Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reforming Authority In The Church Also Means Reconstituting The unHoly See

Cardinal Pacelli signing the Reichsconcordat with Nazi Germany in 1933. Pacelli was Secretary of State of the Holy See at the time.  Later as Pope he got to deal with consequences of his own diplomacy.  So did the People of God.

The following seven areas of reform deal with authority in the Church.  It is taken from the blog site  There is a link on their Home page in which folks can add their names to a substantial list of others who agree with these areas of reform.  The Home page also lists 27 theologians from multiple countries as academic sponsors.  Readers will recognize quite a few of the names. Here are the reforms, but as far as I am concerned, they over look one of the real problems for why the Vatican refuses to reform.  The Pope is also the absolute ruler of the Holy See.

A principal source of present-day stagnation lies in misunderstanding and abuse affecting the exercise of authority in our Church. Specifically, the following issues require urgent redress:

The role of the papacy needs to be clearly re-defined in line with Christ's intentions. As supreme pastor, unifier and prime witness to faith, the pope contributes substantially to the health of the universal church. However, his authority may never obscure, diminish or suppress the authentic authority directly given by Christ to all members of the people of God. (Unfortunately the Pope is also the head of a sovereign state, the Holy See, an that entity has zero justification in the Gospels, but wreaks havoc on the spiritual health of the Church. It's aims are too often in conflict with the Gospel and the above paragraph completely ignores this part of the Pope's authority.)

Bishops are vicars of Christ, not vicars of the pope. They carry immediate responsibility for people in their dioceses, and joint responsibility, with other bishops and the pope, for the world-wide community of faith. (Way too many bishops are just mouth pieces for the Pope, much less vicars of Christ and sadly, whole national conferences allow themselves to be bullied and silenced by the Vatican curia.)

The central synod of bishops should assume a more decisive role in planning and guiding the maintenance and growth of faith within our complex world. To execute its task, the synod of bishops needs to be given appropriate structures. (Without structures which insure consistent application of any such power sharing, this will never happen. There are too many forces whose operations need the current structure completely centralized in Rome.)

The Second Vatican Council prescribed collegiality and co-responsibility on all levels. This has not been realised. Priestly senates and pastoral councils, as envisaged by the Council, should involve the faithful more directly in decision making concerning the formulation of doctrine, the running of the pastoral ministry and evangelization in secular society. (The Holy See is an absolute monarchy.  There is a reason Vatican II's call for power sharing and collegiality stalled before it got off the ground. It would be real nice though if this reform were at least implemented on a parish/diocesan level.)

The abuse of choosing for leadership offices in the church only candidates of a particular mindset, should be eradicated. Instead, new norms should be laid down and supervised to ensure that elections to such offices are conducted in a fair, transparent and, to the extent possible, democratic fashion.
(This would be a great start if this one ever got off the ground.  Too bad the current Cardinals are almost all products of the very mindset which should be eradicated.)

The Roman curia requires a more radical reform, in line with the instructions and vision of Vatican II. The curia should be retained for its useful administrative and executive roles.
The curia will never be reformed as long as the Holy See exists as a sovereign state. The diplomatic corps has way too much power and it's way too influenced by the very wealthy.)

The congregation for the doctrine of the faith should be assisted by international commissions of experts who have been independently chosen for their professional competence.(That would be nice, but I can't see this happening either.  The CDF was an effective tool under JPII/Ratzinger for silencing bishops and theologians expressing social justice concerns in Latin America and elsewhere--like Seattle, Wa.


Until the Holy See ceases to exist as it's currently configured, which is basically a rogue state at the beck and call of the Pope,  I have zero hope for reform in Roman Catholicism.  Politics drives policy.  All one need do is study the career of Pius XII as Secretary of State.  He negotiated concordats with Hitler and Mussolini,  an essential validation for the political governments of these fascist dictators whose combined forces then almost destroyed Catholic Europe.  I actually think it was cosmic justice that as Pope Pius XII, Pacelli truly saw the fruits of his diplomatic labors. But in any event, his story perfectly demonstrates the rogue nature of the Holy See.  It wasn't the armies of the Vatican City States that won World War II, but those secular democracies that so threatened the Vatican's concept of it's divine right to rule in the world of men. 

I would add an 8th reform plank:  abolish the Holy See and with it the Vatican Bank.  Then we might have a chance at some real reform.  No other major religious body has this kind of governmental setup in which it's both a secular global player and a religious player.  This hybrid set up has not served the People of God well at all, and it was proscribed by Jesus himself.  It's time to end the Constantinian Church of Empire, and the first step is to end the pretensions and political machinations of the Holy See.


  1. I really don't see any changes occurring either with there being the Holy See and the Vatican Bank, and Opus Dei. It's almost laughable to see Pope Benedict still sitting up there on his throne as the head of the reformed church. It is a monarchical system and it could never really be democratic.

    It looks like more of the same stuff with a corporate face and with acceptance and/or tolerance of some people who are not being accepted now. Realistically, however, the other factions in the Church who are opposed to accepting some people will never go for this sort of thing. And, the way democratic elections are carried out nowadays, let's not forget how they can be tampered with and decided by a supreme court.

    It looks just like more of the same old same old with the face of a lot of Professors on it. Nice try though. What I am wondering really is, why would left leaning or liberal Catholics or progressive Catholics even think this would work?

    I agree with your analysis completely, Colleen.

    Why don't all of these people who are proposing this thing see that the old world has passed away and many Catholics have just walked away and it is too too late. We've been belittled, bullied, run out of town like Jesus was and we are walking away from this awful disgrace of a Church institution especially under Pope Benedict XVI. He is one of the main reasons the Church is in the mess it is in.

    Bishops who are Vicars of Christ and not Vicars of the Pope need to just be Vicars of Christ and tell the Pope & Opus Dei to sit down and shut up. They need to stop giving money to the Vatican too. Money talks, as the saying goes.


    1. Why would left leaning or liberal Catholics think this would work? My answer would be because they haven't really taken the time and effort to understand the differences between the Pope and Vatican curia as administrators of the Holy See with it's global politics, and the Pope and Vatican curia as administrators of the religion of Roman Catholicism. These are two distinct entities with two distinct missions administrated by the same people. That makes it easy not to see the distinction, and many of the messages coming from the Vatican and our bishops are constructed in such a way to make sure most Catholics don't see the difference.

    2. Well then, all those smart Professors who mean well for the entire Church need to get cracking and take a look behind the curtain of the all great and powerful Wizards of the Roman Catholic Church. They need to Wake Up and speak up and quit dickering around with an agenda or scenario that is marked with FAILURE all over it !!


  2. Lots to think about here! One, perhaps minor, thing puzzles me: Where did the concept of vicar of Christ originate? I have read the New Testament countless times and don't recall Jesus using the term. To those who say, "Sacerdos alter Christus" shouldn't the response be, as Augustine, I think, said, "Christianus alter Christus"? I think the monarchical church has to implode as The Soviet Union did before we will be able to see the face of Christ mirrored in the visages of the people of God.

    1. That is an interesting question about where Vicar of Christ came from, so I looked it up. According the the Catholic Encyclopedia:

      "In the course of the ages other vicarial designations have been used for the pope, as Vicar of St. Peter and even Vicar of the Apostolic See (Pope Gelasius, I, Ep. vi), but the title Vicar of Christ is more expressive of his supreme headship of the Church on earth, which he bears in virtue of the commission of Christ and with vicarial power derived from Him.

      Thus, Innocent III appeals for his power to remove bishops to the fact that he is Vicar of Christ (cap. "Inter corporalia", 2, "De trans. ep."). He also declares that Christ has given such power only to His Vicar Peter and his successors (cap. "Quanto", 3, ibid.), and states that it is the Roman Pontiff who is "the successor of Peter and the Vicar of Jesus Christ" (cap. "Licet", 4, ibid.). The title Vicar of God used for the pope by Nicholas III."

      Extending it to bishops came later, it does appear that the term 'vicar' is another of the legal governing concepts given to the Church courtesy of Constantine. Scriptural justification is the verse "feed my lambs, feed my sheep". I guess 'vicar' does sound more exalted than 'shepherd'.

  3. I agree, Colleen. Unless the Vatican City State is abolished as a "sovereign state" and reabsorbed into Italy there is no chance of reform. Allowing any group of unelected men to be independent of any civil law and regulation save their own - i.e. a complete distatorship - can only result it horrible abuses of power. Ditto for the Vatican Bank. No other religion requires its own independent state outside all civil authority to function. In fact, it is a direct contradiction of a "religious" purpose to be totally directed to temporal affairs of internal government and "foreign policy" including having an unregulated and "outlaw" financial institution. Betty Clermont

    1. Yes, exactly. The core problem is not doctrine and dogma, it's the existence of Roman Catholicism as a sovereign state utterly unaccountable to anyone other than a few clerics and corporate/private wealth.

      If the ACP and Austrian initiative were demanding the abolition of the Holy See, I can easily imagine we would have all sort of reforms in order to avoid the core reform.

  4. The only way the UnHoly See will reform is when its funding is cut. Starve the beast! Fire the cage minders! Turn St. Peter's and enviorns into more of a museum than it already is and charge admission for the artwork. No more medieval mumbo-jumbo allowed there. Cut it off at the knees.

  5. Jimmy Mac, see Colleen's comment above regarding the source of the Church's funding i.e. corporate and private wealth. How you propose that this funding could be cut? Betty Clermont

  6. I agree with pretty much everything that you've said, but I do have one question: If the Holy See were abolished, then how would the international governance of the Church function? Would the current Vatican City simply turn its civil authority back the Italy and keep its property and current ecclesiastical structure? I think, to some extent, the Holy See is neccessary in order to keep the Church running smoothly, especially if the collegiality and councilar nature of Vatican II were to be implemented to their fullest extent.

    1. The governance of the Church would not necessarily be impacted all that much. Communications in this day and age don't require a legate in each country. As it is now their job is two fold, be the intermediary for the Vatican with mostly Catholic clergy in a given country, and secondly, but probably primarily, a political ambassador to that country's government. It's the politics that introduces all the corruption and conflicts.

      One aspect of this corruption has been using Roman Catholic influence to sway lay Catholics to support corrupt regimes. This has been most evident in Latin America, but we just saw the same strategy being attempted in the latest US election. The people who benefit are the rich benefactors who run countries and finance the Vatican. Check out JPII and his relationships with one dictator after another. Archbishop Romero paid the ultimate price for mixing conservative oppressive governing with an ambitious papal agenda for geo political influence.

      For the most part the left is not interested in a melding of interests with religious authority. That's a right wing thing, whose conservative agenda is best served by a religious mindset which serves to underline authority and thereby willingly serve authority. Jesus taught the opposite, that authority in His scheme of things was all about service from the top down.

      The Church hierarchy could govern the Church quite well without being a sovereign nation. It just doesn't want too because playing politics and geo political games is just too enticing.

    2. Can't argue with you there. Honestly, I think we need to rethink the papacy and the curia as more of a prime minister/parliment system rather than a monarchy like we have now. All the people who truly try to follow Christ, like Romero, Fr. Pfleger in Chicago, the Austrian Priests, and others are often ignored because they place service over power. Too bad we can't have someone like you in current Church leadership.