Lay Catholics & Obedience: Limits of Priests’ Power

Lay Catholics & Obedience: Limits of Priests’ Power

From Lifesitenews – extracts…

The idea that the command of the superior is the command of God could be very dangerous unless it is remembered that it contains in itself this important limitation: that we should obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). If we regard our bishop — as we should — as exercising authority from God, and therefore undertake to obey him as a way of obeying God Himself, we could never imagine that this would involve disobeying God’s will. This does not only mean that we should not obey the bishop [or priest] in breaking the Ten Commandments, but that it is not true obedience to carry out the bishop’s [priest’s] desires, should he harbour them, to harm souls in any way.

It was a matter of great satisfaction to many of us Catholics in England and Wales in 2011 when our bishops reimposed the obligation of Friday abstinence: we are now obliged to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year, unless it is a Solemnity. It was similarly gratifying in 2017 when our bishops reimposed the obligation to go to Mass on the traditional dates of the feasts of the Ascension and Epiphany, which had been moved to the nearest Sunday. We should rejoice, similarly, at the authority priests have over us in the confessional, to give or withhold absolution, and to impose a penance on us. These exercises of authority are for our spiritual good: it is easy to see how they benefit us, and the very inconveniences to which they might put us can be a source of grace when accepted with humility.  The authority of bishops and priests over lay Catholics is actually extremely limited, and hardly goes beyond the kinds of examples just given. They cannot bend us to their human will, and they cannot impose on us their opinions on non-spiritual matters, however good their intentions. Above all, they are given power to do good, and never to do evil.  Source…

Editor writes…

To repeat…

The authority of bishops and priests over lay Catholics is actually extremely limited, and hardly goes beyond the kinds of examples just given. They cannot bend us to their human will, and they cannot impose on us their opinions on non-spiritual matters, however good their intentions. Above all, they are given power to do good, and never to do evil.

At one time, the above statement would have been par for the course for the informed Catholic faithful. The idea that any priest could demand uncritical obedience of us would have been laughed out of court. We were taught that, as Soldiers of Christ, we must correct our Protestant friends when they said this sort of thing about Catholics being controlled by our priests. Some, of course, as later events would prove, did have a false understanding of obedience, which bred the idea that no priest could do anything wrong; thus, when the child abuse scandals broke many experienced a major crisis of faith.  No need, if they had only understood the correct nature of the priest-lay relationship which would have prevented them placing their priest on a pedestal.  The crash was almighty when it came.  It was a hard lesson for many (poorly educated-in-the-Faith) Catholics.

Surprising, then, to hear from Catholics who consider themselves to be “traditional” Catholics, that even now this false understanding of obedience is being preached to them on a fairly regular basis, with exhortations to them to be – wait for this – “docile” i.e., submissive to their priests.  While it is a beautiful virtue in the correct context, demanding docility in these times is liable to misinterpretation.  So, let’s clear up “docile” right away:  We should be docile in accepting the guidance of priests in all that touches on the Faith and the mind of the Church.  That is IT. The End. The priest cannot require docility, submissiveness, regarding any and all desires and decisions which he makes in the parish which do not touch on the dogma of the Faith and Morals.  Beware, too, of priests who preach that we should obey the priest even when he’s wrong. I was told this myself, in recent correspondence, by a “traditionalist” priest.  This is the standard of obedience required of those who make a vow of obedience, nuns and monks in monasteries, but it has never been the standard for the lay faithful. Ironically, there are traditionalist clergy who use the important distinction of true from false obedience to justify their irregular situation in the Church where they operate outside the diocesan structures. Think! If Catholics attending their chapels had applied this standard of obey your priest even if he’s wrong in their parishes when their priests discouraged them from moving to the traditional chapels, they’d have stayed put with the novus ordo, and the traditional chapels would be empty!

Great saints harboured no such false ideas about obedience in the lay state. The example of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux – the Little Flower – is interesting.  She sought permission to enter the Carmelite Order at fifteen and was refused. She did not accept this decision from the priest, but approached the bishop, and ultimately, went to Rome to ask the Pope himself.  Source…  St Thérèse is now a canonised saint and Doctor of the Church. Think, folks; think, think, think, and when you’ve done that, think again!

It should be obvious, in fact, to any Catholic with even a minimal understanding of the Faith, that we are not bound to blindly obey every order or desire from every priest.  Indeed, Vatican II is a crisis created by the clergy, just like every heresy that has ever afflicted the Church; the scandals which so often hit the tabloid headlines, in the main feature priests, not lay people, so now, more than ever, we must listen closely to what priests are teaching and preaching and not assume that they are always correct. That is, happily, what I’ve been pleased to see in the not insignificant number of Catholics who have approached me about these recent sermons on obedience.  They have praised their priests to me on many occasions in the past, so they are not hostile to them or seeking to bad-mouth their priests, they are simply confused about this recent focus on the kind of obedience expected of them.  Intelligently, they sought clarification and let’s hope they find it in this article and the ensuing discussion.

In short, we must obey when the priest is instructing us in matters of the Faith or repeating the mind of the Church.  So, for example, if we seek permission for something which may be doubtful, such as participating in a Protestant church service, then if the priest refuses that permission, we should accept that decision, because it is linked to the foundations of the Faith and is intended to protect us from spiritual danger.  I’ve known traditional priests to use their discretion to allow that permission, in one case to attend a family wedding, on grounds that it may damage family unity not to attend, but on condition that the person does not actively participate in the service. That is a simple example of the meaning of the “mind of the Church” and it is not to be confused with the mind of the priest!

For, while we ought to obey the priest in matters of Faith, we may hold our own views on disciplinary and secondary matters.   If, say, a priest chooses a Mass time which is making it impossible for the majority of the people to attend, we are entitled to make our concerns known, respectfully, of course, but no pastor worthy of the magnificent priestly vocation would respond by either ignoring such concerns or telling us to pay, pray and obey, or go away!  In circumstances where the priest is unreasonable, we are entitled to make our concerns known to other members of the congregation and if that doesn’t work, we can take it to the wider Church – as Our Lord Himself instructed (Matthew 18:15-17).  Hence some of our blog discussions in recent times, where we expressed concerns about matters in traditional chapels, followed many unsuccessful attempts to deal privately with the clergy.

The Catholic Church is not a cult – there is no requirement to absolute obedience within the Church apart from that which binds us to the revealed truths of the Faith and the natural moral law.  Members can’t criticise the elders of the “Church of Scientology” or the Jehovah’s Witnesses without being expelled.  This has never been the case for Catholics who disagree with their priests, bishops or popes on secondary matters.  Obedience to the revealed truths of the Faith, and adherence to the natural moral law is essential for Catholics.  An obligation to agree with our priests at all times is not, never has been and never will be part of the Rite of Baptism!

In Summary…

Importantly, there are limits on the authority held by anyone in public office:  check-out assistants in supermarkets, police officers, doctors, lawyers, high court judges – and priests.  Nobody holds absolute power over us, and so no priest should ask for unconditional obedience to anything except the Law of God. Catholics, therefore, thinking of departing from the mind of the Church, or from Catholic teaching on any dogma or moral precept, must think again.  We can’t do that.

Similarly, any priest thinking of departing from the mind of the Church to impose his personal views or preferences on the faithful whether regarding matters liturgical, moral or disciplinary, must also think again. He can’t do that, either. If he doesn’t like his faithful reading this blog, for example, that’s too bad but it is not a disciplinary matter.  God gave us free will precisely so that…er…we can read and contribute to this blog 😀 Everyone, of course, is free to recommend or not recommend this (or any other) blog, but it can’t be made a condition of whether someone is a good or not so good-through-to-bad Catholic.  That’s not how it works.  One “traditional” priest (who has since left his particular association), did seek to deter his congregation from reading this blog and we had a fairly big uptake in newcomers signing up as a result, with one woman emailing to say she’d only found out about us because of his warning, saying: “I thought to myself, what is the old (blank) on about now…”  😀 That particular power-grab failed, spectacularly.

Thus, priests who are exhorting the faithful to what is, in effect, religious obedience when they have not made religious vows of obedience, are misguided, to put it as charitably as possible.  It is, in fact, this unauthorised pressure on the faithful to “obey” in the sinister spirit of “Father always knows best”, which, as I’ve already noted, led to the tragic accounts of child sexual abuse and cover-up across the western world which have caused monumental scandal, driven souls out of Christ’s Church and caused the secular world to hold Catholicism – and priests in general – in utter contempt.

Our “docility”, any “obedience” required of us as lay faithful, must be directed towards the Faith – it must not be used as a control mechanism to get us to do the human will of any priest. Canon Law requires priests to be vigilant in ensuring that public sinners, such as those cohabiting or living in same-sex unions for example, do not approach for Holy Communion.  They may attend Mass, of course, because – as the Fathers of the Church teach – even the most hardened sinner may be touched by grace and ultimately repent and convert, simply by being present at the Holy Sacrifice (Quoted in The Incredible Mass: An Explanation of the Mass, by Fr Martin von Cochem). 

Controlling priests who demand absolute or unconditional obedience, or anything like it, must be reminded that the members of the lay faithful are not religious, living under a vow of obedience.  Their authority over us is very limited indeed.  Pray for priests when you hear them preach this sort of error; it falls under the heading of Matthew 23:4 where Our Lord castigates the religious leaders of his day, exhorting the people to obey what they say [i.e., accept their religious teachings] but He tells them not to follow their example: “For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders: but with a finger of their own they will not move them…”  (Matthew 23:4).

Priests, who like the Pharisees of old, burden the faithful with false teaching about obedience, may be genuinely ignorant, badly formed in their seminary, weakly going along with their own superior(s) – who knows.  What we do know, however, is that such blind obedience is not the Catholic way.

Finally, after permitting discussions about problems in a traditional chapel previously, I have met with a surprising degree of soft hostility from the Mass-goers there. They seem now to regard me as an enemy which wouldn’t matter if their behaviour didn’t indicate that they have forgotten the Gospel injunction to love enemies: “For if you (love and) salute your brethren only, what reward shall you have?  Do not also the heathens this?”  (Matthew 5:46-47).  In Glasgow parlance, this translates as follows: if you’re nice and pleasant and friendly only to the people you like, you are no different from any non-believer.  Gerragrip.  By way of excusing such un-Christian behaviour they accuse me of causing scandal (by publishing criticism of the traditional clergy), again displaying ignorance of the words of Pope Saint Gregory the Great:  “It is better that scandal should arise, than the truth be suppressed.” Gerranothergrip.  

Interestingly, these same people applaud our reports on the modernists who are causing so much scandal and mayhem in the Church, not least the Pope himself, apparently forgetting that we are pledged to report on the crisis in the Church, wherever it is manifest.  The “traditionalist” faithful are fine with our reports on modernists, but they oppose any and all public criticism of those priests who describe themselves as “traditional”. It’s identity politics again. If a priest identifies as a traditionalist, he is safe from all criticism. Somebody should tell Papa Francis…

Note:  Please do not name any priests in the comments below. This topic is about obedience and the level of obedience which the lay faithful owe to their priests.  Some people have expressed confusion on the subject after hearing sermons urging docility and obedience to priests on matters not of the Faith, even if the priest is wrong, and this article and discussion is intended to clarify these matters for them.  Stick to that, please and thank you.    On that basis, please feel free to share your thoughts…

Comments (38)

  • westminsterfly Reply

    If any priest demands unconditional obedience from a lay person in ALL matters – even when they are obviously in the wrong – then that is a sure sign of a cult mentality, or could even be a precursor to grooming / sexual abuse – whether the priest is in an organisation or not. If that happened to me, I’d head for the hills. Double quick time.

    October 10, 2022 at 3:34 pm
    • Laura Reply

      westminsterfly, WF,

      I agree – that would be a definite red flag as they say in the USA – demanding unconditional obedience for something not de fide, would be outrageous.

      October 10, 2022 at 9:43 pm
  • Frankier Reply

    This is the reason the so-called environmentalists were delighted to get Pope Francis on board.

    We have a typical example at the present time where catholics will be bending over backwards to obey the “instructions” in many parish bulletins to watch our carbon footprints, as they comically refer

    It has got to the stage where catholics will be confessing the sin of going for a run in the car on a nice
    day and wondering if it is OK to use the car headlights on the way back home.

    Time there was a caveat in these bulletins to let the people know that they are not actually obliged to act on these suggestions just because they come from the parish priest.

    October 10, 2022 at 4:51 pm
    • westminsterfly Reply

      We have been given by God the gifts of free will and reason. We need to exercise them judiciously, especially in these times. Sadly, even at our churches, be they novus ordo or traditional. Note how many times Editor used the word ‘Think’ in that excellent piece above. Sadly, so few do really think. Clericalism is still a real problem. Father is not always right. (Or Sister come to that).

      October 10, 2022 at 5:20 pm
  • Lily Reply

    Well, I can’t imagine that there is anybody who doesn’t find that article informative. It’s very clear and it is really good to have my own instinctive knowledge reinforced. As Frankier says, we’re being made to feel we have all sorts of duties we never had before, by priests and bishops, so that is very clear; we are obliged to obey in matters of faith, AMEN!

    October 10, 2022 at 7:25 pm
  • Faith of Our Fathers Reply

    I know not who the Priest was who said ” Dont read the Catholic Truth Blog ” I have said this before but i think its worth repeating .I asked a Priest a similar question a few years ago about Catholic Truth and the Latin Mass [ i really now dont like using Traditional Catholic ED although i know in your Blog that you have to ],i now just say i am a Catholic who believes in the Gospels of Jesus Christ untouched by Human Hands. Anyhow this particular Priest of whom to be Honest i didnt have much regard for said to me ” O those Latin Mass goers are all Nutcases ” these were his exact words. Well i said if HE believes that is the case am finding out for myself . Am so glad that i did . As for the so called Hierarchy in our Catholic Church i would at least listen to them IF they were even Catholics. They mostly have chosen the Bergolion Path as of the Priest above of whom the last Mass i went that he offered he said . ” Pope Francis is the new John the Baptist ” boy i nearly fell off my pew . To me now i personally wouldnt have conversions with these Priests. Of course i am certainly no better than them, but as i said They Have Chosen Their Path most of it which is the Global Warming Garbage .

    October 10, 2022 at 7:39 pm
    • Josephine Reply


      Priests don’t want people reading the Catholic Truth newsletter and blog because they want to keep them in ignorance of the state of the Church. They can cover up the reality by talking about climate change etc. so that’s the modernists’ motive. The traditional Mass saying priests are of the clericalist mindset, lay people (like kids) should be seen and not heard, LOL!

      It’s incredible that they are preaching that the faithful should obey the priest even when he’s wrong – what?!&%

      After Hell freezes over, would be my reply.

      October 10, 2022 at 7:53 pm
      • Athanasius


        I still remember the horrendous priest who told me I couldn’t enter St. Mungo’s church in Glasgow at the height of the COVID scam because I refused to wear a mask and provide contact details. I wonder how he’ll answer to Our Lord for putting a soul out of the church under such a pretext. There’s no way he has the supernatural spirit of Our Lord. Good priests draw souls to Our Lord and bad priests drive them away.

        October 10, 2022 at 9:14 pm
      • Laura


        I remember that well – I was shocked that any priest would exclude any lay person from his church, and that on government orders! It’s incredible what was going on at that time.

        I hope the traditional priests in this report wouldn’t put anyone out for disobeying them on something not de fide. I’ll assume the best in a charitable spirit, for once, LOL!

        October 10, 2022 at 9:41 pm
      • Athanasius


        Yes, it was a bit of a shock at the time. I later discovered, however, that there were many such incidents around the world. Lucifer is having a field day in this universal apostasy.

        October 10, 2022 at 10:04 pm
      • Nicky


        “After Hell freezes over, would be my reply.”

        Mine too!

        October 11, 2022 at 9:03 am
    • editor Reply


      I am sure you know that I have said countless times on this blog that I dislike the label “traditional” because, really, no Catholic can refuse to adhere to Tradition, as we must adhere to Sacred Scripture, both Tradition and Scripture must be accepted as revealing the Faith in exactly the same measure. I sometimes use the term as shorthand, especially when I’m writing about people – priests or laity – who describe themselves in that way. By doing so, though, I’ve always thought, they are legitimising the right of a Catholic to interpret the Faith in a loose, “liberal” way, which we may not do. When introducing myself in certain situations, I explain that I am a Catholic who, these days, would be described as a “traditionalist” adding that all this means is that I am one of those who “believes it all.” that usually raises an understanding smile.

      October 10, 2022 at 11:17 pm
  • Athanasius Reply


    Great topic. The present crisis in the Church is a crisis created by the clergy, just as every heresy to have afflicted the Church in her sacred history has been clergy-led. I wonder what St. Paul, St. Athanasius, St. Catherine of Sienna and numberless other champions of the faith would say about absolute obedience to superiors. I suspect they would name such a suggestion for what it is – a heresy!

    We are, as you rightly point out, obliged to obey superiors only when they command something consistent with the law of God and His holy Church. We are not obliged to obey, however, when they command out of ignorance or malice. In fact, we have a duty to disobey. This is a time of great clerical pride in which, to quote something I read the other day, “the power of love has given place to a love of power”. Now, more than ever, the faithful need to be vigilant and courageous, especially with a Pope like Francis on the Chair of St. Peter. Catholics are the free children of God, not the slaves of deviant Popes, prelates and priests. As you said in the intro, this was once perfectly understood by all.

    October 10, 2022 at 8:01 pm
    • Michael 🙏 Reply

      Editor and Athanasius

      I’m in accord with both your remarks on this matter. The entire notion of obedience within the Church has become so distorted that it beggars belief.

      As for those great Saints they like ourselves would have refused to follow false shepherds who openly and brazenly distort the faith for their own purposes and ends.

      May God forgive them

      Ave Maria

      Michael 🙏

      October 11, 2022 at 2:41 pm
  • Nicky Reply

    I find it hard to believe that any priest would think it’s right to demand unquestioning obedience from the laity. Obviously, some people recognised this as being plain wrong, but what about the rest? Are there any lay people who would actually think this was right and go along with it, surely not.

    One more thing – TBH, I wouldn’t ask my priest if I could attend a Protestant wedding or funeral because I think my sensus catholicus is good enough to guide me. I could attend knowing that I must not participate in the service. I also don’t believe in asking priests anything if I can avoid it. I can never understand Catholics who want to have priests as spiritual directors. Priests are for giving us the sacraments, end of, IMHO.

    October 11, 2022 at 9:01 am
    • westminsterfly Reply

      I disagree about some Catholics having priests as spiritual directors, if required. In certain cases, some need more pastoral care than others, and may have spiritual problems, especially if making real progress in the spiritual life. I remember a priest friend telling me that a person under spiritual direction should obey his director in spiritual matters, and be completely honest with him, in the matter of dealing with issues like overcoming scruples or something like that. I think that is acceptable and of course, the person under spiritual direction is always free to disregard the director and end the direction. I think spiritual direction comes under a completely different category to just blindly obeying priests over any issue. That’s why I was so shocked when I found out Opus Dei have lay spiritual directors. They do not have the ‘grace of state’ as it were, and there have been problems – I had direct knowledge of a problem caused by one of these ‘lay directors’ myself.

      October 11, 2022 at 3:05 pm
      • Nicky


        We will just have to agree to disagree on this one, then. I think lay people having spiritual directors is a strange thing – I don’t remember ever hearing about it when I was young, more in my later years, and it links in my mind with the whole “counselling” thing.

        IMHO, if we do our spiritual reading and reflect on the meaning of what we are reading and saying in our prayers, that should be sufficient. For centuries we relied on God’s grace, not spiritual directors or counsellors. There are all sorts of dangers in the wings with priests giving “spiritual direction” outside the confessional. Your own discovery that this has spread to having lay directors in Opus Dei, is an example of the danger of this sort of thing.

        There used to be a confessional box in St Alphonsus church in Glasgow which had a label “Sister Catherine” on the door, and it turned out that Sister was doing counselling in there. I don’t think you need much imagination to work out the subliminal message going out about women’s ordination.

        I do see the difference between being able to ignore or stop spiritual direction of the person wishes to, so it’s not quite the same as this ridiculous “obey the priest even if he’s wrong” mentality, but I do think that it can be dangerous, just as everyday counselling can be dangerous, IMHO.

        October 11, 2022 at 6:25 pm
      • Athanasius


        Westminsterfly is correct in the matter of spiritual direction. The Church has always allowed lay people to choose a particular priest to direct their soul, one they trust implicitly. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, it’s been allowed in the Church for centuries and many lay saints made use of clerical spiritual directors. Lay directors is something altogether different, completely alien to Catholicism and a recipe for disaster.

        October 11, 2022 at 10:05 pm
      • Nicky


        It may well be allowed but I have a personal aversion to it. So, like I said to westminsterfly, we’ll just have to agree to disagree about this.

        October 11, 2022 at 11:30 pm
      • westminsterfly

        Your aversion is possibly because you never grew up with it, but it certainly is an ancient tradition. I remember hearing about it from my first days as a Catholic, which is why I have no problem with it (except Opus Dei style abuses). And I certainly remember that scandal of that nun giving ‘counselling’ in the confessional. That is outrageous. But spiritual direction isn’t counselling (which I agree is dangerous). There is a great book available, which I have, and it was specifically written for those unable to find, or have access to a priest for spiritual direction: ‘Guidance in Spiritual Direction’ by Charles Hugo Doyle (1956). The first words are: “God so desires that man place himself under the direction of another, that He absolutely does not want to see us give full assent to the supernatural truths He Himself imparts, before they have issued out of the mouth of man – St John of the Cross”

        October 12, 2022 at 9:32 am
  • Frankier Reply

    Athanasius, the priest you mention has a “pundit” brother who is rather disliked, to put it mildly, by the supporters of a football club in Scotland which he grew up supporting. The radio station he works for is noted for its anti-catholic/Irish hatred, so brother Hugh had to toe the line for the sake of a plate of soup and do their bidding.

    Looks like it is a family trait.

    October 11, 2022 at 11:40 am
    • Athanasius Reply


      Yes, you’re absolutely right on that point. I know of the brother and his ideas. A chip off the old block right enough!

      October 11, 2022 at 11:43 am
  • Catholic Mother Reply


    I think that the priests’ role is to provide us with the sacraments, but they have a duty to do much more. I am reading a book by a priest saint, St John Eudes, and he talks about the obligations of a priest being much more than just administering the sacraments. I also believe they do need to guide their sheep too. They should be going after the lost sheep through good sermons, and Catholic action. That’s the problem with a lot of priests. We are all called to be soldiers of Christ, priests included. I feel the priests have let us down both modern and traditional priests, more so the traditional priests because they should know better.

    I spoke with a friend from England in the recent past and she has four children who have left the faith, and she believes priests’ sermons could have been directed in some way to encouraging them in the Catholic Faith. Priests’ may think that because parents and young children, and young adults are attending Traditional Masses, that they are informed and formed properly in the Catholic Faith – its quite the opposite in many cases – I have been surprised myself after getting to know some of these people. The people I have spoken with say that traditional priests could make more of an effort to understand how young people think in this modern world.

    Another major problem is that sometimes we have to protect our children from other people who are attending chapels because they are misled into the whole sedevacantist mentality. This is confusing for all of us including the young to think we don’t have a pope. It means we have to check everything on the internet which is where blogs like this one are so useful.

    It’s disappointing for parents who work hard to teach their children the faith when they often don’t know it themselves. I hear this from parents a lot myself, only to find that the priests don’t play their part. Young people need to hear priests say what their parents say, to reinforce what they have been taught.

    To parents like us, hearing the priest preaching about blind obedience, and not doing the above, is very disappointing indeed.

    October 11, 2022 at 1:11 pm
    • Athanasius Reply

      Catholic Mother

      You’ve hit the nail right on the head there. The priest is much more than just the celebrant of holy Mass and administrator of the Sacraments, he’s called to be another “sweet Christ on earth”. That means being personally holy and pious, providing extra masses and devotions and preaching sermons that touch the hearts of all, but especially the young, with great desire to do good and avoid evil. Most priests today seem happy with bland sermons that are more adult apologetics than words to stir the soul. They haven’t got a patch on the old priests or the missionaries when it comes to preaching. There are always exceptions right enough. Look for the priest with a great and open devotion to Our Lady and you have a saintly priest there. Those who rarely or never speak on devotion to the Mother of God are sadly lacking and more likely to have an indifferent congregation. Holy zeal for souls and great piety are the marks of the saintly priest.

      October 11, 2022 at 2:57 pm
    • Nicky Reply

      Catholic Mother,

      I cannot pick a fault in anything you say, and I see I was wrong to say “end of” as if the priests should only give us the sacraments, nothing more. That’s wrong. I was really thinking of the notion that people tend to ask priests for advice about this, that and the next thing. I’m not for that at all, but I do agree about sermons and going after the lapsed, educating the young etc. All of that is (or should be) a normal part of the work of any priest. Some priests are using the crisis in the Church – as they used lockdown – to ease up on their duties, and it is very wrong of them.

      Your comment about priests “need to say what the parents say” so that the young hear it from an authority figure apart from their parents, is such an insightful comment, I don’t think many of us have thought of that before. I was just thinking just now, I don’t remember ever hearing a priest saying in the pulpit that young people need to obey their parents (even if they think they’re wrong, LOL!) and it would help, no end, if the young were hearing that sort of thing at Mass, from time to time. Just ordinary teachings like that, and the need for young people to dress and speak modestly, would make such a difference. Parents (and grandparents!) struggle to get these “old fashioned” ideas across to kids, so it would help enormously if they heard it from priests as well.

      Your post is very thoughtful and really made me think.

      October 11, 2022 at 6:38 pm
  • westminsterfly Reply

    Usually, when threads are posted on ‘traditionalist chapels’ the comments come in thick and fast – am I noticing a certain reluctance here? It crossed my mind that people might be keeping quiet (especially if they use their real names on the blog) out of fear of retribution. If this is indeed the case, then that would be even more evidence of a cult mentality at work. The only way to stop cults is to expose them and speak out against those exhibiting cult behaviour.

    October 11, 2022 at 2:53 pm
    • editor Reply


      I’m afraid you are more correct that you might guess. Not so long ago, I said to a layman who attends a traditional chapel that the particular association of priests where he attends has become cult-like, to which he replied (to my astonishment) “They ARE a cult and we’re lucky to have them.” I wonder if he really knows the meaning of “cult” – I hope not!

      As for the “fear of retribution” – unfortunately, there can be a vengeful attitude in some clergy if they feel under attack. None of this “offer it up for souls” malarkey – that’s for the birds, as they say, and any attempt to improve things in their parish is taken as a personal slight and “sowing division”. It’s really a cross between amazing and sad, but mostly sad. Such blindness. Diabolical disorientation writ large.

      Where we part company (for now, at least) is in your assertion that such behaviour needs to be exposed, people speak out etc. Normally, I would agree whole-heartedly, and I believe the time will come when that will be essential, but for now, for a number of practical reasons, I’d say it’s best to letting sleeping cults lie 😀

      Wherever we live in the UK, and this is especially true of Scotland, we don’t know what is going to happen when the bishops set to “obeying” (for want of a better word) Traditionis Custodes. Getting to Mass has to be a priority for traditionally minded Catholics right now, especially parents of young children. So, for now – let’s pray and ask Our Lady and the saints to intercede for us at the throne of God – we desperately need sound priests. St John Vianney, pray for us!

      October 11, 2022 at 3:10 pm
    • Athanasius Reply


      Sometimes a certain patience and prudence are necessary. Remember the old adage “There’s no point arguing with a drunk man”? It applies as much to those inebriated with pride as to those stoned on alcohol.

      October 11, 2022 at 10:00 pm
  • RCAVictor Reply

    I’d say absolute, unquestioning obedience, in this specific context, is a characteristic of fascist or Bolshevik tyrannies, not of the Catholic Church. It also flies in the face of how God created the human race: with free will, free to obey or disobey (leaving aside, for the moment, the consequences of disobeying!). Holy Mother Church is our Mother, not Nurse Ratched.

    Unfortunately, what we are in today is the Bolshevik version of the Catholic Church, the culmination of a slippery slope that began with Vatican II, as I understand things. The “Dictator Pope” is a very apt title, and fully deserved, and certain underlings in the clergy seem only too happy to follow suit.

    October 11, 2022 at 4:07 pm
    • Nicky Reply

      RCA Victor,

      Nurse Ratchet and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – LOL! Yes, the Church is in some state, no question about it.

      Mentioning of the Pope – the traditional priests from all the societies seem to be keeping a very low profile right now, maybe due to Traditionis Custodes still be rolled out. There isn’t any real fightback, and I, for now, have really given up expecting that to change.

      October 11, 2022 at 6:42 pm
      • Athanasius


        At least Cardinal Mueller and Archbishop Vigano are speaking out – it seems they may be the most unexpected of champions of the faith while those we thought champions enjoy tea and muffins with Francis!

        October 11, 2022 at 9:52 pm
    • Athanasius Reply


      Yes, there’s plenty of fascists and Bolsheviks hiding behind Roman collars, and no few effeminate men to boot!

      October 11, 2022 at 9:54 pm
  • WurdeSmythe Reply

    I know a couple from a traditional chapel whose marriage went through a difficult time, and for a while they lived apart (they are now together again).

    The parish priest was furious with the wife because separating from her husband was her idea. The priest chastised her for not asking his permission to live apart. When she “disobeyed” him (a misnomer – the priest’s permission was not required for the separation), he refused her the sacraments. When the wife started attending another traditional parish, the priest was able to persuade his superiors, who *obliged* the priest of the second parish to also deny the woman the sacraments. The second priest told me that the rationale for this censure was that the wife had “abandoned” her husband (she had not) and that she had engaged in an “extramarital affair” (she had not).

    Nobody at the parish knew what was going on beyond the separation of the husband and wife. I did not learn the additional details until I spoke with the wife a few years later.

    My understanding is that the sacraments are to be denied only if there is a risk of public scandal. By denying the wife the sacraments the priest treated her as a public sinner.

    At the time these events were taking place, the parish priest told me that the wife was a mentally ill woman who was trying to alien the children from their father. This was not true; in retrospect, I’m not sure he wasn’t trying to discredit her in the event she talked about his own conduct.

    In time the prohibition against the wife was lifted. To this day the couple is afraid to return to that chapel while the controlling priest is still the pastor. The priest, meanwhile, faced no consequences that I am aware of for his actions.

    October 12, 2022 at 4:09 am
    • editor Reply


      Your account of the woman refused the sacraments in that marriage breakdown reminds me of a situation in the south of England some years ago, when a woman tried to alert the then superior of one of the traditional groups to another superior who was causing concern by his public statements. She was concerned that his statements would (and did, in time) reach the mainstream media, and thus become a cause of scandal. When her concerns were ignored, she set up a blog to publish the information and was then told she must not approach for Holy Communion, she then being the cause of public scandal.

      However, when she contacted the overall superior of the organisation, he immediately replied to tell her to approach for Holy Communion and the local superior was instructed to lift that prohibition without delay.

      It seems to be something of a custom in at least one of the traditional priestly societies to use the sacraments as a weapon, claiming that X or Y is “doing harm”, “causing division”, “a cause of scandal” – whatever. If you are a thorn in the side of certain priests, you risk being denied the sacraments – it’s that simple. In one such situation that I know personally, those in the congregation who have for years caused division and scandal are safe from all censure – with one person who complained about their bullying behaviour being accused of “demonising” that person. Talk about double standards.

      As for the priests facing consequences for such unjust actions – quite the reverse. The superiors tend to close ranks to defend the clergy. It’s all quite shocking and very sad.

      October 12, 2022 at 9:17 am
      • WurdeSmythe

        I’ve experienced the “closing ranks” phenomenon. The parish priest who traumatized my friends was also guilty of contumely toward myself. When I spoke to the priest’s superior about the matter, he replied that sometimes two good people “just don’t get along,” and cited the example of saints who had been obliged to part company (e.g., St. Paul and St. Barnabas). In my case, it seems that the better Biblical example would have been King Saul and David.

        When I sought advice from another traditional priest about my experience, the second priest recognized the veracity of what I told him, and his response was that God wanted me to carry this cross *alone* and that I must never speak to anyone about it, except perhaps with another priest. When I later tried to discuss with him the situation of my friends who’d been denied the sacraments by the contumacious priest, the helpful priest said I was mentally ill, that I should be in therapy and on medication, and that I was infected with “pride” and had set myself up as the judge of priests because I expected perfection of normal men. None of those accusations were true, but they did serve to end that particular conversation.

        God knows the truth of it all, and one day all that’s hidden will be brought to light. For myself, I did finally find a wise and holy traditional priest who’s been very helpful in helping me sort out all this “closing ranks” business. God is good.

        October 12, 2022 at 11:18 am
      • Athanasius


        They will not escape the divine judgement, that’s the point. If, like the Freemasons, they close ranks around each other when wrong is clearly being done to souls, then I’m afraid they needn’t expect heaven when they die. Our Lord will judge His priests far more strictly by reason of the special vocation He called them to. Sadly, we live in a time when the supernatural life and personal judgement after death are just shallow statements they have to echo every now and then as part of their “job”, as they see it.


        Think yourself fortunate, I was actually attacked in the sacristy by a superior of a certain Traditional order and his superiors closed ranks around him. He later left, thank God, but others have, as Editor has expressed, weaponised the Mass and Sacraments against anyone who doesn’t do their bidding. In the old days before Vatican II, they would have been laicised. That old adage comes to mind again for these times: “the power of love has given place to a love of power”. Many of them, tragically, are more holey than Godly!

        October 12, 2022 at 12:02 pm
    • Josephine Reply


      This idea that a person needs “permission” from a priest for something like that in their personal lives, is just mind-boggling. What are these priests ON?

      October 12, 2022 at 10:10 am
      • WurdeSmythe

        When you’re Pope of your own parish, perhaps options are open to you that are normally denied to us mere mortals.

        October 12, 2022 at 11:02 am

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