No Obedience No Heaven

 Where there is no obedience, there is no virtue; where there is no virtue, there is no good; where there is no good there is no love; where there is no love, there is no God; and where there is no God, there is no Paradise”  – St. Padre Pio

I became a Catholic because I came to believe in the authority of the church. I had really come to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ delegated his authority to Peter and that the Bishop of Rome was Peter’s successor. Furthermore, I believed that the validly consecrated bishops of the Catholic Church were the successors to the apostles, and the priests were their “fingers”.

So what to do then when these bishops did not conform to my wishes? I will tell you what happened to me–not because I wish to toot my horn, but simply because it happened and I learned from it and you may learn from it too.

In 1995 I left my post as a minister in the Church of England to be received into the Catholic Church. I had no other training and a wife and two children to support. I got a job as an editor at a small video production company and tried my hand at freelance writing. At the same time I applied to the local Catholic bishop for ordination as a Catholic priest under the pastoral provision. At the time, in England, some 750 Anglican priests converted to Rome. The  vast majority were accepted for ordination as Catholic priests including the married men.

My Catholic bishop accepted me for training and envisioned a role in the diocese as a communications officer. I began my training, but the bishop was promoted. We waited eighteen months for his replacement. I waited another nine months before obtaining a meeting with his successor. I waited another six months for a reply to my application. It was refused because the bishop “Could not think of any way to use me in the diocese.”

I was offered a part time job in a Catholic charity as a fund raiser and this required us to move. So we moved to a new part of the country and I met with my new bishop about ordination. He said “yes” and said they would pick up my paperwork which had already been sent to Rome. We waited six months and learned that “the paperwork had been lost.” We waited another six months and learned that the bishop had changed his mind. He was about to retire and did not want to burden his successor with a priest who had a wife and four children. So we waited for another year until he retired. Then we waited another eighteen months for his successor to be appointed.

His successor was a rather bland liberal…Read More

  • johnnyc

    What about obedience to the Holy Spirit that is giving us the ability to discern right from wrong and to then follow the Gospel. Wouldn’t Mathew 18:15-17 apply? So we are to not bring our concerns to the priest in question? Then to the Bishop? And if that still does not correct error then yes I submit maybe it’s time to find another parish.

  • nannon31

    I admire your choice but I would not imitate it. Christianity is not prone to discuss the “disobedient” or epikeia side of Christ and the disciples. I had 16 years of Catholic school and nothing was said there or in homilies about the contrast of Christ’s ” all that they command you, observe and do but do not do what they do…” versus …versus…His own behaviour in instances like picking grain as they walked on the Sabbath or telling a cured man to carry his mat home…which scandalized the very people He said to obey all in regard to. When St. Ignatius wrote “think with the Church” mid 16th century,, it was during Church sanctioned actions like torture which are now considered “intrinsic evil”. Ergo thinking with the Church was incorrect in the rear view mirror. But again, I admire your pluck.

  • Otto

    Are we not all (peoople and Deacons) ‘fingers’ of the Lord?

    • enness

      Not all in the same way.

  • Augustine

    “to overturn that authority is to place yourself in the position of authority instead.”

    Wow! I think that I can now glimpse at the meaning behind this verse:

    “Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law.*If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?”

  • kkollwitz

    Oh my, this is terrific. And I can use aspects of it in Catechism class.

  • Sally Kinnish

    Thanks for this post….I’m having a really bad day at the office with my boss filling the place of the Bishop… I needed that post.

    maryclare :-)

  • William Olson

    Father, I think this is one of your best postings. Thank you.

  • Dave Zelenka

    I have had similar experiences under different conditions. But I have found exactly the same thing. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s the way the Kingdom of Heaven works in this age: Through godly obedience we heal or defeat even the most terrible tyrant (which may very well be ourselves).

    This is why the epistle writers were so keen on obedience to rulers even in the face of terribly oppressive situations. This is why the reformers tool the wrong path–an understandable (in a worldly sense) path, but not one of Jesus. This is why Jesus went to the cross: to heal the tyrant within our own selves.

    Jesus submitted himself in obedience to both the Jews and Rome (the church and the state) and went to the cross because of it. Christians end up doing the same thing. But in doing so, we suffer. We suffer in the Church and we suffer from the State. But through our obedience we heal both ourselves (through Christ) and the entity which is opposed to Christ to whom we are being obedient. But our obedience ultimately is godly–for Him alone.

    Jesus never promised us good bishops, Popes or priests. But he promised that through it all, he, the Good Shepherd would be leading us through the valley of darkness.

    My examples are too long and personal to share here.

    • Dave Zelenka

      I need to add one thing that’s really important. It is *impossible* for us to perfectly fulfill the obedience requirements of both the State and the Church on our own. Sadly, we will commit “mortal sins” as defined by the Church. And we will end up “driving over 55″ and worse against the State. We might say to ourselves that, “I can do it. I can be holy. I can be an outstanding citizen.” But I can’t. Only Jesus was/is able to do that perfectly. We can only do it perfectly because of him and only when we are grafted into him. That said, it should not stop us from giving it our full and complete effort. It is a paradox we will live under: giving our lives daily to be holy saints, knowing we are his, yet also knowing that we are given our “thorns” of sin (grave sin), so we may be humbled and in need of saving by our beloved Christ Jesus.

  • D’Arcy Voorhees

    Interesting post. I get obedience, but the struggle I see is obedience in following someone that is blatantly in error. In the military you are to follow orders, but you must not follow an order that is out and out evil. At that point you are complicate. Somehow we are not applying the same logic in our Church.

  • Headstand

    Few have done more for our Church in recent times than our dearly beloved converts. Praise God for His converts and especially His Priests!

  • louise

    I like the post. I have been struggling with joining a protestant church with the intention of still going to Mass because it offers programs that are not offered at my Church. Though I don’t think it much an issue of obedience… maybe there’s is something I can learn in the struggle! Thank you for the post