Notebook

Consultancy

Consultancy is a key function in our society. Enterprises large and small invest huge sums in it. The advisability of counsel is evident. St Benedict affirms, in chapter 3, ‘Do everything with counsel and having so done you will not repent’. Anyone who has exercised government knows what he means. There are times, though, when consultancy – weighing up options – is no good, when we have to abide by principles. We commemorate the martyrdom of Cyprian of Carthage. When arrested in 258, he was urged to perform the civic ritual the emperor required: a brief visit to the city hall, a little bit of incense strategically placed, and that would be that. Cyprian said no: to obey would, to his way of thinking, be blasphemy. The imperial proconsul was shocked. Taking Cyprian aside, he said, Consule tibi – that is, ‘Exercise consultancy’. Cyprian retorted: ‘In a matter so just, there is no consultancy to be had’, In re tam iusta nulla est consultatio. Sometimes there’s a limit to what consultancy can achieve. What matters then is simply to tell truth from falsehood, and to opt for truth.