Apr 16, 2014

Obedience Unto Error by HRH Jonathan

     The article that I am writing here today is targeted specifically at Traditionalists. Others may read it, of course, but take this as your warning that if you do not identify yourself as a Traditionalist, you may not get much out of it.

     That established, let us consider, for a moment, a hypothetical scenario. Imagine that a husband and wife are having an argument over how their children should be educated, with both holding radically opposed views. Which one of them, by the tenets of Traditionalism, should get the final word? The husband, of course, given that he holds the authority within the family. But is this true even if his wife is correct? Must he still be obeyed even if he is objectively in error? Of course! Unless he is somehow invalidating his power through immorality or overreach, he must be obeyed. If his authority was only in force when he was right, it would hardly be authority at all. There would be no order in the family, just a continuous debate as to which side, exactly, was objectively correct.
     Moreover, who has the ability to decide what is right for the family and what is wrong? Short of a perfectly understandable hypothetical situation like this one, does anyone but the husband really have the power to declare one path correct and the other one not? And, if we were to declare the husband's authority void when he is in error, why not take that assertion to its logical conclusion? Why not declare all parental authority void when the parents are in error? Why not let the children weigh in, and, if they are correct and their parents are wrong, make it morally imperative that their commands be the ones obeyed?
     It is truly quite easy to see that paternal authority must be inviolate even when it is in error, for the alternatives are chaos, fragmentation, or worst of all, a justification for intrusive power being granted to the State. Furthermore, it is also easy to see that this extends to all forms of just authority. As long as an authority stays within its rightful purview and does not invalidate itself through immorality, it must be obeyed even if it is in practical error. For otherwise, is it really authority? If whoever is right is the one that must be obeyed, is authority actually in place, or is simple utility and common sense ruling the day? It should be clear to anyone who devotes the thought to it that the necessity to be obedient unto error is, in fact, the defining characteristic of authority, not something alien to it.

     And so we finally come to the main point of this writing, namely, the fact that this extends even into the Ecclesial dimension. That this is true should be patently obvious. Why wouldn't it be true? Religious authority and worldly authority differ from each other only in realm and reliability; in substance, they are the same. Therefore, we may see, religious authority must be obeyed even when it is in error, so long as this error is not somehow invalidating.
     So how can it be that there are such large groups of Catholics who claim to be Traditionalist, claim to have a proper understanding of authority, and claim to hold to the Church in a from almost unchanged from its roots, and yet in the same breath declare the Pope and Magisterium invalid? Even if the central government of the Church is in grave error during the present day, unless it has actively overstepped its bounds, a true and proper understanding of authority demands that we continue to give it our allegiance. Even should the worst of the doomsayers be correct in saying that the Novus Ordō of the liturgy is a tool of damnation, and that modern ecumenism can only damage the unity of the Church, and that the Papal government is doing nothing but continuously undermining true orthodoxy, they are still our rightful, lawful superiors, and we must obey them.

     But this is a bitter pill to swallow for anyone raised in the modern paradigm. After all, what could be more undemocratic than obeying someone you disagree with? What could possibly be more repressive, reactionary, patriarchal, fundamentalist, and otherwise backwards than authority? The modern era is built on disobedience to lawful authority. It is the soil in which it was cultivated, and the water with which it was grown. Many moderners even go so far as to declare that there is no authority, and that any institution exists only through the will of its constituents, who have the transcendent right to break it apart and reshuffle it at will.
     Given how useful this notion is in attacking Christianity, it comes as no surprise that the Adversary has infiltrated it into the midst of the faithful. What is especially disappointing, however, is the pervasiveness of the error. In addition to the progressives and humanists that one would expect to be affected, even the stanchest groups of Traditionalists have been led to fighting against their rightful superiors. This is a depressing turn of events, and it must end. We must excise this troublesome, modern infection from our beliefs. We must relearn how to be obedient.