For many years, I have heard it said again and again that the crisis of western Christianity is one of authority. This constitutes the entire question of religious freedom and the liberty of the conscience – also why some authoritarian religions appeal to authoritarian political structures to support their agendas. For Roman Catholics, the authority is (at least nominally) the Pope, and for conservative Protestants, it is the Bible. The ideal for any religious authority is to have control over the secular authorities in order to enforce their own authority.
I found this quotation in an article dealing with questions of authority and the rise of democracy.
Authority is only meaningful as long as it can be enforced. Sentiment for tradition is only effective as long as it continues to persuade.
I have never come across a more succinct way of saying it. If religion depends on authority, and that authority cannot be enforced, then that religion becomes meaningless – and from thence comes secularism.
We have two elements, authority that constrains, binds and punishes for non-compliance, and we have Tradition that needs to persuade through a notion of intrinsic truth. If it is true, it is because it is the way it is and not because someone we’re afraid of says so. Unfortunately, much of what purports to be traditional is based on another form of authoritarianism.
What kind of “traditionalism” is possible without constraint and punishment, and rather the fatherly role of bishops rather than their clericalism and careerism.
See this wonderful article by Sandro Magister on a question that has preoccupied me since my seminary days – Vatican Diary / The scourge of divorce between bishop and diocese. Pope Francis seems to understand the Episcopate better than anyone else – for years or decades.
Perhaps a real turnaround is happening, something that traditional liturgical trappings alone cannot do.