Monday, January 10, 2005

Of Humility and Obedience

Sadly, parishioners of the Saint Stanislaus Parish in north Saint Louis have voted to withhold their church property from the Archdiocese, in violation of canon law. The parishoners, of course, are getting much positive media attention, who are portraying the disagreement as the usual class conflict.

One of the main virtues recognized in natural law is that of obedience: a person submits to his superior with the precise intent of fulfilling the injunction. This virtue is valued by Catholicism as the highest of the moral, if not theological, virtues. Obedience is the willful following of a legitimate authority, without coersion. Our modern world, being democratic and egalitarian, is repulsed by the notion of obedience, and prefers to use coercive power to ensure compliance with authority.

If the parish is being disobedient out of scorn or derision of the authority of Archbishop, then this act would be a grave sin; but since it seems that the parish is acting out of fear of losing their church to which they spent much effort and money, this act may be venially sinful, but certainly appearing to show pride and avarice, as well as disobedience.

From the Rule of Saint Benedict:

CHAPTER LXVIII
If a Brother Is Commanded to Do Impossible Things


If, perchance, any difficult or impossible tasks be enjoined on a brother, let him nevertheless receive the order of him who commandeth with all meekness and obedience. If, however, he see that the gravity of the task is altogether beyond his strength, let him quietly and seasonably submit the reasons for his inability to his Superior, without pride, protest, or dissent. If, however, after his explanation the Superior still insisteth on his command, let the younger be convinced that so it is good for him; and let him obey from love, relying on the help of God.

CHAPTER II
What Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be


Let the Abbot always bear in mind that he must give an account in the dread judgment of God of both his own teaching and of the obedience of his disciples. And let the Abbot know that whatever lack of profit the master of the house shall find in the sheep, will be laid to the blame of the shepherd. On the other hand he will be blameless, if he gave all a shepherd's care to his restless and unruly flock, and took all pains to correct their corrupt manners; so that their shepherd, acquitted at the Lord's judgment seat, may say to the Lord with the Prophet: "I have not hid Thy justice within my heart. I have declared Thy truth and Thy salvation" (Ps 39[40]:11). "But they contemning have despised me" (Is 1:2; Ezek 20:27). Then at length eternal death will be the crushing doom of the rebellious sheep under his charge.

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So it appears as though we may have a church go into schism, which is greatly harmful to the Church and wounds the Body of Christ. Some humility is called for on the part of St. Stanislaus church: I assume that they think of themselves as good Catholics, and I am sure many are quite faithful. It is very sad that they have the pride to oppose canon law and their Archbishop in this matter.

Of course this could be a huge victory for those who wish to continue the Protestantization of the Church and so eliminate the hierarchy. A Church divided is a weak Church: I am sure that the enemy loves the division of Christianity into ever smaller, disagreeing pieces. This is why unity is critical, and unity can only come with humility and obedience.

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