Reasons and Funciom of Authority

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REASONS AND FUNCTION OF AUTHORITY

Obedience: we are treating the subject fearlessly even though today there is a bad press for whoever declares himself in favour of obedience and of respect for the values and virtues always considered basic to civil and spiritual life. Being free from any responsibility (which is always a cross) and from every concern for a position of power (which is always a temptation) may perhaps guarantee to a person the hope of not being misinterpreted if he attempts to express in current terms considerations which might seem—but really only seem—so out of date. If the modern age is characterized by the substitution of the principle of reason for the principle of authority, we know that in more recent years a kind of charismatic impulse has been on the increase; in every area of life, profane and religious, it takes the place of reason itself as the motive of action and is imposed in a much more decisive manner. Democracy is the daughter of reason and to it owes its definitive validity, even if it was conceived among the presumptions of the Enlightenment. The recent totalitarian regimes were linked to a will for power which in its wear and tear fashioned various ideologies as substitutes for the objective principles of the natural law, contested as it was by philosophical relativism and juridical positivism. The contestation is the expression of primordial impulses, at times defined in profane and lay circles, as charisms. In the name of these there are some today who tend to break all barriers. Others, more reasonable, attempt to reassess the relation between liberty and authority, between the communitarian and the directional element (no longer are the terms subjects and superiors used, nor indeed authority or hierarchy) according to criteria considered responsive to the asserted maturity of man, which true or presumed as it may be, constitutes a psychological component which in the organization of social relations cannot be disregarded. Certainly, any form not only of authoritarianism but also of paternalism is now regarded as insupportable, insufferable, and inconceivable especially if vested in ostentatious sufficiency, or worse still, founded on an appeal to an unconditional representation of a transcendent power which asserts its claims not in the ways of reason, but in the name of a personal investiture, secular or sacral, to which only an attachment of blind fideism could respond. This no one is disposed to accept today so that even the traditional language on the origin and the function of the divine vicegerence of authority is refuted or is called in question. Perhaps the way to meet the problem is to turn truly to the ways of reason. Reason should not give rise to fear: it is a reflection of the eternal Logos. If it is authentic reason, it is a participation of man in the truth of God. * * *

The ways of reason. We will interpret: the ways of conscience. Here is another word which stirs fear. In reality, conscience is the root of liberty, the highest good, recognized today as the fundamental right of man and of the citizen. The problem is to discern not only whether the conscience is right but also whether it is true, that is, whether it judges and works in truth; and whether charism is enough to give truth to the conscience, and thus to liberty and to action. When charism comes from the divine Spirit as in the just man of whom Saint Paul speaks, then it itself is truth, since for the just there is no law (I Tim. 1, 9), because, as Saint Thomas explains, the same interior perfection, the same impulse of the Holy Spirit, inclines him to carry out by a connatural feeling without any external rule, the works of the law (I-II. q. 96, a. 5; cfr. Rom. 2, 14-15). The development of a truly democratic society should tend also toward this liberty in justice. But this is not the case with contestation, nor more generally with disobedience. Moreover, in the Christian community, who is certain...
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