|Pope Francis was elected to perform this task. Perhaps any other initiative should wait lest the stench from this pile corrupt everything else.|
In a meeting with members of the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops Pope Francis had some thoughts on collegiality and the further use of bishops in the structure of the Church. He even said the furtherance of collegiality between bishops and Rome was a fruit of the Second Vatican Council. The following excerpt is from a Religion News Service article written by Cindy Wooden as posted on the NCR. It's interesting not only for the topics Francis addressed with his bishops, but maybe more so for what is not addressed.
.....In the text prepared for the meeting Thursday -- a text the pope said would be handed to the council members -- Pope Francis had described the synods as "one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council" and a structure "at the service of the mission and communion of the church, as an expression of collegiality."
"Open to the grace of the Holy Spirit, the soul of the church, we trust that the Synod of Bishops will undergo further developments to further promote dialogue and collaboration among the bishops and between the bishops and the bishop of Rome," he had written....
....Council members were invited to tell the pope their initial ideas for the next world Synod of Bishops. Their suggestions included: the meaning of the church, the church's encounter with the world, collegiality and "synodality" -- basically the relationship between the College of Bishops and the pope -- ecology, the family, interreligious dialogue and formation of the laity.
After listening to several cardinals' suggestions, the pope joked, "The cake is only half cooked, huh?"
The council members were to continue meeting and to vote on three possible themes to suggest to the pope. He told them, "I'd take a fourth, too."
Pope Francis said, "The family is a serious problem. ... Today many people, even Catholics, don't get married but live together. Marriage is seen as provisional. It's a serious problem."
The pope said that in October, he and his cardinal-advisers would discuss who they would entrust with "a study on pastoral work with families. The synod? A special synod? With the presidents of bishops' conferences? This is a problem that we'll look at in October.".... (How about a commission instead of a synod and adding to it some people who actually have the families? This would not be a completely novel approach. It was tried once before.)
The overwhelming message that comes from this article is that Pope Francis sees collegiality as the purview of bishops and cardinals. I guess that would make sense if the topics of discussion were limited to bishops and cardinals, but almost all of the topics these bishops and cardinals will discuss and decide upon involve the lives of the laity. It seems to me that what Francis has in mind is just another way of Church leadership getting together and maintaining their role as those who teach the role of the laity to the laity. Just another way for our Holy Fathers to use Holy Mother Church to parent the lay children. It would be really novel if our Holy Fathers allowed for the idea that the lay children are also mature adults capable of expressing legitimate observations about their own state in life. I would hope that one of Francis' Cardinal advisers might mention this concept as a topic for discussion. Maybe then we would someday read that one of the topics will be the role of women in the Church. That particular topic is no where mentioned in this article. It's an oversight I did not find especially novel.
I really am truly glad that Pope Francis is committed to expanding collegiality. Even limiting the concept to the world's bishops is better than having virtually everything Catholic determined by the Vatican curia--not too mention the personal whims of one pope. It is even possible that part of the input from the world's bishops will come from laity those bishops consult. Maybe some of those bishops will expand the concept of collegiality to include lay expression in their own sphere of influence. Maybe this can be a case of a 'trickle up' theory.
I'm also interested in the fact the gang of 8 is to be expanded to the gang of 9 with the addition of an Eastern Church representative. The Eastern Church contains a number of autochthonous churches and their experiences may point to the future for global Catholicism. Regional expressions may turn out to be a more efficient way to both evangelize and organize. The Vatican would then become a center for coordination and networking, rather than a monarchical dinosaur with too many of it's clerical caste playing their own version of the Game of Thrones. Maybe we could even develop a meaningful system of accountability for our bishops--one that has some teeth. That would be novel. There is potential here, but that potential could be easily stymied if Pope Francis sets too limited an agenda or allows his advisers to dictate a limited agenda for him. It would be really unfortunate if all that came of Francis' appeal to collegiality is another avenue for rubber stamping the thoughts of a given pope. In order to avoid that Francis has to start dealing with the corruption and careerism in the curia. I don't think he will be able to do much about that unless he is prepared to take on the influence of the right wing 'New Movements' and their moneyed interests. If he fails to do anything in this sphere, his musings about collegiality will be nothing more than a still born concept.