Lay obedience to bishop


#1

:confused:
On another thread about CCD, the question of obedience to the bishop came up. I searched the web and came up with a similar working definition of our obligation. Does anyone know anything about this issue?

A bishop’s sermon on obedience, referring to jewish beliefs and word definitions, and contrasting St. Ignatious’ beliefs with St. Aquinas’:
bishopbhai.org/obedience.htm

(Removed link to site)

An “ask father” column addressing kneeling:
ewtn.com/library/Liturgy/zlitur91.htm

(Removed link to site)


#2

Dear Vanessa,

I’m not sure what you are asking. I was involved in some discussions of obeying, and how it might apply to kneeling as an example.

Since it’s a pretty open topic, I’m not sure if you are asking for general comments on this issue or if there is a specific angle you’d like to investigate.

Alan


#3

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Dear Vanessa,

Since it’s a pretty open topic, I’m not sure if you are asking for general comments on this issue or if there is a specific angle you’d like to investigate.

Alan
[/quote]

The original discussion is in family life, “Can CCD harm?” My bishop recently published an unfriendly policy for homeschoolers who want to receive the sacraments. Someone told me that 30 hours a year might not do much good, but neither will it harm. I don’t believe that. The forum thread discussion seemed to boil down to that it doesn’t matter what is true or what I believe, that obedience to the bishop is what matters.

Which made me realize that I don’t have a firm foundation on the obligations of lay obedience. I searched the forum for discussion, but didn’t find any one, perhaps I did a poor job. So I did a web search and found lots of info on priestly obedience, but only a few on lay obedience. They all reinforced what I believed already, but perhaps those sources aren’t the best and I’m allowing myself to be fooled.

So, if you believe that following your bishop’s policy will cause moral harm to your child, what are one’s obligations to obedience?
And perhaps, how can you be sure that your conscience is formed properly and you’re not just trying to get your own way?

Personally, I’m shocked that after the sexual abuse scandal that so many people still say you got to obey no matter what. So then, I wonder if I’m not just over-reacting to the scandal and causing unnecessary division.


#4

[quote=Vanessa]The original discussion is in family life, “Can CCD harm?” My bishop recently published an unfriendly policy for homeschoolers who want to receive the sacraments. Someone told me that 30 hours a year might not do much good, but neither will it harm. I don’t believe that. The forum thread discussion seemed to boil down to that it doesn’t matter what is true or what I believe, that obedience to the bishop is what matters.

[/quote]

I’ll take a look at the original thread so I can understand this better.

So, if you believe that following your bishop’s policy will cause moral harm to your child, what are one’s obligations to obedience?

I don’t care if it’s the pope; if I truly think something will cause moral harm to my child I will not comply. That said, I have “gone along” with a good number of things, but I have instructed my children in such a way that they can learn from them – therefore, I do allow my children to “be wronged” as it were (because with proper training I think it helps build character and if they respond well it brings them blessings), but if it puts them in a situation where it will likely lead them to sin, then I really don’t care what the Church says about it.

The Church herself tells us we are the primary educators of our children, but in a practical sense it seems the only time I hear that is in conjunction with a home project that the school tells me I “must” do. Makes me wonder what they mean by “primary educator” and if it means an underpaid person teaching in the primary grades. :stuck_out_tongue: Seriously, though, if I am the primary educator, and I take that as I am responsible for those children, then it is I, not the bishop, who has the right of last refusal over what is done to them. If they want more than that, then they can “adopt” my children, pay their expenses, take personal responsibility for their success come what may and whatever they do – regardless of whether it breaks their rules – and we will all be part of a big happy commune.

I cannot accept responsibility for my children if I surrender the authority over them to others. When they are 18, then legally the Church may make a move for them without my consent.

And perhaps, how can you be sure that your conscience is formed properly and you’re not just trying to get your own way?

You really can’t. You have to do the best you can. I’ve learned the hard way that becoming confused and frustrated somehow morphs into “trouble maker” by the time it is perceived by Authority Figures. It can be very contentious, and the contention itself is sinful if reciprocated.

Sometimes I do “play the game” when I realize I’m licked, or that efforts to improve things are futile – but if it really boils down to my children being in jeopardy of moral harm, sorry but once I get that way I consider the situation suspect until proven benign.

Personally, I’m shocked that after the sexual abuse scandal that so many people still say you got to obey no matter what. So then, I wonder if I’m not just over-reacting to the scandal and causing unnecessary division.

I don’t know if you’re overreacting and have no opinion yet until I read the original thread, but I’ve found a strange combination of attitudes on this very forum, which sound schizophrenic when juxtaposed – even comments by individuals.

For example, the same people who unconditionally stick up for the clergy in any altercation with a poster here, but then turn right around and justify their own disobedience when it comes to certain matters of comportment during Mass. Once a poster quoted Teresa of Avila, who wrote to the effect that “even if the were a demon incarnate” she could not refuse obedience. Kind of like biting the hand that feeds you, I gathered. They pull that kind of thing out when telling me I’m wrong, but then tell me I’m nuts when I bring it up back to them, or ask them to take their own positions to their logical conclusions.

Their logical conclusions, when it comes to MY kids or MY situation, would pretty much have me shut up and take it like the abuse victims did for so many years. Luckily this mentality is starting to melt, as we continue to have respect for our priests, but take them off the pedestal we’ve allowed them to take for centuries.

Alan


#5

[quote=Vanessa]Personally, I’m shocked that after the sexual abuse scandal that so many people still say you got to obey no matter what. So then, I wonder if I’m not just over-reacting to the scandal and causing unnecessary division.
[/quote]

If this is the basis of your resistance to your bishop’s authority, then you may be over-reacting. I think this sentiment comparing the negligence of several (not all) bishops is basically an extreme reaction to an extreme case. Going along with the cover-up of the abuse of your or anybody else’s child (a grievous sin and a legal crime in any civilized country) is a lot different than enduring the fact that your child is getting poor teaching in CCD. Though the second instance is indeed poor leadership, if you are stuck with it, you can at least compensate for it by teaching them yourself. In fact, to put them in the same category, minimizes the importance of both offenses. It’s the same thing when people compare whatever sin or sinner under discussion to Hitler–it is so out of proportion to almost any other crime, that further conversation is futile. Let’s try to resist that temptation, shall we? :slight_smile:


#6

[quote=Fidelis] Going along with the cover-up of the abuse of your or anybody else’s child (a grievous sin and a legal crime in any civilized country) is a lot different than enduring the fact that your child is getting poor teaching in CCD. Though the second instance is indeed poor leadership, if you are stuck with it, you can at least compensate for it by teaching them yourself. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

Agreed, it is worse in that its damage is more severe, noticable and traceable.

But my fear did not focus on the poor instruction, it was the moral/spiritual effect on my child. (Edited personal remark). The question was about obedience to something that I believed would cause moral damage - your argument is on the other thread.

Are you saying knowingly allowing some damage is allowed? Where exactly is that line drawn? What studies do you know of that says a good explanation compensates for any damage done? Are there some personal antecdotes of grown children (at least in 40’s) that endured and became stronger? What made the difference? How do you know that they’re not really weaker? Does personality type matter?

I’m not attacking you or your parenting, I’m trying to figure out what my parenting is going to be. I feel rude asking these questions out loud (er, in print), but that’s the only way to get information about something very important.


#7

Hi Vanessa!
I notice than none of your references are to the Catechism. That would have occurred to me to be the very first place to look, so I am offering this LINK to the search that I did on the Catechism for the word “obedience”.

Insofar as you have brought it up, I would say that we follow the bishops even the way that St.Ignatius of Antioch tells us we should in his Letter to the Smyrneans in about 107 AD. It is your responsiblity (and the duty of all Catholic parents) to properly catechize your children. If we leave it to CCD, Sunday School, or anyone else, then we can expect the same essential results that one gets any time one allows an institution to do our job for us. (Think schools here, okay?)

I also would say that if you are less than happy with the teaching in CCD, have to asked if you can assist them? Often I hear people complain about their RCIA, CCD, or other classes in their parishes, but go on to discover that they are not involved in those ministries themselves, which frankly, baffles me because if you want the job done right, who do you refer it to? If I have the knowlege and the skills to build up my parish in some way and am not willing to get in there and help, then am I not squandering my time & talents?

I suspect that most of the problems in parishes that we hear about on this forum, could be well and truly fixed by the same people that tell us about them, and if not then the answer is simple. If one needs knowlege, get that knowlege, and then provide that knowlege to others…for the love of God.

I will insure that my sons get the facts of the faith, regardless of what they hear anywhere else, and they and I will always remains obedient sons of the church and the bishop that God has placed over us here.

If you go back into many of the lives of the saints, you will very quickly find great examples of that obedience in times when perhaps the bishops over them had problems. Follow their example…be the best Catholic that you know how and set for yourself the highest of standards and in so doing remain the faithful and obedient Catholic that you should be.

Please let me know if any of this helps.
Pax tecum,


#8

[quote=Church Militant]Hi Vanessa!
I notice than none of your references are to the Catechism. That would have occurred to me to be the very first place to look, so I am offering this LINK to the search that I did on the Catechism for the word “obedience”.

Insofar as you have brought it up, I would say that we follow the bishops even the way that St.Ignatius of Antioch tells us we should in his Letter to the Smyrneans in about 107 AD.

If you go back into many of the lives of the saints, you will very quickly find great examples of that obedience in times when perhaps the bishops over them had problems. Follow their example…be the best Catholic that you know how and set for yourself the highest of standards and in so doing remain the faithful and obedient Catholic that you should be.

Please let me know if any of this helps.
Pax tecum,
[/quote]

Thanks for getting the Catechism search for me. I tried it first, but the one I found did not have a search engine. I thought I’d look it up the old fashioned way, but you saved me. I bookmarked your site for the future.

I read through them all. They all talked about obedience to God, parents, or civil authorities. The obedience to God was absolute, the others depended on the demand being “just”.

The first site I found from the bishop of 35 years addresses the Ignation principle of obedience. He seemed a little liberal to me, but then, maybe I’ve been hearing things wrong. I was hoping someone else would read his sermon and give their opinion.

Joan of Arc disobeyed her bishop. St. Therese of the Child Jesus disobeyed when he told her to wait before entering the convent and went straight to the Pope. St. Pio did not change locations as ordered when the peasants threatened a riot.

I intend to be the most faithful and obedient Catholic I can be - faithful and obedient to God, and faithful and obedient to his servants when their request is “just”. There was one paragraph about “blind obedience” being sinful. And one that defined sin as disobediance to God.


#9

Our Bishop is taking the cover-up of the sex abuse scandle to the U.S. Sup. Ct. - he refuses to turn over records of priests to the District Atty’s office. IMO, this is a disgrace. He also has autogrpahed photos of himself for sale in the cathedral gift shop.


#10

Vanessa,

You don’t have to obey no matter what. But you are bound to obey the lawful pastors of the Church in all things lawful, within their scope of authority. You don’t have to agree with the bishop in order to obey him. Furthermore, in accord with Lumen Gentium, you are obliged to manifest your opinion.

So, disagree if you must, but do so with charity and respect. Also, obey in lawful matters which are in accord with his scope of authority, whether you agree with him or not.

Think of us folks in the military. I didn’t much agree with Pres. Clinton. Didn’t much like him either. But by law, I was bound to obey his lawful commands, whether they were smart or not. If I were to oppose his lawful commands, I would be breaking the law and committing sin.

Let those placed by God in the governance of our soul, do their jobs without grief (cf. Heb 13:17). It’s the golden rule…do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you were in a position of authority, would you like dissent and disobedience? Or would you like them to manifest their opinion in charity to you, but respect your judgement and obey?


#11

Vanessa,

… when their request is “just”.

What unjust command is the bishop demanding of you? Is it contrary to Divine law that the Bishop required 30 hrs of instruction for Confirmation? Is it contrary to higher authority? Is such a demand within the scope of the bishops responsibility as governor of the faithful under his authority?

Remember, unjust is not the same as imprudent. There are many commands from superiors that are imprudent, unwise, etc. But that doesn’t mean they are unjust. Unjust connotes that it is contrary to higher authority. Just cuz you don’t like it does not mean it is unjust.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, obedience to our superiors in all things lawful within the scope of their responsibility is necessary for salvation.


#12

[quote=koda]Our Bishop is taking the cover-up of the sex abuse scandle to the U.S. Sup. Ct. - he refuses to turn over records of priests to the District Atty’s office. IMO, this is a disgrace. He also has autogrpahed photos of himself for sale in the cathedral gift shop.
[/quote]

My bishop is nothing like that. I hope I haven’t given that impression. I believe he and my parish are trying to do the best that they can.


#13

[quote=itsjustdave1988]Vanessa,

What unjust command is the bishop demanding of you? …Is it contrary to higher authority? Is such a demand within the scope of the bishops responsibility as governor of the faithful under his authority?

Remember, unjust is not the same as imprudent. There are many commands from superiors that are imprudent, unwise, etc. But that doesn’t mean they are unjust. Unjust connotes that it is contrary to higher authority. …
[/quote]

Church law says that the parent is responsible for the education of their children. The bishop has the responsibility to help the parent. Demanding that the child “learn” in an environment that has already proven to be detrimental goes beyond his authority. To follow it would be for me to sin, disobedience to a higher authority - God. Can he still withhold the sacraments? Yes.

Which is an act of obedience, sending my child to something that I believe will damage his faith or protecting the child with the consequences of withholding the sacrament of Confirmation?

Now if I said that the instructor was punching the kids (theoretical) would you recognize that harm was being done? Should I send my child then? This is visible, measurable damage. Is the problem that you can’t see the damage and you won’t believe the parent?

But the argument has gotten out of hand. I was orginally exploring the concept of whether religious education can harm, because of a comment from a friend. Very few seem to believe it possible, and obedience to the bishop was more important to them than their child’s best welfare. I acknowledge it - while still disagreeing.

I fully intend and always did, to obey my bishop’s directives to the best of my ability. I now intend to write to him about the difficulties he’s causing for my family. And I hope to stay quietly in the background until all my children are grown.


#14

I’d say you’re not only saving the child, but saving the person who would do the damage. Here is my guiding principle in this, at first glance:

If you allow your child to be damaged, it will not be for the sake of the instructor but will also allow them to risk falling under these words spoken by our Savior.

Now if I said that the instructor was punching the kids (theoretical) would you recognize that harm was being done? Should I send my child then? This is visible, measurable damage. Is the problem that you can’t see the damage and you won’t believe the parent?

Exactly. However, as president of Home and School (like PTA) for eight years, I’ve found that there really are a lot of messed up parents – even Catholic ones – so that does not excuse but may help explain why the school doesn’t automatically take them seriously.

As far as not being able to see the damage (think “quantify” as in “quantify” the harm so the courts can “quantify” the damages) that is likely a very important factor. Training in falsehood can be abusive, especially if done in a way that tends to suppress honest questioning. Mental and verbal abuse and mental illness are seen by the world as being all in the person’s mind. :stuck_out_tongue:

No wait. I meant they cannot be measured and nobody knows for certain how to treat them or measure the dollar value of the injury, or measure how long the damage lasts. Too subjective for all that, so we pay these issues lip service and throw them in whenever we talk abuse we use phrases like “and that goes for mental and verbal abuse too” which does not dispel the charge that they are kind of an afterthought. “Wink wink nudge nudge – we think you’re crazy but we’ll cut you some rhetorical slack because we’re wonderful that way.”

But the argument has gotten out of hand. I was orginally exploring the concept of whether religious education can harm, because of a comment from a friend. Very few seem to believe it possible, and obedience to the bishop was more important to them than their child’s best welfare. I acknowledge it - while still disagreeing.

When I answered the youth crisis hotline, same thing. At least once a day I’d get a call from a girl being molested or approached by mom’s boyfriend. Mom didn’t believe her, and when she told mom it separated them further and the girl would be punished, and the boyfriend would remain in the house overnight or permanently as live-in.

Just because mom punishes her wrongly and doesn’t believe her own child and is blind to what is going on, that does NOT mean she does not love the child. It might, but probably does not – in the context of whatever other problems she has it is probably the best she can do. “Father forgive them…”

I fully intend and always did, to obey my bishop’s directives to the best of my ability. I now intend to write to him about the difficulties he’s causing for my family. And I hope to stay quietly in the background until all my children are grown.

I didn’t understand something here. This raises a question directly connected to one of my “have felt pain” centers.

Are you staying in the background, but writing a letter? I certainly understand the concept of keeping your head down, as it were, as I am now in some ways myself. I’d just suggest you look at the reasons and effects for this letter if you haven’t already, taking into account the likelihood it will do good or harm. If it will accomplish nothing except inform the bishop, it might be best to skip the letter and go directly to lying low. Notice I wrote “might.” I always give people permission to break my advice; they should not be bound by it just because I’m some dude with a keyboard. :stuck_out_tongue:

Alan


#15

When I answered the youth crisis hotline, same thing.

I answered the homeschool phone line for two years but had to give it up because of all the parents who knew there was a problem - some of them horrible. And yet they couldn’t bring themselves to do what it took to protect their kids. If your kids were trying to commit suicide, pulling their hair out, cutting themselves, being regularly beaten up, wouldn’t you look at other options? It’s amazing to me how hard it is for American parents to go against what’s socially “normal” and do what it takes for their children. Is it the feminization of America that men won’t protect their families but go along because it’s “normal”?

The last call that had me up at night worrying was from a mom in a nice elementary school. They had bussed some kids from another school who couldn’t read, so her whole 4th grade class reverted back to basic phonics for that year. She was beaten up on the playground. And a friend of hers brought a knife to school -but mom said that was ok, because the girl was only trying to protect herself because the adults wouldn’t. And mom wasn’t sure if she should pull her daughter out. I pointed out that she was in educational, physical, and emotional danger, but she still wasn’t sure is she should do something so unusual.

I had 3 calls from three different counties about kids who were facing expulsion because they were in fights - the defenseless victim, but zero tolerance demands everyone be treated the same. I didn’t believe the first mom, I wondered about the second, and just felt depressed after the third.

Catholics are called to be counter-cultural, at least my bishop is always saying so, and yet the message is not conveyed by actions. The silent message is that we’re to be mainstream.


#16

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.