Fr Zed reveals that another North American Bishop ... another bloke who needs to be sent an elementary booklet on Latin Grammar ... has decided to jump on the Down With The East bandwagon. But this chappy has upped the ante by actually adding the word obedience to the menaces he has employed against his clergy.
When, in 1968, I was ordained to the priesthood in the Church of England, the oath of canonical obedience included the phrase "all things lawful and honest". In other words, the undertaking was circumscribed by the limitation that a bishop must be acting within the law.
This limitation is not explicit in the Ordination rites of the Latin Church. But it is implicit in the canonical understanding of obedience; compare, for example, cum secundum proprias constitutiones praecipiunt (601); and legitime praecipienti vel prohibenti (1371#2). It is also implicit in the favour shown by the recent Magisterium towards the concept of subsidiarity. If a bishop praecepit vel prohibuit contrary to an explicit Responsum ad dubium of a Roman dicastery, this must raise a grave question about whether his actions are binding.
If a bishop's orders are not within his legal competence, and a scrupulous presbyter is in doubt what to do, he will find help in the repetition by Canon 14 of the ancient adage Leges ... in dubio iuris non urgent. Doubtful laws, including doubtful episcopal precepts, do not bind. And, while Cardinal Sarah's words were not legislative, a mere presbyter may surely feel that the publicly expressed opinions of a dicasterial Prefect about what is lawful within his own area of dicasterial competence are prima facie reliable guides.
Let's be human about this. I could understand a bishop pointing out in a kindly way that Facing The Other Way might cause hassle and dissension in a parish; and asking whether it was really worth the trouble. His judgement might very well be correct. He does have a responsibility in his diocese for Liturgy and for peace and harmony. I could understand it if he said "I would very much prefer that you didn't do it without having a chat with me". Or even "I'm the one who will have to pick up the pieces, and I've only got one secretary".
What grates is the lofty, totally unpastoral, lordly issuing of what are made to look like regulations or laws or prohibitions, especially when they grotesquely and misrepresent what the real Law really says. Surely, in this third Christian millennium, we have moved beyond such prelatical and tyrannous understandings of what it means to be a bishop.
I'm pretty sure that the overwhelming majority of Catholic Bishops is pastorally minded and that a couple of tin-pot Hitlers with chips on their shoulders are unrepresentative. And that is not irony.