Tuesday, January 27, 2015

St. Ignatius Loyola on Perfect Obedience

The question of obedience is a timely one in the contemporary Church. On the progressive end of the spectrum, disobedience to the teachings of the Church have been ubiquitous since the breakdown of Catholic discipline in the second half of the 20th century. Catholic Traditionalists, also, have had many lively debates on the precise nature of obedience and how far one is bound in obedience when those in authority in the Church are themselves dissenters, heretics or leading lives of immorality.

Fortunately, this is not a question that Tradition is silent on. From the Rule of St. Benedict to the teaching of St. Francis of Assisi to the Imitation of Christ and many more spiritual works, the characteristics of obedience have been thoroughly examined.

In this post, we bring you excerpts from one of the great writings on this subject, the letter "On Perfect Obedience" from St. Ignatius Loyola. This letter was addressed to the Jesuits in Portugal around 1553 when the Society there had been rent by divisions due to certain brothers who withheld their obedience from their superiors. St. Ignatius fiercely condemns this cafeteria obedience and lays down what went on to become the classic Jesuit definition of obedience, which is nothing other than the traditional Catholic teaching. This epistle is Letter 25 in the Ignatius corpus.

The foundational principle of St. Ignatius' teaching on obedience is that the superior is to be obeyed not by virtue of the excellence with which he wields the power of his office, but simply because he is the superior, and as such is the representative of God to the religious - this is regardless of whether he acts prudently or not:

"The superior is to be obeyed not because he is prudent, or good, or qualified by any other gift of God, but because he holds the place and the authority of God, as Eternal Truth has said: He who hears you, hears me; and he who rejects you, rejects me [Luke 10:16]. Nor on the contrary, should he lack prudence, is he to be the less obeyed in that in which he is superior, since he represents Him who is infallible wisdom, and who will supply what is wanting in His minister, nor, should he lack goodness or other desirable qualities, since Christ our Lord, having said, the scribes and the Pharisees sit on the chair of Moses, adds, therefore, whatever they shall tell you, observe and do: but do not act according to their works [Matt. 23:2-3]."

After laying this foundation, St. Ignatius explains there are three degrees of obedience. The first and lowest consists in simply doing what one is told; in other words, merely performing the command in a purely external manner. He says there is no true merit in this sort of 'obedience of execution':

"...[T]he first degree of obedience is very low, which consists in the execution of what is commanded, and that it does not deserve the name of obedience, since it does not attain to the worth of this virtue unless it rises to the second degree..."

The second degree of obedience is defined as an obedience of the will, in which one not only conforms externally to a command but actually wills to do so, whether or not they personally think it is a prudent command. St. Ignatius defines this level as an obedience

"...which is to make the superior's will one's own in such a way that there is not merely the effectual execution of the command, but an interior conformity, whether willing or not willing the same. Hence it is said in Scripture, obedience is better than sacrifice [1 Sam. 15:22], for, according to Saint Gregory: "In victims the flesh of another is slain, but in obedience our own will is sacrificed."

This obedience has merit because the Lord places such great value on the will of man, especially when it is freely subjected unto obedience in imitation of Christ. He also notes that this obedience is due even in spiritual matters; the discipline of the religious superior does extend to the interior spiritual life:

"Now because this disposition of will in man is of so great worth, so also is the offering of it, when by obedience it is offered to his Creator and Lord. How great a deception it is, and how dangerous for those who think it lawful to withdraw from the will of their superior, I do not say only in those things pertaining to flesh and blood, but even in those which of their nature are spiritual and holy, such as fasts, prayers, and other pious works!"

Yet this is not even the most perfect sort of obedience. The second degree of obedience is to interiorly will to carry out the command, whether we agree with it or not. The third and most perfect degree of obedience is called the "obedience of understanding" and, according to St. Ignatius, occurs when we not only interiorly will to obey but actually mold our understanding in such a manner that we actually submit our judgment to the superior - we presume the superior's judgment is best, that is understanding is more perfect than our own, and that even the command is imprudent, God in His graciousness will reward the religious for his perfect obedience:

"But he who aims at making an entire and perfect oblation of himself, in addition to his will, must offer his understanding, which is a further and the highest degree of obedience. He must not only will, but he must think the same as the superior, submitting his own judgment to that of the superior, so far as a devout will can bend the understanding.

For although this faculty has not the freedom of the will, and naturally gives its assent to what is presented to it as true, there are, however, many instances where the evidence of the known truth is not coercive and it can, with the help of the will, favor one side or the other. When this happens every truly obedient man should conform his thought to the thought of the superior.

And this is certain, since obedience is a holocaust in which the whole man without the slightest reserve is offered in the fire of charity to his Creator and Lord through the hands of His ministers. And since it is a complete surrender of himself by which a man dispossesses himself to be possessed and governed by Divine Providence through his superiors, it cannot be held that obedience consists merely in the execution, by carrying the command into effect and in the will's acquiescence, but also in the judgment, which must approve the superior's command, insofar, as has been said, as it can, through the energy of the will bring itself to this."

St. Ignatius does propose a manner for an inferior to make an objection known to a superior if he legitimately knows of a better way of doing something; for example, a superior orders him to construct a fence in a certain manner but the inferior, through his natural skills, knows of a more secure means of doing so. Even so, the inferior ought to be entirely submissive to the will of his superior. In such cases, Ignatius says:

"But [obedience] does not mean that you should not feel free to propose a difficulty, should something occur to you different from his opinion, provided you pray over it, and it seems to you in God's presence that you ought to make the representation to the superior. If you wish to proceed in this matter without suspicion of attachment to your own judgment, you must maintain indifference both before and after making this representation, not only as to undertaking or relinquishing the matter in question, but you must even go so far as to be better satisfied with, and to consider as better, whatever the superior shall ordain."

One last reflection: It is often repeated that the obedience required of Catholics is not meant to be "blind"; that is, it is not meant to be unthinking. It would be interesting to discuss what people mean exactly by the word "blind", but as far as St. Ignatius is concerned regarding his Jesuits, he does specify that he wishes obedience to be blind:

"The third means to subject the understanding which is even easier and surer, and in use among the holy Fathers, is to presuppose and believe, very much as we are accustomed to do in matters of faith, that what the superior enjoins is the command of God our Lord and His holy will. Then to proceed blindly, without injury of any kind, to the carrying out of the command, with the prompt impulse of the will to obey. So we are to think Abraham did when commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac [Gen. 22:2-3]. Likewise, under the new covenant, some of the holy Fathers to whom Cassian refers, as the Abbot John, who did not question whether what he was commanded was profitable or not, as when with such great labor he watered a dry stick throughout a year. Or whether it was possible or not, when he tried so earnestly at the command of his superior to move a rock which a large number of men would not have been able to move.

We see that God our Lord sometimes confirmed this kind of obedience with miracles, as when Maurus, Saint Benedict's disciple, going into a lake at the command of his superior, did not sink. Or in the instance of another, who being told to bring back a lioness, took hold of her and brought her to his superior. And you are acquainted with others. What I mean is that this manner of subjecting one's own judgment, without further inquiry, supposing that the command is holy and in conformity with God's will, is in use among the saints and ought to be imitated by anyone who wishes to obey perfectly in all things, where manifestly there appears no sin."

He says elsewhere in the same letter while discussing obedience of understanding that obedience ought to be blind, and that religious obedience itself is overthrown when it is less than blind:

"When one acts in opposition to one's judgment, one cannot obey lovingly and cheerfully as long as such repugnance remains. Promptitude fails, and readiness, which are impossible without agreement of judgment, such as when one doubts whether it is good or not to do what is commanded. That renowned simplicity of blind obedience fails, when we call into question the justice of the command, or even condemn the superior because he bids us to do something that is not pleasing. Humility fails, for although on the one hand we submit, on the other we prefer ourselves to the superior."

May all Catholic religious return to these classic principles of obedience.
St. Ignatius Loyola, ora pro nobis!

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

St. Thomas speaks of an indiscreet obedience which obeys even in matters unlawful.
We must understand that It is TRUTH, and NOT INDISCRETE OBEDIENCE that obviates heresy, schism of Truth and apostasy.

Ever mindful said...

And yet, and yet, and yet.....

The Hymn Selector said...

Going by your arguments, will St Paul be considered disobedient for rebuking St Peter to his face? Or St Catherine of Siena for trying to convince Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome?

c matt said...

Well, it seems even Ignatius had his qualifier "where manifestly there appears no sin."

So if a command seems foolish, imprudent, counter-productive, whatever, as long as not sinful, Ignatius would appear to counsel obeying the command.

Boniface said...

To address some of these comments-

St. Thomas in Summa II-II Q. 104 art. 5 on obedience notes that persons are bound to obey their superiors in all things with two exceptions:

(1) When the command of one superior contradicts the command of an even higher authority

(2) When a superior commands something that is outside the scope of his command.

Under the first exception, he places those instances where superiors command something sinful - as to obey a sinful command compels one to contradict the will of the highest authority; i.e., God. C Matt, obviously Ignatius teaches that obedience is not due in matters that are sinful. All the saints agree on that and I know of nobody who has argued otherwise. So while Ignatius says religious obedience should be "perfect" and "blind", that does not mean "unconditionally absolute", as you and Aquinas point out.

But to the original comment by Anonymous, I find nothing in Aquinas, at least in his section on obedience, that authorizes an inferior to disobey a superior just because to obey would be indiscreet. I find St. Ignatius suggesting we submit our discretion to the superior's will.

To address Hymn Selector, no, of course those instances would not be wrong. We need to remember Ignatius is writing narrowly on the obedience due of a religious to his superior; this is religious obedience to those whom one is bound by vows, not obedience in general, much less that of lay people.

Though St. Peter had a higher office than St. Paul, Paul owed him no religious obedience; he had no vows to St. Peter and though Peter had a higher office Paul was not under obedience to him.

Ditto with St. Catherine. She was not under religious obedience to the Pope. Even if she was, St. Ignatius offers an allowance for an inferior to make known certain difficulties or problems to superiors, provided one maintains an attitude of indifference. I cited this in the article.

Boniface said...

I should also note, regarding the second condition when obedience may be disregarded (when the superior commands something outside the scope of his authority), Ignatius notes that when it is a matter of vowed, religious obedience, both temporal and spiritual things fall under the scope of the superiors authority. The only thing that does not is those things pertaining to the natural end of the body, as Aquinas notes (i.e., a superior cannot command his inferior to starve himself, maim himself, etc - such things would also be sinful and fall under Aquinas' other exception).

And Hymn Selector, I was not under the impression that this was "my arguments"; I merely quoted at length from St. Ignatius. If you disagree with part or all of St. Ignatius' essay, please cite which portion and explain why you disagree.

Anonymous said...

I am confused as to why you bring up the matter of obedience as a timely one in the contemporary Church, but then qualify it with discussing only religious obedience (one under vows to a higher authority). In what sense, then, is this "timely" for the contemporary Church as opposed to any other period of time?

Boniface said...

Well discussions of obedience are always timely I suppose. But ours is an age of chaos, and in chaos obedience is one of the first virtues to go. Many Catholics struggle with this issue today because seldom have many of our leaders been so unworthy of obedience.

But even though he is discussing religious obedience, his thought here still serves as a model for any Catholic seeking to find Gods will through obeying a superior, even though it is not mandatory for those without vows.

Pseudodionysius said...

You should read John Lamont's 2 part exploration of the topic over at The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny:

http://sthughofcluny.org/2014/05/the-catholic-church-and-the-rule-of-law-part-ii.html

http://sthughofcluny.org/2014/05/the-catholic-church-and-the-rule-of-law-part-i.html

Well worth the effort and a fascinating discussion.

Philip said...

I second the suggestion of Pseudodionysius. I looked briefly at John Lamont's lectures. He appears to say that St. Ignatius' account of obedience goes far beyond the traditional Catholic understanding of this virtue. Well worth folding into this discussion.

Boniface said...

I have not read Lamont's lectures, but I think it would also be helpful to read the entirety of Ignatius' letter, as well as some of his other letters on obedience. Does Lamont make the distinction between regular obedience and religious obedience?

Boniface said...

You don't need to answer...I'm reading it now. Good stuff.

Mark said...

I would also read Fr. John Hardon's take on St. Ignatius' Letter on Obedience

http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Virtues/Virtues_003.htm

It caused a lot of controversy, but it has been defended by great saints and Popes alike.

Boniface said...

I've read the Lamont articles and the Hardon article. I will say that I agree (kind of) with some of Lamont's points, but disagree in the major point that Ignatius' teaching denies any place to the intellect.

Regarding the shift from a morality of happiness to a morality of obligation after Trent, I agree; I have even written about it (http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/component/content/article/93-social-teaching/moral-issues/485-morality-of-happiness-vs-morality-of-obligation.html).

But he really tries to draw too huge a distinction between Ignatius and his predecessors. The distinction between obedience to the rule and too superiors is not fair, because in many rules blind obedience to the superior is just part and parcel of the rule. It certainly cannot be said that obeying the superior as a form of obeying God is unique to Ignatius. For example, the Rule of St. Benedict says:

The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, 2which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all. 3Because of the holy service they have professed, or because of dread of hell and for the glory of everlasting life, 4they carry out the superior's order as promptly as if the command came from God himself. 5The Lord says of men like this: No sooner did he hear than he obeyed me (Ps 17[18]:45); 6again, he tells teachers: Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Luke 10:16). 7Such people as these immediately put aside their own concerns, abandon their own will, 8and lay down whatever they have in hand, leaving it unfinished. With the ready step of obedience, they follow the voice of authority in their actions. 9Almost at the same moment, then, as the master gives the instruction the disciple quickly puts it into practice in the fear of God; and both actions together are swiftly completed as one.

It is love that impels them to pursue everlasting life; therefore, they are eager to take the narrow road of which the Lord says: Narrow is the road that leads to life (Matt 7:14). They no longer live by their own judgment, giving in to their whims and appetites; rather they walk according to another's decisions and directions, choosing to live in monasteries and to have an abbot over them. Men of this resolve unquestionably conform to the saying of the Lord: I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me (John 6:38).

This very obedience, however, will be acceptable to God and agreeable to men only if compliance with what is commanded is not cringing or sluggish or half-hearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness. For the obedience shown to superiors is given to God, as he himself said: Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Luke 10:16). Furthermore, the disciples' obedience must be given gladly, for God loves a cheerful giver (II Cor 9: 7). If a disciple obeys grudgingly and grumbles, not only aloud but also in his heart, then, even though he carries out the order, his action will not be accepted with favor by God, who sees that he is grumbling in his heart. He will have no reward for service of this kind; on the contrary, he will incur punishment for grumbling, unless he changes for the better and makes amends.


Notice that Benedict says not only must an order be obeyed, but that the person must assent to it willingly "in his heart", that is, internally.

Not to say that this is no different from Ignatius' teaching at all, but it certainly contains all the seeds of it.

Boniface said...

Furthermore, Lamont's article in treating the victories of the Jesuits entirely disregards their missionary activity, relegating their importance merely to running secondary schools. It's kind of a canard; when having to deal with examples of Jesuit successes, he basically says "Yeah but that had nothing to do with obedience" the exceptions prove the rule.

I also don't agree that merely insisting that a command be obeyed because given by a superior means that you are grounding the source of morality in the mere will over the good to be pursued. There are numerous examples of saints giving commands simply for the sake of training their novices to obey the superior, such as when St. Francis ordered his brothers to plant carrots upside down, or the one Ignatius mentioned where the monk has to water the stick. When I give a command to my children, I expect obedience from them simply "because I said so." That does not imply I am teaching the ground of all obligation lays in external commands just because in this particular case it might.

Finally, Lamont disregards the formal approbation of Ignatius' doctrine on obedience given by Pius XI and mentioned by Fr. Hardon.

So, I think Lamont's articles make some very fascinating connections and I agree with many of them but not all of them. I can certainly see how the Jesuit teaching can be abused - and agree about the infantilization of the laity. But I just don't accept everything he says.

Boniface said...

One final point-

While Lamont draws attention to the disagreement between Aquinas and Ignatius on this point, they are both agreed on one fundamental thing: a superior must be obeyed if it is not a command to sin. Aquinas sees obedience of execution as the essence of obedience; Ignatius sees it as the lowest form of obedience. But both would agree that - short of commanding sin - it would need to be obeyed. In other words, neither Aquinas nor Ignatius would support the idea of a religious disobeying an order, even an imprudent one.

Philip said...

I think this is a pretty important topic, given our current situation. This discussion raises a few questions in my mind.

1.) Are we to consider St. Ignatius correct and St. Thomas wrong since the Jesuit constitutions were approved by the Church? If St. Thomas is wrong, then do we need to revise what we mean by the virtue of obedience in general (e.g. the obedience of children due to their parents) or do we consider that St. Ignatius' view is just a narrow particular one for Jesuits that we as lay people can ignore since we didn't take vows. (Your comments re St. Paul and St. Catherine could be taken as implying this.)

2.) It would seem that St. Ignatius' view is an extreme case of what we all consider good obedience. For example, when we tell our children something, we expect them to obey; i.e. carry out the commanded action (St. Thomas' view of obedience). However, we also would like them to do it cheerfully and willingly and not grudgingly. In addition we would like them to know and approve the reasons we command those actions. If these latter two conditions do not pertain are they disobedient or do they lack something else like filial piety or charity or wisdom?

3.) Do not the "Neo-Catholics" practice this "higher" form of obedience when they not only acknowledge the Pope's authority in taking some action or making some statement, but also explain why we should will it, if the Pope does, and explain why we should have an understanding of it that implies its goodness and desirability.

4.) You say that the seeds of St. Ignatius' view can be found in St. Benedict. But are not the seeds of every extreme view to be found in the moderate, correct view? I see St. Benedict's view as more like what we expect from our children, as discussed above. The question is whether the development is a good one.

5.) In your statements about St. Paul and St. Catherine, you seem to identify "religious" obedience as "vowed" obedience. But did St. Paul, although not sinning against St. Peter, lack the more perfect obedience of St. Ignatius? In any case, are we not, as lay persons, under some kind of religious obedience to the Pope? If not, what kind of obedience is it? Or are we not under any obedience to him? Or only to his teachings, as the Vat II document states: "religious submission of mind and will."

6.) Here is something of interest, I think. John Lamont remarks that St. Robert Bellarmine allayed fears that the Jesuit type of obedience could allow a superior to lead his subject into heresy. St. Robert said that we need not fear that, since the Pope or hierarchy would not allow that to happen. Was Pope Francis referring to this when he told the Friars of the FFI not to worry that they were being re-assigned from their schools to the other colleges in Rome? He said not to worry because the Pope guarantees the orthodoxy of those schools.


Philip said...

I think this is a pretty important topic, given our current situation. This discussion raises a few questions in my mind.

1.) Are we to consider St. Ignatius correct and St. Thomas wrong since the Jesuit constitutions were approved by the Church? If St. Thomas is wrong, then do we need to revise what we mean by the virtue of obedience in general (e.g. the obedience of children due to their parents) or do we consider that St. Ignatius' view is just a narrow particular one for Jesuits that we as lay people can ignore since we didn't take vows. (Your comments re St. Paul and St. Catherine could be taken as implying this.)

2.) It would seem that St. Ignatius' view is an extreme case of what we all consider good obedience. For example, when we tell our children something, we expect them to obey; i.e. carry out the commanded action (St. Thomas' view of obedience). However, we also would like them to do it cheerfully and willingly and not grudgingly. In addition we would like them to know and approve the reasons we command those actions. If these latter two conditions do not pertain are they disobedient or do they lack something else like filial piety or charity or wisdom?

3.) Do not the "Neo-Catholics" practice this "higher" form of obedience when they not only acknowledge the Pope's authority in taking some action or making some statement, but also explain why we should will it, if the Pope does, and explain why we should have an understanding of it that implies its goodness and desirability.

4.) You say that the seeds of St. Ignatius' view can be found in St. Benedict. But are not the seeds of every extreme view to be found in the moderate, correct view? I see St. Benedict's view as more like what we expect from our children, as discussed above. The question is whether the development is a good one.

5.) In your statements about St. Paul and St. Catherine, you seem to identify "religious" obedience as "vowed" obedience. But did St. Paul, although not sinning against St. Peter, lack the more perfect obedience of St. Ignatius? In any case, are we not, as lay persons, under some kind of religious obedience to the Pope? If not, what kind of obedience is it? Or are we not under any obedience to him? Or only to his teachings, as the Vat II document states: "religious submission of mind and will."

6.) Here is something of interest, I think. John Lamont remarks that St. Robert Bellarmine allayed fears that the Jesuit type of obedience could allow a superior to lead his subject into heresy. St. Robert said that we need not fear that, since the Pope or hierarchy would not allow that to happen. Was Pope Francis referring to this when he told the Friars of the FFI not to worry that they were being re-assigned from their schools to the other colleges in Rome? He said not to worry because the Pope guarantees the orthodoxy of those schools.

Boniface said...

Those are all good points. I don't know. I do know that both St. Thomas and St. Ignatius would affirm that unless it was a matter of sin, an inferior under vowed obedience would have to obey.

Boniface said...

I would like to say, yes, I think Ignatius is referring to a narrow sort of obedience that is proper for those professed religious under vows.

The Vatican II statement "religious submission of mind and will" does not mean that lay persons have the same submission to the pope as, say, a religious to his immediate superior. Religion is the virtue of justice as applied to God, and it basically means we are to do our duty as Catholics by assenting to the Magisterial teaching even in non-infallible matters.

Yes, I would argue Paul did not have the obedience of a religious to Peter. To have a higher office is not the same thing as to be the superior of a professed religious. We are not talking about better or worse obedience, but Paul simply did not owe Peter the sort of obedience that, say, a nun owes her Mother Superior.

The Maestro said...

I agree that this is an important subject today. I tend to think about it much with regard to the papacy and liturgical law especially.

The popes have certainly always contributed to liturgical development, but until the 20th century they didn't take on the role of the supreme arbiter - nay, creator - of the liturgy. I think the history of the liturgy is a testimony to its supra-human quality: it is not something that men just think up and create at will, even men in authority. They can contribute particular elements to its growth, but they don't build it. Thus, in a way, the liturgy in its essence is something that is not formed by man - much like dogma itself. (Granted there is not a perfect proportion, but its similar enough, I think.) The pope has no authority to command assent to something contrary to dogma. Obviously, he cannot do so within the limits of ex cathedra teaching; but even in non-ex cathedra contexts he has no such authority. And this is not only because it would be sinful for us to obey such a command, but first because dogma is just not the kind of thing that is subject to papal arbitration. What if the liturgy is the same way? If it is, could disobedience be justified when a pope commands something out of harmony with the nature of the liturgy?

Boniface said...

And important topic indeed Maestro.

Of course, even if disobedience would be justified, it would not be for a cluster of lay bloggers to proclaim when that point was reached.

Anonymous said...

http://www.cfnews.org/page88/files/da9f34183725cf13392d5f9f9ccadf6d-334.html

Boniface I would like to know what do you think about this?

Thanks.

Mike

Boniface said...

Good article...brings out a lot of the problems inherent in our current situation.

I tend to stick to the general rule that unless the command is to sin (which may include abandoning the Catholic faith), it ought to be obeyed. The problem with all these sorts of scenarios is what authority is there who can determine when the pope should be resisted? Dictatus Papae of Pope St. Gregory VII states that "a sentence passed by him [the pope] may be retracted by no one; and that he himself, alone of all, may retract it" and "That he himself may be judged by no one."

If "no one" can judge the pope, there is something comedic in all these articles about this subject because even if we were at that state where open rejection of papal demands were necessary, it would certainly not be a bunch of traddie bloggers who would be the ones to declare it so.

Anonymous said...

Can someone help bring this discussion from the abstract down to a real example for me?

When the Pope, for example, states that authentic Islam is opposed to every form of violence, must we assent to that point and obey his authority in this regard?

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful post on obedience, and takes away any ambiguity that I now see I did not question before for the simple reason I didn't see it.

Peter Kwasniewski said...

I can see the importance of emphasizing obedience to legitimate authorities when they are acting within the limits of their office and according to the rules or standards that govern their own actions/decisions. What concerns me about this post is how easily it can be misunderstood in exactly the way that has caused incalculable damage in the Church in the past 50 years, namely, "Father says we should stand and receive communion on the hand, Father says we should have altar girls, Father says..." So much damage has been done by a blind obedience to people who are themselves abusing their own authority. In difficult times, the Catholic faithful are required by their baptism and confirmation to know the teaching and discipline of the Church, to stand by, to defend it, and to "disobey" their superiors (which, in reality, is a form of obedience to higher authority).

The other issue that is crucial is: Who exactly is my superior? It is relatively easy for a religious (a monk or friar, etc.) to know who is in charge over him, but if I am a layman working in the world, who is my superior that I must obey? The pastor and the bishop? Yes -- for as long as I live in this territory, and in regard to matters over which they have competence. It is a more complex situation, it seems to me, than the one that Ignatius writes about.

Boniface said...

Dr. K, yes it is tricky when taken from a layman a perspective. But as far as I can tell St Ignatius wrote this with reference to religious only; lay people who do not have a "superior" certainly cannot be expected to give someone this sort of obedience.

In this cases you mentioned, it is helpful I find to make a distinction between what "father says" and what the Church teaches. While the Church has regrettably allowed many abuses, she has never mandated them. One cannot in the strict sense "disobey" a command to receive communion in the hand because the alternative (the traditional method) has always simultaneously been allowed.

Of course that doesn't get to the bottom of why these abuses are even allowed as "options" to begin with.

Boniface said...

Anon, even if the pope said something so stupid as that violence is opposed to "true" Islam, it would be no disobedience to disagree with that because that is no teaching or juridical act; it is merely the pope's perspective on something, and while we are bound to assent to the Church's teaching and his juridical acts, one cannot be compelled to "obey" a worldview or a perspective.

Anonymous said...

I was a traditionalist for a while. Even fell into sedevacantism when I realized what the indefectability of the Church implies. But I realized why I was getting such absurd conclusions. I left the circus.

Many traditionalists don't realize the purpose of a magisterium. They have the same foundational error as Luther did, but apply it to written Church documents instead of scripture. If they cannot understand how to reconcile pre- and post-Vatican II teachings, either the teachings are not binding or the one teaching it is not Catholic. Even if a pope were to contradict their understanding of the faith he suddenly lacks authority. They have no need for a magisterium, for their intellectual faith is the pillar of truth, not the Church.

All I can do is admit I cannot understand what is happening in the Church, but I believe God's promises. Because of his promises, I will trust the Church, even if it seems nonsensical to my rational mind, as it may have seemed to Luther. Private revelation and conspiracy theories be damned.