John Lilburne's journal about Richmond losing, authority and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor


About John Lilburne







2319 Fri 7 Sep 2001

Richmond got the first goal tonight, but then I think Essendon kicked the next eight. A very disappointing game which cost me about $27 to see. It also meant missing out on a quiz night at Catholic Theological College. I cannot see myself paying to see another final this year. For the past six years I have gone to almost every game Richmond played in Melbourne that I could get to. But I cannot see myself doing that again next year.

This afternoon I went to the State Library of Victoria and read Chapter 4 of "Crimes of Obedience". Its title is "The Structure of Authority". Its mainly about state authority, but I saw lots of the issues as applicable to the Catholic Church. Here are some quotes I wrote down while reading:

Once a demand is categorised as legitimate, the person to whom it is addressed enters a situation where his personal preferences become more or less irrelevant as determinants of behaviour. (page 89).

Psychologically, once a demand is seen as legitimate, the person acts as if he were in a nonchoice situation. (page 90).

Commitment and loyalty to the group - and the concomitant acceptance of its legitimacy - ultimately depend on the perception that the group meets the psychological and material needs of its members. (page 91).

... the threat of legal punishment is not just an incentive for complying but a cue indicating that obedience is required rather than a matter of preferential choice. When authorities fail to attach sanctions for disobedience to a law or an order, or when they habitually fail to enforce it, they are signaling that citizens can at least discreetly choose to ignore it. (page 94)

In authority situations that do not rest on a legal framework and in which the authorities are not entitled to impose penalties, the fear of embarrassment may perform a function similar to that of punishment in legally structured situations. (page 94).

... a conflict between two competing definitions of the situation - a conflict over which decision rule is to prevail. (page 96).

If people can interpret an objectionable order as a request rather than a demand - if they can define it as not actually required, as not applying to themselves or to their particular circumstances - then they are likely to take advantage of that option. (page 97).

I have also read Chapter 5: "The Dynamics of Authority". One issue is discusses is "Behaviour in Office"

Continuing legitimacy of authorities depends on people's assessment of how they comport themselves in office. ....

3. Do they hold themselves accountable for their actions? Do they recognize the rights of citizens and subordinates to make use of available mechanism of recourse if they feel that the authorities have abused their power? Do they cooperate with efforts, undertaken within the rules of the system, to call them to account for their policies and actions, and do they respect the decisions and carry out the recommendations generated by such efforts? Authorities lose legitimacy if they sidestep, ignore, or show contempt for the mechanisms of recourse and accountability provided by the society. (pages 130-131).

I picked up a free newspaper in the city: "MX News". Here is part of an article on page 13:

Church on outer says Archbishop

Christianity has almost been vanquished in Britain, according to the Archbishop of Westminster.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor also told the National Conference of Priests that young people were "indifferent" to Christian values. ....

On child abuse, the Cardinal said: "All I want to say about this is quite clear and simple - I do not try to make excuses for the past.

"Yet we must recognise the depth and extent of the damage done to the Church and its mission in these cases."

He said priests and especially bishops had not been sufficiently aware of the "insidious" and "pathological" nature of child abuse.

He sounds concerned, so hopefully he will be taking the sort of measures needed to fix the problem.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 7 September 2001.


Links to other sites:

"Crimes of Obedience" on