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A couple of weeks ago, I struggled through a probably garbled post on My Theory of Everything, which suggests (unoriginally) that since everything will eventually go haywire – meaning that the vast majority of us will be sorely tempted to take The Easy Way Out down the Path of Least Resistance to the Land of the Lowest Common Denominator, feeding, not our souls, but our egos with Doritos and Slushees along the way – organizations seeking to preserve a truth need to take this into account as they structure, teach and lead. Not out of a lack of respect for the freedom of the human person, but simply as recognition of reality.

For a while, I thought my Theory had echoes of one of the Pontificator’s Laws, but I finally figured out that what it (faintly) echoes instead is one of Neuhaus’ Laws: "Where Orthodoxy is optional, sooner or later orthodoxy will be proscribed."

Just to clear that up.

And just to clear up something else. When I wrote that post, I had a lot of stuff rattling around in my head, and in the end, neglected to discuss something that was actually a major inspiriation for the post, other than musings about liturgy and catechesis: and that was leadership and ministry.

The question is: how can church leadership be structured so that the tendency of things to go haywire is mitigated? So that those who have authority within a religious group don’t forget that they are here to serve, not to be served, that they don’t misuse their authority and claim for their own what really only belongs to God? That they don’t exploit their positions for ill?

Several stories this week bring up the question in vivid ways

This past weekend, The Toronto Star takes a look at a large Pentecostal congregation in the city, a congregation/megachurch which claims to be doing great charitable things with the funds people shell out for it, but, according to the paper’s investigations, seem to benefit the pastor’s family the most.

Calvary Chapel, the fruit of the activities that were at the center of the "Jesus Freak" movement in the 60’s, is experiencing controversy these days, covered by Christianity Today and the LATimes: lawsuits between leaders of various sub-groups regarding finances and some sexual harassment allegations as well.

In Dallas, there is a huge story, the coverage of which is covered by Get Religion here about accusations of weird, abusive and violent behavior on the part of one of the "superstar preachers" of the Instutional Word of God in Christ, a large (5 million member) black Pentecostal denomination.

Oh, we say…see what happens to the independent churches, with no hierarchy, when it’s each man for himself to build up a little kingdom and power base? See? See?

Yeah. In case you needed a reminder, let’s just pick up today’s newspaper and consider a currently-being-litigated case up in Alaska of a Jesuit accused of fathering several children back in the 60’s, whose superior supposedly knew about it. (as well as the bishop). The Jesuit superior’s deal?

And there’s a second aspect to consider. Fr. Jules Convert, Jacobson’s Jesuit superior who sent the 1967 letter concerning his exoneration, was himself a child molester, and was accused by eighteen boys of abusing them sexually in the years 1954-1979 when they were between the ages of 6 and 16. Convert died in France in 1995, at the age of 85. In 2004, the Society of Jesus settled with fourteen of the claimants against Convert for an undisclosed amount. So ask yourselves: was Convert likely to be an impartial judge between Jacobson and his accusers? Likely to be a man zealous in safeguarding the spiritual good of the faithful to whom he ministered?

The closed circle of conflicts of interest is a kind of ouroboros, the archetypal snake that eats its own tail. Can it be broken?

There’s no perfect system. That’s fundamental to the Theory. But what are your thoughts? The anti-religionist will pipe up and say, "Ah, it’s inevitable, every time. That’s religion and its divine delusions for you!"

What say you?

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