Because I Said So

There is, yet again, a sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. I have not followed all the details, being somewhat unconcerned with Church politics and feeling no need to pretend that priests are saints whose every word is that of God. But I’ve learned of the abuse from those who refer to Holy Mother Church and are, again, disillusioned, or, again, insistent that this corruption springs from the liberality of the Second Vatican Council. If only the Church were fundamentally, doctrinally sound — traditionally orthodox — these abuses would be unknown.

Unknown, certainly, for hidden, much as they have been until now, behind a veil of obedience and secrecy, surfacing only in comedy and rumor. Yet everybody knows.

What does not seem to occur to anyone is that the insistence on absolute, utter, unquestioning obedience is a necessary condition for the abuse of power on this scale. Whether expressed as sexual predation or not, the wolves want sheep. The wolf does not wear the sheep’s clothing, but a shepherd’s.

The question of the abuse of power is an age-old one–one I’m not equipped to summarize–and one we’ve not solved, though we attempt to do so with hierarchy. While hierarchy may limit the abuses, it systematizes them, and is ultimately concerned with the efficient exercise of power, not with limiting its harms.

It seems to me that the logic of hierarchy is such that only two conclusions are possible: 1) There can be no abuse because might makes right, or 2) Might cannot be right; it simply exists. In the case of the former, why complain or be concerned about anything, since this is surely what God has ordained? In the case of the latter, anĀ argument from authority is always a fallacy.