14Feb New pope should put collegiality into practice

The courageous decision of Pope Benedict to resign offers our Church a moment of special importance the kind which in the bible is called a Kairos time. So we must now pray and do whatever we can to ensure that our cardinals elect a person (not necessarily a cardinal or even an already ordained bishop), known to be deeply spiritual, compassionate, and committed to justice in society and the Church, and determined to eliminate pomp and careerism which are inappropriate to a follower of Jesus. We need to hope and pray that the person they choose will have made an explicit commitment to put into practice the collegiality which was fundamental to the process, the style, and the commitments of Vatican II.

One early example of what this will involve in practice will be the convoking of a Synod of Bishops which will function in a similar way to the Synod of 1971 which had fruitful interaction between the bishops, widely-known theologians from different parts of the world, and authoritative experts including Barbara Ward-Jackson, and which issued its own document rather than merely submitting material to be drawn on by the pope and Vatican officials. The topic for this Synod should be “Gender and Sexuality”. Prior to this Synod the pope should implement the recommendation of the 1971 Synod (no 43) which proposed the setting up of “a mixed commission of men and women, religious and lay people, of differing situations and competence” to examine the role of women in society and in the Church. The remit of this “mixed commission” should be widened to include the various aspects of sexuality and gender issues which have become so urgent in today’s world. This “mixed commission” should include theologians and experts nominated by bishops’ conferences throughout the world and by various associations of theologians and other professional bodies.
A second example of what the effective exercise of collegiality involves will be the implementation of the provisions of the Vatican II document on the Liturgy (§22, §36, §38, §39, and §40), which gave a major degree of responsibility to national and regional episcopal conferences in reforming and adapting the liturgy and determining the extent to which vernacular language is to be used.
A third way of implementing collegiality will be ensuring that the members and consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will include recognized theologians from a variety of different theological traditions and nominated by episcopal conferences and theological associations in various countries and continents, as well as renowned experts on relevant areas of study.
A fourth urgent example of the exercise of collegiality will be the facilitating of a consensus of Church leaders from all over the world on the topics that are to be explored in future Synods of Bishops.
My own personal hope is that these will include a Synod on prayer and one on social justice and respect for creation. To illustrate the kind of process that is required I suggest that the bishops, theologians, and experts who participate in the Synod on justice and creation would of course draw on the developing tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, including the major contribution of Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate. But they would also take account of the contribution of the various strands of liberation theology and creation theology, and, particularly, of the direct experience of individuals, groups, and countries which have been marginalized or victimized by the present unjust economic and political structures of society or who have first-hand experience of the disastrous consequences of ecological damage.
I would hope that a Synod on prayer would itself be a particularly prayerful event, led by men and women notable for their deep involvement in various forms of prayer ministry.

Donal Dorr

10 Responses

  1. Darlene Starrs

    All that you say is very true in terms of the collegiality of bishops and such. I would like to the emphasis of collegiality with priests and their bishops, no matter what country we are speaking of. In my case, I would like to see the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops have far greater autonomy with Rome, and for the Canadian Bishops to have greater consultation with the priests, but where we really need work, is the Bishops listening to all the people, not just the ones, who will tell them what they want to hear!

  2. Joe O'Leary

    “A third way of implementing collegiality will be ensuring that the members and consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will include recognized theologians from a variety of different theological traditions and nominated by episcopal conferences and theological associations in various countries and continents, as well as renowned experts on relevant areas of study.”

    The only way to keep the bureaucrats from amalgamating Christian truth (which is always truth in action) with their own current hang-ups.

  3. Soline Humbert

    ….”the type of church that will evolve during his REIGN”.
    I pray for a pope who is not a monarch who REIGNS, but a minister who SERVES.
    Thank you Donal for your reflections. I share your belief this is a Kairos time. Let there be a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church.

  4. Mary Cunningham

    ‘The topic for this Synod should be “Gender and Sexuality”.’

    This is an excellent suggestion and a crucial issue for the future of the Catholic church, Donal.

    Misogyny and internalised homophobia are rampant in the institutional church. The oft quoted gospel value of basic dignity and justice for all persons, is thus rendered hypocritical rhetoric.

    Any ‘New Evangelisation’, while the fearful church clings to such entrenched positions, is doomed to failure.

    Are women, are gay people, persons?

    Mary Cunningham

  5. Con Carroll

    I first became interested about Theology, Franciscan Spirituality, Liberation Theology, from reading the book by the author Leonard Boff:
    Church Charism &Power. Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church. Francis A Model for Human Liberation
    This book’s analysis confirmed to me what the Gospels / Franciscan Spirituality was all about. It broadened my mind – into what al ot would call ‘Communist subversive politics’. Well the guy Jesus was also accused. And the Jesuit Martyrs. And the women of Maryknoll Martyrs. Those who opposed the apartheid system in South Africa. And Romero. Along with millions who are opposed to political economist capitalist agenda of Goldman Sachs.
    Since the resignation of Pope Benedict, I was hoping that women of a progressive mind, in solidarity with people demanding another path of political Spirituality, would put their names forword
    Wtching PrimeTime on Monday 11 February, Gina Menzies mentioned another woman in America, whose theological views have come under question by the American Hierarchy: Sr. Elizabeth Johnson. Fordham University. Congregation Sisters of St Joseph. Quest for Living God.
    Elizabeth’s email address: ejohnson@fordham.edu

  6. Pádraig McCarthy

    Well worth a look again: the item reported on this website (https://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2012/12/swiss-abbot-makes-fiery-appeal-for-church-reform-ncr/) about
    Benedictine Abbot Martin Werlen of Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzeland, who issued a letter (in German) last November with many interesting comments. The title is “Discovering Together the Glowing Embers under the Ashes.” This echoes a thought in Cardinal Martini’s last interview before his death. Abbot Martin wrote it while recovering from a band on the head while playing badminton!
    One small sample which I particularly like:
    “The advisory body of the Pope could be different. For example, people from around the world, women and men, young and old, could be appointed to the Board for five years. Every three months they would meet in Rome with the Pope.”
    I have not found an English translation. A substantial portion in German is available at http://www.wir-sind-kirche.at/content/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1565&Itemid=14.
    You can use on-line translation facilities to translate it – it won’t all make sense, but enough perhaps to get a flavour.
    The full letter can be ordered (5 Swiss Francs) from the Abbey (proceeds go to the Swiss Liturgical Institute). Maybe someone out there would do a full translation?

    He says: “This brochure is a working document. It is to be discussed. It may be criticized. Hopefully it encourages dedicated people in the church, in spite of all temptations to despair, to look together for the embers under the ashes, so that the fire may burn again.”
    He is due to finish his term as abbot later this year.

  7. Catherine Moran HFB

    I would like to express appreciation of the recent articles submitted to this website. They have analysed in depth the needs of the Church and the challenges facing those who will be assembling shortly to elect a new Pope, emphasising the importance of implementing the directives and orientations of the Second Vatican Council. I noted in particular the emphasis in Donal Dorr’s article on the importance of honouring the concept of ‘collegiality’ in decision making.
    I feel we need to emphasise also the role of Mary in Church renewal, bearing in mind that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council inserted the official teaching on Mary in the document on ‘The Church’ – the Body of Christ – where she truly belongs. When God has something to say to the world, He does so through the voice of the poor. God spoke his most powerful Word through Mary, the summit of the ‘the poor of Yahweh’. As Mary took her stand beside her Son on Calvary, I feel she might have understood, somehow, her role as Mother of a ‘wounded Church’ – as it is today, in so many ways. Mary also remained with the first disciples in the Upper Room as they awaited – broken, disheartened and disillusioned – the coming of the Holy Spirit.
    Mary noticed that the wine was running out at Cana. “They have no wine,” she said to her Son. We need to ask her again to intercede with her Son to help us find ‘new wine’. Let us hope, too, that there will be a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on those who will assemble to elect a new Pope. Mary’s last words in the Gospel of John are “Do whatever he tells you!”

  8. Martin Murray

    Thank you Donal for your practicality and for putting some flesh on the bones of our hope.

  9. Soline Humbert

    What a lovely surprise to find your comments: It was exactly what had come to me this morning as I was pondering the present situation we in the church are in. The Holy Spirit and Mary are with us in a very special way at this kairos.

  10. Darlene Starrs

    Yes, as a matter of fact, today is another anniversary date in the series of apparitions to the Bernadette, who considered herself, like Mary to be the “lowly handmaid”.