Community vs. Authoritarianism, the Supreme Court, Religion, continued

Peter Gabel attributes much of the effort to rush through a new supreme court judge and the “originalism” legal stance she represents to the rise of authoritarianism in our time.*  A “fetish” with the past obstructs treating today’s issues and solutions. 

Map showing the spectrum of the world’s nations, from full democracy (dark green) to authoritarian state (brown), from the Democracy Index 2019 published by Economist Intelligence Unit. Map and key on Wikimedia Commons.

We have a supreme court that chose twenty years ago to turn the presidency over to George Bush while refusing to count all the ballots in the state of Florida; that gutted the civil rights act and its protections in elections; that informed us that all corporations are persons and unlimited amounts of dark money are simply part of free speech; that ruled corporations can refuse to obey laws that protect minority individuals such as gay people; and that threatens to destroy health care for millions of Americans next month.

Gabel recognizes Amy Barrett’s judicial philosophy as based on an

Deference of the handmaids: “Filming of The Handmaid’s Tale at the Lincoln Memorial.” Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

ideology of unconscious deference to Authority that seeks to impose that deference on the whole of American society. It is that philosophy and its socio-psychological underpinnings that must be engaged with and firmly rejected by progressives trying to build a new and socially just world that thoroughly transcends the moral limitations of the 18th century.

Parallel to a “growing authoritarianism” in the body politic is an explicit authoritarianism in religion typified by Protestant fundamentalists and the thirty-four years of JP II’s and Benedict XVI’s papacies. 

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Opus Dei, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Photographer unknown, from

These papacies trafficked in authoritarianism by holding up the explicitly fascist organization Opus Dei (and rushed through its founder’s canonization faster than any saint in history even though many who knew him well wanted to testify about his explicit sexism, fits of anger, and much more and were forbidden to do so). 

The linking up with the CIA to destroy base communities and liberation theology and theologians in South and Central America, support of Legion of Christ, another authoritarian sect run, as it turns out, by a pedophile and drug-addicted priest who raised umpteen millions of money for the Vatican, etc. all point to authoritarianism.  As does the silencing of 108 theologians and theology in general.  The fact that Opus Dei is alive and well in the American bishops’ conference, having just elected as their head an opus dei archbishop of Los Angeles, cannot be ignored. 

Maybe this helps to explain the odd situation that 7 of the 9 supreme court judges will be Roman Catholic if Barrett gets confirmed.  Six of those are among the authoritarian loyalists of John Paul II (along with Steve Bannon and Cardinal Burke–who said gays are equivalent to murderers–and some other notables). 

“In the new documentary “Francesco,” Pope Francis said, “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family,” becoming the first to do so in the Catholic church’s 2,000-year history.” Uploaded to YouTube by ABC News.

An ideology of what Gabel calls an “unconscious deference to Authority that seeks to impose that deference on the whole of American society” seems to have been alive and well in the Roman Catholic church of the past decades. 

Pope Francis has tried to turn this around, and his canonizing of Archbishop Romero of El Salvador is an example, along with his recent affirmation of civil marriages for gays.

*The article we are dialoging with can be found in:

For more on “Founding Father Knows Best,” see Peter Gabel,

See Matthew Fox, The Pope’s War: How Ratzinger’s Crusade Imperiled the Church and HOW IT Can Be Saved, pp. 106-144, 238-241

See also Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, pp. 179-195, 249-27.

Banner Image: “Progress through resistance” – Women’s March Chicago. Photo by bradhoc on Flickr.

Do you agree that an ideology of unconscious deference to authority helps explain the current status of the supreme court?  And of much institutional religion?  What remedies do you envision?

The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved

The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The final section in the book focuses on birthing a truly catholic Christianity.
“This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity.” ~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope.
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.”   — Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II

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4 thoughts on “Community vs. Authoritarianism, the Supreme Court, Religion, continued”

    1. Rev. Dr. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Rev. Dr. Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      I listened to the Bill Moyers’ story you shared Deirdre, and it was very enlightening and insightful. Thank you for sharing!

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    An excellent and chilling summary by Matthew–there was a Netflix documentary called “The Family” about the same group discussed in the podcast, except if I recall, the origins went back to the 1930’s and the man who founded Goodwill Industries and then turned to union bashing. This group was behind adding “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in the 1950’s under Eisenhower as a propaganda ploy against Communism and was and continues to be active in other countries against gay rights and other right wing issues. Truly evil and authoritarian.

  2. Rev. Dr. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Rev. Dr. Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    And Susan, we too feel that the world would be a much better place without union bashing, gay rights bashing and other right wing issues that are truly evil and definitely are authoritarian! Thanks for your comment!

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