Ok, I know I said I didn't take authority too seriously...I'm in conversation with a friend on this very topic,Ok, now I really need to stop and get some books catalogued. Otherwise I'm going to need a 12 step programme: "Hi, my name is Irim and I'm a blogging addict..."
so I thought I'd post those thoughts here - I'm using he, since the discussion was specifically about Catholic
Actually, believe it or not, I DO pay attention to authority - what I consider 'right' authority. No,
that doesn't mean that the authority in question *agrees* with me. It means that the person in question
wears their authority like a mantle and doesn't wield it like an iron fist. It means that what they ARE and
what they DO are in harmony - e.g., if you give with gritted teeth and resentment, and without joy, you
poison the giving... no matter how beautiful the doing appears to be, the feeling, the *being*, underneath it
will always come out. It means that he has thought out his position carefully, weighing law and compassion,
and has attempted to come to a right judgment - and is willing to explain how he came to it without feeling
threatened. It's about respect and trust. If someone tells me to be charitable and yet every chance he
gets, I see him being unkind or walking over people to get what he wants, it's a bit hard to give way
to his authority when he chooses to use it.
There *are* priests whose authority I give way to readily. Their actions are those of men who are *trying* to
love God and their neigbours as they love themselves. They *care* - for them, it's about being a shepherd to
God's people, no matter how imperfect they may be...it's not about being clever, or having power, or
being seen, or being safe/comfortable, or running away from the unknown/uncertain, their past, their demons,
their sexuality [let me clarify here - it's not PREDOMINANTLY about these - I'm well aware that
motives are many and complex]. And they are who they are - strengths, weaknesses, everything - as they try
to discern God's will. And on that rock, God shall build His Church.
And I have clerical friends whom I *adore*, yet whose authority I will question b/c I worry that they clutch at it as
they would a safety blanket, and wield it out of fear... too afraid to look at themselves and to have
others really look at them - the others including Christ. Always, always at the root of true authority
is a bending to God's will, self-awareness (knowing your strengths, weaknesses, temptations, inclinations,
etc.) and the awareness of the privilege and responsibility of such authority.
What I really need to do is have a day out with every priest I know and see how he treats waiters, shop
assistants and others who serve him - b/c the true measure of a man [and his authority] is not found in
how he treats his superiors or his equals [or people he feels may have something to offer], but how he
treats those who serve him. That would tell me everything.