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Obedience Print E-mail
By Fr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI   
Sunday, 06 May 2012

In his recent Holy Thursday homily, Pope Benedict cited the call by some clergy in Europe to be disobedient. Of course, obedience is not popular for a whole host of reasons. Most of them are psychological and so really are not at issue here.

One cultural reason is that obedience to an earthly superior, a priest or a bishop, is thought to be demeaning. But the logic is off. You can only be obedient if the superior (another politically incorrect word) is asking for something that is morally good. So how demeaning could that be?

Doing good is what we are here for and yet we do not always personally know what the particular good is. There is no higher moral good than following Christ. Pastors, religious superiors and bishops are only here to help people follow Christ.

Interestingly, people who have trouble with obedience to the Church will still obey their boss and the weatherman or the cop on the beat and not note the inconsistency. Following Christ in his Church ranks highest in the hierarchy of goods.

Another putative reason for disobedience is that obeying Church authority gives the Church too much power, something that is simply not acceptable in a materialist age. Yes, doing good does in fact have its own extraordinary power in the culture.

Look at the Church in Poland under the Nazis and the Communists. Look at the Church in the United States where so many parishes and charities quietly work away helping the homeless, the sick, and the dying, just to highlight one vast area of service.

The kind of power that originally sparked the objection to being obedient dates back to the Enlightenment when the power of the Church was too closely allied with the ruling elite in various countries. But that alliance has long been split apart, for example in the United States. And this is all to the good because the split actually allows Church to be Church rather than merely a hobby of the elite. 

Now, obedience should be popular because we only grow when something reaches us from outside of ourselves. It can be as simple as food or as vital as the imperative to love and follow the truth. We are tied to many larger realities:  as babies to our parents; as students to universities; as workers to our factories, as Catholics to the Church, and so on.

The list is endless. We cannot do without the myriad of things that reach us each day. The love, the food, the information, the exercise of our political and economic rights all open life to something larger. So even in a purely natural sense:  “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.” (Romans 14:7)

But in fact Paul was writing about people in the act of faith in that passage. Obedience – the handing over of ourselves – is part of the structure of faith. Another way to express it:  “there is no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard to one’s life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God.” (Benedict XVI)  It is a self-abandonment to Christ as he comes to us in the Church. Which is why the Church is known as “Our Mother.”

Turning to just one branch of self-abandonment: we hand ourselves over to following the documents of Vatican II and we can say with Benedict XVI:  “They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition. . . .I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century:  there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.”

And he continues:

I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.”

So our obedience is a complex of reading the documents and finding out what they mean from the Church. It opens us to grace and it leads to conversion and renewal!

A closing thought from Henri de Lubac S.J.:  “An apprenticeship of this sort never comes to an end; it is hard on nature, and those very men who think themselves most enlightened are the ones who have most need (which is why it is particularly helpful for them), so that they may be stripped of their false wealth, ‘to humble their spirits under a visible authority.’(Fénelon)”


Bevil Bramwell, priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, teaches theology at Catholic Distance University. He holds a Ph.D. from Boston College and works in the area of ecclesiology.

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Comments (35)Add Comment
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written by Other Joe, May 06, 2012
Humility is the forgotten virtue. Obedience opens the door for us to humility and precedes it as practice precedes fluency. To whom shall we humble ourselves, to the puffed up pompist of state power, or to the servant who emptied Himself for our salvation? Truly, the first shall be last.
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written by Dave, May 06, 2012
Fr. Bramwell, this is such an amazing piece on the importance, centrality, and beauty of obedience that I feel my one objection to your article could be seen as a cavil. But it is this: the American hierarchy has worked very hard to ally the Church with the ruling elite. That's why most of the funding for Catholic Charities programs throughout the Nation comes from the Federal Government; that's why a priest who discretely applies Canon 915 is publicly pilloried instead of being supported for his defense of the Eucharist or being corrected privately if such correction were required; that's why there is broad support in the administrative organs of the Church for the Left's social agenda (the Left loves Government, and it populates it with those who are on the Left). That's why the bishops do not publicly support the teaching of Casti Connubi or Humanae Vitae.

Put another way, and in a larger historical context, the American hierarchy, reaching back to the times of slavery and Papal opposition to that evil institution, patiently explained why America was different; the Holy Father condemned Americanism in the late 1800s; the US entered the First World War in part with the support of Cardinal Gibbon, who enthusiastically supported it (although the Vatican did not); the bishops called for national health insurance as early as 1916; and the forerunner to the USCCB enthusiastically supported the New Deal. Our bishops support Americanism, and they generally support the Left. So when the Administration egregiously offends against religious liberty, the bishops find their voices are not respected and heard nearly as well as they might like. They, and we, have a major battle on our hands.

In our own time, we have seen how the hierarchy, almost to a man, sheltered predators against children and adolescents, and how, when the time came to address the matter, they sheltered each other.

People obey those whom they see as trustworthy. If bishops are widely ignored, they need look to themselves in order to find the answer why. And, people do follow their leaders: the laity ignore what the bishops ignore, and, when the bishops call them to thus and so, since the laity know bishops' obedience is selective, our obedience is selective too. Now they ask the laity to rise up in defense of religious liberty, and many of us are, but many -- sadly, most of us, it appears -- do not see the problem with the mandate and are not supporting the bishops in the central battle of our time.

This is a parlous state of affairs; and you are right that obedience is both beautiful and difficult, and that the faithful do obey the authentic voice of the Good Shepherd. The examples you give are those that occur on the individual and parochial levels. To me the real test in the Church's outreach to the homeless, through diocesan and other initiatives, would be whether the faithful would sustain it through sacrificial giving rather than accept Government funding.

I pray for our bishops, and for the body of bishops, that grace may be given them to act with the courage they need to reform the Church from within and preach the Gospel to one and all. I pray for those doing the works of mercy, that they may find faithful guides and spiritual directors in their important work. I pray for those who are inactive, that their faith be activated. I pray for all who scorn the Church, that the Good Shepherd may open their eyes and show them how much good, beauty, and truth are still contained within her, and that there is room them there, too. May all of us make obedience the central priority of our lives, as we live in an age that celebrates disobedience as a central "virtue."
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written by Scotty Ellis, May 06, 2012
I think only the most shallow reasons for skepticism of sheer obedience are listed here. More to the point, we have a sense of our duty of obedience being contingent upon the nature of the person or institution claiming our obedience. Most importantly, we have a sense that mindless obedience - that is, obedience without understanding or obedience contrary to our understanding - is potentially dangerous, even if the claim of obedience is couched under supposedly "good" terms. We have a sense of responsible obedience - obedience does not wipe out our culpability or responsibility for our actions, and so we want to know that our obedience is leading us to act well.

We want to understand, know, and agree with the reasons behind our orders. There is no way to remain neutral and naive on these matters except willing ignorance, and as long as one is no willingly ignorant one cannot boot the responsibility entailed by obedience. This is not a matter reducible to questions of obedience being demeaning or making it about power: people disobey the Church because they do not understand and/or disagree with the Church's specific claims on their obedience. It is a responsibility of integrity that is not nullified by handing over our understanding to any institution.
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written by Manfred, May 06, 2012
Cdl Pell just stated in a public conversation with an atheist (Dawkins) that Adam and Eve never existed. We are descended from either apes or Neanderthals. Dawkins countered-what does that admission say about the doctrine of Original Sin? You see, Fr. Bramwell, in a perfect time your essay is correct. However, many of our leaders are no longer trustworthy. B XVI said at his installation: Pray for me lest I turn in fear and flee from the wolves. He wasn't talking about the footpads on the Via Veneto. He was referring to the Curia and catholic(sic) theologians.
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written by Fr. Bramwell, May 06, 2012
Manfred, the essay is correct if it states the correct fact about obedience. It does not need to be referred to the bishops. Obedience is what we all need. If someone is not obedient that does not affect the need for me to be obedient. On a different point, I would be skeptical about what you say about Cardinal Pell. Do you have a reference that I can look at?
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written by Fr. Bramwell, May 06, 2012
Similarly Manfred, you do not know to whom Benedict was referring.
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written by Fr. Bramwell, May 06, 2012
Scotty, since you can never have the kind of understanding that you are seeing as a prequisite to obedience you have given yourself a nice backdoor. Aren't you simply obedient to the Vatican II teaching?
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written by Fr. Bramwell, May 06, 2012
Dave same answer that I gave to Scotty. It would be nice if everyone was trustworthy but actually this is a case of obey what they say not obey what they do. Although I think that your comments about the bishops and child abuse are far too extravagant.
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written by Scotty Ellis, May 06, 2012
"Scotty, since you can never have the kind of understanding that you are seeing as a prequisite to obedience you have given yourself a nice backdoor. Aren't you simply obedient to the Vatican II teaching?"

Luckily, I don't merely have two categories: "things I don't understand" and "things I perfectly understand." I am readily willing to admit that I do not have a perfect understanding (or, to be more specific, that my beliefs are not absolutely true in a way beyond correction). However, the fact that I do not perfectly understand reality is no reason to be irresponsible regarding what I do understand and the extent to which I understand it. I am not "simply obedient" to anything if by "simply obedient" you mean obedient without reference to any other consideration. I am obedient insofar as 1) the institution or person commanding me has a rightful authority over me and 2) insofar as the command is good and based on truth. An institution claiming my obedience has the burden of providing sufficient evidence or reasoning to back up its claims, and insofar as it does or does not do so it will or will not receive my obedience and loyalty.

There are, of course, plenty of people who will interpret this as an obstinate "non serviam," which though in some sense is an understandable mistake is still a misinterpretation of what I am saying. Obedience is an indispensable part of social life. My primary concern is not about the validity of obedience as a posture towards some or another entity, but I rather disagree with your assumptions about why people choose to disobey an institution such as the Church.

As a final note, I would like to point out that although it may be the case that you might have to obey what someone says rather than what they do, it is also the case that an individual or institution does in fact lose its credibility as a source of moral commands insofar as that source is perceived as immoral. It is true that the truth or falsity of a claim is not dependent upon the character of the person who makes it, but it is also true that there is a natural and understandable tendency to remain skeptical of someone's theoretical expertise in a matter in which they display poor practical expertise.
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written by Manfred, May 06, 2012
I thought you knew me better than to suggest foolishness, Fr. Bramwell. You want corroboration? Please go to www.youtube.com and SEARCH: Richard Dawkins debate. It should bring you to the video of Richard Dawkins, Tony Jone,moderator and Cdl Pell. Move the slider to minute 29 and let Cdl Pell tell you himself. Part 2. Whom do you think "the wolves" are that B XVI was referring?
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written by TeaPot562, May 06, 2012
In the second comment above, Dave gave a lengthy analysis of reasons why many lay Catholics have not responded to calls from the USCCB. He may have mentioned a long-standing problem in the Archdiocese of Boston, where the then Archbishops (sometimes Cardinals) were willing to preside at second marriages (with the first wife still alive) for prominent Catholic politicians, and overlook the increasingly pagan advocacy of those politicians for abortion.
I am curious about the stance of the USCCB on the matter of contraception, and Sex outside of marriage. Is following the Church teachings - Humanae Vitae, e.g. - a matter of avoiding mortal sin? Or is it merely a virtuous practice?
If it is merely a virtuous practice, many of our generation exercised much patience and abstinence for small reasons. BTW, my spouse and I are nearing age 80.
TeaPot562
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written by Manfred, May 06, 2012
An important footnote: Pius XII specifically mentions Adam in HUMANI GENERIS #37 (1950). The Catholic Catechism (1992) mentions Adam and Eve in ##374-375, 377, 387, 390, 399, 402-406, 416-417. (A tip of the hat to Michael Matt, Editor, The Remnant)
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written by RJ Elliott, May 06, 2012
Father Bramwell,

I do not think the authority issue can be separated from two main crises affecting the relationship of the Church's shepherds to their flock:

(1) the sex abuse scandals are a disgrace to the Church's good names and are a breach of trust for many Catholics. I am a faithful church goer and do my utmost in terms of faith and morals - but even I have moments of doubt in the Church when I read how members of the Church hierarchy knew of abusers and did nothing.

(2) Too many of our shepherds have been weak, not just in failing to police the abusers. They have also been weak in proclaiming the Word and too keen to be loved and lionised. Do not blame the faithful for not taking Church leaders seriously when they are unserious themselves and lack the courage of their convictions.

Also, I realise the Pope is a German academic but the Church needs leaders who speak Biblically, plainly and clearly about issues of faith and morals. And they also need to be men who act justly and responsibly. No more cover-ups and weasel words.

Do not blame the sheep for being confused, when often the shepherds are confused as well.

Thanks.

RJ
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written by Gian, May 06, 2012
Scotty Ellis,
"I am obedient insofar as 1) the institution or person commanding me has a rightful authority over me and 2) insofar as the command is good and based on truth"

CS Lewis differentiates between obedience that proceeds out of love, delight and authority and compliance that proceeds from fear and power.
e

Obedience is a rational virtue. We should be delighted to obey whom we must out of love for them and for God. Yet the obedience should not be given blindly, that is for improper purposes.

In common usage, blind obedience means
non-consent but this usage misleads and should be avoided.
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written by Scotty Ellis, May 07, 2012
Gian:

"CS Lewis differentiates between obedience that proceeds out of love, delight and authority and compliance that proceeds from fear and power."

The two criteria I mentioned still apply in either case. Coercion should not obtain my obedience if the two criteria I mention are lacking, and my love for someone should not make me obey them if their commands are not based on reality. Of course, my love for someone does grant them a kind of authority, but that doesn't guarantee that what they want me to do makes sense.
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written by FR. Bramwell, May 07, 2012
I appreciate that people are angry with bishops but obeying bishops has nothing at all to do with whether they are saints or not. It has to do with the fact that when they exercise their ordinary Magisterium they have to be obeyed. Pure and simple. So please put all the anger aside. We are all sinners here.
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written by Manfred, May 07, 2012
Fr. Bramwell: I have no anger toward the bishops and I don't much care whether they be saints; but is it too much to ask that THEY BE CATHOLIC? Cdl. Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, dismissed Adam and Eve, gave a very flaccid explanation of Hell, and asserted that atheists could achieve Heaven. He is just one. Now, shall we discuss Cdl. Schoenborn or Archbishop Mueller who is being considered to head the CDF?
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written by Rick DeLano, May 07, 2012
Certainly we are to obey nthe bishops in all things but sin.

It were sinful to obey a bishop who denied the historical reality of Adam and Eve, and insisted you deny it too.

Better to die than obey an heretic.
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written by Marius, May 07, 2012
I've been sincerely trying to come to terms with Vatican II but one question doesn't stop bothering me: if VII was so good why its aftermath has been so catastrophic? None of the great councils - Nicea or Trident for example - was followed by a near-collapse of the church as it happened after VII. Blaming it on the misinterpretation of the VII documents is only half the story because then another question raises, namely, why this misinterpretation has been allowed to take place and to flourish? I will appreciate your kind response, Father.
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written by Marius, May 07, 2012
A correction: I meant, of course, Trent, not Trident. Just a brain bleep, sorry...8(
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written by Steve M, May 07, 2012
Isn't this a crucial piece of why Christ had to leave someone "in charge". Credibility is essential in a leader but what human can measure up to the level needed to lead a Church teach the Truth? The first leader ran away and denied Christ 3 times. We must obey the Magisterium on the doctrines of the Faith. We can't say that one or all of the members is a hypocrit so I won't follow the teaching. We don't want to be a stiff necked people because we are hypocrits too. How many bishops and cardinals are there? I think it would be amazingly lucky to find that many people in all of history that everyone would trust and not find a reason to question and thereby justify not believing. Hopefully the bishops continue to call themselves to greater sanctity and doctrinal truth but this can't be a chicken or the egg debate. They are only human. The Truth taught by the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit. That doesn't mean that humans don't muck it up but we have to obey in trust. Obedieance is a rational thing but cognitive dissonance is a powerful tool for justifying our own actions. Judas was pretty convinced that he was doing the right thing at some level. Blind obedience is wrong I agree. Humans are not sheep. Informed/educated and formed obedience is what we must do to be holy. This is about eternity not just the next decade even.
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written by S. Roy, May 07, 2012
In response, Manfred, to your post "Fr. Bramwell: I have no anger toward the bishops and I don't much care whether they be saints; but is it too much to ask that THEY BE CATHOLIC? Cdl. Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney..." One could list off as many church officials making fallible statements to the media as they want, or reveal as many private/public scandals as they can come up with, but it does not diminish one bit the obedience that is due to the office of the Bishop. That's the long and the short of it. Fr. Bramwell is right. I think I would like to understand people's perspective because I must be missing something, else others need to understand the Church's teaching better... I hear a lot of "We can't just blindly obey Bishop X when he holds such and such an erring opinion or does such and such a sinful thing; so obedience to Bishop X must have some sort of limit". But that is far from what needs to be understood about obedience. (in my own words:) Obedience to Bishop X is due Bishop X when he teaches, disciplines, orders devotions, etc. in line with the Church Universal. If he orders you to vote for a pro-abortion politician, that's not in line with the Church (imagine examples galore following...). But what is to fear when following his word according to his office? Will he ever declare, "this is the teaching of the Church: Adam and Eve are not real!"? He cannot. Someone might say, well not everyone is a theologian, liturgist, philosopher, etc. so how are they to know? I agree that we have a desperate situation in this Church: when we, as human beings would rather spend our time on some temporal pleasure than on understanding Truth, and we are afraid to fully catechize our people with even the basics because they might get offended and leave the Church. They don't know what obedience to the Church is, what the Liturgy is really about, what life is all about, etc... So the answer seems to be: pretend to strip the leaders of authority (which in reality you can't do), so that the people who want to learn their faith through the media will... what? know their faith better? claim ignorance of the Truth when they get to Heaven's gate (something which also in reality you can't do)? Help me out here...
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written by RJ Elliott, May 07, 2012
Father Bramwell,

While I understand your point in the abstract, I think it is unreal to believe that Catholics (of any age) will, in practice, obey bishops because of their office if those Bishops are weak and/or not practising what they preach. The sex abuse scandals have eroded the trust of Catholics who still practice and was the final straw for many former Catholics (my older brother has more or less left the Church over these scandals). There is no Biblical obligation to obey leaders who are in error or who have betrayed their office. It is no answer to say “obeying bishops has nothing at all to do with whether they are saints or not”. No one asks for Bishops to be held to the standards of saints but I do expect Bishops to not engage in cover-ups or avoid investigation of scandals.

RJE
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written by Fr. Bramwell, May 07, 2012
Look RJ even the teaching of the pharisees had to be obeyed but this did not mean following their example. Matthew 23:2,3 The first thing that is being lost sight of is exactly what De lubac said in the end of the essay. There is a certain humbling that has to take place. Again I am saying obey a bishop in his teaching as he exercises his ordinary magisterium. Not when he is on TV giving off the cuff comments that are too loose for the more perfect among us. By the way there are answers for what Pell said but it would take too long to get into.

Who are you to judge the bishops? Very very few have actually betrayed their office. Usually you are not privy to the full story anyway. No one has this absolute perspective on things. Don't forget how many people thought that Jesus was wrong in his time. But if a bishop is giving the teaching of the Church and 99% of them do then what is the problem?

Yes people have suffered terribly because of the scandals. No doubt. But and again this is a point that has been lost sight of in the discussion today and that is that this is a Church of forgiving love. If we cannot share that with our fellow members of the Church then we must look into our own hearts. Trials come to all of us. That they come to us from inside the Church does not change that fact. This is a Church of forgiving love. That is the test of how Catholic we are.
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written by Gian, May 07, 2012
Scotty Wills,
Obedience has nothing to do with coercion.
Obedience is or must be freely willed, out of our recognition of a superior authority that has just claims on us.

Naturally, we are not required to obey a manifestly unjust authority but it requires discernment. Simply because we do not understand all the reasons behind a command can not be justification for
not obeying. The consent of an inferior is not required in obedience.
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written by Manfred, May 08, 2012
"By the way there are answers for what Pell said but it would take too long to get into." Fr. Bramwell, I think you just hinted at what your next essay on TCT will concern.
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written by Scotty Ellis, May 08, 2012
Gian:

"Obedience has nothing to do with coercion."

Sure, in theory. In practice you will note that most organizations use coercion of various forms to ensure conformity just in case their members are not as enthusiastic about obedience. The is true even for the Church (though now that it has been stripped of most of its temporal power, the Church has stepped back on this point).

"Obedience is or must be freely willed, out of our recognition of a superior authority that has just claims on us."

Proper authority is important, but this does not cleanse our hands of personal responsibility for our actions and beliefs. I cannot pretend that obedience makes my actions right, the orders I have received right, or the beliefs I am commanded to believe right.

"Simply because we do not understand all the reasons behind a command can not be justification for
not obeying."

I think it would depend on the situation. If someone told me to decorate a room in a certain way, or fill out a report in a certain way, and I did not understand why, sure, I would probably do it. If I was commanded to believe something, or conform my entire life, to a command that I did not understand, this would be a far more prickly circumstance.
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written by Rick DeLano, May 08, 2012
"By the way there are answers for what Pell said but it would take too long to get into." Fr. Bramwell, I think you just hinted at what your next essay on TCT will concern."

By all means!
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written by Gian, May 08, 2012
Scotty Ellis,
If a man tells his wife not to visit her mother, she is bound to obey him.
But if tells her to abort the baby, then she is not bound and in fact, must disobey
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written by RJ Elliott, May 09, 2012
Dear Father Bramwell,

I am a Catholic. I am entitled to test those who make claims to spiritual authority and to investigate their claims. You would expect this (surely?) of Catholics living under trendy, unorthodox bishops, not just those blessed to have Cardinal Pell.

I may not be privy to the full story but I am not sure how much information I really need where the sexual abuse scandals were concerned. Various Bishops behaved abominably and no amount of information could convince me that moving sex offenders around was a right thing to do.

People have suffered terribly because of these scandals and many have left the Faith because of them, surely a greater scandal than disobedience? Church spin like "This is a Church of forgiving love" is a dodge. You commenced in the article by saying I should obey bishops. You end by saying I should approach them in forgiving love. That makes no sense to me.

I know your intentions are good but sometimes the hierarchy needs to be purged before anyone should be asked to obey it.

RJE
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written by Scotty Ellis, May 09, 2012
Gian

"If a man tells his wife not to visit her mother, she is bound to obey him."

Actually, no. There is no such obligation or binding between man and wife, co-equals, except inasmuch as the wife has voluntarily placed herself within such a schema (and even then the obligation persists only as long as she voluntarily continues participation in that particular view of marriage). Luckily, if he tells her not to visit her mother, she still can if she wants to; and if he attempts to use coercion, she has recourse to the law.

Similarly, she is not bound by her husband's demand to abort, and furthermore she is bound by her conscience in the matter.
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written by J. Delicado, May 09, 2012
Thanks for your thoughts about obedience. They seem good to me but, unfortunately, they remain on the surface of the problem.

When you go deeper in the situations you see that simple obedience is enough for children but not for adults. For instance: you don't consider errors made by the church hierarchy (and we have to be humble to recognize them); you don't consider problematic issues where answers are not obvious and discernment is needed; you don't consider the different levels of obligation in terms of what the church hierarchy says or writes. In other words, there are very different levels of obedience.

I also would be more careful in saying something like: "we only grow when something reaches us from outside of ourselves": that seems dangerous to me! It seems that we only have evil (or void?) in us! What kind of anthropology is that? If God lives in us - as I believe - real obedience must come (also) from our inner self!

Thanks for making me think about this!
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written by Gian, May 09, 2012
Scotty Ellis,
The marriage vows obligate a wife to obedience.

And as to equality
Aristotle says that a man must rule his wife politically, his children monarchically and his slaves despotically.

Thus wife is to be ruled in a political fashion as between equals. We are bound to obey the City Magistrates though we are their equals as citizens.
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written by Rick DeLano, May 10, 2012
"Similarly, she is not bound by her husband's demand to abort, and furthermore she is bound by her conscience in the matter."

What kind of utter nonsense is this?

Is the contributor actually suggesting that if the woman's conscience is comfortable with an abortion, then she must follow it?

Dear God deliver us from neoCatholics.
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written by Scotty Ellis, May 10, 2012
Giam:

"The marriage vows obligate a wife to obedience."

Luckily for my wife and me, we made no such arrangement. As I mentioned, such an arrangement could be voluntarily made, but would only be valid as long as the wife wanted to participate.

My wife and I are co-magistrates. We do not hold powers of command over each other, but we do willingly aid each other as necessary. My wife is not bound to obey me.

Rick DeLano:

The contributor (i.e., me) was actually suggesting that if a woman's conscience forbids her from having an abortion, she should certainly disobey an order from her husband to obtain one. If a woman does not have such a belief and corresponding dictates of conscience, she still should not obey her husband simply out of some blind devotion to her husband. She is responsible for the decisions she makes, and obedience does not wipe out this responsibility.

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