Vatican, May. 28, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The Vatican has issued a new document
underlining the importance of obedience in religious life.
Entitled "The Service of Authority and Obedience," the 50-page document from
the Congregation for Religious takes the form of an Instruction. It was
presented to the superiors of male and female religious orders on May 28 at
an assembly held in the Salesianum in Rome.
Obedience, the Vatican document says, should be understood by religious as
"a way to help the community or institute to seek and achieve the will of
God." The basis for religious obedience, the Instruction notes, is found "in
that search for God and for his will which is particular to believers." In
offering their obedience, religious imitate "the fundamental experience of
Christ Who, out of love, was obedient unto his death on the Cross."
The document from the Congregation for Religious explicitly takes up the
question of "difficult obedience," which arises when the individual
religious finds the superior's directions "particularly hard to carry out."
It also considers situations in which the superior's orders might cause
conflicts in the individual's conscience.
Obedience can "give rise to difficult moments," the Vatican document
acknowledges. Nevertheless the Instruction observes that religious should
reflect on the fundamental role of obedience as a path to understanding
God's will. The exercise of religious authority can also be difficult for
the superior, the document notes. Everyone in religious life is called to
embrace obedience "not just as a passive and irresponsible execution of
orders, but as a conscious shouldering of commitments."
The Instruction offers some direction for religious superiors, encouraging
them to use their authority prudently, "inviting people to listen, favoring
dialogue, sharing, co-responsibility." Superiors should show pastoral
concern and mercy for those living under their rule, the document notes.
The Vatican Instruction repeatedly calls readers back to the understanding
that obedience is not only a means of structuring the life of religious
communities, but a way of seeking and understanding God's will. Religious,
the document stresses, should recognize in their obedience to superiors "a
real actuation of the will of God."