Authority vs Control? – A Comment

by Stephen Mason

I have recently become a practising catholic again after reading of the angel at the gate in Dante’s Purgatorio Canto 9. There are two keys the angel of humility received from St. Peter to open the gate for returning sinners from purgatory to paradise. The golden key which is primary, which nothing is said about, and the silver key which is the institutional teaching authority, of the church. I think that Dante, who was in a terrible dispute with the pope of his day, a dispute which caused him to be exiled from his beloved Florence, saw the golden key as the mystical key of sacramental communion,- in his life this golden key opened up into his love affair with Beatrice, who was to him the muse of mystical catholicism.

The golden key of mystical catholicism is a carrying on from the gospel Sophia tradition, as portayed in John in which Jesus, the Logos bridegroom, woos his bridal people in his love affair with gospel Holy Spirit Sophia. The authority of the golden key is of greater importance than the authority of the silver key, the authority of institutional dogma. Both keys are needed to pursue the path to paradise, but if the golden key is not given primary importance over the use of the silver key, then the church’s authority is like that of the pharisees.

It seems to me that Vatican II was a council in which the supremacy of the golden key was regained for a while, but, I think that always within the daily folk religion of the catholic faithful, the supremacy of the golden key is implicit in their faith, irrespective of changing council pronouncements. I believe that the movement for women priests is of the tradition of the golden key, but I have no insight into when any future church council will allow women to become priests. Like Dante, many women in the catholic communion who feel called to become priests, are in dispute with current teaching authority, and are in exile from their home. Let’s hope that, like Dante, they will draw more on the golden key tradition of mystical catholicism, and become more deeply caught up in the love affair of Logos Jesus and gospel Holy Spirit Sophia, and creatively bear abundant fruit out of that love affair.

I, personally, in my own vocation as a poet, feel called to be a poor lay person, in exile from mainstream catholicism, and I believe that the authority of a poor lay person is greater than the authority of any priest or pope, as it was in the case of Dante, or in the case of Catherine of Sienna, who is now a Doctor of the church. But the terrible agony and heartache that women who are called to be priests are undergoing, is an impossible affliction, and should not be ignored by the institutional authority. The wounds of their priestly vocation are the wounds of Jesus and Mary and will come to bear fruit and open up a pathway for those who come after. All such redemptive suffering is never without fruit. Are these reflections of interest or helpful in any way? I hope they are.

Yours in the golden key tradition of gospel Sophia,   Stephen Mason