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The Authenticists' Conundrum


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To the editors:

Robert McClory's "The Divine Right" [May 6] was interesting and informative but ultimately not exciting because it drew back from the brink implicit in its proposition--irony.

How else can the situation of conservative yet rebellious Catholics be described? Those who historically wielded authority--the bishops--are relinquishing it; those who most crave authority--the faithful--can recover it only by doing the forbidden--defying authority.

The authenticists are almost certainly correct in one assertion: The current situation cannot last. They are almost certainly wrong in thinking the Church's former authority can be restored. For good or ill, American society is becoming increasingly democratic and antiauthoritarian, and most Catholics are participating in the democratization of the total culture. It is hard to imagine substantial numbers of them agreeing to endure the schizophrenia of living democratically six days a week while submitting to a hierarchy on the seventh.

A century ago Dostoyevsky charged that the Church kept its hierarchy comfortable and its faithful in thrall through the calculated use of "Miracle, Mystery and Authority." The genuinely religious have always understood that the Mystery is everything and the rest isn't necessary. Miracles are subject to abuse by frauds and charlatans, and authority is subject to abuse by--well--authorities. Most Americans--Catholics included--seem to agree.

F.K. Plous Jr.

W. Sunnyside

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