In the Catholic Church, there is no enfoeffment of obedience

by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

When the world was Catholic and sane, there were no democracies, only monarchies and a few mercantile republics, where only the landed or established could vote. Power was decentralized, and a monarch was not an absolutionist, he had to hearken to the most powerful noble families of his realm and rule out of consensus.

Each noble family held a series of titles which comprises their power base and property. Though estates were owned individually and could be scattered, on account inheritance throughout the realm and beyond.

But the nobles were few, and they could only make their land produce and protect them by entrusting them under contract to local strongmen, noblemen, or ecclesiastical institutions.

This process of entrustment by contract was known as enfeoffment. On a certain day, the one with the temporal jurisdiction over the property, or fief, would hold court and the one who was to receive care of it, or his representative, presented himself. Then placing his hands, palm against palm, within the hands of the lord, he pledged him fealty and service, loyalty and collaboration. The Lord in turn conceded control and all temporal jurisdiction to him by way of a habitual delegation, which lasted until death and in many cases was renewed from generation to generation. Being that many noble families died out, those receiving these lands, or fiefs often became in turn their rightful owners.

This system was called the Feudal System, and in it the loyalty you owed your highest Lord, the Monarch or Prince, was mediated by the loyalty to owed your immediate lord or baron. There was never a question of a conflict, because you obeyed your immediate lord or else. Recourse to the prince was unthinkable, it would be an act of treachery to your own lord, and was countenanced only in the most grave matters when one’s immediate lord was involved in treason.

The Catholic Church, however, is not a feudal society. Our obedience can never be parceled out to other superiors. Our obedience is owned wholly and entirely, totally and continually, perfectly and fully, supremely and utmostly by God alone, in the Person of the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ.

There is thus never a question of betraying a lower superior, such as the pope, the bishop or the local pastor, or religious superior (if you happen to be a monk, nun, etc.). There is never a question because you do not in the absolute sense owe them obedience. You owe them relative obedience, that is, inasmuch as they hold an office from God, confirmed by the Church and rule in accord with the will of God, Canon Law, the Faith, and the common good.

Evil men in the Church do not, however, conceive power and authority in this fashion. They believe that if they have the claim to the office you must obey them more than God Himself. Bergoglio is the perfect example of this kind of tyrant. Bishops and clergy who obey him show that they do not hold the correct notion of obedience either.

This is why they cannot even open the Code of Canon Law and read canon 332 §2 and even begin to see the problem with the Declaratio of Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 11, 2013.

We must obey God, not men! — Said Saint Peter the Apostle to the High Priests of the Temple shortly after Pentecost. These words have been cited by many sacred authors for millenia. But they are also prophetic for our own day and show us the way which is truly progressive and forward, to God and in the truth.

However, contrary to most moderns, these words do not men that you have a right to private judgement, rather, they mean that we are always obliged to obey God as Christ taught us to and never are obliged to put the claim to obedience from any authority, even one constituted by God, in way of that.

So the next time one of your legitimate superiors in the Church demands you ignore Christ Jesus as your superior and cede to him some kind of feudal obedience, remind him that in Christ’s Kingdom there is no such thing as enfeoffment.


CREDITS: Count Ramón Berenguer IV receives grants a fief to his vassal the Señor de Perelada (1132).

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10 thoughts on “In the Catholic Church, there is no enfoeffment of obedience”

  1. Thanks Brother. I guess that most Catholics do not know this, or if they did, how it should be understood and employed. For example. In light of this how is the vow of obedience to be interpreted? Or the penance prescribed in confession? Or our obedience to the magisterium?

    It seems to me the bottom line on what you are saying is that we must follow our doctrinally informed conscience and not the dictates of Pope, priest, Bishop or superior.

    1. We follow the dictates of our visible superiors only inasmuch the Faith says we should, and when the Faith says we should, and to the extent that the Faith says we should, and we can use our acquired virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance to discern best how to obey or resist or refuse.

  2. I try to inform my conscience to the best of my ability & then follow it. I believe the Pope is required to preach & keep the Ten Commandments & to protect the Deposit of Faith. If he doesn’t & preaches loads of options for certain people who find it too difficult then my consciences tells me he is not a truly elected Pope. Neither can there be two Popes. This is totally against our understanding of the PO & the infallibility attached to its holder. I also expect the Pope to confine himself & the Bishops to evangelise (as in Great Commission) & lead all people on this planet to Heaven. Any ‘Pope’ who states there is no Hell & all can get to Heaven are frauds & he who abandons seven million of his flock to a Communist Regime needs to be arrested for wilful neglect of duty & desertion. In this specific case he would also need to be charged with Idolatry, heresy, blasphemy, scandal, Marxism, Freemasonry……..

  3. I guess I don’t understand. It sounds exactly like Protestantism. Could you please explain how/why it’s not Protestantism?


    1. In protestantism, there is no believe that Christ gave offices to men, such that they men represent him So even if they order something in accord with the Gospel you do not have to obey them. That is the difference.

  4. AMEN!! Even children’s obedience to their parents* must always be “in the Lord!” Ephesians 6:1

  5. I would use the illustration of a workers relation to his superiors at a place of employment to show a true Catholic relationship to one’s priest, bishop and pope. In this illustration we have a company that is attempting to produce the the greatest product for the greatest need of mankind. Any good employee would first be deeply grateful for being part of this company and would always to the best of his ability obey every wish or order of his superiors, obviously except any directive that would violate his conscience given by an unscrupulous superior. In that case he would be compelled, for the sake of the company itself, to resist until he either won his case of was unfairly fired.
    A worker with a “Protestant mentality” always begins with a deficiency in appreciation for the company’s product and its vision and thus there is a deficiency in appreciation for the company. Smaller problems, perhaps even the personality of the boss is often the occasion for such one’s to quit and seek employment elsewhere that can at best only produce defective products.
    There is a case that would violate one’s conscience apart from a personal directive or order. This would be where the moral condition in either a secular workplace of in a Church organization (Legion of Christ) or Church parish that promotes heresy (now many Catholic parishes) and where one sees he can no longer be leaven but becomes complicit to the evil. One must then leave that situation. This is not a Protestant action, as Protestants put up, either knowingly or unknowingly, with multitudes of heresy. This is a proper Catholic action.

  6. This topic may best represent what most ails the Church in our day. We are commanded to obey rightful authority. It is right and proper to do so, in an hierarchical Church that is and represents Monarchy (the image and true).

    But what *is* rightful obedience?

    I intuitively knew what you say here is true. You explain why my intuition (conscience?) was correct.

    Kono asks the appropriate question. Your answer summarizes the proper answer. The vast majority of Catholics (including “Trads”) get it wrong.

    Protestantism is wrong because it does not acknowledge authority.

    Modernist Catholicism is wrong because it does not acknowledge Jesus Christ.

    Start with Christ at the center, and work out from there to all rightful authority. The lines must all be true and connected to their Divine source. We (every single Catholic) have a duty to ensure this is so.

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