Bishop Slattery's homily in DC: What does obedience look like?

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Calling obedience "that movement which the heart makes when it leaps in joy having once discovered the truth," Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Okla. in a homily this Saturday called on Catholics dealing with the sex abuse crisis to accept their suffering as a sign of obedience to Christ.

" at the heart of personal holiness," said Slattery. "Because it is our sharing in the obedience of Jesus which reveals his glory."

Slattery's homily came during a traditionalist, Latin language Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. As NCR reported, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos was to be the main celebrant for the Mass but agreed to step aside following objections from sex abuse survivors and others. Slattery stepped in at the last minute to take his place.

Without mentioning the sex abuse crisis by name, Slattery's homily focused almost exclusively on one way to respond to the recent uproar: through the acceptance of all suffering in the name of obedience to Jesus and the church.

"Christ reveals Himself to those who suffer in Christ, to those who humbly accept their pain as a personal sharing in His Passion and who are thus obedient to Christ’s command that we take up our cross and follow Him," said Slattery.

The bishop didn't appear to be suggesting that those dealing with abuse by priests hide their pain in silence. Rather, he seemed to be speaking to all Catholic faithful who have questions regarding how to respond to the crisis - asking them to persevere in their faith and obedience to the Gospel and the church.

Yet, the question that seemed unanswered by the homily to me is how we can remain obedient to the church when members of its leadership have caused such pain and suffering. As Catholic News Service reported this Friday, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Brugge, Belgium has just resigned amid his confession that he abused children while he was a bishop.

In such an environment one wonders how we can be wholly obedient to the church and the Gospel at the same time.

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