The Scandals at St. Gertrude the Great

West Chester, Ohio

The Full Documented Story


January 11, 2010

If At First You Don't Succeed...

The Editors

The Myth of Obedience at SGG

After two thousand years of obedience, this particular virtue is one which is familiar to all Catholics.  Whether we agreed with our legitimate superiors or not, we were nevertheless bound to obey them.

What is less familiar to us is, that since Vatican II and the collapse of the Church's infrastructure, the division of Catholics into superiors and subjects has pretty much disappeared.  Gone is the jurisdiction necessary to wield the kind of authority that demands our unquestioning loyalty and obedience.  Jurisdiction can come only from a legitimate Pope, so it follows that nobody in the Church today can really claim any true authority any more.  But Bishop Dolan really does try very hard...

There is nothing so absurd that it cannot be believed as truth if repeated often enough.
                       William James 

Another sign of the fading legitimacy of Bishop Dolan’s pastorate is the reappearance of the old “obedience” chestnut. We learned that last week that a rather confused Father McGuire ineffectually tried to persuade former St. Clare’s parishioners that Father Ramolla was guilty of disobeying his bishop. The editors thought this canard had been trussed, baked, and digested long ago. Apparently not. So, in the interests of stimulating the theological and intellectual wits of Bishop Dolan’s clergy, here is the reply to their oft-repeated absurdity.

Bishops like the pastor of St. Gertrude’s are neither residential nor titular (although for practical purposes they seem to resemble the latter).  They have been, for perfectly just and necessary reasons, consecrated outside the strictures of canon law and are not in communion with the diocese in which they dwell, even if they continue to celebrate diocesan feasts and adhere to pre-Vatican II diocesan regulations. The best word for them is the historical term episcopi vagantes, “wandering bishops.”  In the early church, these bishops had received valid, though sometimes irregular, consecration but possessed no diocese.  Like the “wandering bishops” of old, a sedevacantist episcopus vagans  has sacramental powers but no jurisdiction, the authority to govern the faithful.

A maxim of Roman law says: Where there is no authority for establishing a rule, there is no need of obeying it. Without episcopal authority, Bishop Dolan cannot claim the kind of obedience due to a residential bishop; he is not, in any strict sense, his priests’ “father in God.”  Any “obedience” owed to him will derive from the terms and conditions of some form of civil contract. In his STATUS AGREEMENT, Father Ramolla agreed to assist and obey Bp. Dolan “in a manner similar to the way an Assistant Pastor assisted and obeyed his Pastor according to the norms of the 1917 Code of Canon Law and the 1954 Cincinnati Archdiocesan Statues [sic].” Under the 1917 Code, an assistant had a duty of obedience and docility to help the pastor in the general ministry of the parish. The archdiocese’s statutes added that he was subject to the pastor “as regards order in the rectory.” The statutes also required him to keep the pastor informed, initiate nothing new without the pastor’s consent, and not to interfere with anything the pastor reserved to himself.

By Bishop. Dolan’s own admission, Father was a gifted and praiseworthy assistant in the general ministry.  Inasmuch as Bishop Dolan has said nothing to the contrary, everything indicates that Father fulfilled his parish duties ably and cheerfully.  In other words, he lived up to his end of the agreement. Any other requirement of “obedience” outside the signed agreement and the documents incorporated by reference therein is fictional.