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Sunday, 31 March 2013

Obedience and the Hierarchy of the Church

A quick post. There seems to be among the laity, confusion as to the meaning of the obedience we owe the hierarchy of the Church.

Firstly, we are not under vows of obedience as are religious and orders of priests, or secular priests. We do not make vows of obedience to an abbot or mother as laity.

Secondly, we are adults, not children in the faith and, therefore have a duty to form our consciences in line with the mind of the Church.

Thirdly, we owe respect to all members of the hierarchy.

However, as to being obedient, we are obedient in Faith and Morals, to the doctrines and dogmas which come from the Chair of Peter. Contraception falls under this category.  We are also obedient to statements from the USCCB or the other country or national conferences of bishops if they are in keeping with the Teaching Magisterium of the Church, such as statements on abortion or marriage. So far, so good.

We must be obedient to the Laws of the Church regarding holy days of obligation, fast and abstinence days, financially supporting the Church and so on. See the list below.

A recent example would be the re-institution of the Friday fast in Great Britain. We laity are bound by that reaffirmation of no meat on Friday.


As adults, we must learn the Faith and keep our Baptismal promises. We must evangelize, as Christ told us to do.

Those are duties.

Following the rules of the Church are part of our duty as well. Many people do not know these. We laity are bound by these.

These are listed in the CCC. Here is a list of those from an earlier catechism. It is a convenient list of the same rules.

The chief commandments, or laws, of the Church are these six:
  1. To assist at Mass on all Sundays and holy days of obligation.
  2. To fast and to abstain on the days appointed.
  3. To confess our sins at least once a year.
  4. To receive Holy Communion during the Easter time.
  5. To contribute to the support of the Church.
  6. To observe the laws of the Church concerning marriage. (this includes raising the children and educating them as Catholics)

But, we have another duty to learn what is the Truth and hold to that as explained and defined not only in Scripture, but by Mother Church. We cannot be disobedient to the Creed, or to doctrines, for example. This includes Canon Law which applies to the laity (as some Canons apply only to priests, for example).

We do not owe obedience in actions of the Pope or cardinals or bishops or priests which are not in keeping with the teaching of the Church. For example, we do not have to agree with Assisi, 1986, nor go to like services. We can respectfully discuss such events as WYD.

As long as conversations are based on rational discourse and not feeling, people may make comments here on all topics. I expect adult-level comments. And, I demand respectful ones. Most commentators have been excellent.

As laity, we have a bit more freedom to discuss things than the clergy. But, all discussions are in keeping with the above knowledge.

To be continued....