Disobeying orders from the Roman Curia


Many German Catholics are having a fit over the Congregation for Divine Worship’s plan to reform the “sign of peace” in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. I hear lots saying: “I don’t care what the Vatican says, I will do what I like” or “What would keep me from doing just as I used to”, meaning that they do not want to limit the sign of peace to one’s neighbour, but walk out of the pews and have the priest come down from the altar.

What exactly is the level of obedience we owe to the Bishops, and Curial decisions? I had someone appeal to some supposed Vatican II statement on freedom of conscience, saying that they didn’t have to obey the Bishop or any “hierarchical” (say that negatively decision they disagreed with.

That seems rather foreign to me, and I can’t imagine that decisions can be disregarded if one doesn’t like them, making the individual the final judge and legislator, not the Church. Can someone explain the teaching on obedience to Bishops and the Curia? Are there limits? Are there consequences for laypeople notoriously disobeying?


I have no clue but I think this whole topic is so silly and petty. People are losing faith, scandals are sprouting left and right, Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East, society is crumbling, and we’re all worried about how the sign of peace is conducted? Really?


It sounds like the German Church is in poor shape if even the optional Sign of Peace becomes a source of controversy and dissent.


First of all, primacy of conscience doesn’t apply to the Sign of Peace. :eek: There is no moral imperative involved with how you greet others during the Liturgy.

Second, this wasn’t an “order from the Curia”. It is a letter to the Bishops directing them to make changes, if necessary, in their communication within their diocese to ensure that the sign of peace is done reverently and does not disrupt the flow of the Mass. I haven’t yet heard of any Bishops who have implemented this yet; it’s really too soon.

If there is any “disobedience” happening, they faithful would be disobeying their own Bishops.

As for level of obedience, the faithful are bound to obey their Bishops in all matters Liturgical unless the Bishop is acting against an authoritative document from the CDW. In other words, if there’s a conflict, they should obey the higher power. But there is no option of disobeying BOTH the local Bishop and the Vatican.


Although this is not a hill worth dying on, because the execution of the Sign of Peace is not going to jeopardize one’s salvation, you shouldn’t be surprised by the attitude of “What would keep me from doing it just as I used to”.

There is a lot of that going around, and not just in Germany. We see it every day here in CAF, in the guise of receiving by hand vs mouth, OF vs EF, confessional vs face-to-face.

None of the above matters, because either way in all 3 cases are perfectly acceptable, but we still see these insane, hairsplitting arguments over which is more acceptable, and why.

The real issue is humility. If you peel the onion, at the core you will find “ME”, and “That’s how I do it, so obviously I’m right, and if you don’t do it the same way, obviously, you’re wrong!”

And so it goes…


Amen to that.

And for the OP, there isn’t much you can do to control someone else’s behavior, only your own.


As Corki said, we are not compelled to participate in the sign of peace. But we must not say that the Church doesn’t have the right to promote such a change.

In the US, the Bishops have sanctioned and even encouraged that the sign be a minor bow without physical contact. This is said to have more to do with spreading diseases than the solemnity of the Mass.

Years ago I visited a Parish where the sign of peace resembled a social hour - people moving about the Church greeting and hugging for five minutes. And, I’m looking at the Altar at the Body and Blood of Our Lord (because the Consecration precedes the peace).

I understand the relation to Our Lord telling us to first make peace with our neighbor before bringing our gifts. But it seems to me better if the peace came between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.


And in spite of all these calamities, you are wasting your time here scolding others?:rolleyes:It’s a false dichotomy that posters in this thread, or German Catholics, or the curia must do only one thing or another.


Absolutely right!!


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