Skip to main content

Breaking Down St. Thomas' Summa Article on Obedience - 1g - Objections (updated)


The following are some objections raised by 'Gerard' in our discussion on the Suscipe Domine forum.


Links to other posts in this latest series on obedience


Obedience as per St. Thomas:

DisObedience as per St. Thomas Aquinas:

Key Distinctions:

Application to the 1988 Consecrations:



St. Thomas on Legitimate authority and obedience:

Gerard: Your main error is you are treating obedience as if it is only a principle instead of a virtue. By following only the principle of obedience a person can exercise authority without virtue. The principle is one of authority which depends upon the virtues which they serve. Obedience is a virtue that is subordinate to the higher virtue of Justice.
Therefore an exercise of authority that is unjust is antithetical to the virtue of obedience. (1) Obedience then becomes a vice which enables the opposite of justice. It's not a sin for the Superior of a monastery to continually order the monks to refrain from regular exercise or eating simple, healthy foods. (2) He may decide that they need more time in the schedule for making chocolates to sell. He may make spiritual times "optional" and offer incentives to build the business aspects. He may bring in food processing  procedures and change the sleep schedules. Before long, the monastery's population has health concerns that they didn't have due to lack of exercise and proper nutrition. They may be mentally and emotionally strained as a result of the disruption of the rules of the order. And as a result the faith may decline. All done in accordance with the "principle" of obedience with no regard for the virtues.(3)
1. An unjust order would be outside the sphere of authority of the superior.  However, this raises the question of what is considered an unjust order (perhaps disordered would be a better phrase).
2. Obviously, the example provided by Gerard is outside the sphere of authority of a superior as it impacts on the rule of the order.  If however such an order was within the rule, there is nothing stopping the monks from appealing the order or simply leaving such a lax order.
3. As demonstrated, the argument is false as in both cases the order is outside of the sphere of authority of the superior.  Obedience, in the case of the malnourished monks is optional.

I asked Gerard a topical question on obedience: Gerard do you think that the grand master of the order of Malta was right to obey the pope and resign?

Gerard: From what I've read, Festing did the right thing by bouncing Boeselager. If the order is independent and the actions are defending the faith, and the order/request to resign is based on Boeselager's actions, then the Pope is creating a scandal by persecuting the faith and its defenders.Added to that is the fact that Francis is waging a war on tradition. A little St. Paul style "resistance to the face" is something Francis could use right about now.If anything, the Knights should request a commission be established to clarify the "splitting papacy" described by Monsignor Ganswein to determine whether or not Benedict lost the papacy when he did that and determine if Francis cooperated with it, whether he ever truly attained the papacy. The confusion out of Rome is more problematic than dismissing a leader for acting contrary to Church teaching by distributing contraceptives by the thousands.Whatever the outcome, the pushback would be a massive political blow and create a sensation. Better than anything the vile Jesuits did when they used to create nightmares of defiance for JPII.But what we see is a pretense on the part of all parties that there is no real crisis of faith going on. There is a false belief that the "regular mode" is reflective of reality. The denial that there is a problem in the officeholders of the papacy itself is making the situation worse, not better.

This is a clear case of the order being outside the sphere of authority of the superior.  While Fra. Festing is a religious, the order to resign by the Pope has no basis in Law.  A Knight that I spoke with indicated that there is an understanding that the Pope did not have the authority to issue the command. A theologian that I spoke with indicated emphatically that Fra. Festing was wrong to obey this order.  While I did not want a 'rote' answer, I did expect a clear and simple answer.  Frankly, after reading this I still didn't know clearly what Gerard thought, I could guess but that is always dangerous in dealing with Gerard.
Gerard: During the regular mode of life. Resistance is contingent upon whether the order is "against God" not whether it involves personal sin. ... You also keep falsely claiming that any abuse of authority cannot be resisted and any resistance attempted is based on subjective opinion.
The crisis in the Church is objective, identifiable, quantifiable. A Churchman in authority denying this reality and enabling the crisis is exercising his authority based on his own erroneous subjective opinion.
So, if that Churchman orders his subordinate not consecrate traditional bishops or to offer a liturgy that is inferior and detrimental to the faith, the subordinate is bound to ignore those orders which objectively belong to his superior's sphere of authority.
A noted in an earlier post, something that is Against God is a sin.  If the order involves sin, we are obliged to disregard the order.  I would assert that an abuse of authority is something that is outside of the sphere of authority of the superior and therefore obedience is optional.  Unless the order is sinful then it is obligatory to disregard the order.

Update: Gerard asserts that I "keep falsely claiming that any abuse of authority cannot be resisted". I do not recall making this claim explicitly anywhere in my conversations with Gerard. Beyond the generalization fallacy, we can state that an abuse of authority is one that either is outside of the sphere of authority or is sinful.  Obedience is either optional or to be refused (respectively) in these cases.

Example 1: The SSPX uses the 1963 liturgy instead of earlier ones because this is the last point in which the liturgical changes did not involve a danger to the faith.  In other words, to knowingly adhere to the New Mass after the realisation of the danger it represents is sinful and therefore the 'order' is to be disregarded.

Example 2: Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment (which I haven't read) is on a topic that is outside of his sphere of authority.  He can't make it a sin to use your air conditioner.  Whether or not you want to obey such a 'precept' is up to the individual.
Gerard: St. Alphonsus Ligouri left a subordinate in charge of the Redemptorists while he was traveling. The subordinate in charge disliked St. Gerard Majella. He therefore ordered him to trace crosses on the pave stones with his tongue. He obeyed and ended up with a badly bloodied tongue. This was false obedience. Directly against the 5th commandment by damaging one's own body out of servility to an evil command and cooperating in the sin of another. St. Alphonsus was distressed when he returned and had the person in charge removed.
Gerard: Don't dodge. We are not talking about a proximate sin. We are talking about a legitimate command that is implicitly intended towards undermining the faith. The implicating can not be known isolated but can only be seen contextually. You also keep falsely claiming that any abuse of authority cannot be resisted and any resistance attempted is based on subjective opinion.
This is a repeat of his earlier assertion. As noted an abuse of authority is dependent upon the sphere of the authority of the superior. For example, St. Gerard Majella obeyed a command that was outside of the sphere of authority and therefore he did not need to obey. That he decided to obey and mortify himself is not, as Gerard suggests, a sin against the 5th commandment. Otherwise the more severe penances that he took upon himself would have been sinful.  Now an order 'implicitly intended towards undermining the faith' is a bit of a stretch. If the explicit order is legit (in sphere of authority and non-sinful) subject could not discern sin in either the immediate or proximate case - then there is an obligation to obey. God does not expect us to know the future and read souls.  We work on what we can assert based on the objective facts.
Gerard: So, if that Churchman orders his subordinate not consecrate traditional bishops or to offer a liturgy that is inferior and detrimental to the faith, the subordinate is bound to ignore those orders which objectively belong to his superior's sphere of authority.
Dealing with the last first.  A liturgy that is detrimental to the faith is obviously sinful - hence there is an obligation to disobey.  A perfect example is the New Mass.

I assume the first part is a veiled reference to the 1988 consecrations.

I've already covered this in this post ( ), but here's what I originally wrote in response to Gerard:

Let's frame this using St. Thomas:

1. Is the order known: yes - explicitly.
2. Is it within the sphere of authority?: yes
3. Does it involve sin in the:
Immediate case: No
Proximate case:Yes. [Note: This may actually be an immediate case as opposed to proximate]

The Archbishop noted that if he had not consecrated bishop to provide priests to the sspx, it would have been a dereliction of duty as the sspx would have been dependent upon non-sspx bishops for the sacrament of orders.

The ramifications of this would have resulted in the sspx be unable to work for the salvation of souls where most needed - in dioceses where the local ordinary would not "invite" the sspx because they are the root of the problem.

Please note that the fact that the Archbishop was right, is retrospective and  therefore not part of my argument.

Conclusion: As obeying the order required placing oneself in a proximate occasion of sin, it was licit to not obey the Pope and to consecrate bishops.
Gerard: Following St. Thomas, If you can deduce that there is an intention in the order "however it is known" to be against God, it is unlawful to obey. ... If the subordinate is capable of seeing the effect of the cause he is placing, it's not his imagination, and if the effect is evil, he cannot be invincibly ignorant.
Gerard is referring to the following:
Again, this act has a special aspect of praiseworthiness by reason of its object. For while subjects have many obligations towards their superiors, this one, that they are bound to obey their commands, stands out as special among the rest. Wherefore obedience is a special virtue, and its specific object is a command tacit or express, because the superior's will, however it become known, is a tacit precept, and a man's obedience seems to be all the more prompt, forasmuch as by obeying he forestalls the express command as soon as he understands his superior's will.
Gerard is obviously wrong, a tacit precept is still bound by the principles described earlier, it is not some vague intention.

Later I mentioned that "God teaches us how we are subject to him in natural or written law. Now - it should be common knowledge amongst Catholics that something against the natural or written law is ... a sin."
Gerard: Wrong!! Something that is against the natural or written law is…EVIL. It is NOT NECESSARILY A SIN. A sin is a morally bad act in which a good's end is deformed to the point of no longer being in conformity with reason and God's Law. Sins are also committed in ignorance, weakness and malice.
Obviously, Gerard is nitpicking as I indicated "God teaches us how we are to be subject to him in natural or written law".  The point of discussion is how humans act, not how a rock behaves.  I covered the details of sin under an earlier post.

Because of St. Thomas' use of the phrase "regular mode of life" Gerard appears to assume that the "regular mode of life" can be suspended  or that we can be in an "irregular mode of life" due to the general crisis of the Church.
I don't have to "assume" anything. I pointed out that the "regular mode of life" of the IHM nuns was utterly destroyed by the imposition of psychologists implementing the notions of Carl Rogers.
I think I finally understand what Gerard was getting at ... of course I'm not certain. I am arguing the principle and Gerard has switched to an application of the principle.

First, as we know from the other posts, a "regular mode of life" is the rule of the order.  If the destruction of the IHM was performed outside the rule of the order, then there was no obligation to obey.  If the rule of the order was altered, then they have the option to withdraw from the order as such.


Popular posts from this blog

Thirty Days Prayer to Our Lady -

Providence has cast this prayer in my path twice in the last week.  I decided to post it here in order to have a copy handy.


Source Intro Prayer

With the condition of affairs in the cultural, political and physical world in a state of disarray we enter Lent - Ash Wednesday - February 25th - 2004 - more compelled then ever to pursue, diligently and faithfully, our personal road to holiness. It is a long, difficult path each of us treads, however, we do know the journey can be sweeter and more blessed if we travel it with others. Jesus has told us: "Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, I am with you." And there are many other biblical passages, as well, that urge us to love and help one another.

A 'Thirty Day Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary ' was said by many Catholics during troubled times in their lives up until Vatican II. While looking through old stored away boxes, I came across a small white prayer book of the kind give…

Rorate-Caeil: Amazon Synod - Various articles.

So the exhortation has been published and is not as bad as feared, but perhaps it remains bad.

I have collected a number of articles from Rorate. Time allowing I'll search more and form my own opinion.


BREAKING — On the Amazon Synod document, let’s remain positive
Rorate-Caeli: On the Amazon Synod Document, let's remain positive

Rorate has learned that, at the current state of the text, Catholics should remain positive regarding the most controversial points of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Querida Amazonia”, to be published tomorrow.

We cannot say anything, unfortunately, but we refer readers to the first paragraph of this post we published last week:

La Fede Quotidiana has learned of an important fact relating to the coming papal document on the subject of the Amazon. And this fact, unless modified at the last moment, contradicts what has been recently reported concerning a text in which ‘a yes’ is given to viri probati and the married priesthood.…