Dissent and Obedience

‘God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. … Perfect love casts out fear’

Sometimes I almost despair.  I have been praised and vilified, scorned, ignored, laughed at, hated, and all because I am a faithful Magisterial priest an obedient son of the Church. I am just one man and I feel the pangs, yet, I am called to be faithful, as are all baptised.

Someone asked me, “Today, what is the greatest danger to the Church?”  My answer is easy; it is disobedience.  Immediately, people will think of someone, bishop, priest, Pope, or anyone at all that is at variance with themselves, and the Church.

I am relatively new in terms of being a Catholic priest.  However, in the six years I have been a priest some of the following have happened.

  • Been vilified on the phone by a Latin mass goer because “I am not a priest because I am married”.
  • Been vilified because I do not (yet) celebrate a Latin mass
  • Been praised for wearing a cassock, and been vilified for wearing the same
  • Been praised for being a magisterial priest, been vilified for it
  • Been praised for being obedient to the Pope, and been vilified for it
  • Been told I am too orthodox, been told I am not orthodox enough
  • Been praised for praying for Pope Francis, and been vilified for it
  • Been vilified for not saying that Pope Benedict is still Pope, and been praised for it
  • Been praised for teaching the Magisterium, been vilified for it
  • Been praised for giving communion in the hand (an Ordinariate praxis), and been vilified for it.
  • Been called a good priest, a bad priest, an evil priest, and the list could go on

Each and every one of the above has, at its heart, some form of disobedience and dissent.

Disobedience takes many forms.

  • One can dissent from the teaching of the Magisterium as codified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I am a Catholic except for …. (insert some form of dissent – homosexual, abortion, infidelity…)
  • One can dissent from obedience to those given charge over us, usually based on something they have done or said that does not fit our agenda.
  • One can dissent from canonical obedience to the Rites of the Church. I only go to a Latin mass, people have said, yet there are 24 other Rites in the Church that do not use Latin or English, and the Ordinariate has been given the mass in English. I take communion only on the tongue, people have said, yet the Church has decreed that Communion can be given in both species, and the Ordinariate gives communion in both species, kneeling.  I wear a veil, people have said, which is right and a good practice (one veils what is holy), and yet the Church has decreed that women can choose not to wear a veil. Each and every instance has at its heart disobedience to what has been given by the Church through the Pontiff, and the Bishops.
  • One can dissent by not acknowledging the Pope as the Supreme Pontiff. And the list could go on.

One might not like any of the above, one might question whether it is right or not.  However, the Church is a Divine Institution, a continuing revelation of Christ in the world, and as such, it is He and He alone that has control.  Usually, if one dissents, or is disobedient, there is a form of spiritual pride at work, one that says that “I know what is best.”

How does any of the above further the Kingdom of God?  How does any of the above attract people to know the beauty and Grace of God?  How does any of the above attract people into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ?  How does any of the above teach people that to follow God is a Holy and righteous occupation?  How does any of the above point to the love of God?  How does any of the above show the Sacrifice of Christ for all mankind?  How does any of the above demonstrate that we love?  How does any of the above tell people that God loves them, cares for them, and nurtures them?  How does any of the above demonstrate God’s forgiveness?

When I came into the Church, I had one aim, to further the Kingdom of God.  Furthering the Kingdom is the essential nature of the call to be Catholic.  Each and every one of us is charged with the Great Commission, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Mt 28: 19-20)

If all we do, day by day, is to snipe at each other, be disobedient to the Magisterium, be disillusioned with what is given by the Pope, and the Bishops, then how does that work to further the Kingdom.

Personally, I think that the Devil is having a field day, misdirection, dissention, sniping at each other, disobedience to the Pope and the Bishops, despair at this Synod or that Synod, looking to the next scandal, despair at the previous scandal, looking to the future and not the present.  All of this works in Satan’s favour.

There is much more to be gained by loving Christ, having a relationship with Him, working out our own salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2: 13) We must become holy, not only the priest up the road, not only the Pope, not only the Bishop, not only the man or woman one castigates because they do not do Church as you do, but ourselves.  If we want to further the church we must become holy, that means you and I.

The sense in which we are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling is twofold. First, the Greek verb rendered “work out” means “to continually work to bring something to completion or fruition.” We do this by actively pursuing obedience in the process of sanctification, which Paul explains further in Philippians. He describes himself as “straining” and “pressing on” toward the goal of Christlikeness (Philippians 3:13-14). The “trembling” he experiences is the attitude Christians are to have in pursuing this goal—a healthy fear of offending God through disobedience and an awe and respect for His majesty and holiness. St Paul says that, obedience and submission to the God we revere and respect is our “reasonable service”

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rmns 12: 1-2)

Are you holy? Are you perfect? Are you building up the Body of Christ? Are you furthering the Kingdom of God?  Are you Christlike in what you do?  Are you Christlike in what you say? Are you Christlike in how you act?

The first sin was that of disobedience, and the world has never quite recovered, and we must not continue to be disobedient.  Christ came in obedience to the will of the Father, to offer Himself as an oblation of Love for all, we are called to further that Oblation in the world by becoming Christlike, in love, reparation and sacrifice. It is His Church, His Body and we do a grave disservice if we do not continue in obedience to Him, in faithful love, and Christlike surrender.

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