From a post to DAVIDWEBER.NET forums on 4/28/2012

Dispensations

Alistair wrote:
From the beginging the whole battle has been about breaking the belief system that stops technology from arising.

With the way that the Clinton is breaking the writ laws such as with the Canals for example won't this in the end undermine the churches authority?

So in the end it is not the battles and wars that defeat the church but the changes that are forced upon it for them to try and win the war.

    dis-pen-sa-tionnoun 1.a The act of dispensing. b. Something dispensed. c. A specific arrangement or system by which something is dispensed. 2. An exemption or a release from an obligation or a rule, granted by or as if by an authority. 3.a An exemption from a church law, a vow, or another similar obligation granted in a particular case by an ecclesiastical authority. b. The document containing this exemption. 4Theologya. The divine ordering of worldly affairs. b. A religious system or code of commands considered to have been divinely revealed or appointed.

        I would direct your attention to 3.a and to 4.b.

        Zhaspahr Clyntahn is the "ecclesiastical authority" charged with enforcing the Proscriptions and Church doctrine. He is also the individual who has the authority, under the Writ, to grant dispensations allowing departures — temporary or permanent — from the Proscriptions and doctrine... after, of course, prayerful consideration of the Writ and God's will. Remember that it's the Intendant in each archbishopric, invariably a Schuelerite, who passes on the acceptability of new innovations under the Proscriptions of Jwo-jeng, but the Intendant can only approve of innovations which are acceptable under currently interpreted Church law. He can't grant an attestation for something entirely new or novel; that sort of decision would have to be referred up the chain to the Office of the Inquisition, and even his decisions to allow something on the basis that it reflects only already approved technology are always subject to review at a higher level. Remember also, however, that Erayk Dynnys couldn't simply overrule Paityr Wylsynn; he could pressure Wylsynn, but only the Office of the Inquisition would have had the authority to overrule him. And the Office of the Inquisition is headed by the Grand Inquisitor, who happens to be Zhaspahr Clyntahn.

        (Things are just a little different in the Church of Charis, obviously, but we're not talking about the Church of Charis in this instance.)

        So far, Clyntahn is well within the official, legal sphere of his authority in granting dispensations for the use of new weapons, the adoption of new techniques, and even for things like the temporary sabotage of canal locks. There are other things he's doing in which he is at the very least... creatively reinterpreting the Writ, such as his imposition of a worldwide embargo against Charisian commerce and his deliberate destabilization of entire realms. Then there's the little matter of assassinations and terrorism, so I think it can certainly be argued that he is far, far outside the spirit of the Writ in terms of meeting his pastoral responsibilities.

        (And despite what's currently going on on Safehold, the Writ is really very clear about the "pastoral responsibilities" the Church's clergy are supposed to meet. It's important to remember that the Church of God Awaiting wasn't really established for the purpose of providing the vicarate with cushy, comfortable lifestyles and opportunities for graft.)

        Nonetheless, even granting that Clyntahn is off the reservation in several contexts under the normal reading of the Writ, one should also remember what Dunkyn Yairley had to say to Duke Kholman following the Battle of Iythria about how the Writ's rules change in the event of a jihad. It would be very difficult — so far, at least — for any Temple Loyalist to argue that he's exceeded his or the Church's authority or done anything other than what the Writ itself authorizes (where dispensations are concerned, at any rate) in time of jihad.

        If anything is going to undermine Clyntahn's authority with the faithful, it's going to be the realization that he's acting in his own self-interest and not in the interest of Mother Church. As long as the Temple Loyalists remain convinced that the things that he's doing, however horrible, are required by the Book of Schueler and the Holy Writ, his actions are unlikely to undermine the Church's authority. Once that tipping point is reached, however, and the Temple Loyalists begin agreeing with the Reformists about the need to rectify the Church's corruption and abuses, everything that he's done will be looked at through a very different set of prisms. As far as the Temple Loyalists are concerned, his actions are unlikely to undermine the Church's authority even then, but at that point, the Counter Reformation will set in, and it will be interesting to see if Church doctrine becomes more or less authoritarian after the corrupt men in Zion have been dealt with.