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Disobey the Pope?

Speaking as a prophet, St. Paul wrote the following in his inspired epistle to St. Timothy:

“In the last days shall come dangerous times. Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, wicked, without affection, without peace, slanderers, incontinent, unmerciful, without kindness, traitors, stubborn, puffed up, and lovers of pleasure more than of God: having an appearance indeed of godliness but denying the power thereof. Now these avoid.”

2 Timothy 3:1-5

In the midst of all of those terrible evils St. Paul lists, we find “disobedient to parents”.

“In the last days…men shall be disobedient to parents.”

Knowing that disobedience is a characteristic of the sins of the “last days”, we should expect to find the spirit of disobedience increasing. Anytime, therefore, that we hear people promoting disobedience to authorities, we should pay attention.

It is common to hear Christians today speaking of the limits of the duty to obey parents. They say, “We are commanded to obey our parents–but not if they tell us to disobey God!”

This is common, and has an appearance of piety. However, if we remember that the last days will be marked by disobedience to parents, we should give careful attention to this talk.

The first problem with this talk is that it assumes a great deal. When a person says, “We must obey God rather than men!”, it is assumed that there is, in fact, a conflict between what God has commanded and what men are commanding. Rarely when we hear this talk is any proof offered to demonstrate that the men are, in fact, contradicting anything that God has commanded. We often do not find proof that those questioning the parents have yet proven that they know what God, in fact, commanded.

The second problem is that, in most cases, it would be more probable that the superior would possess the knowledge necessary to command reasonably, or the command to obey would be imprudent. Therefore, because the command orders the child to obey the parent, the burden of proof would always lie with the child–never the parent.

Therefore, any time we hear someone talking about “obeying God rather than men”, we need to doubt and ask for proof.

But let’s dig a little deeper here.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent, teaches the following:

“We are bound to honour not only our natural parents, but also others who are called fathers, such as Bishops and priests, kings, princes and magistrates, tutors, guardians and masters, teachers, aged persons and the like, all of whom are entitled, some in a greater, some in a less degree, to share our love, our obedience, and our assistance.”

This reveals to us even greater problems when we consider St. Paul’s prophecy of the last days. Disobedience to parents is not limited to natural parents, but extends to all in authority.

The old Catechism goes yet further.

“The Apostle also teaches that they are entitled to obedience: Obey your prelates, and be subject to them; for they watch as being to render an account of your souls. Nay, more. Christ the Lord commands obedience even to wicked pastors: Upon the chair of Moses have sitten the scribes and Pharisees: all things, therefore, whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do; but according to their works do ye not, for they say and do not.”

Take a few minutes to re-read that and let this sink in: “Christ the Lord commands obedience even to wicked pastors.”

It’s right there in the text of the Catechism.

When we read this, we can see why talk about “obeying God rather than men” and “disobeying parents if they tell us to disobey God”, the weight of the burden of proof becomes much greater.

Therefore, to have a right sentiment in the Church, we should be as far from any talk of disobedience as possible. St. Ignatius of Loyola promoted this right mindset in the Spiritual Exercises:

“To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides.”

This is the frame of mind Catholics should possess.

Therefore, when we hear people speaking against the Pope, bishops, and priests in the Church, we should distance ourselves from it. When we see the readiness of men to speak like this, we should remember the words of St. Paul.

No one with a right sentiment would ever speak against the hierarchy of the Church, or anyone in authority, until a matter had been established demonstratively. If you don’t know what demonstratively means, then you should never speak so.

The men in modern Catholic society who we see and hear speaking against the hierarchy of the Church never provide any demonstrative evidence to justify their talk of disobedience.

For example, in 2016, four cardinals in the Church published five doubts (dubia) about things written in Amoris Laetitia, a document published by the Pope.

The Pope did not respond. Why not? He bears supreme authority in the Church, not the cardinals. They are bound to obey, not doubt–especially in a public forum that creates scandal and confusion.

This is not how the Church is supposed to work. The burden of proof is not on the Pope to prove his teachings sound to inferiors, but upon inferiors to demonstrate that they are impossible. If this cannot be done, there is no justification for disobedience–or doubts.

Again, in 2019, a group of 19 “Catholic scholars” published an open letter accusing the Pope–the supreme authority in the Church–of heresy.

While many laymen made a big deal of this, the Pope and bishops did not respond. Why not? Because this is not how the Church works. Men do not cast accusations against the Pope from afar, through “open letters” and demand that the hierarchy of the Church respond.

These public accusations spread like wildfire through groups within the laity–why?

Because these are the last days, when “men shall be disobedient to parents.”

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