Anthony Ruff musing on the Elizabeth Johnson challenges

/ 21 April 2011

Anthony Ruff, OSB, a liturgist, musician and faculty member at St. John’s in Collegeville, has a poignant essay up at the PrayTell blog about the challenges to Elizabeth Johnson’s book. He is thoughtful and gentle in his critique, but I can’t help echoing his concern here: “I hope the Cardinal doesn’t mean to say, ‘Since we don’t have the arguments, let’s insist on our authority,’ but it sort of looks like it.” Frankly, I think it MORE than “sort of” looks like it.

I do not believe our bishops understand that their continued emphasis on structural authority -- that is, "I have authority because of the place/role I inhabit" -- has less and less credibility in a world as permeated by social media and other digital technologies as this one. You can no longer simply "assert" authority, but need to build it. The church leaders who begin to understand this, and who seek to build authority in mutual, participatory and spiritually grounded ways, will be able to continue to participate in a truly Catholic community of faith. But those who do not, those who persist in asserting authority from structure, are becoming more and more irrelevant.