Friday, March 22, 2013

Holy Obedience

If I may comment on Obedience: The spirit of Vatican II, and in Perfecta Caritatis, dialogue between the Superior and the individual Sister, which I think is good and proper, is encouraged. In the Rule of Carmel, a Prioress is defined as "first among the many," which is different from the notion of an Abbott or Abbess. As such, consultation is frequent in my Community. But dialogue is only a means to an end. It is not an end in itself. It fosters openness and confident participation in the life of community. But the final authority rests on the local Superior. If I may quote from "Starting Afresh from Christ- the Consecrated Life in the Third Milennium": - "A personal and confident participation in the community's life and mission is required of all its members. Even if, in the end, according to proper law, it is the task of authority to make choices and decisions, daily living in community requires a participation which allows for the exercise of dialogue and discernment. Each individual, then, and the whole community can work out their own life with the plan of God, together carrying out God's Will. Co-responsibility and participation are also exercised even in various types of councils at various levels, in order to ensure the constant presence of the Lord who enlightens and guides."- page 18 "The Task of Superiors"
Now I agree that this was taken to extremes by some so that Religious life is reduced to democratic living. Religious life is not a democracy. We don't (or should not) operate by popular votes or majority votes.  Sometimes a dialogue has become a crutch for Superiors not assuming full responsibility and accountability  for decisions to be made, and members of community have used this idea as an excuse to pursue their own wills. "I have permission to this .."  Even though permission was given because the Superior does not want to fail in charity.  But healthy and mature dialogues make community living fruitful and productive both collectively and personally. This is one genius of Vatican II that has been misunderstood, manipulated and abused.

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