“Protect The Pope”: On The Matter Of Obedience
After the shutting down of “Protect the Pope”, I think it might be useful to write some reflections on the matter of obedience.
A Deacon, say, writes a blog saying “I am a deacon in the Diocese of X”. In this case, he is “spending” the name of the diocese and the prestige and sacredness of the Holy Orders he has received (a Deacon is, let us remind ourselves of this, ordained). As a Deacon, he owes obedience to the Bishop. Not a blind one, certainly, and not obedience to every whim of the Bishop. But certainly, when the Bishop instruct him to do something – or not to do something – that is directly related to both his activity as a deacon and the diocese presided by the Bishop, the Deacon in question should, in my eyes, seriously reflect whether he really does not want to comply.
Now, if Deacon Nick had run his blog without spending his title, it would have been, in my eyes, different. If the bishop can't tell the deacon what he has to discuss at the pub with his friends, as “Nick”, he should also not be able to tell him what to discuss on the Internet with his friends, as “Nick”. In this case Deacon Nick could, I think, have legitimately replied that his own freedom of expression, particularly when the expressions are orthodox, is nothing upon which the Bishop has any say. But this is obviously different. This is someone writing in his role of ordained man, incardinated in a diocese, and who owes obedience to a bishop.
I am not a canonist, but I think Deacon Nick could have only done one of the following:
A) inform the bishop he will continue to blog, as this is his private exercise. No mention of deacons anymore, of course, unless perhaps and for some time for the clear statement the blog reflects his private opinions and is nothing to do with the diocese or his ministry as a Deacon. If the bishop wants to drag him in front of an ecclesiastical tribunal, welcome. The blog will report everything as it happens.
B) Go to court against the bishop to obtain the removal of the order (which I suppose was given in writing, and under exercise of the bishop's authority) to stop blogging.
C) obey the bishop's order.
Now: a Deacon of all people should reflect very attentively whether A or B are really wise courses of action. Is a blog so important that it justifies a very public conflict between a deacon and his bishop? Well yes, it might be, if the Deacon thinks the order to stop blogging is a scandal that must be made public, and fought against. But the Deacon can also legitimately decide that he will fight with Padre Pio's (and countless saints besides) weapons: silence, obedience, and prayer. If the Deacon obeys to the Bishop, the latter carries the responsibility of whatever results from his order. Let God, who sees everything, give the Deacon the premium for his obedience, and the Bishop the punishment for his insolence. If it is God's will, not one but ten new blogs will be born out of this outrage, and countless blog readers will be motivated to search the blogosphere for other authentic voices, and grow in faith as a result. We must not make the mistake of thinking this matter lies, so to speak, entirely in one or two persons' hands. Dio vede e provvede. God sees and provides.
Obviously, there are cases in which disobedience is or may be the only sensible way, or the most sensible way: say, when the preservation of the Mass of the Ages is in danger, or – I add – an excellent religious order is being trampled by an unconscionable Pontiff. In these cases we have to do with the Mass, and the Mass is more serious than any blog, and take precedence before the obedience to any Pope.
But honestly, there is no scarcity of orthodox Catholic blogs. Many more will be created. Again, God can give back ten times what was taken away. Obedience should, as a reasoned choice born of faith in Providence, always be respected.
It is, therefore, not fair to say that Deacon Mick is waving the white flag, or in a way “chickening out”. Rather, I think he has decided that he will put his obedience in the hands of the Lord, and He will do with it what He thinks appropriate: rewarding, and punishing, in His own good time.
Blogs like Deacon Nick's, or mine, are but grains of sand in the great scheme of things. The Lord can decide to sacrifice them – and to sacrifice much worthier things than a blog; perhaps through the allowing of an injustice – so that in the end more good may happen.
In these matters, it is always useful to remind ourselves of God's lavish abundance, a way that to our scarcity-accustomed minds may seem wastefulness. Billions of billions of suns, and accessory planets, just to give us a glimpse of His might. Schubert was dead at not even 32. Mozart at 35. Bizet before becoming 37. Mendelssohn at 38. Chopin at 39.
St Theresa of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, died at 24.
If God has decided the world could do without St. Therese of Lisieux when she was only 24, methinks we can relax at the thought of the Catholic blogosphere having to live without “Protect the Pope”, or this little effort.
All those who, then, suffer this loss may do worse than wondering whether, perhaps, they might start writing their own blog. At times, unpleasant events bear great fruit. If I had not been banned from “Homo Smoke” I would never, ever have come to the idea of blogging myself. I allow myself to think that it was a wise decision and, I hope, a meritorious one. But you see here how Providence works.
Deacon Nick will, then, be a non-blogging Deacon again, and my thanks to him for his sterling work and for the example of obedience he has now chosen to give. May God reward him and his worthy wife for their effort, time, and pain.
We, the non-deacons, will continue to blog and, perhaps, to blog more numerous and more motivated than before.
God works in mysterious ways.
But most of all, God isn't fooled by Bishop Campbell's religion of niceness.