Albert & Thomas: Selected Writings

By Simon Tugwell | Go to book overview

Obedience
Summa Theologiae II. II
Question 104 a.5
It would appear that subjects are bound to obey their superiors in everything:
1. The apostle says, "Children, obey your parents in everything ... slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything" (Col. 3:20,22); so on the same principle other types of subjects ought to obey their superiors in everything.
2. Superiors are intermediaries between God and their subjects; as it says in Deuteronomy 5:5, "I was the trustee and intermediary between God and you at that time, to declare his words to you." Now it is impossible to go from one end of something to the other without going through the middle. So the precepts of a superior should be regarded as the precepts of God. 1. This is why the apostle says, "You received me as the angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself" (Gal. 4:14) and "When you received from us the word in which God was heard, you did not receive it as a human word, but as God's word, which indeed it is" (1 Thess. 2:13). So people ought to obey their superiors in everything, just as they have to obey God in everything.
3. Religious make a vow of obedience at their profession in just the same way as they make a vow of chastity and poverty. And a religious is bound to observe chastity and poverty in everything, so the same must apply to obedience too.

On the other hand:

It says in Acts 5:29, "It is necessary to obey God rather than human beings." And sometimes the commands of superiors are contrary to God. Therefore superiors are not to be obeyed in everything.

____________________
1.
The argument rests on the spatial analogy implicit in the idea of "intermediary": if C is midway between A and B, you cannot go from A to B without passing C. So, if superiors are intermediaries between us and God, the only way in which God's commands will reach us is through our superiors, and the only way we can offer obedience to God is by obeying our superiors.

-597-

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