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St. Augustine on Authority December 6, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, North Deanery, Society.

One of the most misunderstood, or perhaps understood but rejected, concepts in the Church today is that of Authority.  The Church Christ instituted on Earth was profoundly hierarchical, with men directly invested by him with the Authority to speak His Truth, bring people to accept it, spread it far and wide, and celebrate the Faith in a manner intended to save souls.  This Authority, grounded in Scripture and expanded through Sacred Tradition, is inherent in the Magisterium which constitutes the bishops and others in union with the Bishop of Rome.  But many people reject the dogmas proclaimed by that Magisterium.  Many have determined that the Faith is more about freedom to “follow their own conscience,” which, in reality, is a conscience shaped not so much by the Faith as by the world and its “wisdom.”  Hence, we have a situation of mass apostasy, where a huge majority of Catholics in this country and many others reject Church Doctrine on one issue or another, but in particular on the sexual issues. 

As I said, however, it is evident from the beginning that the Catholic (universal) Church was intended to be the one source of Truth, and that all Catholics are obligated to accept that Truth.  St. Augustine discusses this in his Confessions, Book XIII Chapter 23:

You are God and we are your design, pledged to good actions [Eph 2:10].  So ti si that your Church, by reason of the Grace which you have given it, has the power of spiritual judgement, which is given both to those who have spiritual charge of others and to those who are in their spiritual care.  Your grace does not discriminate according to sex anymore than it draws distinctions between Jew and Greek, or slave and freeman [see Gal 3:28].  Those who have the gifts of your Spirit, then, have the power of spiritual judgement, whether they are in authority over others or are subject to authority.  They do not pass judgement on spiritual truths, which are like lights shining in the firmament, for it is not right for a man to call such sublime authority in question, or upon your Book (Sacred Scripture), even if there are passages in it which are difficult; for we submit our intelligence to it……a man must obey the law, not pass judgement on it [see James 4:11]……..

The man who has spiritual gifts [such as the priesthood – ED] also judges the faithful, approving what he finds to be right and blaming what he finds to be wrong in their deeds and morals.  He  judges them by their almsviging, which is like the earth bearing fruit, and by their passions, which, in the living soul, are tamed into submission by the practice of chastity [including such areas as sex outside marriage (fornication), following Church Doctrine regarding the fecundity of the sex act (do not use contraception), etc – ED], by fasting, and by the soul’s regard for its duty to God when it refelects upon the sensations of which it is conscious through the body.  For he judges those things which he also has power to correct.

Thus, Augustine.  The Scriptural and Traditional arguments for the Church’s model of Authority are exhaustive.  I don’t know if these arguments have much effect….I think they confirm those who already accept Church Authority, but as for those who don’t perhaps they have some effect.  Do most Catholics know that the Church has had a hierarchical model of Authority since the earliest founding of the Church, when Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom to Peter?   Do most Catholics care, or do they just accept what the culture tells them about a medieval Church with monarchical desires?

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