Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pope Francis Is All For Collegiality--At Least Amongst Bishops And Cardinals

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. 




  1. Once again, this would require a whole contest with the curia. Francis already mentioned the corruption there and that there is a gay lobby, something we knew for years. The source of so much of the corruption is of course Opus Dei. The question becomes, can Francis survive any reforms he attempts to make. The sealed deeply buried tomb of JPI looms large for anyone willing to attempt to make this group less autocratic. The only hope is that many of these men will see the folly of the authoritarianism that is the Vatican. Still believe that the Vatican would function the best as a museum of the PAST. For this church to survive as more than a cult, it needs to respect women, gays, but all so the the Holy Spirit speaks to the laity on an equal basis as She does to the Bishops. In other words the Bishops should begin to recognize that in there omniscience, they are not and have not been listening to Her.

    My own belief is that Christianity is in yet another schism caused by the authoritarian structure that is Rome, that gangsters from the OPus Dei and other elements have indeed taken it over and we are better with smaller and more truly Christian catholic churches that are not at all attached to Rome.

    The Curia have shown that they will not listen to anyone but fascieast elements like Opus Dei and this has indeed KILLED the influence of Rome for those that seek a Christ-like peaceful existance. Christ came to save us all not Opus Dei MEN.

  2. Dennis, your last paragraph struck home with me. Rome is indeed bent on a long death. Our bishops have lost too much credibility to recover in the short term. Jesus did come to save more than Opus Dei or their like minded, but gullible, uber Catholic laity. Although I so like the things Francis' is saying, he needs to start acting on the governance part of why he was elected.

    As to the gay lobby, I have no question such a lobby exists and has existed for at least the last 160 years. My fear is that other than existing for their own self promotion, they are also the force behind the maintenance of a celibate clergy. It's the celibacy part of the Roman Catholic priesthood that gives them their unique power amongst the otherwise mostly heterosexual ruling elites. I can't think of another global player that would offer gay men--especially gay men of a certain age and attendant mental issues--the kind of power and influence they have through the Roman Catholic clerical closet. It does not bode well for the place of women in Catholicism, nor does it bode well for the place of the Eucharist relative to the celibacy of the priesthood.

  3. yes and yes to these comments. Altho schism is an old fashioned word and universally used by authorities with an inquisitorial bent, it is exactly true of so much of the authority being exercised by today's Roman curia and seems to be true of any institution in the West today-- institutions with political power are "in schism"--immature, prideful, hypocritical persons are not up to the tasks of wielding power and keep the circle going: rebellion, blood loss, few lessons learned...there is hope for me in the process of bringing about greater transparency ....somehow, Pope Francis seems almost a genius of accidental transparency and offers more hope than say, the generals recently testifying in Congress on how to handle sexual abuse in the military--forced into public record and view....

  4. Transparency is a goal worth pursuing because transparency builds trust. Secrecy builds hierarchies in which most of us are deemed to lack the necessary pay grade to be privy to the secrets. Transparency also helps build healthy communities, something the Vatican curia seems not to be.

  5. odd national/international synchronicities since the current issue before our government is the whistleblowing of Snowden...I am moved by your link between transparency and trust, knowing the courage it takes to trust and wanting to somehow contribute to that building project!

  6. What does "The cake is only half cooked..." say to us?