Gaylord Diocesan Watch has always sought to be obedient to the Church and to be an organization that assists the Diocese of Gaylord in meeting its mission to faithful Catholics of the Diocese. As part of this mission, we have informed Catholics of problems in the Diocese. The responses among clergy of the Diocese to problems we point out have all too often been centered around obedience: “I would be disobedient if I did or said that.”
But what is the proper understanding of obedience? Recently, an excellent article was written on this topic. It is obvious that obedience is a very necessary virtue. But in order to appropriately live out this virtue, it must be nurtured and properly understood. Obedience to a sinful directive is not obedience; it is sin.
These are the main ingredients to proper obedience:
- The act of obeying can never be a sinful act.
- There must be trust between the one commanding the obedience and the one who is obeying. Without trust, a vital ingredient in obedience is missing. Trust can be viewed in many ways, including a ratio of truth over time. If trust is to be established, it must be based on consistent truth. If truth is broken, trust can only be established with persistent and uninterrupted truth occurring over time. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to re-establish trust if it is broken. Sometimes it cannot be re-established if lies recur. We have seen this too often in our clergy, and this has led to incredible harm.
- The next important concept is that the person who demands obedience must be obedient to a higher authority. If a priest is expected to be obedient to a bishop, then the bishop should be obedient to God in both the divine and natural law.
- The person who demands obedience should only demand it in those areas where he has authority. One example is that of medical decisions. A bishop, for example, cannot demand a priest undergo a certain medical procedure or take a certain medication (vaccination) that his doctor did not recommend.
- The demand for obedience also requires that the common good is increased when a demand for obedience is given. If an authority uses the demand of obedience against the common good, then that demand lacks authority to be obeyed and should not be obeyed.
As we continue to live out our mission to serve the Diocese of Gaylord, this concept of obedience is essential to our work. We continue to be obedient to the Magisterium of the Church and we will continue to promote true obedience to our priests and bishop. We also will identify when false obedience is occurring and we will call out those who do not take a stand when they succumb to false obedience.