Unable to Live in the Present and Refusing to Accept the Challenges of Tomorrow

Our Bishops Today have Only Rear-View Mirrors in their Wagons


As they Backup Full-Speed into the Triumphalism, Legalism and Clericalism of a Nineteenth Century Catholic Ethos


A Reflection as the Vatican Provides In-Service Training to the College of Cardinals

How Authoritarian Followers Think: Rome Has Spoken so Shut Up and Obey

1. Uncritical Thinking


Without starting from objective evidence, authoritarian followers uncritically accept conclusions that support their religious and ethical beliefs and prejudices.

  • Authoritarian followers do not have a very critical outlook on anything unless their authorities have condemned it for them. Then they can be extremely critical.

2. Compartmentalized Minds

  • Authoritarian followers easily endorse inconsistent ideas.
  • Just present slogans and appeals to traditional values, and then present slogans that invoke opposite values in the name of tradition…..Yes-saying authoritarian followers are likely to agree with all of them.

3. Double Standards

  • When their ideas live independent lives from one another it is pretty easy for authoritarian followers to use double standards in their judgments. They simply call up the idea that will justify (afterwards) what they have decided to do.
  • E.G. More black criminals in America are condemned to death than white.

4. Hypocrisy

  • E.G. The conservative homophobic bishop who in secret has a boy-friend…….

5. Blindness To Self

  • If you ask people how much integrity they personally have, guess who pat themselves most on the back by claiming they have more than anyone else.

6. Profound Ethnocentrism

  • Ethnocentrism means dividing the world up into in-groups and out-groups, and it’s something people do quite automatically.
  • Good guys and bad guys — the holy and the diabolic, the orthodox and the heretical.

7. Dogmatism: The Authoritarian’s Last Ditch Defense

  • By dogmatism one means: relatively unchangeable, unjustified certainty.


(With appreciation to Bob Altemeyer and his book The Authoritarians.)

4 thoughts on “U.S. Bishops Anno 2010: The Seductive Appeal of Old-fashioned Catholic Conservatism

  1. When I read your well-formulated “How authoritarian followers think” it gave me a very helpful key to understanding the papers several students have turned in for my course on Liturgical Reform in the 20th Century. They write, as if it were fact, that ICEL translators “destroyed the Latin Mass” and that they “did whatever they felt like.”
    Perfect examples of being “extemely critical” once “their authorities have condemned it for them.”
    And these are the young people. Including parish youth ministers, no less.
    Isn’t *that* scary?!

      1. No more scary than the new young priest we were assigned. The man could have come straight out of my pre-Vatican II childhood.
        So sad to see in a young person. Reverence and awe for the Lord is wonderful- fear and silence and thwarting joy are not.
        Wish I could make every seminarian write on the board “The People of God ARE the Church” a thousand times a week until they get it.

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