Dan Haley wrote a column about the heavy handed way the Roman Catholic Church censured Fr. McNally. Click here to read Dan’s column. Cardinal George wrote in an opinion piece about “personal faith not being adequate to the faith of the church.”

To this is a classic example of the problem of authority when it comes to discerning God’s will.  Whose authority do you follow?

Liberal religion tends to assert that the individual is the ultimate authority.  I know one Unitarian pastor whose business card reads, “A church that puts its trust in you.”  Martin Luther, at the Diet of Worms, was asked, “Who are you, a solitary monk, to question the 1500 year old tradition of the church?”  He answered, “Unless you can show me by Scripture and plain reason that I am wrong, I cannot in good conscience, recant.”

There you are.  Luther was no liberal, but he was acknowledging the place of the individual conscience.  He still looked to the authority of the Bible, but used it, in this case, against the authority of the church.

 Radical conservative religion allows no room for individual anything, including conscience. 

In my opinion, extreme liberal religion is arrogant.  The church authorities made a valid point.  Who are you, an individual, to challenge the church? Cardinal George has a point.  Who are you to trust personal faith more than the faith of the church.

In my opinion, radical conservative religion is irresponsible.  To blindly accept anyone or any institution’s authority without question is abdicating the individual’s responsibility to be accountable.  Institutions are just as vulnerable to sin as are individuals.

To me, the healthiest church is the one which not only tolerates a lively dialogue between the tradition and the individual conscience, it encourages the tension.

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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...