Hat tip to Fr Ian Ker, who pointed out that the Second Vatican Council actually used the word “obsequium” (from which we get our word “obsequious”) TWICE in the twenty-fifth paragraph of the dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. I highlight these passages in the following English translation:
25. Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place.(39*) For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old,(164) making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock.(165) Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent [eique religioso animi obsequio adhaerere debent]. This religious submission of mind and will [Hoc vero religiosum voluntatis et intellectus obsequium] must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra [Nota bene!]; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.
There is another word that is worth mentioning, and that is “docility”. It is one of Pope Benedict’s favourite words. For instance, he uses it four times in Sacramentum Caritatis. Eg.:
23. …The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord’s hands.
33. …[Mary’s] immaculate conception is revealed precisely in her unconditional docility to God’s word.
40. …Attentiveness and fidelity to the specific structure of the rite express both a recognition of the nature of Eucharist as a gift and, on the part of the minister, a docile openness to receiving this ineffable gift.
Of course, “docile” here means “teachable” rather than “slavish”. He uses the word most often of Mary, but also recommends it as the attitude most appropriate for all Christians who follow Mary in this virtue. In regard to obedience to the Pope, he used it in exactly this context when addressing a group called “Circolo San Pietro” back in July 2005:
Dear brothers and sisters, this is my first meeting with you since God called me to carry out the Petrine Ministry in the Church. For some time, however, I have been well acquainted with your service, motivated by convinced fidelity and docile attachment to the Successor of Peter.
So, there you have it. Obsequious and docile. That’s me folks. That’s “Sentire Cum Ecclesia”.
I might just say that I have been having a private correspondence with Brian Coyne clarifying our point of contention. This is a necessary preliminary to me preparing anything for Catholica Australia. I might say that I am rather inclined to go with Brian’s suggestion of the hypothetical situation in which the Pope, when expressly exercising his charism of infallibility, “calls it wrong”. Rather along the lines of St Paul’s “if Christ be not raised, we are of all men most miserable”…
In other words, I will try to imagine a world in which the teaching of the Successor of Peter–or for that matter of the Episcopal College or the Church or the Scriptures or the Fathers or Sacred Tradition–is not reliable. Where would that leave us? Only with our own private judgement. And on what would we base such private judgement? See where this leads?