Friday, March 22, 2013

Pope to appoint 12 bishops as his quasi "apostles"?

But within the Catholic Church as well papal primacy, pushed to the limit, is waiting to be balanced by the college of bishops. This was called for by Vatican Council II, so far with scarce practical application, and again forcefully by Benedict XVI in one of his last discourses as pope, a few days before his resignation. His successor Francis has already made it known that this is precisely what he means to do.

To do this he has available to him a rough and ready implement, the synod. It consists of the approximately two hundred bishops, the elite of the almost five thousand bishops of the whole world, who every two years meet in Rome to discuss an issue of particular urgency for the life of the Church.

Its powers are purely advisory, and its twenty-eight editions so far, since the first in 1967, have risen only rarely above tedium. Pope Francis could make it deliberative, naturally “together with and under” his power of primacy.

But above all he could transform into a proper and permanent “council of the crown” that restricted group of bishops, three for each continent, which every synod elects at the end of its work, to act as a bridge to the following synod.

For a pope like Francis, who wants to feel from Rome the pulse of the worldwide Church, this group is the ideal instrument. Suffice it to say that among the twelve elected by the last synod are almost all of the outstanding names of the recent conclave: the cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York, Odilo Scherer of São Paulo, Brazil, Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Peter Erdö of Budapest, George Pell of Sydney, Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle of Manila.

By gathering around himself a summit of the worldwide episcopate of such a high level, once a month or even more frequently, physically present in Rome or by videoconference, Pope Francis could govern the Church just as Vatican Council II wished: with stable collegial support for his ultimate decisions as successor of Peter.

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Cathcon- such a small group at the top would only enhance Papal power rather than dispersing it.   Splits between the Bishops at this high level could be catastrophic.  The other immediate and potentially explosive problem would be the relationships with the episcopal conferences, who all too often have attempted to take a juridical role over and against individual bishops in their dioceses.

The larger body of bishops suggested would function as a quasi-parliamentary body but potentially would just insert another bureaucratic intermediary body between the Vicar of Christ and the Bishops of the world Church.

The crisis in the Church is nothing if not episcopal and "collegiality" is part of the problem rather than the solution as it leads to a confusion of roles between the Pope and his bishops.

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