Authority and Abuse
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:30 AM [+]
...another long rambling post...I refuse to follow anybody elses interpretation of the "blogging rules", I am my own blogging authority. Sola Bloggura is my guide.
The Sunday edition of the Seattle Times had a huge story on the front page about sport coaches taking sexual advantage of the young students playing under them, you can read the whole story here...though I couldn't stomach it. The scandal being purported here (as you know the news media is always looking for some scandal...almost like crazed conspiracy theorists) is that school districts were sweeping the issue under the rug, either by ignoring it or quietly dismissing the accused (when conclusive proof was found) and thus allowing the coach to move easily into another school district to begin again the cycle of abuse. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
So, it is NOT just a problem in the Roman Catholic Church - surely we all knew this, right? In my mind though it helped confirm my belief that the RCC hierarchy was probably not involved in some elaborate conspiracy to protect the image of the church at the expense of the sexual purity of her children - goodnight, what hardened cynic could imagine such a thing. None of what I am saying here of course justifies what happened, I'm just trying not to climb aboard the conspiracy witchhunt bagwagon. But this isn't what I wanted to express in thsi post...it's not where my mind has been dwelling after reading part of the article.
I am reading Kyriacos Markides' book Riding with the Lion, which by the way I am not yet ready to recommend, and in it he writes at length about the occasional abuse of authority perpetuated by New Age gurus and such. This combined with the fact that a friend who had been inquiring into Orthodoxy had also expressed concerns to me about abuses within the Orthodox Church has caused me to do some thinking about authority, misconduct, and abuse.
The question I have is this: Is the underlying cause of this problem found in the issue of authority? Perhaps it is the extent of the authority? We cannot deny that a particularly manipulative man who dons a stole can cause a great deal of damage, but is the solution to dump the stole wearing altogether? I mean, do we abandon this hierarchy which dates all the way back to the New Testament itself in order to possibly eliminate the chance for abuse? Well, frankly, I am not convinced that the problem is authority or even the rather high authority that we Orthodox give to our priests and bishops.
We all know that we recently had a president of our country who apparently had a propensity for sexually engaging his young female subordinates...now granted none-of-them (that we know of...now, now, let's try not to be so cynical!) were underage, but we cannot deny that this man's charisma and authority played a big role in his sexual conquests. Even his obviously very independently minded wife continues to stand by her man! Now think about it: here is a man who is the leader of the FREE world, the very icon of individuality, personal rights and freedoms...and yet he is still able to take advantage of young interns.
Do we dump the presidency? Perhaps another more free form of government would eliminate the chance of abuse?
What about our bosses at work? Our teachers at school? Our coaches?
What about our neighbors? Can you not see that that same manipulative man who might don a stole could be equally dangerous to your children if he just happens to live next door?
I really don't think authority is the problem...it might provide a vehicle for an abusive person to perpetuate his abuse...but many things do this...including, as I mentioned, mere proximity. Think about ALL the different sorts of authority we have in this world: Police, judges, teachers, coaches, any adult in regards to any child. Do we reform every social system to somehow eliminate these roles? Maybe we should let the students teach each other? Maybe police can stop people (if the people choose to stop) and the police would then be allowed to only make suggestions? Do we sacrifice everything to the god of potential abuses? We must ask: Is the cost worth the possible benefit?
I think about how children nowadays are really not being taught to respect their elders - even something as seemingly innocuous as not using titles (like Mister or Misses) - could this be a symptom of our sudden modern realization that an automated ascription of authority is dangerous? Will this haunt us? IS IT HAUNTING US ALREADY?
Consider the authority Christ handed to his Apostles. Can you imagine claiming that such authority still exists in our enlightened age of personal freedom today? Look around at the divisive condition of Christianity today and you will see what has become of democratic religion...this will lead me to another post, but what we end up being left with is the "lowest common denomination" and hence - virtually nothing.
We make ourselves the final authority in all matters...we are the only persons we can trust. Hehehe...but can we really trusts ourselves not to abuse ourselves? I wonder.
I've gone on too long here....suffice to say that unless we wish to live in utter isolation we are going to have to deal with the potential for abuse, and if we do not accept the neccesity of some authority outside of ourselves then we DO IN FACT UTTERLY ISOLATE OURSELVES!