John Lilburne's journal about "Crimes of Obedience" by Herbert Kelman and V. Lee Hamilton.


About John Lilburne







2212 Wed 5 Sep 2001

I was browsing the library shelves this afternoon and came across a book which got my attention: "Crimes of Obedience" by Herbert Kelman and V. Lee Hamilton (Yale University Press, 1989).

On the back it has:

Crimes of obedience are a consequence of authority run amok. They become possible when individuals abandon personal responsibility for actions taken under superior orders, continuing to obey when they ought to be disobeying. What are the conceptions of authority and responsibility that enable or impel people to participate in crimes of obedience?...

I have read the first few chapters this afternoon, which gives examples of the issues: the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968, the Watergate burgulary and cover-up, the Nazi's final solution, the Iran-Contra hearings and in Argentina "the disappeared" of 1976-1983.

My situation is less dramatic, but it involves similar issues. Last Sunday I was at Mass at the Cathedral. Archbishop Hart sat for the "Gloria". Two priests on either side of him, Reverend David Cartwright and Reverend Colin Olerenshaw, followed his lead and sat.

Here is a quote from "Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite" by Peter Elliott, a Monsignor, (Ignatius Press, 1995):

All remain standing form the Gloria. (Footnote: According to the "Ceremonial of Bishops", no. 135 and no. 143, it is no longer the practice for the celebrant and others to sit during a sung Gloria or Creed, but this may be necessary on occasions when the music is prolonged. (page 94).

The "Ceremonial of Bishops" was published in 1984. According to a 1989 translation by Liturgical Press, in no. 135: "During the Gloria all stand." (page 53). So the practice of sitting contradicts this. No provision is made for "when the music is prolonged". The music should be so that people can follow the liturgical laws and stand.

So I stand for the Gloria. At every other church in Melbourne people would stand for the Gloria. But at the Cathedral the Archbishop sits. He is the recognised authority, so it is human nature for people to follow him and sit, rather than follow me and the "Ceremonial of Bishops" by standing.

But by doing this the Church's law is undermined. As a consequence education about the Catholic Church must be undermined. If the priests are not following the laws, how can teachers be confident about teaching them to kids? To do so would be to challenge the priest.

Hopefully from this book I am getting a better understanding of the problem and coming closer to a solution.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 5 September 2001. Last updated 30 December 2001.


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Photos of the My Lai Massacre