Today, October 31, 2018, is the Feast Day of St. Quintin, Martyr, according to the Lives of the Saints by Fr. Alban Butler (first published in 1887 under the title Lives of the Saints–With Reflections for Every Day in the Year), read about them at http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/lots/lots337.htm
Reading about these saints is a wonderful daily reflection; such marvelous lives they lived, such an army who has our back in heaven.
The Catholic Birth of Tyrannical Authority
This is a wonderful article from Rorate Caeli examining the development of the type of clerical authority—contrary to the teaching of the Angelic Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas—that is ruining the Church.
In the light of new revelations about sexual abuse in the Church, many Catholics are asking how the situation that these revelations have disclosed can possibly have come about. The first question that occurs, a question of long standing, is; why did bishops deal with sexual abusers by concealing their offences and moving them to new assignments, rather than by removing them from ministry? No sufficient answer has yet been given to this question. It has now been made more pointed by a further question; how did Theodore McCarrick get appointed as Archbishop of Washington and Cardinal, and even become a principal drafter of the American bishops’ policy on sexual abuse in 2002, when his own involvement in sexual abuse was widely known in clerical circles and had been made known to the Holy See?
These things did not happen because of the law of the Church. Until November 27, 1983, the law in force in the Latin Church was the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Canon 2359 §2 of this code decreed that if clerics commit an offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with minors under sixteen years of age, they are to be suspended, declared infamous, deprived of every office, benefice, dignity, or position that they may hold, and in the most grievous cases deposed.
This canon was replaced by Canon 1395, §2 in the 1983 Code, which states that ‘a cleric who in any other way has committed an offence against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, … with a minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.’ The 1983 Code addressed offences of the kind committed by Cardinal McCarrick with Canon 1395 §2, which states that ‘A cleric who in another way has committed an offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, if the delict was committed by force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.’ These canons do not present these punishments as options; they require that such offences be punished by ecclesiastical authority. So our question now becomes; why did ecclesiastical authorities break the law by not enforcing these canons?
No doubt a number of factors combined to produce this disastrous situation. There is one factor however that has not been widely discussed or understood, but that has had an effect that is second to none in giving rise to the scandalous situation that now engrosses our attention. This is the influence within the Church of a conception of authority as a form of tyranny, rather than as being based on and constituted by law. This essay will present the nature of this conception, describe how it came to be influential, and explore some of its more significant results.
The intellectual origins of this conception of authority and obedience are largely to be found in nominalist theology and philosophy. William of Ockham notoriously came down on one side of the Euthyphro dilemma by asserting that good actions are good simply because they are commanded by God, and that God could make idolatry, murder, and sodomy good, and abstention from these actions evil, if he commanded that they be performed. This conception of divine authority lends support to a tyrannical understanding of authority in general as based on the arbitrary will of the possessor of power, rather than on law.
A law-based understanding of authority, in contrast, holds that law derived from the nature of the good provides the source of the authority of a ruler, and delimits the sphere in which a ruler can give commands. Scholars have long known that the dominance of nominalist thought in the fourteenth century left its mark on Catholic thought for centuries, with key nominalist theses remaining entrenched even in scholars who believed themselves to be upholding anti-nominalist traditions. The nature of authority was one of these theses. Catholic theologians and philosophers during the Counter-Reformation all held that law and moral obligation are to be understood as resulting from the command of a superior; Suarez gave a characteristic description of law as ‘the act whereby a superior wills to bind an inferior to the performance of a particular deed.’
Restoration of discipline among clergy and religious was one of the main goals of the Counter-Reformation. The theories of law and authority that guided this restoration differed from a pure nominalist position, but these differences were lost when the practical principles for training in obedience were devised. These principles embodied a tyrannical understanding of authority, and a servile understanding of rightful obedience as consisting in total submission to the will of the superior. The most influential formulation of these principles was given in the writings of St. Ignatius Loyola on obedience. The key elements of the Ignatian notion of authority are the following:
“— The mere execution of the order of a superior is the lowest degree of obedience, and does not merit the name of obedience or constitute an exercise of the virtue of obedience.
“— In order to merit the name of virtue, an exercise of obedience should attain the second level of obedience, which consists in not only doing what the superior orders, but conforming one’s will to that of the superior, so that one not only will to obey an order, but wills that that particular order should have been given – simply because the superior willed it.
“— The third and highest degree of obedience consists in conforming not only one’s will but one’s intellect to the order of the superior, so that one not only wills that an order should have been given, but actually believes that the order was the right order to give, simply because the superior gave it. ‘He who aims at making an entire and perfect oblation of himself, in addition to his will, must offer his understanding, which is a further and the highest degree of obedience. He must not only will, but he must think the same as the superior, submitting his own judgment to that of the superior, so far as a devout will can bend the understanding.’
“— In the highest and most meritorious degree of obedience, the follower has no more will of his own in obeying than an inanimate object. ‘Everyone of those who live under obedience ought to allow himself to be carried and directed by Divine Providence through the agency of the superior as if he were a lifeless body which allows itself to be carried to any place and to be treated in any manner desired, or as if he were an old man’s staff which serves in any place and in any manner whatsoever in which the holder wishes to use it.’
“— The sacrifice of will and intellect involved in this form of obedience is the highest form of sacrifice possible, because it offers to God the highest human faculties, viz. the intellect and the will.”
It should be said that St. Ignatius’s practical exercise of authority did not agree with his own writings. He was accustomed to send Jesuits on independent missions where they had to use their initiative. Literally construed, his writings on obedience could have no application in these situations, because the superior was not there to give the commands to which this kind of obedience is due. …
The novelty of this understanding of obedience can be seen by contrasting it with the position of St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas considers the proper object of obedience to be the precept of the superior (Summa theologiae, 2a2ae q. 104 a. 2 co., a. 2 ad 3). St. Ignatius’s lowest degree of obedience, which he does not consider to be virtuous, is considered by St. Thomas to be the only form of obedience. He holds that St. Ignatius’s alleged higher forms of obedience do not fall under the virtue of obedience at all:
“Seneca says (De Beneficiis iii): ‘It is wrong to suppose that slavery falls upon the whole man: for the better part of him is excepted.’ His body is subjected and assigned to his master but his soul is his own. Consequently in matters touching the internal movement of the will man is not bound to obey his fellow-man, but God alone.” (2a2ae q. 104 a. 5 co.)
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