Collegiality

I have been hearing about this a lot lately with Pope Francis and the cardinals. What exactly is it, what would it mean for the Church if we had more collegiality, has the Church always had it. I read a comment on a Catholic blog saying that it would amount to have National Churches, like the Orthodox. Can someone explain it a little better for me?

“Collegiality” generally means the bishops working together with (and subject to) the Pope to govern the Church, as well as just bishops in general working together, whether it be provincially, regionally, nationally, etc… It is a traditional concept with a long history beginning in Acts. The Church’s history is since filled with many synods of bishops of various scope. Local synods have been encouraged among other places at the First Council of Nicea, the Council of Trent, and the Second Vatican Council, although they have generally been forgotten and the focus has been on Bishop’s Conferences (which are similar to, but less authoritative than actual syonds–they’re more like permanent working groups that the bishops use to carry out some joint projects, to share information, etc.). Ecumenical Synods are well known.

Since the Pope is not omniscient, ideally issues should be handled at the local level, by individual bishops or synods of bishops, etc. with the Pope getting involved if unity is threatened or if matters concern the universal Church. Likewise, for the same reason working with bishops from all over the Church can only help the Pope do his job better. If a bishop or synod goes against the faith, thus threatening unity, the Pope must step in and make the correction. People who fear collegiality fear that bishops will not be obedient to the faith and that the Pope won’t do anything about it.

“Collegiality” also has a technical meaning, which is that the entire body–or “college”–of bishops (including the Bishop of Rome) is the subject of supreme authority in the Church, just as the Bishop of Rome alone is subject of the same supreme authority. Opponents of the Second Vatican Council claim this contradicts what was taught at the First Vatican Council, but this is based on ignorance.

The First Vatican Council planned to teach this doctrine on the College (in fact, Vatican II quotes pretty much word for word on this point from the preparatory documents and relatios of that Council), but did not get to it due to the invasion of Rome.

However, the First Vatican Council’s relatio (an official explanation given to voting bishops) for the document on the Pope’s supreme authority explicitly affirmed that declaring the Pope had supreme authority did not derogate from the supreme authority of the whole body of bishops, nor did it create two opposing authorities:

[quote=relatio for Pastor Aeternus] The bishops gathered with their head in an ecumenical council—and in that case they represent the whole Church—or dispersed but in union with their head—in which case they are the Church itself—truly have full power (vere plenam potestatem habent). There would be confusion if we were to admit two full and supreme powers separate and distinct from each other. But we admit that the truly full and supreme power is in the sovereign pontiff as in the head (veluti capite) and that the same power, truly both full and supreme, is also in the head united to the members, that is to say, in the pontiff united to the bishops.
[/quote]

I hope that helps!

Thanks for the in depth info!

Another thing I have come across while reading about collegiality and things like the USCCB is that they are dominated by progressives and it would dame the Church if they were given more authority. Is this accurate?

I would recommend examining Orthodoxy, both Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian (Copts, Ethiopians, Armenians, et al) for what Collegiality actually is and how it works.

I like Pope Francis, but he is constrained by the box that is Latin Ecclesiology. Unless the Bishops are formed into a Synod that has real power (for example, the Holy Synod of Constantinople could depose HAH Bartholomew).

On the genuine doctrinal development of collegiality, *Lumen Gentium *(Dogmatic Constitution of the Church), 25, teaches clearly: “But Episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college.”

……“collegial infallibility…marks a turning point in doctrinal history.” [See Fr John A Hardon, S.J., *The Catholic Catechism, 1975, Doubleday, p 232-233]. This refers to the bishops around the world when teaching in accord with the Pope; when reflecting historical continuity of teaching; and in an Ecumenical Council when approved by a Pope.

The Second Vatican Council, in turn, reaffirmed and completed the teaching of Vatican I,19, addressing primarily the theme of its purpose, with particular attention to the mystery of the Church as Corpus Ecclesiarum. This consideration allowed for a clearer exposition of how the primatial office of the Bishop of Rome and the office of the other Bishops are not in opposition but in fundamental and essential harmony.
Lumen Gentium, 18, 23].

Therefore, “when the Catholic Church affirms that the office of the Bishop of Rome corresponds to the will of Christ, she does not separate this office from the mission entrusted to the whole body of Bishops, who are also ‘vicars and ambassadors of Christ’ (Lumen gentium, n. 27). The Bishop of Rome is a member of the ‘College’, and the Bishops are his brothers in the ministry”. It should also be said, reciprocally, that episcopal collegiality does not stand in opposition to the personal exercise of the primacy nor should it relativize it.

The Roman Pontiff’s episcopal responsibility for transmission of the Word of God also extends within the whole Church. As such, it is a supreme and universal magisterial office; it is an office that involves a charism: the Holy Spirit’s special assistance to the Successor of Peter, which also involves., in certain cases, the prerogative of infallibility. Just as “all the Churches are in full and visible communion, because all the Pastors are in communion with Peter and therefore united in Christ”, in the same way the Bishops are witnesses of divine and Catholic truth when they teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff.
See: vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19981031_primato-successore-pietro_en.html
L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 18 November 1998, page 5-6]

It is unfortunate that some people determine whether a process is valid or not by seeing whether it comes up with doctrines they agree with or not.

Collegiality as defined in the CCC is “The principle that all the bishops of the Church with the Pope at their head form a single “college,” which succeeds in every generation the “college” of the Twelve Apostles, with Peter at their head, which Christ instituted as the foundation for the Church. This college of bishops together with, but never without, the Pope has supreme and full authority over the universal Church". Still there are those in the Catholic Church who dislike this concept. And the Church has been swinging from goverment by collegiality to government by a centralised monarchy and back again in different times in her history.

It is unfortunate that after the Church’s experiment with collegiality and subsidiarity (the principle that decisions should be made at the lowest level possible) in 60s and 70s, the Church reversed itself and centralised all authority, religious and temporal, in Rome. This led to the problems with lack of accountability, scandals, etc, which apparently was why Francis was elected in the first place.

The centralising tendency in the Church also went hand-in-hand with a thinking that it was necessary to keep the Church doctrinally pure, which normally means more conservative stance on doctrinal and moral issues. Of course, the people who were to decide what is doctrinally correct would be those in the central government of the Catholic Church in Rome (called the Curia).

Pope Francis is very clear on having to reverse this tendency. He described the Church as the home for all and not a chapel for a select few (you can guess what he thinks of those who keep the Church doctrinally pure at the cost of unchurching Catholics).

In keeping with promoting collegiality, Pope Francis has named a council of 8 cardinals to advise him, of whom only one works in the Curia. This was intended to help him listen directly to cardinals who works in dioceses throughout the world instead of being filtered by the Curia. He has also asked for the roles of Synod of Bishops as well as national bishops councils to be reassessed to see if they can play the same role that the ancient synods have played.

Also, after long decades of suppression, we hear the term sensus fidelium promoted once again, from the lips of no less than the Pope. Sensus fidelium translates to the sense of the faithful, which the CCC tells us is “the supernatural appreciation of faith on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals”. The Popes (both Benedict and Francis) made clear that this does not mean public opinion in the Church. Still, you can see why it has largely unpopular among the centralising Curia. The recent questionnaire on the family was Pope Francis’ attempt to understand the sensus fidelium and allowing it a role to shape the Church’s pastoral mission.

Another unfortunate (but not unfortunate from the perspective of the centralising Curia and those who supported the resulting policies that emerged) consequence was the new English translation of the mass that was in force worldwide two years ago. This was a direct translation from the Latin, with Latin and not English sentence construction, and consequently came out sounding strange to us native English speakers. Despite the fact that the English-speaking bishops throughout the world (not just USCCB) expressed reservations over the translation, it was overruled by the Curia (who are mostly not native English speakers). And so, you end up with priests today reading through the sacramentary before mass so that they can paraphrase it in a way easier on English-speakers’ ears. The German bishops who were supposed to implement their new translation this Advent, have refused to do so. Likely, they have been emboldened by the new Pope’s emphasis on collegiality. I suspect they may even have the supportof the Pope.

Concepts like collegiality, sensus fidelium and subsidiarity are all concepts from the early Church. The magisterium in the early Church was shared among the bishops and not exercised by a single man (or by those who purport to speak for him). All Pope Francis is doing is returning the Church to our ancient roots, using concepts that are already in our Catechism. It is definitely more chaotic but I am continually amazed at how our Eastern brethern trust the Holy Spirit in their exercise of collegiality, something we would do well to learn from.

Unfortunately, we have had generations of Catholics who have found comfort in a monolithic Church where all decisions are made by ‘professionals’. Many Catholics have adapted themselves to outsourcing the determination of pastoral correctness (among other things) to a distant Church governmental machinery, which may or may not undertand local conditions. Migrating this mindset to the more ancient practices, as with any change, would be painful to many. Which is why you get some who reacted in the way you described.

God has been wise to leave us concepts like collegiality which has apparently worked well in the early Church. God also invites us to trust the Holy Spirit in guiding the deliberations and the discernment of the Church rather than in governmental machinery of men. The mess that beset the Church’s central government today (financial scandals, lack of transparency, power cliques - all acknowledged by Pope Francis) is the logical conclusion of centralising all power in the hands of a few.

Finally, I would suggest that you take little heed of labels like progressives, liberals, relativists, etc. Most in the Catholic Church are not in a spectrum like Democrat-Republicans. Many of us, with the informed conscience granted us by God, may have different opinions on different issues. We decide on each issue on its merits. So, our opinion on one issue does not necessarily predict our opinion on other issues. Most Catholics I know, therefore, defy the labels. Sadly, labels are an easy way to dehumanise one’s opponents, making it easier to persuade others to dislike one’s opponents. Much like Ross Limbaugh labeling Pope Francis a Marxist for questioning the efficacy of trickle-down economics.

I am sorry if you have not been exposed to all this but it is a truism that politics will exist where people gather and the Church has more than its share of politics because that is where people gather. Not all in the Curia are power-hungry of course and we know of some of these problems through the actions god-fearing priests and bishops, some of whose careers got curtailed when they try to tell the truth.

If you have any specific questions, I will be happy to see if I can get you references from reliable church sources.

So is synodality the same as collegiality? From my reading the Orthodox Churches seem to be more synodical.

jimkhong, is it not important to keep the Church doctrinally pure? If it were not so, we would end up with protestantism with several different doctrines floating around even in the same denomination, trust me I know, I spent the first 22 years of my life protestant. We need the pope at the head to remain doctrinally pure.

They’re related. Synodality is one way collegiality is practiced (ie through the holding of Councils/Syonds), but the bishops can teach and govern the Church spread througout the world too, not just gathered in synods. The term synodality is sometimes used, however, to denote a style of Church governance that lacks any form of primacy. This would be contrary to the Catholic doctrine of collegiality.

It’s not so much that the Orthodox Churches are more synodal, it’s that they lack the primacy. Synodality has always been an integral part of the Catholic Church, but the primacy also has an integral role, and this role is completely absent in the Orthodox Churches. This is why they have basically devolved into essentially independent national Churches that practice intercommunion.

Even with increased synodal action in the Catholic Church, I believe the risk of churches developing an independent national identity to the extent the Orthodox Churches have is minimized due to the maintance of communion with the primatial See, which is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of all the Churches in the whole world. Even if the Roman Pontiff only intervenes occasionally, he always remains as that visible principle of unity among all (in addition to other principles of unity, like the Eucharist, etc.), which is completely lacking in the separated East.

Jimkhong #6
Sensus fidelium translates to the sense of the faithful, which the CCC tells us is “the supernatural appreciation of faith on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals”. The Popes (both Benedict and Francis) made clear that this does not mean public opinion in the Church. Still, you can see why it has largely unpopular among the centralising Curia. The recent questionnaire on the family was Pope Francis’ attempt to understand the sensus fidelium and allowing it a role to shape the Church’s pastoral mission.

The error here is in failing to understand Vatican II.

This particular type of revelation does not initially come to us in a written format (such as an epistle from the Bible) but is rather infused in the hearts and minds of all the faithful. Because it is not clearly expressed in Sacred Scripture, it is an aspect of Sacred Tradition.

This is misinterpreted because “the faithful” don’t have a prerogative on truth unless and until they assent to and obey the teaching of the Church: “By this appreciation, of the faith, aroused and sustained by the spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium), and obeying it, receive not the mere word of men, but truly the word of God (cf. 1 Th 2:13), the faith delivered once for all to the saints (cf. Jude 3).” [Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 12, (*Lumen Gentium)].

Fr John A Hardon, S.J., explains that the universitas fidelium (the university of the faithful). referred to in LG art 12, constitutes those who are agreed on the truth - what God has revealed, under the guidance of the sacred Magisterium. This is what gives them universality - spiritual unity. “the truth interiorly possessed gives them consensus, and not the other way around, as though their consensus on some doctrine made it true.” The Catholic Catechism, Doubleday, 1975, p 225-227]
Those dissenting are outside of the sensus fidelium.

Plus, sensus fidelium refers to universal agreement of all (since the entire Church cannot fall into error)–so members of the Curia would have nothing to fear from it, since it would require their agreement too! The survey was to gauge how well or poorly the faithful understood the Church’s doctrine as expressed by the Magisterium (especially recent documents like Gaudium et Spes and Familiaris Consortio) so the shepherds could batter pastor their flocks, it wasn’t to determine what the doctrine should be.

jimkhong #7
Sadly, labels are an easy way to dehumanise one’s opponents, making it easier to persuade others to dislike one’s opponents. Much like Ross Limbaugh labeling Pope Francis a Marxist for questioning the efficacy of trickle-down economics.

Such a shallow slant seems oblivious to the fact that Pope Francis is creating more problems with his assumption against those who “continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.”

As Samuel Gregg, November 26, 2013, shows:
‘There are several problems with this line of reasoning. First, opening up markets throughout the world has helped to reduce poverty in many developing nations. East Asia is a living testimony to that reality — a testimony routinely ignored by many Catholics in Western Europe (who tend to complain rather self-centeredly about the competition it creates for protected Western European businesses and other recipients of corporate welfare) and a reality about which I have found many Latin American Catholics simply have nothing to say.

‘Second, it has never been the argument of most of those who favor markets that economic freedom and free exchange are somehow sufficient to reduce poverty.’

Samuel Gregg is research director at the Acton Institute
m.nationalreview.com/corner/365004/pope-francis-and-poverty-samuel-gregg#!

The precision and depth of Bl John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI need to be emulated

From the CCC

ccc.scborromeo.org.master.com/texis/master/search/?sufs=0&q=collegial&xsubmit=Search&s=SS collegial

ccc.scborromeo.org.master.com/texis/master/search/?sufs=0&q=college&xsubmit=Search&s=SS collage

Re: collegiality

I think understanding “collage” is key vs understanding the authority of an individual bishop in his own diocese.

I am not sure if an economic treatise is relevant to this Forum but here goes.

First, your point that you quoted is not about trickle-down economics but really opening up markets, which is different. Catholicism does not oppose capitalism per se. I think there is an acknowlegement that despite its shortcomings, capitalism is still the best (of least worse) economic model around.

There are however some parts of capitalist thinking that we believe do not dignify the human condition. One of which Pope Francis has taken issue with is the idea that we need policies that encourage wealth creation among the rich and the rich will be doing things directly (by charity) or indirectly (by investments) which will also lift up the poor. This is largely discredited as Pope Francis said, the poor are still waiting.

Interestingly, one of the early proponents of trickle down economics, Margaret Thatcher (whose economic thought I had a lot of respect for despite my very social outlook) ruefully commented in her later years that the rich did now know what to do with the wealth (a lof of which in UK that she had a hand in creating). Thatcher was a Methodist, a denomination with a very high social concioussness (see their soup kitchens etc) and she was probably naive to expect the rich to voluntarily help the poor once they became rich. Bear in mind that a lot of the weath created in the last two decades were in increasing stock prices and asset values, despite the 2008 interruption, and, in economic theory, do not constitute investments and hence create jobs.

As you can see, we cannot go with labels for Catholics as we agreed or disagree on the merits of each arguement. Both JP2 and Benedict, despite being characterised as conservatives, have spoken out against excesses of the markets with JP2 being famous for making us concious of consumerism, a trait necessary to capitalism to thrive as it had in the last three decades. We do not reject capitalism per se (or Marxism for that matter) as there are good things in most idealogies but we seek to change, amend, ameliorate, mititgate the parts of the idealogy which Catholics believe run counter to Gospel values.

jimkhong #14
There are however some parts of capitalist thinking that we believe do not dignify the human condition.

“We” don’t believe that. Free enterprise began in the ninth century with the monks as Rodney Stark affirms, and the understanding and development of the natural laws by the Catholic Late Scholastics followed.

There is a solid basis of economic Catholic thought from the fourteenth century. In the fifteenth century the Late Scholastics who were Thomists (followers of St Thomas) “writing and teaching at the University of Salamanca in Spain, sought to explain the full range of human action and social; organization.” They “observed the existence of economic law, inexorable forces of cause and effect that operate very much as other natural laws. Over the course of several generations, they discovered and explained the laws of supply and demand, the cause of inflation, the operation of foreign exchange rates, and the subjective nature of economic value…” For these reasons Joseph Schumpeter applauded them as the first real economists. (Thomas E Woods Jr, The Church And The Market, Lexington Books, 2005, p 8).

One of which Pope Francis has taken issue with is the idea that we need policies that encourage wealth creation among the rich and the rich will be doing things directly (by charity) or indirectly (by investments) which will also lift up the poor. This is largely discredited as Pope Francis said, the poor are still waiting.

This is an interesting appraisal on the *Entrepreneurial Vocation *by Fr. Robert A. Sirico that brings out these prejudices.
“As a group, entrepreneurs are frequently depicted as greedy, immoral, and cutthroat. This prejudice can be found equally among business and religious leaders, not to mention among cultural elites and individual people. But such criticisms, though justified far too often, fail to acknowledge the implicit spiritual dimension of enterprise, seen particularly in terms of the entrepreneur’s creative ability to imagine new possibilities, to maintain a proper concept of stewardship, and to cultivate the earth to harness its potential. While it is true that entrepreneurs—like any other group of people—have been stained by sin, they must not be judged more severely for their moral failings merely because their profession involves the creation of wealth. Those who consider the entrepreneurial vocation a necessary evil must affirm that the Parable of the Talents lends ample scriptural support to entrepreneurial activity.”
acton.org/publications/mandm/mandm_article_110.php

The value of free enterprise in alleviating poverty is phenomenal. Eradicating poverty has to be done one step at a time. Right now there is enough food to feed everyone. That has been so for many decades.

The revered Fr James V. Schall, S.J.:
‘Much of world poverty has in fact been reduced or alleviated, as a recent essay in The Economist has shown. Christians often seem not to know that this change has happened or why it happened.’

Further, between 1990 and 2010, their number fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43% to 21%—a reduction of almost 1 billion people.
tinyurl.com/ldjt6go

We do not reject capitalism per se (or Marxism for that matter) as there are good things in most idealogies but we seek to change, amend, ameliorate, mititgate the parts of the idealogy which Catholics believe run counter to Gospel values.

False.
Pius XI declared emphatically in Quadragesimo Anno, 1931, #120:
“We have also summoned Communism and Socialism again to judgment and have found all their forms, even the most modified, to wander far from the precepts of the Gospel.”

Now see the affirmation of free enterprise as Bl John Paul II teaches in Centesimus Annus, 1991:
CA 42. ‘Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?
‘The answer is obviously complex. If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy”, “market economy” or simply “free economy”.
‘CA 43. The Church has no models to present;’

Pope Benedict XVI felt it necessary to teach that “Society does not have to protect itself from the market, as if the development of the latter were ipso facto to entail the death of authentically human relations…Therefore it is not the instrument that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their personal and social responsibility.” (Caritas et Veritate, Benedict XVI, 2009, #36).

As I said, I think the thread is on collegiality and not economic theory.

If you wish to treat capitalism as free from error, you are free to believe so. The last three popes have seen fit to discuss the areas where capitalism, while generally accepted as the de facto economic model, has fallen short of what they see to be Gospel values.

Anyway, all I am demonstrating that labels are not easy to pin down among most Catholics. And just to prove that we Catholics defy definition (in terms of idealogies), I have say most and not all as some Catholics have obviously chosen to sit at one end of the spectrum or the other even while most of us sit somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, the polarisation in American politics has found its way into Catholic opinions as well. But we believe that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can clean up our act faster than Washington can.

I believe Genesis 315 has given an excellent answer to your first question.

I like the tone of your second question. I could put the reasons forward and you can decide which you can agree and which you can’t. Then, if there is any area of disagreement, we can agree to disagree without the panapoly of accusations of apostasy that sometimes accompany questions like this.:smiley: Inform your conscience and then make your own opinion.

First, of course we would all want a doctrinally pure church but here are a few questions: (i) which doctrines and which rules? (ii) Problems with application of rules; (iii) What about mercy? (iv) What about the unchurched?

Which doctrines
The Bible is full of doctrines, some of which are applicable is some situations and some in others. For instance, take the point of divorce. Jesus clearly said that marriage is indisoluable but then he goes to forgive the adulterous woman. Does this mean that we should be strict about marriage or do we forgive those who have remarried (and therefore technically in an adulterous relationship)? Most of us would have an opinion and that opinion would depend on which of the two Gospel readings we give more weight to. We could accpet one and minimise the other but most of us don’t. Most opinions would not be sitting at either extremes but would sit somewhere in between. We try to reconcile the two by determining which one would be more applicable in which situation.

This is why people, whom we assume are all to be equally informed ad educated, have different opinions on what doctrines mean in daily living, and, while the doctrines themselves and Church teachings do not change, they way we approach them may (but not always) change. For instance, the doctine of the eucharist as spiritual sustenance is clear and unchanged but do you know that frequent communion is just over a century old. In medieval times, some people take communion only once a year and most are content to view the host for their salvation instead of eating it (one reason for the elevation of the host at mass today). I for one will not be telling them that they are wrong because they live the doctrines based on the thinking of the day, which differs today.

Pope Francis: “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."

Application of rules
Doctrines are expressed in the daily living by rules and guidelines. Sometimes they need to be enforced by those same rules.

You may have heard of the saying “the law is an ***” (maybe more common in UK than US). This arises because the law is not able to adapt to a new situation that arises. That is why we have laws being repealed or amended constantly.

A simple example in the Church is the rule about canonisation of martyrs, who is defined as someone who died for the faith. So, when Maximilian Kolbe was canonised, there was a problem as he didn’t die explicitly for Jesus or the Church. Yet anyone would instinctively know that he was a saint and a martyr. I am not sure if the rules was changed or an exception was made (which to me, means the same thing) but certainly the Church was wise to be flexible about the rules and not be strict about it. It is the intention of the rules that count and not the wording of it.

Sometimes, rules are strengthened because of abuse. We introduce new rules to close the loophole but often such new rules then exclude valid cases. When that happen, we say that things got too bureaucratic. So, we change the rules to try to include those valid cases. But when we change them too often, the concept of having rules loses respect among those who are to live by it. So, what is the right balance?. Not easy.

Pope Francis : “I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures,”

Doctrine of mercy
Pope Francis has been asking for bishops who are more pastorally sensitive and the recent changes in the cardinals who are to evaluate new bishops seem to reflect that. Those who have to face real pastoral situations often make different decisions than those who look at it from a theoretical point of view. The natural tendency to show mercy often arises when we meet the problem face-on. Maybe that is why Jesus stressed the indisoluability of marriage when talking to the scribes but showed compassion when faced with the adulterous woman.

One indication was the suggestion from Pope Francis that we may want to look at the Orthodox views on divorce. The Orthodox position is quite interesting as they accept the indissolubility of marriage but they also accept that people also make mistakes. In certain situations, they allow a second marriage (not annulment of the earlier one) but note that it is in certain situations only (I believe the priests/bishops have some guidance in deciding when it is appropriate but I haven’t discussed with any Orthodox priests yet on how it works). Off topic: I find it illustrative of how the humility of this Pope contrast with some triumphalist Catholics who feel we have nothing to learn from other religions.

Contrast this with Cardinal Muller’s (Vatican’s chief theologian) comment that mercy does not come into it at all when discussing communion for remarried divorcees. (He got a lot fo flak for that and there were many speculation where the Pope stand on it - I will let them speculate and wait patiently for the Synod on the Family next year)

Just to illustrate how difficult pastoral situations are - one cardinal (I forgot which one) remarked that if we want to be strict with the conditions for marriage, we will end up with very few marriages as most of the people taking the sacrament do not have the proper idea about marriage. I tend to agree with him.

Pope Francis: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,”

The unchurched
The Pope’s statement that the church is a home for all and not a chapel for a select few reminds me of a priest who went around the diocese with me to meet youth groups (when I was still young!). At one parish, when the youth group told him that they represent the parish youths, he told them that they do not as the parish youths generally do not attend youth group meetings and may not even be attending mass. To put it crudely, the average Catholic does not go to Church most Sundays.

I know of Catholics who are unchurched today because they feel excluded due to, among other things, Church doctrines. It is easy to say that they have excluded themselves and it is incumbent on them to repent so as to enjoy the fruits of the Church. Yet is it moral to abandon sinning souls to Satan in order not to undefile the saints in the chapel? Can we in all consioussness tell God that we were right to wait for that lamb who had strayed and broken its leg to return to us rather than go out and bring the lamb home, broken leg and all?

If a little flexiblity in how the doctrines are to be practiced bring people back to the sacraments, does the strength afforded by the sacraments in those areas a person has been good, outweigh the stain of the sin that coudl otehrwise have excluded them from the sacrament?

Pope Francis: “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

I just want to illustrate that when faced with the real life in the streets, things like doctrine gets murky. It is not easy to find the right balance. And we will all have different ideas of where the balance should be. But as long as we accept each other’s sincerity and everyone’s place at the same table and to partake of the same bread, the Church can only be stronger for the debates that we have. And whichever decision we make as a Church on where that balance is, at least we will be clearer why.

If I could hasten to add, agreement here does not mean a formal agreement like in a demoractic ballot box during a referendum (or what do you call it in America, all those state proposition). It is a bit more fuzzy and date to the time when priests and laity had a greater role in the Church. For instance, the bishop of Rome used to be elected by the lay people as well and the right of the priests and laity to reject the cardinal’s choice was only formally revoked in 1139.

For instance, the Orthodox belief is that decisions of an ecumenical council is only valid for a (national) church that accepted it after their representative return from the council. That is not the Catholic practice. But of course, if the decision of the council is ignored or opposed by the general public, that could (but not necessarily so) the Holy Spirit’s way to telling the bishops that they have gotten it wrong.

The problem with a completely free market, ironically, is that it destroys free enterprise. It becomes a system of “survival of the fittest” where the strong dominate and oppress the weak and come to exercise a virtual dictatorship over the economy. It becomes the “economy of exclusion” the reigning Pontiff has exhorted us to reject. Catholic social teaching gives public authority the power to intervene and regulate to ensure this does not happen and that economic activity is ordered to the benefit of all, providing as much freedom of opportunity as possible to all.

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