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Catholic and Non-Catholic Views of Authority

One of the most significant aspects of being Catholic is living like a Catholic. I am not referring, specifically, to obedience to the Church or understanding doctrine. Instead, I am referring to the way that Catholics live. Historically, Catholics lived with the idea that every one of God's people is under a certain authority and must respect that authority. I know that sounds strange (!) but it has to do with that fourth commandment thing.

Interestingly, both protestants and pagans have the same basic understanding of the way to live. Their theology tells them to see themselves as their own authority and then submit to other authorities only as it is convenient and when they happen to agree with them already. Now, some will contend with me that protestants acknowledge God as the ultimate authority, but that is not exactly accurate. You see, the protestant way of thinking says that the individual is the final interpreter of truth and therefore, they will submit to God in the way that they interpret as correct; which means that they are the final determiner of truth--exactly like a pagan. Whenever a non-catholic starts to move away from this view of authority, he begins the journey of conversion to the Catholic Church.

Now there are some Catholics today who behave more like protestants in this manner and you can always spot them when they are challenged with something they do not like; they will reinterpret it according to what they want and refuse to submit to a higher authority (like their priest, or bishop). I knew one who justified breaking the precepts of the Church because (as he said), "I don't see it that way" (like that makes a difference).

If we are going to be true to the Catholic faith as handed down to us, we must follow this as well. If I, as a priest, do not like something my Bishop tells me to do, I do not "reinterpret it" or just ignore it, I am called to obey (for my own spiritual well being). Each of us must seek to live out our faith, not through our own personal decisions, but through humbly following the authority of another. We may not like that authority, and we may seek ways to get around that authority, but the Catholic way is to say "God please help me to obey You, by obeying those I am under", and we can do so with the grace of God.


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