Richard Sipe and the call to truth

Chris McDonnell

In this article Chris McDonnell, a retired headteacher, reflects on the life and work of Richard Sipe. The author is national secretary to the Movement for Married Clergy and writes in the Catholic Times.

Economical with the truth
We live in confusing times. While in his play All’s well that ends well Shakespeare has Mariana say that ‘No legacy is so rich as honesty’ our era has developed numerous euphemisms which risk making falsehood our legacy for the next generation. We talk rather too easily of ‘spin doctors’, ‘fake news’ and being ‘economical with the truth’ but these all risk glazing a veneer of acceptability on what should be deemed unacceptable.

Such problems are not entirely new. Misleading propaganda of all kinds has been with us since the dawn of time and being ‘economical with the truth’ has a long political history, going back at least to Edmund Burke1. Yet since the mid-1980s, when the then-UK cabinet secretary Robert Armstrong used the phrase in the Spycatcher trial in 1986, the phrase has become an increasingly popular euphemism for telling a known lie.

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