Thursday, August 05, 2010

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

We've all come across this famous quote by Lord Acton. It's been more than a century since the words were penned, and history has been proving their truth over and over again all these years. But did you know what, specifically, Lord Acton was talking about? I didn't.

Neither did Isthmus publisher Vince O'Hern, but he decided to find out.
Reading Dinur's article and the contention between certain laity and the bishop reminded me of the old dictum "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Researching the origins of that quote led to the surprising discovery that it was penned by one Lord John Emerich Acton, a Catholic English nobleman writing to Bishop Mandell Creighton. The occasion was the proclamation of papal infallibility by Pope Pius IX in 1870. A prominent philosopher and religious publisher of the time, Lord Acton had something else significant to say that could be applicable to the present situation. "There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it."
O'Hern was commenting on Esty Dinur's must read article in Isthmus about the arch-conservative Bishop of the Madison Diocese, Taking on Bishop Morlino: Robert Morlino claims to represent the true church of Jesus Christ. Some local Catholics aren't buying it.

Bishop Morlino's appointment was part of the current Vatican's ongoing rollback of Vatican II and seems especially incongruous in a liberal city like Madison.
Within months of his arrival, Morlino wrote a column in the Catholic Herald ripping Madison as a community that has "a high comfort level with virtually no public morality."

Meanwhile, Morlino has raised questions about the soundness of his own moral compass by serving on and chairing the Board of Visitors of the Georgia-based Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas. The school, run by the U.S. Army, trains military officers from Latin America, many of whom have been implicated in human rights abuses, including the murder of nuns and priests.
It just goes to show what that absolute power thing can lead to.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, it seemed plain to me that Esty Dinur's article was a complete joke quoting people and complaints that have been long discredited. They are not even Catholic! :-/

Dave Blaska thought the same and responded with a hilarious entry on his blog. Readers shouldn't miss it.
http://isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=30032

Del said...

This does get funnier and funnier!

Bishop Morlino is not "arch-conservative." He's just being a Catholic bishop, and doing what a Catholic bishop is expected to do.

Does anyone really imagine that Bishop Morlino has any "power" at all? He can fire a few employees who had agendas that were destructive to the Church. He can preach. That's it.

Bishop Morlino's real power is that he is loved by Madison Catholics, except for a few whiners.

The joke is that Madison papers give pring space to the whiners.

Madison is the incongruous thing in the rest of the world -- and we do tolerate a lack of morality: we can ride our bicycles naked, but we can't smoke in a bar. Our values are upside down.