Friday, October 26, 2012

Collective Guilt Part 5

This is the fifth part in the series on collective guilt.  It has been a while so for those who follow my blog should read up on the previous four sections.  And once again as stated in the first section this is simply my own musings and am open to correction where my thought may not be in line with Catholic teaching on the subject provided one can demonstrate such.

We last discussed this question we pondered if one who was under another's authority could be punished for the sins of the superior.  We finished by asking the question:
But how is this fair?  And when has this principle ever been applied?
The nature of authority presumes its existence is for the benefit of those under the charge of the superior.  Our world naturally organizes itself into a hierarchy of persons responsible for decisions that range from those that have minimal impact to very wide ranging consequences.  The hierarchy exists not only for beneficial reasons but given situations a necessity.

This hierarchy exists for the benefit of all in theory.  One can see this in the family, where the parents by nature have dominion over their children.  This authority is for the benefit of the child, as the child is not able to interact with society at the level necessary for survival on their own.  While this may seem trivial, when one thinks about it the family reveals at a very basic level the notions of authority as they are meant to be.  It is no accident that the Church calls the family the fundamental unit of society.

If we clearly derive benefits from authority and the proper use of such it only stands to reason that the improper use of authority can be punished and that punishment can be enforced on those under the authority abuser.  The fact that we benefit from the proper use of authority practically demands that the punishment for abuse of that authority be distributed in a similar manner.  To not have some form of punishment distribution would be a violation of justice, not its execution.

Having said this it must be pointed out that oftentimes the "punishment" for the abuse of authority happens naturally.  The employees whose corrupt CEO who runs a company into the ground are deprived of their livelihood.  The child of the father who goes to jail is deprived of their natural provider.  The teacher who neglects their duty to teach deprives the students of an education.  Oftentimes the nature of the sin results in the punishment of those under the authority of the sinner on its own, requiring no further action due to the fallout of the sins themselves.

Other times however further action is justified.  An aggressor state that is defeated in a war should be forced to pay reparations.  Employees who directly benefited from corruption but otherwise not involved may be required to pay some compensation for cheated customers.  And in an example that hits close to home, a church can be forced to make restitution for the sins of the pastor.

All of these are legitimate examples of those who are punished for the sins of the one in authority.  And in such cases the punishment is demanded by justice instead of being against justice.  This does not mean that direct action needs to be taken, as the fallout from the punishment of the authority can harm those under their charge.

Next I will discuss the origins of this arrangement.

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