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Bishop Morlino prompts thoughts on Obedience

Argent points out this response to the Summorum Pontificum by Bishop Morlino of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin.

Obedience opens door to freedom

The Motu Proprio of our Holy Father decrees a determination that he has made in his office as Supreme Teacher of the Church, and I have solemnly and publicly promised to be faithful in my obedience to the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Pope Benedict indicates that his judgment in this matter is designed to free bishops from constantly making such prudential judgments in frequently changing circumstances.

Pope Benedict clearly is wise; obedience according to the mind of Christ always opens the door to true freedom. I am joyful to act in obedience to the Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict, and I am grateful to have been freed from the limitation of my own judgment.

What an inspiring example of humble obedience Bishop Morlino has offered to his flock. Obedience is very difficult for us 21st century Catholics. We feel so intelligent, so advanced, so knowledgeable that we are loathe to subordinate our own analysis to the Wisdom of the Ages. Our superior reasoning abilities should lead us to the correct conclusion. It is irrational to defer to Church teachings if our own logic trail leads us to an alternate end point.

I sometimes imagine how my household would look if I allowed my four children to set the standards of behavior. Do you really think they would voluntarily put strict limits on computer games and television shows? Do you really think they would have naturally drifted to weekly Mass attendance without initial parental authoritative dictates? My youngest sees the world through thirteen year-old eyes. His judgment is based on the experiences of a thirteen year-old boy. His conclusions may truly be logical based on the scope of his knowledge and understanding. That does not mean they are correct.

In the same way, our own logic is based on our very short and incomplete earthly experience. Our perceptions and analysis are susceptible to gaps in our knowledge. Of course, like my thirteen year-old, I view my scope of understanding as quite complete. I do not always have the wisdom to see that I am missing something. Therefore, when my personal deduction leads me to a different conclusion than the 2000 years of wisdom of the Church, humility requires me to acknowledge my limitations and seek to reconcile my views to the Church. Even as I don’t fully appreciate the reasoning behind a given Church teaching I am called to humbly obey the Church. I must also to continue to search for the understanding that brings my personal conviction in line with Church teachings. It is horribly arrogant to dismiss Church teaching as erroneous based on our own cursory first pass of logic.

Obedience is not the abandonment of reason. Rather, obedience calls for the strenuous application of reason. If we struggle to obey a precept of the Church, it is a sign that our reasoning is deficient and we are called to redouble our efforts to understand.


frival said…
That was a beautiful explanation of sentire cum ecclesia. If only more in our society understood this very important principle, who knows what things would look like!
Anonymous said…
obedience rules!

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