Monday 22 July 2013

"Impressed by Pope's Emphasis on "Synodality" in the Church" - Vatican Insider

"Impressed by Pope's Emphasis on "Synodality" in the Church" - Vatican Insider

This synodality is an aspect of the Anglican tradition of decision-making and discernment, something that has been united with the Catholic Church in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus in the way in which the Ordinariates are to govern themselves, from the consultative governance of the Ordinaries and their elected councils, and the personal parishes. This is not a question of absorbing Anglican practice in a spirit of compromise, so much as retrieving something from well within the Catholic tradition of governance and putting it into new use in an instance of reconciliation among Christians.

It is also worth saying that, while each of the churches has a system of authority, not only for decisions but for the right transmission of teaching and sacraments, each too has a tradition of concentrating authority within authoritarianism, or at least separate centres of authority, which has posed a problem for ecumenism. The Catholic Church has been seen as investing too much direct power in the papacy, while in fact no less power is in practice invested in the persons of the Patriarchs of Moscow and of Constantinople in their respective spheres. Likewise historically the Archbishop of Canterbury has enjoyed considerable delegated and direct powers from before the Reformation schism to the present age. Many of the post-Reformation churches, too,  have - at least in theory - tight systems of central discipline, not infrequently invested in the executive role of a central authority figure. What Pope Francis is appearing to do, however, is to bear witness to the Catholic truth that, in the Church as Body of Christ, all authority must be Christlike, and that therefore it is no less Christlike for the Church to be led "with authority" on the pattern of Christ and his apostles - but that, on the other hand, this is a pattern of love, service, communion and being of one accord in the Holy Spirit. This is the Catholic teaching both retrieved, expounded and developed in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium. It is not a template for a pseudo-democratic reworking of the order and unity of the Church, nor an accommodation to Protestant Reformation objections to the proper authority of the bishops conveying the apostolic faith in union with the prime Bishop of Rome, nor of conforming the one authority of the Church (which is Christ's authority) to diverse and diffuse centres possessing power in their own right, but of "unitatis redintegratio" (the title of the Decree on Ecumenism) - the constant process and achievement of the integration of the People of God into the Body of Christ in unity.

Shortly before his retirement, in his address to the priests of Rome on the teaching of Vatican II, Pope Benedict observed that, while Pope Pius XII developed a century's papal teaching on the nature and purpose of the Church in terms of "The Body of Christ", in his 1943 Encyclical Mystici Corporis, there were those who detected in Vatican II, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium but especially in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church Gaudium et Spes, a new conceptualisation of the Church as "The People of God". While this image is striking, with its echoes of the wandering Hebrews with the Pillar of divine Fire at their head in pilgrimage to the Promised Land, and its resonance in the mid-twentieth century in a period of transition in culture that was calling forth a fresh engagement and application of the one and same Catholic faith from the Church in a new and uncertain but hope-filled age, Pope Benedict stressed their direct continuity and mutual reference. In short, he was saying, the People of God are held together in the unity that exists among the disciples of Christ, but it is in the Body of Christ that they are together in communion with their Head in the Church.

Synodality is thus more than walking together on the road as pilgrim people from Egypt to the Promised Land, or between Emmaus and Jerusalem, or Olivet to Calvary - it is fulness of communion in the Catholic Church, a unity of spirit, or mind and of Body; a unity of and for all the baptised, with the deacons, priests and bishops in communion with Peter.

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