If you start with the assumption that the Pope is the CEO and the bishops are his delegates, then sure. But I don’t think that’s how the Fathers saw it. It never would have occurred to them. The Pope didn’t give bishops discretion in running their dioceses. The dioceses were just there and the bishops were their leaders, and when a crisis broke out that couldn’t be solved locally people looked to Rome to speak for the Church as a whole.
that the Popes have refrained from interfering except in the most extreme cases of malpractice.
Look at the whole “motu proprio” business. It shouldn’t be any of the Pope’s business what liturgy is celebrated in a local diocese as long as it’s not heretical.
As for liturgical “micromanagement” I think you’ll find that most serious Catholics would like to see MORE intervention by the Popes in what has become, in the wake of Vatican II, a liturgical free-for-all. Thank God, we seem to be seeing the end of this period, and we have two strong successive Popes to thank for it.
This makes my point. (You are of course defining “serious Catholics” as those who think like you.) As I see it, the problem is not a liturgical free-for-all, but a boring conformity to a liturgy imposed by a bureaucratic committee. (Never m
ings should be resolved on a local level. This isn’t a matter of taste, but of ecclesiological principle. By expecting the Vatican to rush in and save you, you keep contributing to the atrophy of the local church.
Looks like you’ve answered your own question at the end of what I quoted above.
Just because something wasn’t well-defined in early periods doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fact of life.
Yes, it does. It may be contained implicitly in what is already believed. But if people haven’t thought about it yet, it’s not a fact of life.
The dogma of Immaculate Conception is contained in Scripture, though not clearly.
That’s not the point. I’m not arguing that the doctrine is false or illegitimate, only that the body of beliefs professed by early Christians was not identical to the body of beliefs professed by modern Catholics (or any other kind of Christian, though the Orthodox probably come closest on the whole).
Mary’s conception was immaculately free of original sin then, at the very moment of it; it didn’t need a Pope to declare it so.
That’s not the point.
The declaration was welcomed by the Church-at-large, which is a strong sign that it was believed by most.
Of course it was by 1854. Again, I’m not talking about that. I know that Popes don’t just get up one morning and define things because they feel like it! I’m talking about 100 or 200 or even 300, not 1800!
I think you said it best when you said that we Catholics are better off than the Protestants because of our strong Papacy, and I certainly agree with that. Just look around world Christianity, and find another leader who speaks with the same authority as our Popes. If Christianity has any hope at all of speaking to the world (and it does), it will need a strong Pope doing so.
No, I don’t think the monarchical centralization of recent centuries is necessary. Tempting, yes. I understand why Gregory VII started down that road. But the fact that something is helpful doesn’t make it right.
Pope Benedict is moving in the right direction, while still taking strong stands. It can be done. The Church did it for a thousand years.