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Religion: Is An Unequal Application of Power Ethical?

+Catholicos Scholarios-Gennadius III, OSB is Protosyncellus of the Ecumenical Canonical Orthodox Church Worldwide. Here he gives his guidance on the issue of power in relationships and society.

On the morning of October 9, 2010 at 7:31 a.m., Mrs. Virginia Thomas, wife of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence, allegedly left a voice mail message at the home of Professor Anita Hill requesting an apology for allegations of sexual harassment that Prof Hill made against Justice Clarence in 1991.

Professor Hill is said to have experienced discomfort and indecision in deciding how to respond. Mrs. Thomas was later reported to have confirmed having left the message; saying that it was intended as a peacemaking gesture. There is still no official explanation as to the rationale or ethical motivation behind rousing a “ghost” so well contained, for so many years.

Such an action would normally go unnoticed were it not for the fact that it originated from the wife of a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice and therefore it is important to recognize the exercise of disproportionate power wielded by Mrs. Thomas whose husband occupies of one of the nine most powerful positions in the U.S. judiciary.

What’s the problem? After all we have all been told that “confession” is good for the soul! Well, in most cases this would be an acceptable response. However, it is important to recognize that after 19 years this particular action is a little questionable. Further, it is important to address the matter of political and social power held by the respective parties, resulting in a David and Goliath distribution and exercise of power. In reference to this unequal display of power, we are reminded of the lesson taught in Matthew 20: where Jesus reminds the disciples 25….”You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority upon them. 26 It shall not be so among you:…”

Thus, the above referenced event is really a parable where the issue is not the wife of a sitting Supreme Court Justice, rather it is about the unethical misuse of power as in cases where those in positions of power and trust, such as clergy, caregivers or other trusted professionals exercise power unethically in an effort to mask shameful or immoral behavior to the detriment of the defenseless and powerless. As the above scripture points outs, such misuse of power is not to be practiced by Christians or other spiritually or ethically-lead persons because such use of power or authority is incompatible with universally held moral and ethical beliefs. According to the renowned ethicist Emmanuel Kant’s categorical imperative, “a person should never simply be used as a means to an end,” such as personal gain or ego protection.

Of equally great importance is how such misuse of power compromises the faith and trust imputed to such august institutions as the U.S. Supreme Court, the Church and other morally sanctioned institutions. Therefore, resurrecting old hurts in the interest of personal gain, accompanied by an unequal distribution of power and a cloaked suggestion of Christian principles is a matter that should be closely scrutinized and addressed by our judiciary, churches and civic institutions. Yes, confession is good for the soul, but under what conditions and in what circumstances. Also, is it really “ethical?”

About Scholarios Gennadius

Scholarios Gennadius
+Metropolitan Scholarios-Gennadius III, OSB Protohierarch Œcumenical Canonical Orthodox Church Worldwide Archbishop New York & East Coast of America Metropolitan-Archbishop, The Holy Orthodox Catholic Church San Rafael, California/Washington, DC

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