Speaking of the whole “The problem is that Catholics are too docile to Authority” thing…

Chris K. responds to a stupid post in one of Amy’s comments boxes:

After all the discussion over this past year and all the background articles about parishioners defending an offending priest pastor I was kind of amazed by this critical summing up of the situation in #21:

“first, many catholics (particularly the more conservative ones) wouldn’t dream of holding clerics accountable because they’ve been conditioned into a docile deference when it comes to their theological superiors. why do you think the sex crisis lasted as long as it did? why do you think many parents were incapable of believing that father would molest their sons and daughters?”

At a nearby parish a mother whose son, classified as a slow learner and emotional loner without a father and the mother herself pretty dependent, reported the son’s molestation after he became so withdrawn…and the parish as a whole drove them out….to another state in fact. After an investigation and the priest’s removal, the truth came out. But you see, the offending cleric was sooo compassionate and finally there was someone who was doing something with the young people. We see this pattern with most of these types who through their “winning” personalities completely bamboozle all the Oprah trained parishioners. It doesn’t have much to do with clericalism which usually was a fear to offend a religious authority, but more with weak human desire, esp. since Vat II, for charismatic personalities who can “relate” to diversity and compassionate with all the hot button emotions. Look how the whole community was taken in by Shanley and let’s not forget about our last president! Frankly, I think both laity and priests needed a strong dose of reality training these past decades – the laity so they don’t treat the Church like some Disney world therapy session and the priests not to be so afraid of teaching outside the puritannical. Let’s face it, no one could talk to their pastor much less bishop about sexual matters outside the confessional. If the subject came up some trite unworkable solution was handed out just to get it over with or the people are referred to the “experts”. The American culture had its beginnings in such attitudes.

This pretty much rings true. In my experience, it’s hasn’t been “blind obedience to Catholic authority” but blind obedience to a particular charismatic personality (who is often at odds with the authoritative teaching of the Church) that is the trouble. Yes, there have been conservative Catholics I’ve known whose first rule in life is to never think ill of a priest even when trouble is staring them in the face. But far more often, what I’ve seen have been Catholics who just like Fr. Personality so much that they just can’t stand those killjoys who insist on pointing out that Fr. Personality is preaching rank heresy or, in the case of Courageous Street Priest and Extended Middle Finger to Catholic Authority Paul Shanley, living gross immorality as well. I wish more Catholics *were* docile to genuine Catholic Authority. They might find the cojones to appeal to it against the force of some charming pervert or heretic that they really really like. Indeed, some of the toughest and most dedicated real reformers in the Church that I’ve known–fearless moms who aren’t afraid to march into the bishop’s office and respectfully but firmly give him hell when he’s a doofus, have been conservative Catholics who are docile to true authority and therefore not craven before mere personalities. For “authority” is not, as most suppose, “raw power to dictate the shots”. It is related rather to “authorship”: the right of the writer to say what his work means. The author of the Catholic faith is Jesus Christ and the teaching and tradition of the Church is the way we know what the author has to say. Oddly, most lay Catholics aren’t interested in that. They’re interested, as Chris K points out, in what Fr. Personality has to say.


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