Page 1, 11th October 1963

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Page 1, 11th October 1963 — Power of Bishops as

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Vatican 11

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Power of Bishops as

a College By Desmond Fisher THE Council has got straight down to tackling the central theme of Christianity today—the nature of the Church. Such a theme is allembracing, and everything has been poured into the discussions which are likely to concentrate on this Schema for several weeks.

The watershed of the early debates has been whether the Church should be regarded as an open society, with a dynamic life in all its parts, or whether it is a sort of closed shop, composed of the faithful centrally organised and with a highly hierarchic structure.

This ecclesiological argument has crystallised into a central theme — the question of the collegiality of the bishops in relation to the primacy of the Pope. Around this concept of unity in diversity and diversity in unity the whole debate on the Scheme on the Church is turning.

The whole work of the Council can be seen in terms of this problem. If the collegial power of the bishops can be defined, the chances of reunion with the Eastern Churches will be dramatically increased and the ecumenical movement greatly advanced.

Congar's view

The definition would also provide a basis for breaking the domination of the Roman Curia and it would vastly extend the scope for introducing local liturgical variations (like the vernacular and the adaptation of local cultures).

The Council's task, therefore. seems to be to take up where Vatican I left off. and to provide, if possible, a synthesis between the concept of unity (which dominated the earlier Council) and the concept of diversity (which is so alive today).

Pere Conger. the French theologian, said in this context the other day that Vatican I was the Council of the Pope; Vatican II is the Council of the bishops; Vatican III will be the Council of the laity.

If it is premature to hope for a synthesis of the two concepts, the Council would at least "hold the ring" in between the two schools of thought until a decision can be reached in years to come.

The trouble is that there has been too little theological thinking on this unity-diversity issue which, after being ignored for 15 centuries. has emerged into general discussion only within the past four years.

The result is that there is no basic Scriptural research and documentation ready for this Council, and, in this sense. Vatican II has come too early. Without it. however. the Catholic world might have fallen into theological and jurisdictional anarchy, or, alternatively, Rome might have attempted such repressions as to arouse dangers of a schism.

Probably the most we can expect from this Council is that, by re


Interplay of unity and diversity

Continued front Page I

Iraining from dogmatic therm I ii its.

it will allow the intensely theological thinking of today to eontinue with a view to a deciSiml in 10, 15 or even 30 years' time.

Pope Paul's own position in the F rimacy versos cii I leg i a i I y eontroyersv is abundantly clear. In his opening address to the session. he mentioned at the outset the twin tin Mertes or unity and catholicity ill the Church.

He referred to himself first as BitillOr Or Rome among his brothers. i-ind only later as SlIpn2111:C. Vonlilr. Ile disclaimed any inieto thin of human predominance or ica4ius5 or exclusive power. This IS ill complete accord with' his attitude hokards the Curia. Ism if the idea it episcopal eollegialitv is accepted. the Cutia becomes the inetrument, not of the Pope alone, his( cif the. bishops of the Church with the Pope it their centre.

This line of thought also provides the basis for the proposal to appoint a select body of bishops to help rule the Chinch. thus interposing the bishops between the Pope and the Curia. instead of having the Curia coming between the Pope and his brother bishops.

"I he collegiate episcopate signifies. in the words of Fr. Conger. --lhe lad that the bishops as a body ilcseend from and succeed to the college of the Apostles. l'eter being the vieible head of that college. that therefore they shai i. together responsibility for the whole Church, although. in his daily work. each bishop has personally chaige of a determines] partf

O. -la. ‘1,...0.e".

No dogma

The eimcilint discussions do not aim at proMicing a dogmatic definition on this point hut a pastoral clarilication iif the nature of the relationship between the Pope and the universal group of bishops. Nor is the discussion concertied with the estraordinativ authority of Ole bishops as assembled in council,. hut with their ordinary oilierwhich they. exercise in union with judge and delioe

■ tkhIlitill'c't\l'i'necii-Ir6iliwihn"proper authority. without whose a pprilval their nets though. as euhiedinate to the Pope.

IAA and universal force. What is in question. at Icest in peactiee. is: To what extent do thc biahops share. In ul ii toe right. in the exercise of universal itilthoiity in the Church?

Most or the speakers so far have strongly advocated that the Schema should treat more fully or this question. Thee point out that the existence of thc episcopal collcec is implied in the words of Chtist commissioning all the Apostles to teach all nattons: while from the 'beginning the Apostles formed a eollege. receiving the Holy Ghost as a eollege. electing a successor to Judas, and instituting the diaconate. as a body.


The holdine, of Ecumenical Councils. iifIcr the first Council of lerosalern. hears witness to this tradition, whieh can he rurther documented by reference to the primitive Church and the early 1 ;oilers. as Well its to the actions of the Popes such as Leo the (ireat. whose letters to the Cenmeil of Chaise:don are noteworthy in this respect.

Solo:. however. the concept of -college" is at least partly a juridical one. it is not sufficiently clarified in Seri pture. This can only he thine Liy exegetical. dogmatic and hisit ical study. which will surely be great 1%,. promoted hy this

C :11111.11.

I Is c10110W ing points haee been stieeesicd as worths of special

head ol the

171 [hat ow pope is successor to ho vials OIL' Or the Apostles. 1 ii ihis tonnection many hishoils.

want the x p res.s Pet cr i n ii the Apostles" to he changed Iii 'Teter and the other Apostles-. (.11 1 hat the bishops ,tre the suceessors ii1" the Apostles. that the collegiate IThiscopate is not it ecclesiastical but of divine instilltin, and that the office of bishop is css(c1111Iiiiiiliitn ;is pone

Paul insists, is not on instrument of donviiration but of service.

Theologieally. the debate will probably revolve around the notion of the ''fulness" of authority to teach, govern and ,siinctifY by divine right.

This tallness is found in the universal episoipal volie,ne which, of course. includes Peter Rad his seccessory 'There will be delicate and difficult discussions oa the nature of die relationship between these divinely instituted organs of authority. hut certain points made by the fathers already must he

In these discussions there is no threat to the primacyisl the Pope, The hody of the Apostles needs its head. but the head cannot be pro perk considered apart from the body. A full examination of the nature of the college of bishops yill not put the primary. in the shade hut in greater relief.

'the hishops ask I'M a declaration about their college. not from tiny desire of power. or Si lessen the Pope's atithorit s . bin in 041er 10 he able effectively to help him to

g overn the whole Church.

The bishop is aggregated to the episcopal college by his consecration, not by shook: designation. Such designation has not always been the prerogative of the Pope.

as semis especially dtehtel ate nhd

Eastern Churches.

Tbe sacramental nature of that consecration should he treated more fully. Ily it the bishop shares in power over and responsibility for thc whole Church. so that he

cannot he 1.111C011iCrilcd w hal takes place in other dioceses.

While most of die bishops have found the Scheniiii on the Church gymerallii satisfactory, major improv criciits have. been called for. In particular. about half the speakers wanted a stronger statement of the idea of the Church as the people of God.

One explanation of this idea. offered outside the Council. was to

consider the Church. not as a pyramid with the laity at the base, the bishops in the centre and the Pope on lop, hut as concentric circles.

The largest eitele is the people of God: inside ii are the bishops with the Pooc at the centre. This gives the image 01the people of God containing the bishops and the Pope. and suggests that the power of the 'bishops umd he Pope is exercised km behalf of the people of God.

In dliN %kat-, ti,, the activity of the Church does not appear as coming from the top downwards hut as reflected in the We and aelion of the Holy 'Spirit in every Christ ion us I th his charismatic spirit.

Our Lady tooa7t he place w o th: poor. whose presence in our midst. in the words of Cardinal eierlier of Lyons, enmities the presence of Christ. Several bishops have spoken y cry forect tiny on this point. and it Will LICAi lv have to be contained in

die Itrul

e 'lace of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Suliciiia is causing controversy among the bishops. too. A group, mainly Spanish and Italian. wishes Mary to he left out Or the ,Siiihenrct on the Church. sinee She transcends the Chinch.

But die majority opinhol seems to be ilea inst a separate SOlcil):1 ■I rich ill 1.41 ac, f i tneo hectiohiLtriL7.

she is thc first citizen.

usc deem iiinal Fervoin as well as eettmenical considerations are involved in this issue. it could prove an explosive one, and it is clear that it is being handled deli. ea tiL:c1:a.

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