There are some other traits that we would look for if we were looking for an infallible authority. We’ve mentioned the need for it to be universal, but local and historic, but relevant. Another way of putting this is that the authority needs to be objective, but applicable to subjective needs. In other words, it must not be driven by subjective, sentimental or shifty trends and fashions. However, it must be able to be applied to the emotional, momentary and personal needs of individual people.
There are some more practical pairs of criteria which we would look for as well. This authority needs to be intellectually credible. It can’t be obviously stupid. More than that, while it needn’t be expert in every area of human endeavor, it does has to have credibility in every area of human intellectual endeavor. This is because such an authority (if it is a religious authority) will have contact points with every other area of human endeavor. Furthermore, it must not only be intellectually credible, but it must have the underlying intellectual tools to construct credible responses to the world.
While it is intellectually credible, this religious authority must not be an elitist group of brainy people. The authority must also speak in a way that is accessible to the ordinary person–indeed, it must unlock a religion that is accessible to the ignorant peasant and even the educationally sub normal.
Another way of seeing this same pair of criteria is through the arts and culture. This authority must inspire and help to produce the very highest achievements in arts and culture while, at the same time, being accessible to those with less educated taste.
Is there any other church which can claim to hold these two pairs together other than the Catholic Church? I think not. The Eastern Orthodox come closest of course, but because of their diffuse ethnic authority structure they do not have the means to produce quite so comprehensive and detailed an intellectual edifice as Catholicism. As for Protestantism–their intellectual edifice is broken into tiny segments, partially conceived, ill constructed and self contradictory.
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