It comes down to the question of authority again... (Main Forum)
Desi, my sense is that Peter Berger's article led us up to the critical hurdle but refused to jump the fence. The critical issue is "authority". What is plainly evident today is that the Pope and the hierarchs are plainly losing their "authority" — the vast majority of the baptized in the Western world have stopped taking their orders and following them with docility and obedience.
I think the critical question for discussion today is what is the ultimate source of "authority"?
The traditionalist view is that the authority of the hierarchs comes from God himself because God sent Jesus into the world, Jesus in turn appointed Peter to head his Church, and all the succeeding hierarchs take their "authority" from this sense that they are "the successors of Peter and the other Apostles". Unstated in that is this notion that God speaks down through them exclusively to humankind and the role of everybody else is simply to shape up and obey, with docility, what the hierarchs say because their word is perceived to be infallible and comes directly from God himself.
I sense many are moving away from that view. The hierarchs have lost the trust of their people — witnessed to by their cover-up and responses in the abuse scandal, how a case like Bill Morris's is handled, and a myriad of other things. I sense there is a searching going on for another way of understanding this "authority" business. My own belief is that John Henry Newman pointed the way. The "teaching authority" does not come from "panel of experts" in Rome who believe they alone have exclusive insight into the mind of God. God speaks to all of humankind. The role of the hierarchs is not to think of themselves as "the experts" but more as "the servants of the servants of the the people of God". It is a very humble role in helping society as a whole — the sensus fidelium — discern what the Spirit is saying to humankind. This view does not negate the idea, or importance of, authority. It is a radically different understanding of how "authority" is sourced back to the Divine.
I sense society does continue to see places of "primacy" and not only in the realm of religion. Science needs places of primacy also where truth in scientific matters is ultimately discerned. Similarly the Law has places of primacy. I think the Church could still have a place of "primacy" but it has to be earned through the respect the large mass of the people — the People of God — accord to it because they respect the processes through which "truth" is discerned. They do not respect it when anybody these days claims authority to themselves just because they wear some distinctive hat or costume, or because some emotionally insecure minority claim they have some sort of authority. Authority in all spheres of life today has to be earned by the self-evident quality of the leadership that is provided by those claiming some authority. It is no longer conferred automatically by the people at large — and that applies to kings and queens or prime ministers and presidents just as much as it applies to ecclesial leaders.
This second view of "authority" cannot be exercised if "the people of God" are ordered to be docile and obedient and constrained in various ways from asking questions.
[Editor & Publisher]
- Can you be a Catholic and have a questioning mind? - desi, 2012-08-20, 13:18