Two weeks ago, I argued that authority does not always equate to rightness. Today, I argue that authority does not always equate to knowledge. By authority here, I refer to our status as priests, religious, and seminarians (subsequently called Church personnel) and, to some extent, the ecclesiastical offices we occupy.
As Church personnel, our expertise is in theology and Church-related matters. Nevertheless, within the Church, we also know the extent of our knowledge based on our area of interest or the ecclesiastical discipline we pursued in our post-graduate studies. No one is an expert in all Church-related matters. At the same time, we occupy certain offices not because we are experts but because the Church considers us suitable.
Since our expertise is Church-related, does our authority status make us experts in medicine, finance, law, psychology, and architecture? The answer is NO. We can have basic knowledge of these, but we are not experts if we do not study these courses. Even in the areas we studied, we cannot know all. Our authority as Church personnel does not always equate to knowledge.
I have had my own experience. Two months into my arrival in the UK as an international student in 2016, I was a victim of an international crime syndicate that used my bank account for fraudulent purposes without my knowledge. Thankfully, the government authorities resolved it. The experience was traumatic and life-changing, and I have since used the experience to advise others and employed it in researching for my beloved Okigwe diocese.
The Church has always known this, and because it is synodal, it arrives at decisions through councils and consultations. This approach goes back to the first major challenge of dealing with the discrimination of Hellenist Christians, wherein the disciples consulted the entire Church (Acts 6:2). Next, we had the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), and so on.
Hence, to ensure no one assumes that their authority always equates to knowledge, and to avoid the abuse of power, canon law expressly requires consultation in some cases. Canon 127 §2 states:
When it is established by law that in order to place acts a superior needs the consent or counsel of certain persons as individuals:
1° if consent is required, the act of a superior who does not seek the consent of those persons or who acts contrary to the opinion of all or any of them is invalid;
2° if counsel is required, the act of a superior who does not hear those persons is invalid; although not obliged to accept their opinion even if unanimous, a superior is nonetheless not to act contrary to that opinion, especially if unanimous, without a reason which is overriding in the superior’s judgment.
Examples include the appointment of a diocesan financial administrator (Can. 494 §1), erecting, suppressing or altering a parish (Can. 515 §2), the dismissal of a religious from the institute (Cann. 697, 699), building and approval of a church (Can. 1215), the advice of experts in building and restoring churches (Can. 1216), carrying out acts of extraordinary administration of ecclesiastical goods (Cann. 1277, 1281), hearing from the defender of the bond regarding the nullity of ordination or dissolution of marriage and consulting the promoter of justice before imposing precautionary measures or penalties (Cann 1433, 1722).
Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾
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“There is no harm in declining to answer and asking for time to research more or consult an expert. It is not only about our humility, but it is also charitable because we are less likely to mislead people.”
This is why humility is important. Humility allows us to not take umbrage at our limitations. When we are people-centric, we understand that their needs supercede the needs of our egos. Misleading people can bring about a kind of destruction that perpetuates itself, which history has shown us over and over again. On the other hand, it is important for followers to also realize that leaders have limitations, and to not discount them when they cannot answer a question outside of the scope of their knowledge.
“Misleading people can bring about a kind of destruction that perpetuates itself, which history has shown us over and over again.” Thank you Nikki