Moral Authority

gavel and stack of books

Ever since Barack Obama was sworn in as the President of the United States in 2009 – and probably even before then – I have heard him use several phrases that seem to be favorites of his.

“Because it’s the right thing to do.”

“Because that’s who we are.”

“Because that’s not who we are.”

In each of these cases, no matter what the context, President Obama is making a moral argument or, rather, a moral declaration. 

What is morality?

Good ol’ Webster’s says, it’s the degree of conformity to moral principles; right moral conduct; particular system of morals.

Some synonyms: ethics, principles, mores, standards, ideals, honesty, right, rightness, behavior, conduct, habits, customs.

Basically, morality is what a particular society accepts as right or wrong behavior. Some, including the late C.S. Lewis, believe there are basic human laws that are intrinsic to all homo sapiens, no matter their society or surroundings.

Moral authority would be the credibility and standing to be someone who determines right from wrong, not only for themselves but for others.

When Barack Obama makes the case for his political positions by using phrases such as the ones above, he is in effect claiming moral authority to determine what is right, who we are (as a nation), and who we are not.

In the United States today, no one has more authority than Barack Obama. He is the President. He is the Commander in Chief. He is the head of the Executive Branch. He was the power and the authority to sign massive pieces of legislation or to veto them. He has to power to and the authority to implement executive orders that require no input or vote from Congress. He has the power and the authority to appoint individuals to high-ranking positions in Washington without any approval process by Congress. He has already used his power and authority to appoint two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Barack Obama is indeed in a position of authority. However, recently, Senator Rand Paul has questioned the president’s moral authority because of the many scandals that have become known as well as the fact that the Syrian government has massacred 80,000 innocent men, women, and children while our president as done next to nothing to stop it.

Where does moral authority come from? It doesn’t come from titles or positions or wealth or power. Moral authority comes from a long record of doing the right thing, especially when there is high risk or an adverse personal result from doing so.

Like presidents, Catholic bishops have a lot of authority. Bishops who head dioceses or archdioceses control billions of dollars. They determine who can be a priest in their diocese or not and where each of those priests are assigned. They are also charged with being the spiritual adviser to the priests in their diocese. Many bishops get heavily involved in the political process either on the state or national level. The pope – the ultimate bishop – is an absolute monarch with absolute power. He can laicize, excommunicate, promote, demote, and everything in between. He controls the trillions in the Church’s financial assets The Church claims the pope is infallible and that he enjoys diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution.

Whenever the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) releases a new statement on one political issue or another (such as health care or immigration), it does so because the United States Catholic bishops claim moral authority over the rest of us. They believe we the people  – and the lawmakers they lobby – should regard their political statements with more moral authority than the Average Joe simply because they are Catholic bishops.

The only problem is,  the majority of Catholic bishops in the U.S. have a very poor record when it comes to doing the right thing. Between ordaining known sexual deviants, employing and paying known child rapists, and fighting victims and survivors in criminal and civil courts, Catholic bishops have lost all moral authority – if they ever really had any to begin with.

Just as Barack Obama turned a blind eye and a deaf ears to the cries for moral support from Iranian and Syrian citizens, Catholic bishops turned blind eyes and deaf ears to children who were – and still are – getting raped and tortured by men for whom they are professionally and personally responsible. They’ve not only committed a boatload of sins of omission but a ocean of sins of commission.

Because of the horrific record of Catholic bishops – Dolan, George, Mahoney, Chaput, Doran, Kagan, and the rest – all Americans must start turning blind eyes and deaf ears to anything they say.