Future Bishops and Popes: How Much Authority?


This is very interesting depending on which way the talks go, either large scale decentralization of authority, or toward dramatic centralization

Pope Francis is contemplating a major reworking of the top-level administrative machinery of the Church. Commentators sometimes describe this as “reforming the Roman Curia,” but if the Pope’s own words–together with public and private proposals intended to influence the result–are any indication, the project could extend far beyond reshuffling dicasteries and straightening out the affairs of the Institute for the Works of Religion (the Vatican bank).

In all cases, “collegiality” is said to be both the working principle and the objective of reform. The word refers to the doctrine, revived by Vatican Council II, that the bishops share in teaching and governing the universal Church in union with the pope. The question that obviously raises is how it’s to be done.

One answer, a conservative one, is that diocesan bishops make their most important contribution to collegial governance by teaching and governing their own dioceses well. But although collegiality in that sense is essential, it is no less clear that the collegial principle extends to some form of collective participation in teaching and g*overning the entire Church. Ecumenical councils are conspicuous examples.

Well, the Church cannot go back on it’s teachings on the Papal authority. Pastor Aeternus is quite clear what his authority is. He may or may not choose to excercise the prerogatives spelled out therein, but that doesn’t mean he loses this authority. I would personally like to see more collegiality (as it may help heal the Schism) but in a way consistent with Tradition**

The church was at one time dramatically more decentralized. The current set up only dates to the early 1900’s, responding to the confirmation of Papal Infallibility, the promulgation of the first centralized Code of Canon Law in 1917, and the creation of the Vatican City State in the 1930’s.

Previously, the equivalent of bishops conferences had more administrative functions, such as negotiating subsidies from the state, supervising church owned property, and even investigation heresy! The church was local, created by signing a concordat between the host state and the Vatican. As states started cracking down on the local church, authority was more centralized in Rome to create a larger political block.

As the Vatican itself is now coming under political attack today, there is talk about devolving some some authority back to lower levels to maintain credibility. This is all political, and does not touch on doctrine, which is not subject to negotiation. “Liberals” may hope that this is weakness that can be exploited for immoral “reforms”, but it is being done specifically to thwart such weaknesses.

They hope that it is Rome crushing the little local guys, and once liberated the formerly oppressed will throw open the doors to all modern mayhem. However Rome wants to decentralize precisely to wants to show that it is the “little local guys” who are advocating for continued orthodox morality in the public sphere!

With some things it makes eminent sense to have them decentralized: namely, the dealings with strictly local matters and issues of prudence. So when a Catholic politician stars doing publicly immoral things, it makes sense that his bishop excommunicates him, not the Prefect of the CDF.

But then there are certain things which I am not sure would work well on a local basis, like the regulation of liturgy and canon law. I shudder to even imagine what would happen if liturgy were managed largely on a local level today. I simply do not have trust in that sphere.


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