Obedience to Church: How far?


#1

I am confused regarding the concept of obedience in the RCC. Specifically, I’d like to know in what context must we obey the Archbishop?

I understand that if the Archbishop would come to my door and demand that I turn over the keys to my car, I would not be bound to do so…

However, when he is speaking on the areas of faith and morals, if it is in agreement with Church teaching, then we are bound to obey.

Let’s say that I believe that I have been having private revelation from the Blessed Mother, but the Archbishop has recommended that I keep these revelations private. He is indeed speaking on an issue of faith–so must I obey him? Is he protected from an erroneous judgement in this area?


#2

Yes, you must obey him.

No, he is not infallible. But, that is not relevant.


#3

If it could be an erroneous judgement, why am I bound to obey him?


#4

Because he’s been placed by God in his position of authority for just such a purpose. We’re to obey lawful authority - civil or religious - in all matters where they don’t command us to sin. There is no way that keeping a private revelation private is sinful.

Most all of the approved (and plenty of the unapproved) apparitions initially met with scepticism from religious authority - in every case when the recepient of the apparitions showed obedience, even to the extent of keeping quiet about the apparitions, Our Lord or Our Lady commended them for doing so.


#5

It ‘could’ be. . .but it might ‘not’ be.

Even if it were, in fact, erroneous, the point is, in matters of faith and morals he is the authority. Provided that the error does not involve your personal sin, you must obey. . .because disobedience is a sin in itself.

Remember, you are talking of ‘private revelation’ which he has told you to keep silent about. Now where is the error? Suppose the ‘author’ of the revelation has commanded you to shout it to the rooftop. If this is of God, then either you will get the approval from the bishop, or you will somehow, while still remaining in obedience, be permitted to speak. It just may not be 'right away now this minute!!" And you know, that ‘author’ may not be authentic. In which case, in obeying a demonic ‘author’ and disobeying the legitimate authority you would be sinning doubly.


#6

If you go to him about the Private Revelation and he says to keep it to yourself, then you must keep it to yourself. Is he protected from error, no.


#7

He is in authority over you.

A private revelation is still the jurisdiction of the proper authorities. These things take years to investigate. You are not free to propagate a “private revelation” without permission of the bishop. Period.


#8

yes you must obey, particularly in the last instance you cite. He is the authority in your diocese. You obey in all things that are not sinful and which do not contradict the authority of the Church. For instance if your bishop were to venture into schism you would not obey. If a private revelation is genuine the message would counsel you to obedience. If it counselled otherwise, that would be proof of its falsity.


#9

Just for clarity: I am not having private revelation and used it only as an example. :slight_smile:

I mean no disrespect when I question why we must obey when there is no claim of infallibility. I simply want to be able to distinguish our obedience from that of, say, Protestant Christians who follow their pastor’s interpretation of Scripture into heresy. The pastor has no claim of infallibility, and may be leading his flock into error.

We as Catholics are the beneficiaries of the magnificent gift of the Magisterium. But if there is no guarantee of inerrancy on some pronouncements made by a bishop, I hesitate to blindly obey someone who’s a sinner, human, and capable of error.


#10

This statement encapsulates what is wrong with a lot of contemporary Catholic thinking about infallibility.

Edwin


#11

I’m not sure what you mean by this.

The reason I am Catholic is because I have been assured that what I have been presented by the Magisterium is divinely revealed Truth. Without error.

If the Church is saying that some pronouncements could be wrong, but I still must obey, how is this different from any Protestant teaching, which makes no claims of infallibility?


#12

This is not the question you originally asked.

A bishop declaring that a private revelation may not be disseminated is not in conflict with church teaching. It in no way denies or contradicts any part of the deposit of faith.

OTOH, what you now post is something entirely different. If a bishop teaches something contrary to the faith then no, you are not bound to follow him into schism or heresy.

You must obey those things that are within his authority and are not contrary to the faith-- if by “blindly” you mean “even if I disagree with him” then YES blindly. And, you are obligated to continue to study until you do understand and come into conformity with church teaching on the matter.


#13

The Church does not say that some pronouncements can be wrong.

You did not ask about doctrine. You asked about a bishop commanding someone to remain quiet about a revelation. There is no error in that, it’s within his authority. He may or may not be correct regarding the authenticity of the revelation, but that has no bearing in requiring that it not be shared.


#14

I can believe that this is why you are Catholic, but that’s the wrong reason to be Catholic. It won’t hold up historically. Catholics have at various times in history been “presented” with things that contradicted each other. Catholicism, however, does not claim that all these things are infallible–only a relatively small core of teaching is infallible. However, you are bound to submit to all of it unless and until it is modified. This is what Catholics have historically believed and practiced. It’s one of the things I most admire about Catholics. And it’s been more or less lost by most of those who call themselves “conservative Catholics,” who have bought into the lie (born of epistemological despair, itself resulting from the divisions of Western Christendom) that only infallible authority means anything.

How is this different from Protestantism? It’s different because you have the confidence that if the particular thing your bishop is saying is wrong, the Church will eventually straighten the matter out. You have confidence in the infallibility of the *Church, *not in the infallibility of every statement made by every bishop. That does not mean that you owe no obedience to your bishop except when you can discern (by your fallible private judgment) that he’s expressing the infallible teaching of the Church. It means that you owe obedience to him unless and until the Church clearly states that he is wrong (or unless he directly and clearly violates your conscience).

You as a Catholic have reason to be confident that an erring bishop will be straightened out. I as an Anglican have no such reason for confidence. There’s a huge difference. I shouldn’t have to point it out to you!

In Christ,

Edwin


#15

Just wanted to add a little note.

Obedience is worth more than our own private revelation. When it is time a particular revelation is revealed, God will allow it - Obedience is the key.

I admired Saint Faustina - a great example of a very humble sister whose obedience pleases Jesus very much.

PRmerger, If you have a chance, get a copy of Saint Faustina’s diary - you will learn what she had gone through with her private revelations.

I got to add more: Saint Rita, Saint. Bernadette - their obedience to their parents (even it is against their own will) - but looked how they turned out - great Saints.


#16

I don’t believe it’s the wrong reason at all. Peter Kreeft, Catholic philosopher extrordinaire, has stated that the reason we should be Catholic, firstly, is because it’s True.

How is this different from Protestantism? It’s different because you have the confidence that if the particular thing your bishop is saying is wrong, the Church will eventually straighten the matter out. You have confidence in the infallibility of the *Church, *not in the infallibility of every statement made by every bishop. That does not mean that you owe no obedience to your bishop except when you can discern (by your fallible private judgment) that he’s expressing the infallible teaching of the Church. It means that you owe obedience to him unless and until the Church clearly states that he is wrong (or unless he directly and clearly violates your conscience).

Therein lies my struggle. It simply does not make sense to me that I must obey a fallible man, who is making no claims of inerrancy.

That I must obey an **infallible Church **and all her **infallible teachings **gives me great comfort.


#17

That’s completely different. Part of this mistaken attitude which you share with many other “conservative” Catholics is a confusion between infallibility and truth.

It really isn’t a question of what you want. It’s a question of what the Catholic teaching is. I should let your fellow Catholics point out your error to you. But I am throwing in my two cents’ worth because attitudes like yours seem depressingly common among conservative Catholics, and the fact that RC teaching gives rise to such a widespread (and disastrous) misunderstanding is one of the things that makes me question it.

Edwin


#18

I am not questioning the Church’s authority regarding doctrine. I am questioning how far we must obey an Archbishop when he makes statements regarding faith and morals.

There are an infinite number of “gray areas” in which it may not be clear whether something contradicts Church teaching (hence, the great success of these Catholic Answers forums).

For example (just to cite a few topics from recent threads), if an Archbishop said that individuals who are late for mass 20 minutes or more have committed a mortal sin, is this absolutely so? If he proclaims that the Divine Office must be prayed out loud rather than recited in one’s head, must faithful Catholics in his diocese do so? If he announced that anyone seeing the “Vagina Monologues” was committing a mortal sin, is this absolutely so? If he chides an individual whose “Ts look like upside down crosses” to change his handwriting , must this faithful Catholic do so? (Yes, that was an actual thread in which an individual questioned whether it was bad that one’s Ts resembled upside down crosses.)

My point is that am Archbishop is a fallible man who is making no claim of infallibility when speaking on many, many matters. It does not seem reasonable to me that I should obey a fallible man. Infallible Church, yes, Fallible man making pronouncements on numerous issues, no.


#19

Please explain to me what you mean, Edwin.


#20

Perhaps you should explain why you think Kreeft’s statement that Catholicism should be believed because it’s true is the same thing as saying that only infallible authorities command our obedience? Isn’t that saying that truth is the same thing as infallibility?

Furthermore, you are not grasping the point that if the Church as a whole can be trusted, then even fallible authorities within the Church can be trusted as long as they remain part of the Church.

Edwin


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