Monday 9 January 2012

What happens when corruption comes from leaders - even Church leaders?


It seems likely that our society has been, is being, led into corruption.

This is not to absolve those-who-are-led from responsibility - clearly they should not follow evil leaders.

And these evil leaders are almost everywhere - found in all large and powerful organizations. Not necessarily dominant, not always in a majority, but having a very significant effect.


This, of course, applies to the institutional church (to all the institutional churches - when they are large and powerful).

Again and again we perceive that the fish is rotting from the head down.

Again and again we perceive that the best people are almost-never at the top of institutions, but can rise no higher than the middle.


This does mean that teachings based on obedience require at least modification. If our primary ethic is obedience then we will be led into the abyss.

Is obedience a sufficient excuse for a Christian to follow church leaders wherever they may take you? Probably not.

At least, I do not detect that obedience should be the primary virtue - a virtue to which Love, Courage and all the other virtues ought to be sacrificed.


It is an apparent paradox of traditionalists living in an age of change that they assert the necessity of hierarchy yet are themselves insubordinate.

But (although insubordination may be due to pride or other sins) it is not necessarily a paradox - merely recognition that there are more important things than obedience, and that disobedience is sometimes necessary.


Indeed, surely disobedience is more-and-more necessary to Christian reactionaries all the time?

Surely obedience is, nowadays, more often an excuse, than a virtue?

To develop a habit of disobedience to the leadership but without becoming consumed by spiritual pride - that is where the habitual nature of the thing may be helpful - that seems to be something like the task before us.

To assume that the leadership is wrong about most things most of the time and should therefore habitually be disobeyed; but that sometimes they may be right about some things and sometimes we should go along with what they want...



Gyan said...

Dante consigned several Popes into inferno but there was no notion of disobedience in him.

Church is simultaneously divine and human. Benson's Paradoxes of Catholicism goes into this.

Anonymous said...

Good summary of one of the main reasons why it is so difficult to be reactionary today.

Being ortho has always implied to submit to authority. It was not the whole thing but it was an important part.

But, as Proph brilliantly said in his blog, modernity is the institutionalization of rebellion against the natural order. So now the authority in every institution is the one driving the rebellion. The world is upside down.

So if you follow the authority, you are becoming part of the rebellion.

It is a strange time of decline and decadence: following authority is being rebellious and rebelling against authority is being traditional.

(I agree with you that disregarding authority has to be done with humility and distrust of our own intellect.)


James Kalb said...

Certainly it's necessary to develop a perspective that goes to basic principles and so is relatively independent of higher-ups' particularities. But that seems implicit in the idea of traditionalism, which is less a matter of following cues from people in high positions than accepting formation from an overall history.

On the specific issue of disobedience, I'm not sure how often that would come up. Exactly what commands am I as a Catholic supposed to ignore? The issue might come up from time to time--I'm sure it does--but so far as I can tell it's quite a rare event. On one occasion Paul denounced Peter to his face but that wasn't a habit. Why form your understanding of how you should customarily do things by reference to rare events?

Christianity is the religion of the Incarnation. God found it necessary to become concretely and even physically present in the world. That necessity wasn't just a one-time thing, so He carries forward His presence through the Church. For that reason among others I think we should accept the Church, with the many flaws of its members, as concretely authoritative.

You may be thinking of some specific situation though. If so, what is it?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jim Kalb - "You may be thinking of some specific situation though. If so, what is it?"

No, no specific situation.

I perceive that all large organizations are now in essence agents of evil - and that the mystical Church is a much smaller thing than any institutional Church.

I think the situation in the West is closely analogous to the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union.

In these end times, I feel that to hand over conscience to *any* large institution is a route to damnation. That kind of obedience is not an option.

James Kalb said...

There are certainly wheat and tares, and we have to be as wise as serpents, but even granting all that it sounds to me like you're saying that the gates of hell have prevailed. Matthew 16:18.

I could understand all that better in this connection if there were a bunch of new ecclesiastical commands that are different from past commands, and obedience to which means death. I might think that was so actually if I were still an Episcopalian or I identified Church teaching with what the average Catholic theology department says.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JK - No, Jim, I am not saying that at all.

According to Fr Seraphim Rose, Archbishop Averky etc (upon whom I rely as my Spiritual Fathers) - the prophecies are not that the gates of Hell will or have prevailed (which cannot happen); but that the real Church will be very small/ few by the time of the end.

I believe we are en route to that - but of course nobody knows how long that route will take...

James Kalb said...

What do Fr. Seraphim Rose, Archbishop Averky, etc. say about authority and obedience?

Wurmbrand said...

The New Testament seems to me to command believers to flee from teachers of false doctrine. Our Lord says, of the religious leaders of His day who would lead the Faithful astray, "They are blind guides. Leave them" (St. Matthew 15: 14). Again, St. Paul said that the Faithful should take note of those who teach falsely and should avoid them (Romans 16:17).

Historically, the Faithful have had other ideas about what to do. So for decades, they have sat there while false doctrine was proclaimed from the pulpit, etc. What should have happened, when pastors, priests, bishops, etc. taught amiss, and when they refused to repent of their false teaching, is that they should have found their churches stark and empty, and the people should have demanded in Christ's Name that they be given faithful shepherds.

I believe that one factor that has contributed to this deplorable failure of the Faithful to do what the New Testament teaches has been a horror of "schism" combined with a false sense of "apostolic succession."

The Faithful have failed to see that when a pastor, priest, or bishop preaches amiss, the Faithful are not creating a sinful "schism" when they go elsewhere. They have sometimes remained in their congregations because they believed that their pastor or priest possessed a charism of "apostolic succession" such that while his preaching may have been at fault, still, oh well, "Father" has the charism whereby he can confect the saving Sacraments, so what can you do? etc etc

But in the NT and the early Church, "apostolic succession," whatever else it may entail, NEVER means something that inheres in the preaching of false doctrine, unless I have misunderstood or missed something. Succession from the apostles, whatever else it may mean, always means succession in the apostles' doctrine. "Apostolic succession" of a bishop, for example, who was "validly consecrated" but who preaches against the virginal conception of Jesus, is a ridiculous idea.

It is grief to the spirit to think of Faithful Christians who sit there like bumps on a log listening to the pernicious doctrine of defectors from the Faith, feeling that they must do so, just suffer along, on account of "apostolic succession."

Our Lord says: "Leave them."

I personally believe that this idea of "apostolic succession," in the sense of the necessity of consecration by a bishop who is presumably in a line going back to one of the apostles, is not just highly doubtful from a NT point of view but from that of the ancient Church, which did not at first make a distinction between priest and bishop. I think that all that is really required is that the Sacrament of the Altar should be administered by an ordained male. And he loses the right to preside at the Eucharist when he defects from the Faith.

"Leave them." That's what the Good Book says.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JK - "What do Fr. Seraphim Rose, Archbishop Averky, etc. say about authority and obedience?" that's from whom I am getting my ideas on this; or rather that is how I interpret them.

The solution seemed to be that they were obedient to their Spiritual Fathers, but not to the Church as a whole or to all in institutional authority above them.

But of course this was on so much higher a level than my own situation it is embarrassing for me to comment.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dale - thanks for this. I think you are correct.

Like you I feel that apostolic succession must be spiritual (i.e. via Spiritual Fathers - in some way), not *merely* literal/ procedural.

I do feel that it is dangerous to expose oneself to false teaching, to evil - unless you are already at a high level. Even if it doesn't corrupt you, it can provoke anger and hatred, or despair, or pride.

Perhaps there is no valid general advice, about what to do, because there are so many circumstances.

Proph said...

The church which Christ established is SUPPOSED to be free of error in its moral and theological teachings -- thus obedience to them is mandatory, akin to obedience to God.

Supposing for some reason that this turns out to be false, or that the end times are so near that God withdraws His protection from the institutional church (which has turned its face away from Him), then disobedience is justified - but only insofar as the Church is materially wrong.

If there's anyone issue on which I think the Church is likeliest to veer into error, it's the death penalty. Their present teachings elevate natural law over the divine law which establishes the right of just societies to punish evildoers with death. The day they formally teach that the death penalty is always and everywhere an evil is the day the Church has lost its authority.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ Proph - "The church which Christ established is SUPPOSED to be free of error in its moral and theological teachings -- thus obedience to them is mandatory, akin to obedience to God."

In a sense you are correct - in the sense of the mystical Church, rather than the corrupt human institution of fallen man which includes and overlaps with the mystical Church (and which is to varying extents riven with dissent and heresies).

But the problem remains to know what is the mystical Church?

That has often been unclear throughout history - and is even less clear now.