Catholic Candle Note:
Sedevacantism is wrong and is schism. Catholic Candle
is not sedevacantist. On the contrary, we published a series of articles setting out the errors of sedevacantism (and also why it is wrong to believe that former Pope Benedict XVI continues to be pope). Read the articles here: ../faith/against-sedevacantism.html
A reader would be mistaken to believe that the article below gives any support to sedevacantism. The article simply shows that we should resist (and not follow) the evil command of a pope or any other superior.
and informed Catholics know that Our Lord’s enemies have long planned to corrupt the human element of the Catholic Church through false “obedience”. For example, here is the Masonic plan set out 200 years ago, to use false “obedience” to attack the Church:
The Pope, whoever he may be, will never come to the secret societies. It is for the secret societies to come first to the Church, in the resolve to conquer the two [viz., the Church and pope]. The work which we have undertaken is not the work of a day, nor of a month, nor of a year. It may last many years, a century perhaps, but in our ranks the soldier dies and the fight continues. ...
That which we ought to demand, that which we should seek and expect, as the Jews expected the Messiah, is a Pope according to our wants. ... [With such a pope, we] have the little finger of the successor of St. Peter engaged in the plot, and that little finger is of more value for our crusade than all the Innocents, the Urbans, and the St. Bernards of Christianity. ...
Let the clergy march under your banner in the belief always that they march under the banner of the Apostolic Keys. ... You will have fished up a Revolution in Tiara and Cope, marching with Cross and banner—a Revolution which it will need but to be spurred on a little to put the four quarters of the world on fire.
Quoted from the permanent secret instruction given to the members of the High Lodge (Alta Vendita) dated 1819. An English translation is found in The War of Antichrist with the Church and Christian Civilization, by Msgr. George F. Dillon, New York, Burns and Oates, 1885, pp 66, 67 & 71 (emphasis added and bracketed words added to show context). Pope Pius IX vouched that this Alta Vendita Masonic plan is authentic.
Faithful and informed Catholics know that the Freemasons have accomplished their goal, mainly through Vatican II and the conciliar church. Archbishop Lefebvre recognized this successful corruption of the human element of the Church through false “obedience”. Here are his words:
Satan’s master stroke will therefore be to spread the revolutionary principles introduced into the Church by the authority of the Church itself, placing this authority in a situation of incoherence and permanent contradiction; so long as this ambiguity has not been dispersed, disasters will multiply within the Church. ... We must acknowledge that the trick has been well played and that Satan’s lie has been masterfully utilized. The Church will destroy Herself through obedience.
In other words, the Church will be corrupted in Her human element.
... You must obey! Whom or what must we obey? We don’t know exactly. Woe to the man who does not consent. He thereby earns the right to be trampled underfoot, to be calumniated, to be deprived of everything which allowed him to live. He is a heretic, a schismatic; let him die—that is all he deserves.
Satan has really succeeded in pulling off a master stroke: he is succeeding in having those who keep the Catholic Faith condemned by the very people who should be defending and propagating it. ... Satan reigns through ambiguity and incoherence, which are his means of combat, and which deceive men of little Faith. Satan’s master stroke, by which he is bringing about the auto-destruction of the Church, is therefore to use obedience in order to destroy the Faith: authority against Truth.
Quoted from Satan’s Master stroke, by Archbishop Lefebvre, October 13, 1974 (emphasis added).
In other words, Satan and the Masons use the Vatican to cause the corruption in the human element of the Church by using modernist Ecclesiastical authorities to attack and suppress the truth through false “obedience”.
On this issue and so many others, the SSPX’s current leaders teach the opposite of their founder, Archbishop Lefebvre. For example, when Fr. Arnaud Rostand was U.S. District Superior (before he was promoted and transferred to Menzingen), he asserted that:
[T]he crisis [in the Church] came from the collapse of Church authority.
Quoted from the June 2013 Regina Coeli Report (emphasis added and bracketed words added to show the context).
Similarly, seminary rector, Fr. Yves le Roux, laments the “distrust of authority” in “the ranks of defenders of the tradition of the Church”. Quoted from Fr. Yves le Roux’s 10 November 2013 letter entitled “Subversion or Tradition?”
In other words, the N-SSPX falsely teaches that the problem is that Church authority is too weak (collapsed) or too distrusted. However, faithful and informed Catholics know that the crisis in the human element of the Church is primarily and fundamentally an attack on the truth through false “obedience” and abuse of authority.
To help us to avoid this trap of false “obedience”, let us look more carefully at what true obedience is. Here are six points regarding obedience:
- True Obedience is Subordinate to Faith and Must Conform to Faith.
- We have no duty to “obey” the evil command of a superior.
- Not only have we no duty to “obey” the evil command of a superior, but we must refuse to “obey”.
- Not only must we refuse to “obey” the evil command of a superior but we must oppose the accomplishment of that evil command.
- We must resist the bad command of any superior, including the pope.
- [Objection:] But shouldn’t we wait for good leaders before resisting the evil command of a superior? [Answer:] No! We must act now!
Below, we discuss each of these six points.
1. True Obedience is Subordinate to Faith and Must Conform to Faith
There are three virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, which are called “theological” because they have God as their object. Through these virtues, we believe what God has revealed, we trust in God and we love God. These Theological Virtues are greater than all other virtues including the virtue of obedience.
Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church, states this truth:
[T]he theological, virtues whereby a person adheres to God in Himself, are greater than the moral virtues, whereby he holds in contempt some earthly thing in order to adhere to God.
Summa, IIa IIae, Q.104, a.3, Respondeo. See also, Summa, IIa IIae, Q.4 a.7 sed cont. & ad 3; IIa IIae, Q.23 a.6.
Besides these three Theological Virtues, every other virtue is either one of the four Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Courage and Temperance) or is a virtue which “comes under” a Cardinal Virtue and is connected with that Cardinal Virtue.
For example, the virtue of obedience is a subordinate virtue “coming under” the Cardinal Virtue of Justice.
Summa, IIa IIae, Q.104. a2.
This is because Justice is giving each person what is owed to him
Summa, IIa IIae, Q.58, a.1.
and the virtue of obedience is giving our superior the obedience which is owed to him.
We must never obey a lower superior if that superior’s command is contrary to the command of a high superior because then we would be failing to give the higher superior the obedience we owe to that higher superior.
Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church, states this truth:
There are two reasons, for which a subject may not be bound to obey his superior in all things:
First, on account of the command of a higher power. For as St. Augustine comments on Romans 13:2 (“He that resisteth the power, resist the ordinance of God”):
If a commissioner issues an order, are you to comply, if it is contrary to the bidding of the proconsul? Again, if the proconsul command one thing, and the emperor another, will you hesitate, to disregard the former and serve the latter? Therefore, if the emperor commands one thing and God another, you must disregard the former and obey God.
St. Augustine, De Verb. Dom. VIII (emphasis added; slight editing for clarity).
Second, a subject is not bound to obey his superior if the latter commands him to do something wherein he is not subject to him. For Seneca says (De Beneficiis iii): “It is wrong to suppose that slavery falls upon the whole man: for the better part of him is excepted.” His body is subjected and assigned to his master but his soul is his own. Consequently, in matters touching the internal movement of the will man is not bound to obey his fellow-man, but God alone.
Quoted from the Summa, IIa IIae, Q104, a.5, respondeo.
God is our highest superior, Whom we must obey in all things. We must never “obey” the commands of other superiors which are contrary to the Will of God.
Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church, states this truth:
Man is subject to God simply as regards all things, both internal and external, wherefore he is bound to obey Him in all things. On the other hand, inferiors are not subject to their superiors in all things, but only in certain things and in a particular way, in respect of which the superior stands between God and his subjects, whereas in respect of other matters the subject is immediately under God, by Whom he is taught either by the natural or by the written law.
Summa, IIa IIae, Q.104, ad 2.
When Jewish authorities in Israel gave the Apostles commands which were contrary to God’s Will, the Apostles told them “we ought to obey God, rather than men.” Acts,
Because we would disobey God by following a bad command of any other superior, following that bad command is really a sin of disobedience.
Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church, states this truth:
[A]nyone who obeys the sinful command of his superior, commits the sin of disobedience to God’s law.
Summa, IIa IIae, Q.33, a.7, ad.5 (“...ipse peccaret praecipiens, et ei obediens, quasi contra praeceptum Domini agens...”).
Here is another way St. Thomas distinguishes three categories related to obedience: 1) true obedience; 2) perfect obedience; and 3) false obedience:
[W]e may distinguish a threefold obedience; one, sufficient for salvation, and consisting in obeying when one is bound to obey: secondly, perfect obedience, which obeys in all things lawful: thirdly, illicit obedience, which obeys even in matters unlawful.
Summa, IIa IIae, Q.104, a.5, ad 3.
2. We have no duty to “obey” the bad commands of a superior.
Our salvation depends upon discerning the difference between true obedience—which is necessary, and false obedience—which is a sin. Here is how the book, Liberalism is a Sin, sets out this contrast:
Obedience to a superior in all that is not directly or indirectly against Faith and Morals is his bounden duty, but it is equally his duty to refuse obedience to anything directly or indirectly in opposition to the integrity of his Faith.
Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany, Liberalism Is a Sin, 1886, reprinted by TAN Books, p.84 (emphasis added).
One of the errors of both the sedevacantists and so-called “conservative” Catholics, is failing to distinguish between opposing the authority of the pope as such (which is bad), and opposing evil things he does when exercising this authority (which is good). Both groups falsely hold that if we have a pope then we must do whatever he says and cannot resist what he does and says.
However, when we resist a superior’s sinful command (or conduct), we do not thereby reject the superior’s authority as such,
but only his evil command (or conduct). St. Thomas makes this crucial distinction when he discusses St. Paul resisting St. Peter, the first pope, to his face. Galatians,
2:11. St. Thomas explains that “the Apostle opposed Peter in the exercise
of authority, not in his authority of ruling.
Super Epistulas S. Pauli, Ad Galatas, ch.2 lectio III (emphasis added).
Thus, while recognizing our superior’s authority, we must oppose his abuse of authority when he commands evil.
St. Athanasius, Doctor of the Church, is our model. He was excommunicated
See, The Voice of Tradition, By Michael Davies, The Remnant, April 30, 1978, page 13-4, citing various authorities showing St. Athanasius was excommunicated.
because he refused Pope Liberius’ evil command to accept Arian-infected doctrine and the command to accept as Catholics those who teach the infected doctrine.
If today’s so-called “conservative” Catholics had been alive then, they would have obeyed Pope Liberius and accepted Arian-infected false doctrine.
If today’s sedevacantists had been alive then, they would have denied that Pope Liberius was a real pope.
3. We have a duty to refuse to “obey” the bad command of a superior.
Not only do we have no duty to “obey” the evil command of superior (as shown in the section immediately above), but we have a duty not to “obey” an evil command.
St. Thomas explains this truth as follows:
[S]ometimes the things commanded by a superior are against God. Therefore superiors are not to be obeyed in all things.
Summa, IIa IIae, Q.104, a.5, ad. 3.
There is a great difference between doing evil under false “obedience” and refraining from a doing a particular, optional good we could have otherwise done. Here is how this distinction is explained by Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church:
Know that evil ought never to be done through obedience, though sometimes something good, which is being done, ought to be discontinued out of obedience.
De Moral., bk. XXXV, §29 (emphasis added).
We must always obey God and never “obey” anything contrary to God’s Will. We know His Will through reason and the Catholic Faith. Here is how Pope Leo XIII explained this truth:
[T]he 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. ...
[W]here a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God.
Libertas Praestantissimum, §§ 11 &13 (emphasis added).
Because an evil command from a superior is, in effect, a command to disobey God’s Will, we should strongly reject such command just like any other temptation to sin. Here is how this truth is taught by Juan Cardinal de Torquemada, who was the holy and learned medieval theologian responsible for the formulation of the doctrines defined at the Council of Florence:
It is necessary to obey God rather than men. Therefore, where the Pope would command something contrary to Sacred Scripture, or to an article of Faith, or to the truth of the Sacraments, or to a command of the Natural Law
or of the Divine Law, he ought not to be obeyed, but such command ought to be despised.
The Natural Law is what we know we must do by the light of the natural reason God gave us. One example of the Natural Law is that we must never tell a lie. We naturally know this because we know that the purpose of speech is to convey the truth and so we naturally know that telling a lie is abusing the purpose of speech.
Here is how St. Thomas explains what the Natural Law is:
[L]aw, being a rule and measure, can be in a person in two ways: in one way, as in him that rules and measures; in another way, as in that which is ruled and measured, since a thing is ruled and measured, in so far as it partakes of the rule or measure. Wherefore, since all things subject to Divine providence are ruled and measured by the eternal law, as was stated above [in Summa, Ia IIae, Q.91, a.1]; it is evident that all things partake somewhat of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends. Now among all others, the rational creature is subject to Divine providence in the most excellent way, in so far as it partakes of a share of providence, by being provident both for itself and for others. Wherefore it has a share of the Eternal Reason, whereby it has a natural inclination to its proper act and end: and this participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is called the natural law. Hence the Psalmist after saying (Psalm 4:6): "Offer up the sacrifice of justice," as though someone asked what the works of justice are, adds: "Many say, Who showeth us good things?" in answer to which question he says: "The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us": thus implying that the light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, which is the function of the natural law, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the Divine light. It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature's participation of the eternal law.
Summa, Ia IIae, Q.91, a.2, respondeo.
Summa de ecclesia (Venice: M. Tranmezium, 1561). Lib. II, c. 49, p. 163B. This English translation of this statement of Juan de Torquemada is found in Patrick Granfield, The Papacy in Transition (New York: Doubleday, 1980), p.171 (emphasis added).
4. Not only must we refuse to “obey” an evil command of a superior but we have a duty to oppose the accomplishment of that evil command.
Above, we saw that we have no obligation to obey a bad command of a superior. Then we saw that we have a duty to refuse to “obey” this bad command. But our duty is even greater than that. We have a duty to resist the carrying out of that command according to our abilities.
We are soldiers of Christ and we must work to achieve the Will of Christ the King even when the one opposing Christ’s Will is our superior.
Satan’s most effective weapon is the Catholic who “doesn’t want to get involved” and doesn’t want to sacrifice himself for the cause of Christ. At the beginning of the same Great Apostasy in which we now live, Pope St. Pius X blamed those weak and timid Catholics for Satan’s success. Here are the saintly pope’s words:
In our time more than ever before, the chief strength of the wicked lies in the cowardice and weakness of good men .... All the strength of Satan’s reign is due to the easy-going weakness of Catholics.
Oh! if I might ask the Divine Redeemer, as the prophet Zachary did in spirit: What are those wounds in the midst of Thy hands? The answer would not be doubtful: With these was I wounded in the house of them that loved Me. I was wounded by My friends, who did nothing to defend Me, and who, on every occasion, made themselves the accomplices of My adversaries. And this reproach can be leveled at the weak and timid Catholics
of all countries.
Pope St. Pius X, Discourse on the Beatification of Joan of Arc, December 13, 1908.
5. We must resist the bad command of any superior, including the pope.
We must resist the evil commands of any superior. However, the pope is the highest of all superiors on earth. Thus, when discussing the sin of false obedience, wise men often spoke particularly about false obedience to the pope because what applies to resisting the evil command of a pope also applies to resisting the evil command of any other, lower superior.
After setting out the exalted authority of the pope, Pope Paul IV then tells us that we are right to resist the pope whenever he deviates from the Faith. Here are his words:
[T]he Roman Pontiff, who is the representative upon earth of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, who holds the fullness of power over peoples and kingdoms, who may judge all and be judged by none in this world, may nonetheless be contradicted if he be found to have deviated from the Faith.
Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio, §1 (emphasis added).
The great Thomist and theologian, Saint Cajetan taught:
One must resist
the Pope who openly destroys the Church.
In De Comparata Auctoritate Papae Et Concilii, as quoted in Is Tradition Excommunicated?, Angelus Press, p. 20.
Fr. Francisco Suarez, S.J., was the greatest Jesuit theologian, whom Pope Paul V called “Doctor eximius et pius” (most exalted and pious doctor). Fr. Suarez teaches:
If [the Pope] lays down an order contrary to right customs one does not have to obey him; if he tries to do something manifestly opposed to justice and to the common good, it would be licit to resist him; if he attacks by force, he could be repelled by force, with the moderation characteristic of a good defense.
De Fide, disp. 10, sect. 6, n. 16, in Opera Omnia, Paris, Vives, vol 12.
Fr. Francisco de Vitoria, O.P., was the great and glorious Thomist of Salamanca, philosopher, theologian, jurist and the Father of International Law. Fr. Vitoria teaches:
A Pope must be resisted who publicly destroys the Church. What should be done when the Pope, because of his bad customs, destroys the Church? What should be done if the Pope wanted, without reason, to abrogate Positive Law [i.e., Church Law]?
[Then Fr. Vitoria answers his own question:]
He would certainly sin; he should neither be permitted to act in such fashion nor should he be obeyed in what was evil; but he should be resisted with a courteous reprehension. Consequently, ... if he wanted to destroy the Church or the like, he should not be permitted to act in that fashion, but one would be obliged to resist him.
The reason for this is that he does not have the power to destroy. Therefore, if there is evidence
that he is doing so, it is licit to resist him. The result of all this is that if the Pope destroys the Church by his orders and actions, he can be resisted and the execution of his mandates prevented.
Obras de Francisco de Vitoria, Dialogus de Potestate Papae, para. 4 (Madrid: BAC, 1960), pp. 486f (emphasis added).
6. [Objection:] But shouldn’t we wait for good leaders before resisting the evil command of a superior? [Answer:] No! We must act now!
Catholics must work tirelessly to help their fellow members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Because Catholics seek the good for their friends, they want their friends to share this great good, viz.,
the truth. To be ignorant of an aspect of the Faith is harmful to salvation, even if the person is not blamable for his error. This is why the Catholic Church is and must be, always missionary, although the conciliar hierarchy and compromise groups
have lost their missionary zeal.
Bishop Williamson’s group and the “new” SSPX lack missionary zeal. Read their own words cited to their own sources.
In other words, we must abide in the truth and work tirelessly that our friends, our family, and all people, do so too.
St. Thomas quotes and confirms St. Augustine’s words, that the truth is everyone’s good and correcting an erring superior is anyone’s duty. Here are his words:
If the Faith be in imminent peril, prelates ought to be accused by their subjects, even in public. Thus, St. Paul, who was the subject of St. Peter, called him to task in public because of the impending danger of scandal concerning a point of Faith. As St. Augustine’s commentary puts it:
St. Peter himself set an example for those who rule, to the effect that if they ever stray from the straight path, they are not to feel that anyone
is unworthy of correcting them, even if such a person be one of their subjects.
Summa, IIa IIae, Q.33, a.4, ad. 2 (emphasis added).
Another Doctor of the Church, St. Robert Bellarmine assures us that we are right to resist a pope who uses his office to attack souls (whether through false doctrine or bad morals). Here are his words:
In order to resist and defend oneself no authority is required .... Just as it is licit to resist a Pontiff who attacks the body, so also is it licit to resist him who attacks souls or destroys the civil order, or above all tries to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist him by not doing what he orders and by impeding the execution of his will; it is not licit, however, to judge him, to punish him, or depose him, for these are acts proper to a superior.
De Summo pontifice Book II, ch. 29, in Opera omnia, Neapoli/ Panormi/Paris: Pedone Lauriel, 1871, vol. I, p. 418.
St. Thomas explains the reason for this distinction St. Robert Bellarmine makes, viz., that we are right to resist (i.e., to correct) the pope or other superior, but we cannot punish or depose him:
A subordinate is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment. But the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction.
Summa, IIa IIae, Q.33, a. 4, respondeo.
The sedevacantists err by denying St. Thomas’ distinction. They depose the pope, by declaring and seeking to persuade others that he is not pope.
Where matters of faith and morals are involved, resistance to a superior’s bad commands is every Catholic’s duty. The only correct course of action is that taken by Eusebius and so highly praised by Dom Guéranger in his epic work, The Liturgical Year:
On Christmas Day, 428, Nestorius (Patriarch of Constantinople), profiting from the immense crowd assembled to celebrate the birth of the Divine Child to Our Lady uttered this blasphemy from his Episcopal throne: "Mary did not give birth to God; her son was only a man, the instrument of God."
At these words a tremor of horror passed through the multitude. The general indignation was voiced by Eusebius, a layman, who stood up in the crowd and protested. Soon a more detailed protest was drafted in the name of the members of the abandoned Church, and numerous copies spread far and wide, declaring anathema on whoever should dare to say that He Who was born of the Virgin Mary was other than the only begotten Son of God. This attitude not only safeguarded the Faith of the Eastern Church, but was praised alike by Popes and Councils.
When the shepherd turns into a wolf the first duty of the flock is to defend itself.
As a general rule, doctrine comes from the bishops to the faithful, and it is not for the faithful, who are subjects in the order of Faith, to pass judgment on their superiors. But every Christian, by virtue of his title to the name Christian, has not only the necessary knowledge of the essentials of the treasure of Revelation, but also the duty of safeguarding them. The principle is the same, whether it is a matter of belief or conduct, that is of dogma or morals. Treachery such as that of Nestorius is rare in the Church; but it can happen that, for one reason or another, pastors remain silent on essential matters of faith. The true children of Holy Church at such times are those who walk by the light of their baptism, not the cowardly souls who, under the specious pretext of submission to the powers that be, delay their opposition to the enemy in the hope of receiving instructions which are neither necessary nor desirable.
The Liturgical Year, Vol. IV, Dom Guéranger; Feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria, February 9th (emphasis added).
Where the Catholic Faith and morals are concerned, we must have a great zeal and complete liberty to speak the truth regardless of the feelings or anger of our superiors.
Here is how St. Thomas explained this fact:
To the Prelates [was given an example] of humility so that they do not refuse to accept reprehensions from their inferiors and subjects; and to the subjects, an example of zeal and liberty so they will not fear to correct their Prelates, above all when the crime is public and entails a danger for many.
Super Epistulas S. Pauli, Ad Galatas, 2, 11-14 (Turin & Rome: Marietti, 1953), lec. III, n. 77 (emphasis added).
A superior is not representing God when he gives an evil command. Charity requires that we correct him.
Here is how St. Thomas explains these truths:
Ecclesiasticus, ch.17, v.12 says that God ‘imposed on each one duties toward his neighbor.’ Now, a Prelate is our neighbor. Therefore, we must correct him when he sins. ... Some say that fraternal correction does not extend to the Prelates either because a man should not raise his voice against heaven, or because the Prelates are easily scandalized if corrected by their subjects. However, this does not happen, since when they sin, the Prelates do not represent heaven and, therefore, must be corrected. And those who correct them charitably do not raise their voices against them, but in their favor, since the admonishment is for their own sake. ... For this reason, ... the precept of fraternal correction extends also to the Prelates, so that they may be corrected by their subjects.
St. Thomas’ Commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences, Book IV, distinction #19, Q.2, a.2 (emphasis added).
Ecclesiastical superiors have been using false obedience to attack the truth in the human element of the Church and in the so-called “conservative” or compromise “traditional” groups.
All of us, even laymen, have a duty to resist that abuse of authority and fight against it without delay, for the Kingship of Christ!