FAST FOOD: Seventeenth Helping
Power [i.e., dominative power, coercive power, the power of violence] more than other things recommends itself as a means to noble ends. Power can appear to be the sole means by which great good can be accomplished. It is not always easy to discern that when one put one’s faith in power one effectively give up one’s faith in the Spirit of Christ. The organization represents power, not the Spirit, and power is the besetting temptation of Church authority. Power is the most ascetic and spiritual of vices; it is also the most diabolical.
The Church has no power except the power of God, and Jesus Christ has revealed that this power is love. Love is the only power, which the New Testament knows. Anything like a power structure is forever excluded from the Church. It hardly seems necessary to add that the transformation of the Church into a power structure is not a confirmation of authority, but a perversion of authority. Power is not even an inferior way of achieving an apostolic end; it is a way of not achieving that end. But men adopt the way of power because they feel that true leadership is beyond their capacity. Lord Acton’s saying that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely, is no more than a paraphrase of the Gospels.
John L. McKenzie, Catholic Biblical Scholar
Authority in the Church, Imprimatur granted 1966.