorism that one should not speak ill of the dead, but if we are to be honest, we must give a proper assessment of our icons, warts and all.

Where Bishop Gibson loomed large as a moral voice denouncing all manner of economic, social and private ills as he saw them, and thereby earned the respect of the society at large, Bishop deSouza was an unapologetic partisan who, in a manner of speaking, worshipped at the feet of Michael Manley. It was his overt partisanship that made him more of a controversial figure than one who carried the moral weight of a Bishop Gibson. There was never any hesitation at denouncing violence believed to be linked to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP); it was never the same with the other side, no matter the evidence.

Within the Anglican Communion, he was not singular. Many clerics of the day felt obliged to wear their orange colours as a badge of misguided patriotic honour, some to the point of holding up clenched fists in the public arena. This was the basis of Edward Seaga’s quip that the Jamaica Council of Churches then, and little has changed since, was “the PNP at prayer”.

The fact is that ‘the Church’ has never been reticent in condemning JLP policies and pronunciations. On the other hand, they tiptoe and hem and haw when they should poke the PNP.

Council members boasted for years how they fought the JLP’s endorsement of a national lottery as a social ill in the late 1960s; and in later years when the JLP suggested casino gambling, they condemned the proposal as quickly as it was uttered. Look how gambling flourished under the P.J. Patterson administration and has continued under the prayerful watch of Sister P! Where is the voice of these same church leaders? Why have they gone silent? Please don’t tell me that you are condemning it from your pulpits. You engaged the society in the media, in public fora and in the public space when you wanted. Such remonstrations were not restricted to the pulpit.

In the Anglican tradition, Bishop deSouza may have been a good shepherd, fine preacher and homiletic tutor. Perhaps, he was. An objective editorial assessment would require that his less-than-fair foray into public affairs is also placed in the public square, especially for a younger generation who may not know any better.