Can rebellion be justified?

I’m curious if rebellion is justified or whether it is always bad or sinful. Obviously the sin of the Devil was rebellion “I will not serve,” and he was cast down from heaven. The sin of Adam and Eve was one of rebellion. And every sin ultimately is rooted in rebellion. Obviously one could twist the object of rebellion around and say that one could be “rebelling” against the devil to do good or “rebelling” against his lustful passions or an evil ruler who commands an evil action, but perhaps we should understand that person as more embracing the good, since evil itself is not a something but is a lack of goodness. One therefore correctly speaking cannot rebel against a nothing.

I am very interested if anyone has any Church related documents that touch on this specific subject matter. I know of this one Bible verse below: 1 Samuel 15:23a “it is like the sin of witchcraft, to rebel: and like the crime of idolatry, to refuse to obey.”

Anyone can twist Holy Scripture to justify anything, or conversely, to make almost anything sinful. Certain Protestants do it every day.
You must realize that in addition to Natural Law, there are also Natural Human Rights.
Any individual or group of people are justified in rebelling against any ruler who either violates their inate Human Rights or requires that they commit sinful acts, such as murder or gross licentious acts (like making a soldier commit forcible rape or forcing a child into an army)…just like what is happening in Syria today. I seriously doubt G*d would condemn anyone who rebelled against such tyranny.

If it’s self-defense on a large scale - fighting a tyrant or a system of slavery - of course it’s not to be condemned.

Evil is not nothing, but less than nothing; it is a gaping black hole of chaos and utter desolation…

It depends on what you mean by rebellion.
The bishops of the United States are rebelling against the new policy requiring Catholic to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs.
The United States was created by the rebellion known as the Revolutionary War, and few Americans would say it was not justified, though I expect there are a few who would say it was not.
Or are you speaking of rebellion in another arena?

It is a sin to rebel against just authority, God is obviously just authority while a law forcing people to assist in an intrinsic evil such as providing contraception is not.

Are the US bishops “rebelling” against the law, or are they taking a stand for what is right? I would say they are opposing an unjust law that would be forcing Catholics to decide between obeying God or obeying the law, but the word rebellion has a connotation of opposing authority, which we should not do. I propose that we can refuse to comply with unjust laws and should oppose them, but we should not rebel against the authority itself because those in authority have been ordained by God.

Rom. 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject to higher powers. For there is no power but from God: and those that are ordained of God. Therefore, he that resists the power resists the ordinance of God. And they that resist purchase to themselves damnation.

There were certainly other times in history where faithful Catholics had to stand up for what was right. They did not call for an outright rebellion against the authority, but they did call for non-compliance with any unjust law that forced them to go against their beliefs. In the early Church for example, certain Roman emperors tried to force Catholics to offer incense to their false pagan gods. The Catholics refused and were martyred for their faith. Nevertheless, they did not call for an outright rebellion against the Roman emperor or the Roman government. They instead worked to convert them to the truth, which is eventually how Christianity was able to become legalized under Constantine and eventually the established religion. We lead by example and when others see faithful Catholics willing to die for what they believe that does wonders and God is able to work in amazing ways. It may take hundreds of years of this happening before the results become openly manifest to all to see, but ultimately, God uses periods of persecution to purify his Church.

That said, I would propose that rebellion as a word is not one that should be applied to Catholics living out the gospel message. We are not called to be rebellious but rather obedient and submissive to God and to the authority to which he has placed over us. When the two are in conflict, we chose to follow God to the death if necessary, but this does not mean an open rebellion against the evil authority; rather we see it as embracing our faith when persecuted. Nonetheless, I realize that this message is not going to be very popular or easily received living in this period in time and especially here in the US.

It was God Himself who helped His beloved people to rebel against Babylon and later against Egypt.
A rebellion always is justified then, when it is pointed against a godless regime. See Moses saying to the Pharao LET MY PEOPLE GO
od see the rebellion against the communist East German regime - which started in the Churches and ended with the reunification of Germany.


The history is a bit off here. First, Egypt came wayyy before the Babylonian exile, and most importantly in neither case did the children of Israel rebel against the existing authorities. In the case of Egypt, God had Moses tell the Pharaoh His words that Pharaoh should let His people go. God did not have the Israelites start up a rebellion and overthrow the government. It was the witness of the truth of God that led to the established authority letting the people go to live in the wilderness. In the case of the Babylonian exile, it was the decree of Cyrus II who permitted the Jews to return from exile in 539 BC. In neither case was there any recorded rebelling against the authority. Rather they were standing up for the truth and petitioning the God-ordained evil rulers to let them leave their tyranny where they remained until the rulers decided to let them go.

**Yes of course - how silly of me. Only last week I wrote about Moses and Babylon in another forum :wink: I don’t know how I got mixed up with these words later and earlier :confused:
Here is a chronology:

But however; REBELLION here as in very many other cases, IS JUSTIFIED.

In the other forum I wrote, the question was: Why doesn’t secular history mention Moses. I discussed that with several friends and we thought, that is was such a unspeakably big humiliation to the Pharao, that such a mass of people (some speak of 240ooo) could leave without the Pharao and the Egypt Army being able to fight them to return, that Moses name was deleted and not allowed to mention. Sama happened to same Pharaos and sama also throughout all history to many leaders and events. That Moses existed, the Old as the new Testament proves in many verses. See at Jesus transfiguraton.


We’re to be conformed to God’s will and “unconformed” to the worlds will. Both sides have there attractions for us. So it’s all about priorities. If we rebel against the position of a government that allows abortion, say, that’s a positive rebellion, in a sense, because we’re conforming to the will of God. If we rebel against God, then we’re rebelling against goodness, itself, which is what started the whole mess to begin with.

The distinction is pretty basic: Adam and Eve’s and Satan’s rebellions were against a completely just and perfect authority - God, Himself. Human authority is lawful authority because governments have received their power by God’s discretion. [That is not to say “Divine Right of Kings,” but rather that no man gains authority over others without God’s permission.] But human authority is not always just, nor is it ever perfect. We are not obliged to obey human laws that contradict the laws of God: this sort of nonviolent rebellion can happen every day. Armed rebellion, however, is ALWAYS a last resort – like war. It must be a necessary measure, i.e., there is no other workable solution to the situation.

St. Thomas Aquinas also laid out some ground rules, I believe, for just war, rebellion, etc… I would suggest looking them up.

God love you,

I wonder…

Were the German citizens in rebellion who disobeyed Hitler’s authority by trying to protect their Jewish neighbors against the laws denying their personhood and promoting their destruction?

Were the abolitionists in rebellion who disobeyed government authority by trying to protect their neighbors of African descent against the laws denying their personhood and promoting their subjugation up to and including destruction?

It seems to me we have something close to a direct parallel here. If we disobey Obama’s authority by trying to protect our preborn neighbors against the laws denying their personhood and promoting their destruction, are we in rebellion?

Making the statement “rebellion is justified” doesn’t prove anything even when you make it in all caps. You are going to have to provide some support to show why you think that. So far, you claimed that Moses was rebelling against Pharaoh, but I demonstrated that he did not. Moses never called for the children of Israel to disobey Pharaoh even though he was unjustly enslaving them and even killing their children! God didn’t even tell them to do so. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh His words, which was a command for Pharaoh to let His people go from under his tyranny. Obviously God Himself is an authority higher, greater, and much more powerful than the Pharaoh was, yet, God never once called for His people to rebel against Pharaoh or his authority or for them to go to war with him and overthrow his unjust regime.

I see what you are saying, but I would say we do not “rebel” against laws that permit abortion for several reasons. First, you can’t “rebel” against a law itself. You can oppose the law as being unjust, and if a law were to mandate to try to force you to commit an evil act then you could disobey the law and instead obey the higher law, the law of God; but you would not be “rebelling” against evil because to rebel itself is evil, and as I pointed out, evil itself is not an object or thing against which one actually rebels since evil is really just a lack of Goodness.

**Let’s take Jesus’s example. The Scribes and Pharisees were clearly unjust religious leaders. Did Jesus rebel against them or call others to?

“The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not. For they say, and do not” (Matthew 23:2-3).

Jesus told them to obey the scribes and Pharisees even though they were unjust and he did not ever call for rebellion against them because they have authority. He Himself, being God in the flesh, subjected Himself not only to their cruel punishments and treatment and their unjust judgments against Him but he also consented to the Roman authority as well, and He never once rebelled, but was obedient and submissive to the human authority, as our perfect example.

Jesus clearly told the scribes and Pharisees that their actions were wrong and that they needed to change, but he still told others to submit to their authority and therefore to do the opposite of rebel against them. This same approach applied in the early Church with the martyrs who would tell the Roman emperors and others that they were in the wrong, but would submit to their authority until eventually they were able to reach them with the love of Christ and the strength of the message of Truth. In all cases, Christians are called to be servants not rebellious, and rebellion would certainly be a bad character trait to have as it is rooted in human pride.

I don’t think these are cases of rebellion. In example 1, I would say they were simply trying to save lives and that this would not constitute an open rebellion against Hitler. The action was not directed against Hitler, which would make it a rebellion. It was directed towards saving lives. In all cases like those mentioned above, ask yourself what was the desired end to which the action was geared. Was the focus or purpose for their acting to rebel and oppose the established unjust authority? Or were they acting in order to accomplish some good or avoid some evil?

**Ok then - just for one then, we all have experienced:
The bloodless and peaceful rebellion of the East Germans against the Communist Regime, that reunited East-and West-Germany and brought the Soviet-Union to fall.
Of course you will again have an argument against this too, but I’ll let it be now. CU :smiley:


I was just reading an encyclical of Pope Leo’s, Au milieu des sollicitudes, and stumbled upon the following that briefly sums up the Church’s teaching regarding rebelling against governmental authority:

“16. It were useless to recall that all individuals are bound to accept these governments and not to attempt their overthrow or a change in their form. Hence it is that the Church, the guardian of the truest and highest idea of political sovereignty, since she has derived it from God, has always condemned men who rebelled against legitimate authority and disapproved their doctrines. And that too at the very time when the custodians of power used it against her, thereby depriving themselves of the strongest support given their authority and of efficacious means of obtaining from the people obedience to their laws. And apropos of this subject, We cannot lay too great stress upon the precepts given to the first Christians by the Prince of the apostles in the midst of persecutions: “Honor all men: love the brotherhood: fear God: honor the king”;(6) and those of St. Paul: “I desire, therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings and for all who are in high station, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, our Saviour.”’
17. However, here it must be carefully observed that whatever be the form of civil power in a nation, it cannot be considered so definitive as to have the right to remain immutable, even though such were the intention of those who, in the beginning, determined it… Only the Church of Jesus Christ has been able to preserve, and surely will preserve unto the consummation of time, her form of government.”


2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s."48 “We must obey God rather than men”:49

When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.50 

2243 Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution.

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