Saturday, July 29, 2006

How authority works

Quite a few American bishops seem to be clueless when it comes to the way authority and obedience work in the real world. They feel free to ignore anything coming out of Rome that they don't like, and then are surprised and indignant when their priests and administrators follow their example and decide to ignore what they say.

Now, I'd love to send the guys who need some instruction in this (and thank God there are now many who don't, like Chaput and Vasa) to a big-ticket week-long workshop with a trendy management guru and plenty of breakout sessions, in, say, Aspen or Honolulu. But I just don't think that would be right, given the cash-strapped condition of many of their dioceses, after the umpteenth settlement for the priestly pederasty they've been ignoring.

No, I think I'll just suggest they zip over to the public library and borrow Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, where the secret is revealed in two sentences, for free:

A commander is obeyed by his officers because he himself is obeying; the thing is not in its essence personal; and so down. If he does not obey, the chain weakens.

Thanks for coming, your excellencies. Have a safe trip home.