Authority without the Balance of Accountability Becomes Demonic

As an eighty-one year old who was an active Catholic involved in lay leadership roles for sixty years, I see the basis of the problem of abuse of authority as the irresponsibility of the people in the pews.  This is rampant in, but not  limited to, the very authoritarian Catholic Church. The same problems exist in all denominations and organizations where we idealize and thus idolize those in authority. Without accountability, those with all the power begin to value the structure more than the human beings it was created to serve.

The underlying dynamic in structures where authority is not balanced by responsibility and accountability is our human inclination to want father figures who will take on the work and discomfort of seeking truth and finding God for us. This is what creates the vacuum that allows these abuses to continue.

Blind faith is not faith, it is intellectual cowardice and spiritual irresponsibility. The spiritual writers of the Catholic tradition and the lives of persons considered saints, who have risked the insecurity of questioning and seeking and thus finding God, remain a rich spiritual resource for all of us. But blind faith in a structure such as the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, which declared itself infallible and above human question, is demonic, We who seek such childish comfort and allow it to rule unchallenged are responsible for its abuses.

Jesus is Lord, not the church or it’s hierarchy.  The heart of Christianity is an ongoing personal relationship with Jesus Christ as not only our Savior, but as our Lord. The accepting Jesus as Savior is the easy part. That’s accepting the visible physical expression of the unconditional Love of God.  Learning how to let him be Lord is a life time challenge. It is a relationship that only grows by our constantly seeking grace.  It can be encouraged and helped, but it is not controlled or accomplished by anything or anyone outside of us.

The church and its hierarchy are a human institution and as such are vulnerable to human frailties.  The church can be cleansed and renewed, but not from the top.  It has to start with the people in the pews first taking responsibility for their own relationship with God and then with God’s grace taking responsibility for the church. And just as our own personal spirituality has to be renewed over and over, so does that of the church.


About Eileen

Mother of five, grandmother of nine, great-grandmother of five. 1955 -1959 Rice University in Houston, TX. Taught primary grades; Was Associate Post Director of Religious Education at Ft. Campbell, KY; Consultant on the Myers/Briggs Type Indicator, Was married for 60 years to an Architect in Middle Tennessee.

Posted on August 18, 2018, in disillusionment, doubt, faith, Good Governance, idols, rebirth, spiritual growth, spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Okay Eileen, I’m back and will be the devil’s advocate as it were. If I follow this, does that absolve non-believers in authority from responsibility. Many of us know individuals who show up to be counted among a congregation but their lives are not the type that believe in its dogma. There are also a vast amount of atheists in the world. There are non-christians in authority, are they all excused accountability? I come from the perspective of a therapist, former Child Protection Officer and yes, as a survivor. By the way, my first abuser was a deacon in a well known Protestent religion. The second, my Catholic foster father… Anyone in authority over a child is legally mandated to report. I spent so much time with teachers and others who claimed it wasn’t their place. A former professor of mine, my adopted dad, had been ordained a priest in Rome in 1955. He later left the church as he could not reconcile with what he observed.


  2. Thanks, Lea.

    I was simply responding to Catholic friends. Didn’t mean to imply that atheists in positions of authority are not to be held accountable. Though I was very actively agnostic for several years and know that there have been these issues in organizations such as the Boy Scouts and certainly the “Me Too” movement has made us aware of the abuse of power in many different milieus, most of my life has been centered in the church. So, that is where I have struggled with issues of authority and the human tendency to idolize.

    It is a human tragedy that unquestioned power seems to corrupt human decency. Sadly the church is where many go for healing and for the protection of love for the vulnerable such as children.

    One of the issues that I have experienced and given some thought is the abuse of power by therapists. I and others have had positive and negative experiences with that relationship. While there may certainly be physical abuse in that relationship, I don’t think the potential for emotional and intellectual abuse has been examined and publicized nearly enough.

    The ultimate culprit may be our system of education that does not teach us to question authority, credentials, or even the status quo.

    Thanks for reminding me of the universality of the problem.


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