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True Collegiality is Union with Peter
- by John Mallon, Contributing Editor, Inside the Vatican
Clearly, one of the worst ideas swirling
around the conclave scuttlebutt is the notion of making the
Church "less centralized" "more democratic"
and "more collegial" with more authority given to
local bishops' conferences.
What a nightmare.
In the United States alone the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been a source of constant exasperation
and humiliation to fauthful Catholics with documents being
issued at times by the heavily left-wing bureaucratic staff.
This has even happened without the approval of the bishops
themselves. Two examples spring to mind: The Many Faces
of AIDS of 1986 and Always our Children, both
of which flew in the face of Magisterial teaching, and requiring
Ask yourself: Do you really want the crowd that brought us
the 2002 sex scandals tying the hands of the Pope? Can you
imagine the brilliant encyclicals and Apostolic Letters of
John Paul II tied up in committees as things are at the USCCB?
The Roman Catholic Church is not an "episcopal"
church, but was founded by Christ on the Rock of Peter, and
the Pope is Peter's successor. When I read of the people who
support these so-called "collegial" ideas they read
like a list of people who have done terrible harm to their
dioceses and restricted the promulgation of the Gospel as
it comes to us in Magisterial teaching.
Spare us, O Lord.
There has been a myth going around that for 40 years Blessed
John XXIII was somehow a "liberal" Pope, and he
is cited as the darling of the so-called "Progressives."
The fact is, when he was preparing to convoke the Second Vatican
Council someone asked him, "Holy Father, you are not
going to change doctrine, are you?" He is said to have
snapped, "Never!" Yet the myth lives on.
Obviously, John XXIII knew that doctrine comes from Christ;
it cannot change. Our understanding and insight into doctrine
may deepen, but no one, including a Pope, can change it.
There are those who say that Pope John Paul II and Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger have "rolled back" the "openness"
"ushered in by the Council." This too is nonsense.
Young Bishop Wojtyla and young Father Ratzinger were among
the architects of the Council and Wojtyla did a fair amount
of the writing of the Vatican II documents.
Most hotly contested, as usual, are issues involving human
sexuality. During his papacy John Paul II always spoke of
human sexuality in terms of generosity, of self-gift—total
self donation. "Progressives," on the other hand,
characteristically always represent a pulling back from sacrifice—and
therefore from love. Their agenda always speaks of truncating
love. Every item on the agenda represents a pull-back from
genuine love and self gift, in the name of a terrible and
selfish pragmatism. Who wants a "barrier" erected
within love? Yet, this is exactly what contraception does,
both physically and symbolically, and the "love"
and the world is poorer for it.
Contraception led to promiscuity which led to abortion, and
the separation of the unitive and the procreative aspects
of sexuality led to widespread homosexuality, which led to
AIDS. (By the way, this separating of the procreative from
the unitive also destroyed the sanctity, security and stability
of the unitive love between spouses, which led to widespread
In a nutshell, you have the cause of most of the social evils
of the present day, all because the Magisterial teaching of
Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae was treated as a scoff
law in most of the world, including those responsible for
teaching the Faith.
Do I want more collegiality between the Pope and those bishops
who failed or refused to support Papal teachings? Not a chance.
Another papal teaching treated as a scoff law is Ex Corde
Ecclesiae. Few are the bishops in the West who have seriously
enforced the mandatum for theology professors which
would protect the young from novelties and speculations taught
under the auspices of Catholic higher education. The 1998
Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem requiring the Oath
of Fidelity from persons in certain responsible positions,
including theology and philosophy faculties at Catholic colleges
and universities is another scoff law.
National bishops' conferences are not Magisterial bodies.
Only bishops teaching in union with the Sovereign Pontiff
make up members of the Magestrium.
So in essence, those calling for "collegiality"
who fail to honor Magisterial teaching are in fact calling
for collegiality when there is no unity. The Apostolic Letter
Apostolos Suos spelled out the theological and juridical
nature of episcopal conferences reaffirming that apart from
the See of Peter, they do not have Magisterial authority.
More recently, Vatican directives concerning pro-abortion
Catholic politicians receiving Communion appear to be "lost
in committee" at the USCCB. Another scoff law?
John Paul II has led the Church into the 21st century while
those who absurdly continue to be called "Progressives"
are stuck in the 1960s. The Barque of Peter has sailed on
with much of the youth on board, leaving the "Progressives"
in the doldrums.
To follow the "Progressives" is to go backwards
in both time and ideas. Let's go forward with Peter.
John Mallon is a Contributing Editor to Inside the Vatican
magazine. He also has regular columns on the websites Catholic.Org
An archive of Mr. Mallon's work also appears here: http://www.petersvoice.com/mallon/index.html.
You can reach Mr. Mallon at email@example.com.
Inside The Vatican (ISSN 1068-8579) is a Catholic news magazine, published monthly except July
and September, with occasional special supplements.