Analysis of Dissent According to the Church

By Bruce Sabalaskey
Copyright 2000. All Rights Reserved.


This article is a companion to my article titled Analysis of Dissent According to the Bible.

Some dissenters claim that dissent is good for the Church[1]. Some say that dissent is not only good but the duty and responsibility of good Catholics[2] [3]. Nothing could be further from the Truth. The Church teaches instead the virtue of obedience. Church teachings state clearly that:

Focusing on, but not limited to, Vatican II teachings, it will be shown that the Church has always taught that submission of one's will to the doctrine of the Church is necessary for salvation to anyone calling themselves Catholic. The primary document of Vatican II that explains the role of the Church Hierarchy and people of God is the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, titled Lumen Gentium in Latin. Only a smattering of the Church's teachings regarding obedience and dissent are contained in this article, but they are perfectly clear nonetheless.

Obedience is a strong thread throughout all of the Church's teachings. In fact, God Himself was obedient. One will also notice that a term most noticeably absent in the vocabulary of the dissenters is that very word obedience. Dissent is essentially rebellion or disobedience to the teachings of the Church, which are in reality Divine Truths revealed by God. Listening to the Church is listening to God Himself. Similarly, rejecting the Church is rejecting God. "He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me" (Luke 10:16).

The Catholic Church is a Hierarchical Teaching Church

Before specifically getting into the subject of dissent, it is important to understand how Catholics obtain their doctrine and dogma in which to believe. The Church has a specific hierarchical organization for the tasks related to doctrine, that organization being called the Magisterium. The Magisterium is headed by the Pope. Lumen Gentium section III explains the tasks of the Pope and Magisterium, summarized excerpts of which are shown below:

  1. The Church receives the Faith as delivered by Jesus Christ and handed down through the ages from the Apostles and their successors. The Church does not "create" or "establish" or "invent" the Faith or its principles.
  2. The Church teaches the Faith it has received to the current generation.
  3. The Church defends the Faith it has received against error (i.e. heresy).

#8: "... [The Catholic Church] is the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Savior, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care (Jn. 21:17), commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it (cf. Matt. 28:18, etc.), and which he raised up for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. ..."

#18: "This sacred synod, following in the steps of the First Vatican Council, teaches and declares with it that Jesus Christ, the eternal pastor, set up the holy Church by entrusting the apostles with their mission as he himself had been sent by the Father (cf. Jn. 20:21). He willed that their successors, the bishops namely, should be the shepherds in his Church until the end of the world. In order that the episcopate itself, however, might be one and undivided he put Peter at the head of the other apostles, and in him he set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion. This teaching concerning the institution, the permanence, the nature and import of the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and his infallible teaching office, the sacred synod proposes anew to be firmly believed by all the faithful, and, proceeding undeviatingly with this same undertaking, it proposes to proclaim publicly and enunciate clearly the doctrine concerning bishops, successors of the apostles, who together with Peter's successor, the Vicar of Christ and the visible head of the whole Church, direct the house of the living God."

#45. "It is the task of the Church's hierarchy to feed the People of God and to lead them to good pasture (cf. Ezek. 34:14). Accordingly it is for the hierarchy to make wise laws for the regulation of the practice of the counsels whereby the perfect love of God and of our neighbor is fostered in a unique way."

Vatican II Teaches Obedience

Using the common phrase "Spirit of Vatican II" as justification, dissenters claim that Vatican II focused on changing the Church to become "up to date with the modern times." That is simply a misrepresentation of the Truth. While dissenters want to replace the Truths contained in teachings of the Church with their own under the guise of "getting up to date," what Vatican II really focused on was to find a new method to teach the same unchanging Truth. Essentially the intent was to change the method of teaching, not the teaching (i.e. Truth) itself. The Vatican II opening speech by Pope John XXIII states this clearly, as do the documents produced by Vatican II.

Vatican II Dei Verbum, which references Biblical teaching, summarizes the need for obedience quite clearly:

#5: " 'The obedience of faith' (Rom. 13:26; see 1:5; 2 Cor 10:5-6) 'is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,' and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him."

Lumen Gentium reiterates many times in specific detail that obedience is required. Such obedience is not only for that of the laity (the People of God) but also that of Bishops and priests to the same teachings of the Church. The various forms and conditions for obedience are shown below. Nowhere in Vatican II teachings is it ever stated that one should dissent from Church teachings.

The People of God must obey the teaching authority of the Church who has received and then propagates the Faith to the current generation. Vatican II Lumen Gentium states:

#12: "... By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium), and obeying it, receives not the mere word of men, but truly the word of God (cf. 1 Th. 2:13), the faith once for all delivered to the saints (cf. Jude 3). The People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life."

#25: "Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated."

#25: "Although the bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter's successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teaching concerning matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely." [40] 

Vatican II was itself a Council and proclaims that its teachings must be obeyed. Vatican II Lumen Gentium explains the need for obedience while at the same time proclaiming the need to eliminate dissension:

#25: "This is still more clearly the case when, assembled in an ecumenical council, they are, for the universal Church, teachers of and judges in matters of faith and morals, whose decisions must be adhered to with the loyal and obedient assent of faith."

#28: "The priests, prudent cooperators of the Episcopal college and its support and mouthpiece, called to the service of the People of God, constitute, together with their bishop, a unique sacerdotal college (presbyterium) dedicated it is true to a variety of distinct duties. In each local assembly of the faithful they represent in a certain sense the bishop, with whom they are associated in all trust and generosity; in part they take upon themselves his duties and solicitude and in their daily toils discharge them. Those who, under the authority of the bishop, sanctify and govern that portion of the Lord's flock assigned to them render the universal Church visible in their locality and contribute efficaciously towards building up the whole body of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:12). And ever anxious for the good of the children of God they should be eager to lend their efforts to the pastoral work of the whole diocese, nay rather of the whole Church. By reason of this sharing in the priesthood and mission of the bishop the priests should see in him a true father and obey him with all respect. The bishop, on his side, should treat the priests, his helpers, as his sons and friends, just as Christ calls his disciples no longer servants but friends (cf. Jn. 15:15). All priests, then, whether diocesan or religious, by reason of the sacrament of Orders and of the ministry correspond to and cooperate with the body of bishops and, according to their vocation and the grace that is given them they serve the welfare of the whole Church."

#28: "Since the human race today is tending more and more towards civil, economic and social unity, it is all the more necessary that priests should unite their efforts and combine their resources under the leadership of the bishops and the Supreme Pontiff and thus eliminate division and dissension in every shape or form, so that all mankind may be led into the unity of the family of God."

#37: "Like all Christians, the laity should promptly accept in Christian obedience what is decided by the pastors who, as teachers and rulers of the Church, represent Christ. In this they will follow Christ's example who, by his obedience unto death, opened the blessed way of the liberty of the sons of God to all men. Nor should they fail to commend to God in their prayers those who have been placed over them, who indeed keep watch as having to render an account of our souls, that they may do this with joy and not with grief (cf. Heb. 13:17)."

#41. "The forms and tasks of life are many but holiness is one--that sanctity which is cultivated by all who act under God's Spirit and, obeying the Father's voice and adoring God the Father in spirit and in truth, follow Christ, poor, humble and cross-bearing, that they may deserve to be partakers of his glory. Each one, however, according to his own gifts and duties must steadfastly advance along the way of a living faith, which arouses hope and works through love."

#42: "The Church bears in mind too the apostle's admonition when calling the faithful to charity and exhorting them to have the same mind which Christ Jesus showed, who "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant . . . and became obedient unto death" (Phil. 2:7-8) and for our sakes "became poor, though he was rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). Since the disciples must always imitate this love and humility of Christ and bear witness of it, Mother Church rejoices that she has within herself many men and women who pursue more closely the Savior's self-emptying and show it forth more clearly, by undertaking poverty with the freedom of God's sons, and renouncing their own will: they subject themselves to man for the love of God, thus going beyond what is of precept in the matter of perfection, so as to conform themselves more fully to the obedient Christ."

Religious must also obey. This includes Bishops, priests and nuns. Even more particular is the obedience of religious since they are entrusted with the task of helping souls obtain eternal life, a very grave responsibility indeed. This point should greatly inspire the laity to pray diligently for holy religious, since only holy religious can impart holiness, and unholy religious impart worldliness (i.e. anti-holiness). As anyone knows, how can one give what one doesn't have? Vatican II Lumen Gentium explains:

#43. "The teaching and example of Christ provide the foundation for the evangelical counsels of chaste self-dedication to God, of poverty and of obedience. The Apostles and Fathers of the Church commend them as an ideal of life, and so do her doctors and pastors. They therefore constitute a gift of God which the Church has received from her Lord and which by his grace she always safeguards. ... Members of these families enjoy many helps towards holiness of life. They have a stable and more solidly based way of Christian life. They receive well-proven teaching on seeking after perfection. They are bound together in brotherly communion in the army of Christ. Their Christian freedom is fortified by obedience. Thus they are enabled to live securely and to maintain faithfully the religious life to which they have pledged themselves. Rejoicing in spirit they advance on the road of love."

#45: "Members of these institutes, however, in fulfilling the duty towards the Church inherent in their particular form of life must show respect and obedience towards bishops in accordance with canon law, both because these exercise pastoral authority in their individual churches and because this is necessary for unity and harmony in the carrying out of apostolic work."

#46. "Let religious see well to it that the Church truly show forth Christ through them with every-increasing clarity to believers and unbelievers alike--Christ in contemplation on the mountain, or proclaiming the kingdom of God to the multitudes, or healing the sick and maimed and converting sinners to a good life, or blessing children and doing good to all men, always in obedience to the will of the Father who sent him."

Now that the reality of Vatican II teachings has been made clear, as opposed to the so-called spirit of Vatican II, highlights of other Church teachings on obedience will be provided.

Pre- and Post-Vatican II Church Documents Teach Obedience

There are many documents which could be referenced prior to and after Vatican II with which of course Vatican II is completely consistent. Only a small fraction will be mentioned here. Obedience is required within many contexts, including social progress, liberty, relation to faith, vocations, and the very life (vocation) of Catholics.

On Christianity and Social Progress (Mater et Magistra) states:

239. "In their economic and social activities, Catholics often come into contact with others who do not share their view of life. In such circumstances, they must, of course, bear themselves as Catholics and do nothing to compromise religion and morality. Yet at the same time they should show themselves animated by a spirit of understanding and unselfishness, ready to cooperate loyally in achieving objects which are good in themselves, or can be turned to good. Needless to say, when the Hierarchy has made a decision on any point Catholics are bound to obey their directives. The Church has the right and obligation not merely to guard ethical and religious principles, but also to declare its authoritative judgment in the matter of putting these principles into practice."

240. "These, then, are the educational principles which must be put into effect. It is a task which belongs particularly to Our sons, the laity, for it is their lot to live an active life in the world and organize themselves for the attainment of temporal ends."

241. "In performing this task, which is a noble one, they must not only be well qualified in their trade or profession and practice it in accordance with its own proper laws, they must also bring their professional activity into conformity with the Church's social teaching. Their attitude must be one of loyal trust and filial obedience to ecclesiastical authority."

On the Nature of Human Liberty (Libertas) shows how obedience is within the very nature of liberty:

11. "Therefore, the nature of human liberty, however it be considered, whether in individuals or in society, whether in those who command or in those who obey, supposes the necessity of obedience to some supreme and eternal law, which is no other than the authority of God, commanding good and forbidding evil. And, so far from this most just authority of God over men diminishing, or even destroying their liberty, it protects and perfects it, for the real perfection of all creatures is found in the prosecution and attainment of their respective ends; but the supreme end to which human liberty must aspire is God."

On the Right Ordering of Christian Life (Exeunte Iam Anno) states how obedience leads to salvation:

5. " We must therefore strive diligently that after beginning well we may also end well, that the counsels of God may be both understood and put in practice. The obedience shown to the Apostolic See will then be full and perfected, if it be joined with Christian virtue, and thus lead to the salvation of souls--the only end to be sought for, which will also abide forever. In the exercise of Our high Apostolic office, bestowed upon Us by the goodness of God, We have many times, as in duty bound, undertaken the defense of truth, and have striven to expound particularly those doctrines which seemed to be most useful to all, in order watchfully and carefully to avoid the dangers of error. But now, as a loving parent, We wish to address all Christians, and in homely words to exhort all to lead a holy life. For beyond the mere name of Christian, beyond the mere profession of faith, Christian virtues are necessary for the Christian, and upon this depends, not only the eternal salvation of their souls, but also the peace and prosperity of the human family and brotherhood."

On Faith And Religion (Qui Pluribus) explains that it is rational to obey our God Who reveals:

7. "It is with no less deceit, venerable brothers, that other enemies of divine revelation, with reckless and sacrilegious effrontery, want to import the doctrine of human progress into the Catholic religion. They extol it with the highest praise, as if religion itself were not of God but the work of men, or a philosophical discovery which can be perfected by human means. The charge which Tertullian justly made against the philosophers of his own time 'who brought forward a Stoic and a Platonic and a Dialectical Christianity' can very aptly apply to those men who rave so pitiably. Our holy religion was not invented by human reason, but was most mercifully revealed by God; therefore, one can quite easily understand that religion itself acquires all its power from the authority of God who made the revelation, and that it can never be arrived at or perfected by human reason. In order not to be deceived and go astray in a matter of such great importance, human reason should indeed carefully investigate the fact of divine revelation. Having done this, one would be definitely convinced that God has spoken and therefore would show Him rational obedience, as the Apostle very wisely teaches. For who can possibly not know that all faith should be given to the words of God and that it is in the fullest agreement with reason itself to accept and strongly support doctrines which it has determined to have been revealed by God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived?"

9. "Now, surely all these events shine with such divine wisdom and power that anyone who considers them will easily understand that the Christian faith is the work of God. Human reason knows clearly from these striking and certain proofs that God is the author of this faith; therefore it is unable to advance further but should offer all obedience to this faith, casting aside completely every problem and hesitation. Human reason is convinced that it is God who has given everything the faith proposes to men for belief and behavior."

20. "So, in accordance with your pastoral care, work assiduously to protect and preserve this faith. Never cease to instruct all men in it, to encourage the wavering, to convince dissenters, to strengthen the weak in faith by never tolerating and letting pass anything which could in the slightest degree defile the purity of this faith. With the same great strength of mind, foster in all men their unity with the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation; also foster their obedience towards this See of Peter on which rests the entire structure of our most holy religion. See to it with similar firmness that the most holy laws of the Church are observed, for it is by these laws that virtue, religion and piety particularly thrive and flourish."

22. "Strive to instruct the faithful to follow after love and search for peace, diligently pursuing the works of love and peace so that they may love one another with reciprocal charity. They should abolish all disagreements, enmities, rivalries and animosities, thus achieving compatibility. Take pains to impress on the Christian people a due obedience and subjection to rulers and governments. Do this by teaching, in accordance with the warning of the Apostle, that all authority comes from God. Whoever resists authority resists the ordering made by God Himself, consequently achieving his own condemnation; disobeying authority is always sinful except when an order is given which is opposed to the laws of God and the Church."

Declaration in Defense of the Catholic Doctrine on the Church Against Certain Errors of the Present Day (Mysterium Ecclesia) states, relying on previous Vatican II teaching:

#4: "It is of course true that through the faith that leads to salvation men are converted to God, who reveals Himself in His Son Jesus Christ; but it would be wrong to deduce from this that the Church's dogmas can be belittled or even denied. Indeed the conversion to God which we should realize through faith is a form of obedience (cf. Rom. 16:26), which should correspond to the nature of divine Revelation and its demands."

"Now this Revelation, in the whole plan of salvation, reveals the mystery of God who sent His Son into the world (cf. 1 Jn.4:14) and teaches its application to Christian conduct. Moreover it demands that, in full obedience of the intellect and will to God who reveals, we accept the proclamation of the good news of salvation as it is infallibly taught by the pastors of the Church. The faithful, therefore, through faith are converted as they should to God, who reveals Himself in Christ, when they adhere to Him in the integral doctrine of the Catholic faith."

On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and the World (Christifideles Laici) says:

#30 "The responsibility of professing the Catholic faith, embracing and proclaiming the truth about Christ, the Church and humanity, in obedience to the Church's Magisterium as the Church interprets it. For this reason every association of the lay faithful must be a forum where the faith is proclaimed as well as taught in its total content."

#33: "Certainly the command of Jesus: 'Go and preach the Gospel,' always maintains its vital value and its ever-pressing obligation. Nevertheless, the present situation, not only of the world but also of many parts of the Church, absolutely demands that the word of Christ receive a more ready and generous obedience. Every disciple is personally called by name: no disciple can withhold making a response: 'Woe to me, if I do not preach the Gospel' (1 Cor 9:16)."

#55: "Thus the lay state of life has its distinctive feature in its secular character. It fulfills an ecclesial service in bearing witness to and, in its own way, recalling for priests, women and men religious, the significance of the earthly and temporal realities in the salvific plan of God. In turn, the ministerial priesthood represents in different times and places the permanent guarantee of the sacramental presence of Christ, the Redeemer. The religious state bears witness to the eschatological character of the Church, that is, the straining toward the kingdom of God that is prefigured and in some way anticipated and experienced even now through the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience."

Again we see repeated consistently and numerous times the need for obedience to the Church's teachings, which are taught with the authority of God Himself.

Canon Law Teaches Obedience

Canon Law, consistent with Vatican II and other Church doctrine, teaches the need for obedience in its various forms. Highlights to reinforce the requirement of obedience are illustrated below.

Within the promulgation of new Canon Law of 1983 the intent is clearly stated:

"May God grant that joy and peace, with justice and obedience, may commend this Code, and that what is bidden by the head will be obeyed in the body."

The responsibility of the laity are summarized as follows:

Can. 209 1 "Christ's faithful are bound to preserve their communion with the Church at all times, even in their external actions."

Can. 209 2 "They are to carry out with great diligence their responsibilities towards both the universal Church and the particular Church to which by law they belong."

Can. 212 1 "Christ's faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound to show Christian obedience to what the sacred Pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the Church."

The responsibility of the priests (clerics) are summarized as follows:

Can. 260 "In the fulfillment of their duties, all must obey the rector, who is responsible for the day to day direction of the seminary, in accordance with the norms of the Charter of Priestly Formation and the rule of the seminary."

Can. 273 "Clerics have a special obligation to show reverence and obedience to the Supreme Pontiff and to their own Ordinary."

The responsibility of the religious (including priests, nuns and brothers) are summarized as follows:

Can. 573 1 "Life consecrated through profession of the evangelical counsels [including obedience] is a stable form of living, in which the faithful follow Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, and are totally dedicated to God, who is supremely loved. By a new and special title they are dedicated to seek the perfection of charity in the service of God's Kingdom, for the honor of God, the building up of the Church and the salvation of the world. They are a splendid sign in the Church, as they foretell the heavenly glory."

Can. 573 2 "Christ's faithful freely assume this manner of life in institutes of consecrated life which are canonically established by the competent ecclesiastical authority. By vows or by other sacred bonds, in accordance with the laws of their own institutes, they profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. Because of the charity to which these counsels lead, they are linked in a special way to the Church and its mystery."

Can. 590 1 "Institutes of consecrated life, since they are dedicated in a special way to the service of God and of the whole Church, are in a particular manner subject to its supreme authority."

Can. 590 2 "The individual members are bound to obey the Supreme Pontiff as their highest Superior, by reason also of their sacred bond of obedience."

Can. 601 "The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in the spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ, who was obedient even unto death, obliges submission of one's will to lawful Superiors, who act in the place of God when they give commands that are in accordance with each institute's own constitutions."

Can. 631 1 "In an institute the general chapter has supreme authority in accordance with the constitutions. It is to be composed in such a way that it represents the whole institute and becomes a true sign of its unity in charity. Its principal functions are to protect the patrimony of the institute mentioned in can. 578 and to foster appropriate renewal in accord with that patrimony. It also elects the supreme Moderator, deals with matters of greater importance, and issues norms which all are bound to obey."

Can. 678 1 "In matters concerning the care of souls, the public exercise of divine worship and other works of the apostolate, religious are subject to the authority of the Bishops, whom they are bound to treat with sincere obedience and reverence."

As was explained earlier, the hierarchical structure of the Church is seen as contained in the particular canon laws. One will also notice the more specific instructions for obedience to those, namely priests, Bishops, nuns and brothers, who are within the Church's service.

Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary were Obedient

Now God doesn't just tell us to be obedient to Himself. Rather, Jesus Christ personally gives us the perfect example by being totally obedient to His (and our) Eternal Father. Lumen Gentium tells us:

#3. "The Son, accordingly, came, sent by the Father who, before the foundation of the world, chose us and predestined us in him for adoptive sonship. For it is in him that it pleased the Father to restore all things (cf. Eph. 1:4-5 and 10). To carry out the will of the Father Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth and revealed to us his mystery; by his obedience he brought about our redemption."

#36: "Christ, made obedient unto death and because of this exalted by the Father (cf. Ph. 2:8-9), has entered into the glory of his kingdom. All things are subjected to him until he subjects himself and all created things to the Father, so that God may be all in all (cf. 1 Cor. 15:27-28)."

Not only was Jesus obedient, but so also was the Blessed Virgin Mary, our loving Mother. Lumen Gentium explains:

#56: "Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man's salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St Irenaeus says, she 'being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.' Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert with him in their preaching: 'the knot of Eve's disobedience was united by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.' Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her 'Mother of the living,' and frequently claim: 'death through Eve, life through Mary.'"

#61. "The predestination of the Blessed Virgin as Mother of God was associated with the incarnation of the divine word: in the designs of divine Providence she was the gracious mother of the divine Redeemer here on earth, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ, she presented him to the Father in the temple, shared her Son's sufferings as he died on the cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace."

#63: "Through her faith and obedience she gave birth on earth to the very Son of the Father, not through the knowledge of man but by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, in the manner of a new Eve who placed her faith, not in the serpent of old but in God's messenger without wavering in doubt."

If Jesus Christ and Mary were obedient, why should we be different? Some might claim that Jesus was a revolutionary because He "changed the laws." The reality were that the moral laws were made more strict [4], and Jesus revealed deeper the doctrine of God. The Bible says it quite clearly in Matthew 5:17-18 "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished."

What does the Church Teach about Disobedience?

Canon Law specifically covers many forms of disobedience to the Church (see PART II : PENALTIES FOR PARTICULAR OFFENCES). Only a select few will be covered here. 

General rules for all people in the Church are as follows:

Can. 1364 

1 An apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae [automatic] excommunication, without prejudice to the provision of Can. 194 1, n. 2; a cleric, moreover, may be punished with the penalties mentioned in Can. 1336 1, nn. 1, 2 and 3.

2 If a longstanding contempt or the gravity of scandal calls for it, other penalties may be added, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.

Can. 1369 A person is to be punished with a just penalty, who, at a public event or assembly, or in a published writing, or by otherwise using the means of social communication, utters blasphemy, or gravely harms public morals, or rails at or excites hatred of or contempt for religion or the Church.

Can. 1371 The following are to be punished with a just penalty:

1 a person who, apart from the case mentioned in Can. 1364 1, teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff, or by an Ecumenical Council, or obstinately rejects the teaching mentioned in Can. 752 and, when warned by the Apostolic See or by the Ordinary, does not retract;

2 a person who in any other way does not obey the lawful command or prohibition of the Apostolic See or the Ordinary or Superior and, after being warned, persists in disobedience.

Can. 1373 A person who publicly incites his or her subjects to hatred or animosity against the Apostolic See or the Ordinary because of some act of ecclesiastical authority or ministry, or who provokes the subjects to disobedience against them, is to be punished by interdict or other just penalties.

Religious, both clergy (i.e. priests) and non-clergy (i.e. nuns and brothers) have the potential for dismissal from their religious state. In secular terms, they would be "fired" or "sacked":

Can. 696 1 A member can be dismissed for other causes, provided they are grave, external, imputable and juridically proven. Among such causes are: habitual neglect of the obligations of consecrated life; repeated violations of the sacred bonds; obstinate disobedience to the lawful orders of Superiors in grave matters; grave scandal arising from the culpable behavior of the member; obstinate attachment to, or diffusion of, teachings condemned by the Magisterium of the Church; public adherence to materialistic or atheistic ideologies; the unlawful absence mentioned in can. 665 2, if it extends for a period of six months; other reasons of similar gravity which are perhaps defined in the institute's own law.

If disobedience has penalties, then obviously disobedience is not an approved behavior. One does not punish what is right and just. Sadly, the number of Bishops, priests and nuns on the dissenter list shows how far the apostasy has reached into the Church in this present day.

What about Clergy and Religious Who do not Represent Church Teachings?

The difficult and scandalous issue of clergy and religious who do not propagate the Church's authentic teachings also needs to be addressed. Very simply, the laity are not required to obey the disobedience of their local Church hierarchy. All must give assent to a "God who reveals" (Vatican II Dei Verbum #5) over that of man, even when the man is part of the Church hierarchy. Acts 5:29 emphasizes this: "But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men." We also know from the Church's teaching that the Pope alone is preserved from teaching error via the charism of infallibility (Vatican II Lumen Gentium), so we can always trust the Pope. Bishops, priests and nuns are not exempt from teaching doctrinal errors. Vatican II clearly states that we are to obey the Church hierarchy when they are in communion with the Pope, not otherwise. Long prior to Vatican II Pope Pius IX wrote in On Faith And Religion (Qui Pluribus), "Whoever resists authority resists the ordering made by God Himself, consequently achieving his own condemnation; disobeying authority is always sinful except when an order is given which is opposed to the laws of God and the Church." Based on the number of dissenting Bishops, priests and nuns, a prudent and responsible laity will obtain and study the teachings of the Church to defend their souls against the various heresies and heretical influences rampant in today's world.


It has been clearly shown that the Church teaches obedience to Her doctrine which has been Divinely revealed to Her by Jesus Christ Himself, as explained clearly by Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). Anyone calling themselves Catholic must obey the teachings of the Church to merit eternal life.


Proposed Constitution of the Catholic Church by the dissenter group Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC).
"When wrong turns out to be right: the value of faithful dissent," Robert McClory, U.S. Catholic magazine, May 1999.
James Urda, "Homosexuality, Tolerance and Original Sin," article on Our Lady's Warriors website.

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