Skip to comments.THE PRIMACY OF THE SUCCESSOR OF PETER IN THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH
Posted on 05/04/2006 6:08:49 PM PDT by pravknight
Reflections of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect Tarcisio Bertone, Archbishop emeritus of Vercelli, Secretary 1. At this moment in the Church's life, the question of the primacy of Peter and of his Successors has exceptional importance as well as ecumenical significance. John Paul II has frequently spoken of this, particularly in the Encyclical Ut unum sint, in which he extended an invitation especially to pastors and theologians to "find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation".1
In answer to the Holy Father's invitation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided to study the matter by organizing a strictly doctrinal symposium on The Primacy of the Successor of Peter, which was held in the Vatican from 2 to 4 December 1996. Its Proceedings have recently been published.2
2. In his Message to those attending the symposium, the Holy Father wrote: "The Catholic Church is conscious of having preserved, in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of the Fathers, the ministry of the Successor of Peter".3 In the history of the Church, there is a continuity of doctrinal development on the primacy. In preparing the present text, which appears in the Appendix of the above-mentioned Proceedings,4 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has used the contributions of the scholars who took part in the symposium, but without intending to offer a synthesis of them or to go into questions requiring further study. These "Reflections" - appended to the symposium - are meant only to recall the essential points of Catholic doctrine on the primacy, Christ's great gift to his Church because it is a necessary service to unity and, as history shows, it has often defended the freedom of Bishops and the particular Churches against the interference of political authorities.
I. Origin, Purpose and Nature of the Primacy
3. "First Simon, who is called Peter".5 With this significant emphasis on the primacy of Simon Peter, St Matthew inserts in his Gospel the list of the Twelve Apostles, which also begins with the name of Simon in the other two synoptic Gospels and in Acts.6 This list, which has great evidential force, and other Gospel passages7 show clearly and simply that the New Testament canon received what Christ said about Peter and his role in the group of the Twelve.8 Thus, in the early Christian communities, as later throughout the Church, the image of Peter remained fixed as that of the Apostle who, despite his human weakness, was expressly assigned by Christ to the first place among the Twelve and was called to exercise a distinctive, specific task in the Church. He is the rock on which Christ will build his Church;9 he is the one, after he has been converted, whose faith will not fail and who will strengthen his brethren;10 lastly, he is the Shepherd who will lead the whole community of the Lord's disciples. 11
In Peter's person, mission and ministry, in his presence and death in Rome attested by the most ancient literary and archaeological tradition - the Church sees a deeper reality essentially related to her own mystery of communion and salvation: "Ubi Petrus, ibi ergo Ecclesia".12 From the beginning and with increasing clarity, the Church has understood that, just as there is a succession of the Apostles in the ministry of Bishops, so too the ministry of unity entrusted to Peter belongs to the permanent structure of Christ's Church and that this succession is established in the see of his martyrdom.
4. On the basis of the New Testament witness, the Catholic Church teaches, as a doctrine of faith, that the Bishop of Rome is the Successor of Peter in his primatial service in the universal Church;13 this succession explains the preeminence of the Church of Rome,14 enriched also by the preaching and martyrdom of St Paul.
In the divine plan for the primacy as "the office that was given individually by the Lord to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be handed on to his successors",15 we already see the purpose of the Petrine charism, i.e., "the unity of faith and communion" 16 of all believers. The Roman Pontiff, as the Successor of Peter, is "the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity both of the Bishops and of the multitude of the faithful" 17 and therefore he has a specific ministerial grace for serving that unity of faith and communion which is necessary for the Church to fulfil her saving mission. 18
5. The Constitution Pastor aeternus of the First Vatican Council indicated the purpose of the Primacy in its Prologue and then dedicated the body of the text to explaining the content or scope of its power. The Second Vatican Council, in turn, reaffirmed and completed the teaching of Vatican I,19 addressing primarily the theme of its purpose, with particular attention to the mystery of the Church as Corpus Ecclesiarum.20 This consideration allowed for a clearer exposition of how the primatial office of the Bishop of Rome and the office of the other Bishops are not in opposition but in fundamental and essential harmony.21
Therefore, "when the Catholic Church affirms that the office of the Bishop of Rome corresponds to the will of Christ, she does not separate this office from the mission entrusted to the whole body of Bishops, who are also 'vicars and ambassadors of Christ' (Lumen gentium, n. 27). The Bishop of Rome is a member of the 'College', and the Bishops are his brothers in the ministry".22 It should also be said, reciprocally, that episcopal collegiality does not stand in opposition to the personal exercise of the primacy nor should it relativize it.
6. All the Bishops are subjects of the sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum23 as members of the Episcopal College which has succeeded to the College of the Apostles, to which the extraordinary figure of St Paul also belonged. This universal dimension of their episkope (overseeing) cannot be separated from the particular dimension of the offices entrusted to them.24 In the case of the Bishop of Rome - Vicar of Christ in the way proper to Peter as Head of the College of Bishops25 - the sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum acquires particular force because it is combined with the full and supreme power in the Church:26 a truly episcopal power, not only supreme, full and universal, but also immediate, over all pastors and other faithful.27 The ministry of Peter's Successor, therefore, is not a service that reaches each Church from outside, but is inscribed in the heart of each particular Church, in which "the Church of Christ is truly present and active",28 and for this reason it includes openness to the ministry of unity. This interiority of the Bishop of Rome's ministry to each particular Church is also an expression of the mutual interiority between universal Church and particular Church.29
The episcopacy and the primacy, reciprocally related and inseparable, are of divine institution. Historically there arose forms of ecclesiastical organization instituted by the Church in which a primatial principle was also practised. In particular, the Catholic Church is well aware of the role of the apostolic sees in the early Church, especially those considered Petrine - Antioch and Alexandria - as reference-points of the Apostolic Tradition, and around which the patriarchal system developed; this system is one of the ways God's Providence guides the Church and from the beginning it has included a relation to the Petrine tradition.30
II. The Exercise of the Primacy and Its Forms
7. The exercise of the Petrine ministry must be understood - so that it "may lose nothing of its authenticity and transparency"31 - on the basis of the Gospel, that is, on its essential place in the saving mystery of Christ and the building-up of the Church. The primacy differs in its essence and in its exercise from the offices of governance found in human societies:32 it is not an office of co-ordination or management, nor can it be reduced to a primacy of honour, or be conceived as a political monarchy.
The Roman Pontiff - like all the faithful - is subject to the Word of God, to the Catholic faith, and is the guarantor of the Church's obedience; in this sense he is servus servorum Dei. He does not make arbitrary decisions, but is spokesman for the will of the Lord, who speaks to man in the Scriptures lived and interpreted by Tradition; in other words, the episkope of the primacy has limits set by divine law and by the Church's divine, inviolable constitution found in Revelation.33 The Successor of Peter is the rock which guarantees a rigorous fidelity to the Word of God against arbitrariness and conformism: hence the martyrological nature of his primacy.
8. The characteristics of exercising the primacy must be understood primarily on the basis of two fundamental premises: the unity of the episcopacy and the episcopal nature of the primacy itself Since the episcopacy is "one and undivided"34 the primacy of the Pope implies the authority effectively to serve the unity of all the Bishops and all the faithful, and "is exercised on various levels, including vigilance over the handing down of the Word, the celebration of the liturgy and the sacraments, the Church's mission, discipline and the Christian life";35 on these levels, by the will of Christ, everyone in the Church - Bishops and the other faithful - owe obedience to the Successor of Peter, who is also the guarantor of the legitimate diversity of rites, disciplines and ecclesiastical structures between East and West.
9. Given its episcopal nature, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is first of all expressed in transmitting the Word of God; thus it includes a specific, particular responsibility for the mission of evangelization,36 since ecclesial communion is something essentially meant to be expanded: "Evangelization is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity".37
The Roman Pontiff's episcopal responsibility for transmission of the Word of God also extends within the whole Church. As such, it is a supreme and universal magisterial office;38 it is an office that involves a charism: the Holy Spirit's special assistance to the Successor of Peter, which also involves., in certain cases, the prerogative of infallibility.39 Just as "all the Churches are in full and visible communion, because all the Pastors are in communion with Peter and therefore united in Christ",40 in the same way the Bishops are witnesses of divine and Catholic truth when they teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff.41
10. Together with the magisterial role of the primacy, the mission of Peter's Successor for the whole Church entails the right to perform acts of ecclesiastical governance necessary or suited to promoting and defending the unity of faith and communion; one of these, for example, is to give the mandate for the ordination of new Bishops, requiting that they make the profession of Catholic faith; to help everyone continue in the faith professed. Obviously, there are many other possible ways, more or less contingent, of carrying out this service of unity: to issue laws for the whole Church, to establish pastoral structures to serve various particular Churches, to give binding force to the decisions of Particular Councils, to approve supradiocesan religious institutes, etc. Since the power of the primacy is supreme, there is no other authority to which the Roman Pontiff must juridically answer for his exercise of the gift he has received: "prima sedes a nemine iudicatur".42 This does not mean, however, that the Pope has absolute power. listening to what the Churches are saying is, in fact, an earmark of the ministry of unity, a consequence also of the unity of the Episcopal Body and of the sensus fidei of the entire People of God; and this bond seems to enjoy considerably greater power and certainty than the juridical authorities - an inadmissible hypothesis, moreover, because it is groundless - to which the Roman Pontiff would supposedly have to answer. The ultimate and absolute responsibility of the Pope is best guaranteed, on the one hand, by its relationship to Tradition and fraternal communion and, on the other, by trust in the assistance of the Holy Spirit who governs the Church.
11. The unity of the Church, which the ministry of Peter's Successor serves in a unique way, reaches its highest expression in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the centre and root of ecclesial communion; this communion is also necessarily based on the unity of the Episcopate. Therefore, "every celebration of the Eucharist is performed in union not only with the proper Bishop, but also with the Pope, with the episcopal order, with all the clergy, and with the entire people. Every valid celebration of the Eucharist expresses this universal communion with Peter and with the whole Church, or objectively calls for it",43 as in the case of the Churches which are not in full communion with the Apostolic See.
12. "The pilgrim Church, in its sacraments and institutions, which belong to this age, carries the mark of this world which is passing".44 For this reason too, the immutable nature of the primacy of Peter's Successor has historically been expressed in different forms of exercise appropriate to the situation of a pilgrim Church in this changing world.
The concrete contents of its exercise distinguish the Petrine ministry insofar as they faithfully express the application of its ultimate purpose (the unity of the Church) to the circumstances of time and place. The greater or lesser extent of these concrete contents will depend in every age on the necessitas Ecclesiae. The Holy Spirit helps the Church to recognize this necessity, and the Roman Pontiff, by listening to the Spirit's voice in the Churches, looks for the answer and offers it when and how he considers it appropriate.
Consequently, the nucleus of the doctrine of faith concerning the competencies of the primacy cannot be determined by looking for the least number of functions exercised historically. Therefore, the fact that a particular task has been carried out by the primacy in a certain era does not mean by itself that this task should necessarily be reserved always to the Roman Pontiff, and, vice versa, the mere fact that a particular role was not previously exercised by the Pope does not warrant the conclusion that this role could not in some way be exercised in the future as a competence of the primacy.
13. In any case, it is essential to state that discerning whether the possible ways of exercising the Petrine ministry correspond to its nature is a discernment to be made in Ecclesia, i.e., with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and in fraternal dialogue between the Roman Pontiff and the other Bishops, according to the Church's concrete needs. But, at the same time, it is clear that only the Pope (or the Pope with an Ecumenical Council) has, as the Successor of Peter, the authority and the competence to say the last word on the ways to exercise his pastoral ministry in the universal Church.
14. In recalling these essential points of Catholic doctrine on the primacy of Peter's Successor, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is certain that the authoritative reaffirmation of these doctrinal achievements offers greater clarity on the way to be followed. This reminder is also useful for avoiding the continual possibility of relapsing into biased and one-sided positions already rejected by the Church in the past (Febronianism, Gallicanism, ultramontanism, conciliarism, etc.). Above all, by seeing the ministry of the Servant of the servants of God as a great gift of divine mercy to the Church, we will all find with the grace of the Holy Spirit - the energy to live and faithfully maintain full and real union with the Roman Pontiff in the everyday life of the Church, in the way desired by Christ.45
15. The full communion which the Lord desires among those who profess themselves his disciples calls for the common recognition of a universal ecclesial ministry "in which all the Bishops recognize that they are united in Christ and all the faithful find confirmation for their faith".46 The Catholic Church professes that this ministry is the primatial ministry of the Roman Pontiff, Successor of Peter, and maintains humbly and firmly "that the communion of the particular Churches with the Church of Rome, and of their Bishops with the Bishop of Rome, is -- in God's plan -- an essential requisite of full and visible communion".47 Human errors and even serious failings can be found in the history of the papacy: Peter himself acknowledged he was a sinner.48 Peter, a weak man, was chosen as the rock precisely so that everyone could see that victory belongs to Christ alone and is not the result of human efforts. Down the ages the Lord has wished to put his treasure in fragile vessels:49 human frailty has thus become a sign of the truth of God's promises.
When and how will the much-desired goal of the unity of all Christians be reached? "How to obtain it? Through hope in the Spirit, who can banish from us the painful memories of our separation. The Spirit is able to grant us clear-sightedness, strength, and courage to take whatever steps are necessary, that our commitment may be ever more authentic".50 We are all invited to trust in the Holy Spirit, to trust in Christ, by trusting in Peter.
1. John Paul II, Encyc. Let. Ut unum sint, 25 May 1995, n. 95.
2. Il Primato del Successore di Pietro, Atti del Simposio teologico, Rome, 2-4 December 1996, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1998.
3. John Paul II, Letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in ibid., p. 20.
4. Il Primato del Successore di Pietro nel mistero della Chiesa, Considerazioni della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede, in ibid., Appendix, pp. 493-503. The text was also published as a booklet by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
5. Mt 10:2.
6. Cf. Mk 3:16; Lk 6:14; Acts 1: 13.
7. Cf. Mt 14:28-31; 16:16-23 and par.; 19:27-29 and par.; 26:33-35 and par.; Lk 22:32; Jn 1:42; 6:67-70; 13:36-38; 21:15-19.
8. Evidence for the Petrine ministry is found in all the expressions, however different, of the New Testament tradition, both in the Synoptics - here with different features in Matthew and Luke, as well as in St Mark - and in the Pauline corpus and the Johannine tradition, always with original elements, differing in their narrative aspects but in profound agreement about their essential meaning. This is a sign that the Petrine reality was regarded as a constitutive given of the Church.
9. Cf. Mt 16:18.
10. Cf. Lk 22:32.
11. Cf. Jn 21:15-17. Regarding the New Testament evidence on the primacy, cf. also John Paul II, Encyc. Let. Ut unum sint, nn. 90ff.
12. St Ambrose of Milan, Enarr. in Ps., 40, 30: PL 14, 1134.
13. Cf. for example St Siricius I, Let. Directa ad decessorem, 10 February 385: Denz-Hun, n. 181; Second Council of Lyons, Professio fidei of Michael Palaeologus, 6 July 1274: Denz-Hun, n. 861; Clement VI, Let. Super quibusdam, 29 November 1351: Denz-Hun, n. 1053; Council of Florence, Bull Laetentur caeli, 6 July 1439: Denz-Hun, n. 1307; Pius IX, Encyc. Let. Qui pluribus, 9 November 1846: Denz-Hun, n. 2781; First Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Pastor aeternus, Chap. 2: Denz-Hun, nn. 3056-3058; Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, Chap. 111, nn. 21-23; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 882; etc.
14. Cf. St Ignatius of Antioch, Epist. ad Romanos, Introd.: SChr 10, 106-107; St Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses, III, 3, 2: SChr 211, 32-33.
15. Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 20.
16. First Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Pastor aeternus, Prologue: Denz-Hun, n. 3051. Cf. St Leo I the Great, Tract. in Natale eiusdem, IV, 2: CCL 138, p. 19.
17. Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 23. Cf. First Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Pastor aeternus, Prologue: Denz-Hun, n. 3051; John Paul II, Encyc. Let. Ut unum sint, n. 88. Cf. Pius IX, Letter of the Holy Office to the Bishops of England, 16 November 1864: Denz-Hun, n. 2888; Leo XIII, Encyc. Let. Satis cognitum, 29 June 1896: Denz-Hun, nn. 3305-3310.
18. Cf. Jn 17:21-23; Second Vatican Council, Decr. Unitatis redintegratio, n. 1; Paul VI, Apost. Exhort. Evangelii nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, n. 77: AAS 68 (1976) 69; John Paul Il, Encyc. Let. Ut unum sint, n. 98.
19. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n 18.
20. Cf. ibid., n. 23.
21. Cf. First Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Pastor aeternus, Chap. 3: Denz-Hun, n. 3061; cf. Joint Declaration of the German Bishops, Jan.-Feb. 1875: Denz-Hun, nn. 3112-3113; Leo XIII, Encyc. Let. Satis cognitum, 29 June 1896: Denz-Hun, n. 3310; Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 27. As Pius IX explained in his Address after the promulgation of the Constitution Pastor aeternus: "Summa ista Romani Pontificis auctoritas, Venerabiles Fratres, non opprimit sed adiuvat, non destruit sed aedificat, et saepissime confirmat in dignitate, unit in caritate, et Fratrum, scificet Episcoporum, iura firmat atque tuetur" (Mansi 52, 1336 A/B).
22. John Paul II, Encyc. Let. Ut unum sint, n. 95.
23. Cor 11:28.
24. The ontological priority that the universal Church has, in her essential mystery, over every individual particular Church (cf Congr. for the Doctrine of the Faith, Let. Communionis notio, 28 May 1992, n. 9) also emphasizes the importance of the universal dimension of every Bishop's ministry.
25.Bull Cf. First Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Pastor aeternus, Chap. 3: Denz-Hun, n. 3059; Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 22; cf. Council of Florence, Bull Laetentur caeli, 6 July 1439: Denz-Hun, n. 1307.
26. Cf. First Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Pastor aeternus, Chap. 3: Denz-Hun, nn. 3060, 3064.
27. Cf. ibid.; Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 22.
28. Second Vatican Council, Decr. Christus Dominus, n. 1l.
29. Cf. Congr. for the Doctrine of the Faith, Let. Communionis notio, n. 13.
30. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 23; Decr. Orientalium Ecclesiarum, nn. 7 and 9.
31. John Paul II, Encyc. Let. Ut unum sint, n. 93.
32. Cf. ibid., n. 94.
33. Cf. Joint Declaration of the German Bishops, Jan.-Feb. 1875: Denz-Hun, n. 3114.
34. First Vatican Council, Const. Dogm. Pastor aeternus, Prologue: Denz.-Hun, n. 3051.
35. John Paul II, Encyc. Let. Ut unum sint, n. 94.
36. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 23; Leo XIII, Encyc. Let. Grande munus, 30 November 1880: ASS 13 (1880) 145; CIC, can. 782, §1.
37. Paul VI, Apost. Exhort. Evangelii nuntiandi, n. 14. Cf. CIC, can. 781.
38. Cf. First Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Pastor aeternus, Chap. 4: Denz-Hun, nn. 3065-3068.
39. Cf. ibid.: Denz-Hun, 3073-3074; Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 25; CIC, can. 749, §1; CCEO, can. 597, §1.
40. John Paul II, Encyc. Let. Ut unum sint, n. 94.
41. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 25.
42. CIC, can. 1404; CCEO, can. 1058. Cf. First Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Pastor aeternus, Chap. 3: Denz-Hun, n. 3063.
43. Congr. for the Doctrine of the, Faith, Let. Communionis notio, n. 14. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1369.
44. Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 48.
45. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogm. Const., Lumen gentium, n. 15.
46. John Paul II, Encyc. Let. Ut unum sint, n. 97.
48. Cf. Lk 5:8.
49. Cf. 2 Cor 4:7.
50. John Paul II, Encyc. Let. Ut unum sint, n. 102. Taken from: L'Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English 18 November 1998, page 5-6
Thus, in the early Christian communities, as later throughout the Church, the image of Peter remained fixed as that of the Apostle who, despite his human weakness, was expressly assigned by Christ to the first place among the Twelve and was called to exercise a distinctive, specific task in the Church.... [H]e is the one, after he has been converted, whose faith will not fail and who will strengthen his brethren [Lk 22:32] ...I share your enthusiasm for the CDF's 1998 reflections on the Petrine privilege, issued when then-Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect. Thank you for posting them.
Of all the canonical attestations of Petrine primacy, the one that speaks clearest to me is the one in Luke, referenced above. On the night before Jesus is to offer himself on the cross, he institutes both the Apostolic College -- the unfederated hierarchical structure of the Church-- and the Eucharist -- the ultimate sign of her unity. It is on this night, his last, and in this sacramental context that Jesus singles out Peter from within the Apostolic College for a particular commission of service to his fellow Apostles.
May God grant his servant, Benedict, the "specific ministerial grace for serving that unity of faith and communion which is necessary for the Church to fulfil her saving mission."
The issue really should be how the primacy is exercised. I have thought about becoming Eastern Orthodox over the years, but this document has kept me in the Catholic fold.
Orthodoxy is a mess of competing jurisdictions that has little semblance of unity. The local church takes priority over the universal Church in their view, which I find unacceptable.
On the other side since the Middle Ages the Latin side has overemphasized the universality of the Catholic Church in the person of the pope in a reaction to various nationalist movements.
The lay investiture controversy combined with efforts to place the local Churches under secular control led to the form of the papacy we see today.
I'd like to see a Church reform that incorporates the best of both worlds.
Ignatius Press published two series of essays written by Cardinal de Lubac under the title Motherhood of the Church, and the second series of essays, entitled "Particular Churches in the Universal Church," addresses the formal structure of the Church. Three chapters of this second series are germane to your thread: Chapter IV: The Episcopal College; Chapter VI: The Center of Unity; and Chapter VII: The Service of Peter.
Years ago, I created a Readers Digest version of this second series of lectures for my own use. I would ordinarily refrain from cluttering up a thread with long posts, but since you and I seem to be alone on this one, I see no reason not to post my truncated version of the three relevant three chapters. Ill post each chapter discretely, and I apologize in advance for the heavy use of ellipsis, which makes reading them a little difficult -- as I said, they were intended for my own use.
The collegial bond of bishops, which is a universal bond, constitutes the permanent remedy for the danger of withdrawal, which, in diverse and more or less renewed forms, always exists. The episcopacy is one and indivisible. The Church is one in the unity of her episcopacy.
It is obvious that Vatican II did not create collegiality any more than Vatican I created primacy. ... The Council, as was proper, gave [episcopal collegiality] an eminent place.... But can we be sure that it is always well understood? Far from it!
[T]he doctrine of episcopal collegiality risked becoming distorted by conforming, in many minds, to ready-made models taken from the history of human societies or from the situations or ideas of our times.... It is the danger ... as was, in antiquity ... the relations of the Church and the Empire; ... toward the end of our Middle Ages, the conciliarist theories; ... our own time ... the papacy.... The collegiality of bishops ... achieves its meaning only if the particular bishop truly represents his church and if, because of him, a part of the ecclesial fullness is truly gathered into the oneness of the whole.
[D]espite the care taken by the Council to prevent confusion, this doctrine gave rise not only to unwarranted extrapolations, but also just like the doctrine of religious freedom or that of Scripture and tradition, or that of the universal priesthood and the People of God to aberrant interpretations.
The abstract noun collegialitas is modern (it does not even figure in the texts of Vatican II) ... The idea of episcopal collegiality has nonetheless been expressed from antiquity on ... (Celestine I; Saint Cyprian; Andrew bound to his brother Peter) [T]he word is to be taken in the sense which ecclesiastical tradition attributes to it based on the realities of primitive Christianity.... [C]ollegium does not have the meaning given it by the Roman law codified by Ulpian ... Nor is it to be understood according to the ideas of medieval corporatism ... The episcopal college is not formed by the elective and regular assemblage of all its members ... Neither is it a group of associates who would all be equal ... who would never act except all together ... The structure and authority of this college (collegium; Greek: synedrion), often designated also in Latin sources by the two other words corpus and ordo ...
Jesus set aside a small group of disciples who were from then on clearly distinct from all the others.... the Twelve ... [T]he number twelve was symbolic of universality.... [The Twelve Apostles: the Didache; the Apocalypse; Saint Irenaeus; Origen.] Now the episcopal college, in all that is transmittable, succeeds to this college of the Twelve ... [T]he letter of Clement of Rome and those of Ignatius of Antioch ... show us one who exercises the episcopacy in each church conscious of the apostolic origin of his responsibility, which includes simultaneously presiding over his own church and active concern for others....
The episcopal college ... is a permanent as well as an indivisible reality. In this double sense, it is universal.... The college thus has nothing to do with a government by assembly ... A permanent reality, it never ceases to function. Its cohesiveness is made manifest in diverse ways, notably through the relations that bishops or groups of bishops establish between themselves in the name of their churches.... (synodal letter of the bishops in 268; the Council of Sardica to Pope Julius; Saint Cyprians correspondence; Optatus of Milevis.) But the most essential action of the college is normally carried on from day to day by the simple fact that each head of church teaches in his own church the same faith as the others do in theirs. This is ... the ordinary magisterium ... Each bishop being individually fallible, the mere sum of their teachings obtained by addition could not have an infallible character. It is all together that they possess, as Saint Irenaeus says, the charisma veritatis certum inherited from the Apostles.
When the situation requires or recommends it, the college can act in an extraordinary way through the assembly of its members. This is the ecumenical council ... The council ... is concerned, moreover, only with some particularly intense moment which can only be exceptional ...
At the same time as he is given jurisdiction over his own flock, the bishop receives, therefore, his share of concern with regard to all that affects the well-being of the entire Church.... (Saint Cyprian: For, though we are many shepherds, we feed a single flock ...)
Each action taken by a bishop in virtue of this diffuse responsibility ... can and must be called collegial although it is not an act of the college.
This awareness of a universal duty has often become blurred.... Nevertheless, it has never been completely lacking in any era.... [Saint Irenaeus, Saint Augustine, Saint Cyril of Alexandria:] the action of each of these three bishops was eminently collegial ...
This collegial bond is a bond between each particular church and all the others, between each head of church and all the others ... And within this universal network ... there exists a center: ... the particular church of Rome, governed by the successor Peter, first of the Twelve, according to Matthews expression.... Universal pastor, he is the living bond, not only between all the pastors who presently exist on the face of the earth, but ... between the Church of today and the Church of the Apostles.
Since the constitution of the Church is a unique case, without true analogy to those of human societies, it is difficult always to find an adequate vocabulary for it ... [T]he adverb seorsim ... appears in the explanatory note appended to chapter three of the constitution Lumen Gentium: to express the character of acts of the pope outside of the collaboration of the college ... [W]e will accordingly follow a suggestion of Dom Grea ... to prefer those drawn from ecclesiastical antiquity: His own and singular. We will therefore say that for Peter and the one who succeeds him, what is concerned, according to the Gospel, is a singular prerogative, and that the failure to recognize this singular prerogative, in whatever century or circumstances one lives, would be in principle the negation of the Church such as Jesus Christ wished her to be.
[The] episcopate itself needs a center which by its active presence gathers together and firmly unites the whole Church. ... [A] divine-human fact
[In] a formula adopted by Vatican II: ... the bishops, says Lumen Gentium, gather together the universal Church which the Lord has founded on the Apostles and built on blessed Peter, their head. The formula expresses Jesus thought .. in the very names Cephas and the Twelve ...
In the appendix to the Gospel of John, ... Jesus then solemnly gives the duty of feeding the flock. The Church is one. And she is the Church of Peter.
As early as the year 95 or 96 ... the church of Rome intervened with the church of Corinth with calm and firm authority, through a letter from Clement, in order to set her internal affairs in order ...
People have often made every effort to diminish the importance of such testimony, as well as that of those who followed, of Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, Dionysius of Corinth.... [A]ccording to some, [Rome] interpolated the Gospels ... But this theory, which was impossible to support seriously, had to be abandoned. It was not less impossible ... to continue to disregard the eminent place attributed to Peter in the Synoptics, in the Gospel of John, as well as in the Acts and in Saint Paul.... [I]n the text of Matthew ... it is Jesus, and not Peter, who builds, constructs his community , and it is that which makes it invincible; Peter is called, in consequence of his confession, only to furnish the foundation, the rock; but it is in fact he who is called to do it, and no other. The only hypothesis left, therefore, would be that according to which this foundational role vested in Peter was not transmittable.... [A]s the Protestant theologian Jean-Jacques von Allmen observed quite recently, when Jesus says again to Peter, in chapter 22 of Luke: I have prayed that your faith may not fail, and you, you will strengthen your brothers, he entrusts this task to him within the framework of the Eucharist, that is, within the framework of what Jesus wishes to see endure until his return.
It is furthermore natural, for want of indications to the contrary, to think that the unity of the particular churches among themselves is to reflect that which united the Apostles among themselves.... [W]e sense that if there is apostolic succession, there is also undoubtedly in this apostolic succession a specifically petrine succession....
The theological justifications ... do not come of necessity to transform a fact into a right ... but, indeed, to show the right of the fact.... [FN: Similarly, the people prayed to the Trinity before speculating about it.]
Clement of Rome ... acted quite simply in the consciousness that he had his responsibility, and his letter was received in the churches with a similar consciousness.
If the popes are thus convinced of their mission, those outside of Rome are just as convinced ... the Corinthians ... Irenaeus ... Cyprian ... the Council of Sardica (343) ... Saint Ambrose
The day-to-day ... life during the first centuries shows us the bishop of Rome in his dual role as center and arbiter.... The practice of occasional or regular letters of communion was eventually organized. An entire communication network was thus in operation ... [a]nd Rome was the center of this network. The letters came to the bishop of Rome, and he circulated them. In this way, Catholic unity was manifested. ... (Optatus of Milevis) ... But more essential is the role of arbiter held by the Apostolic See in all kinds of affairs, great and small.
(Innocent I; Saint Avitus, bishop of Vienne; John, Patriarch of Constantinople (519))
For a long time, this hierarchical preeminence ... was exercised without any thought of creating a special staff.... But ... as the tree of the Church grew, it was necessary to become more organized.... As the history of canon law clearly shows, the essential reference of all the churches to that of Peter was concretized in a group of complex institutions subject to a thousand variations.... All that matters but it is something of vital interest is maintaining in its authentic vigor the unique role of the successor of Peter as achieving the form of unity of the successors of the Apostles, that is, as ensuring the singularis cathedra through all the churches, in space and in time.... Some decentralization can thus be opportune ... but on the condition that it not be understood as a loosening of the bond of unity.
[I]t is necessary to understand [the principle of subsidiarity] as a whole and not in a unilateral way. The vitality of the body of the Church as of all well-ordered society demands that the head not monopolize all the functions and all the decisions, but leave to each of its members what it is normally qualified to do by itself.... But it must not be forgotten that there are two sides to the principle of subsidiarity, and that it would be of no use to insist on the rights which proceed from it if one were not disposed to assume his share of the duties which it entails. Whether with respect to their own flock, or with respect to the entire Church, the pastors share with the pope responsibilities which they cannot shift onto him by handing over the entire exercise of this principle to him.
And it is again in her reference to Peter that each church finds the protection of her independence with regard to worldly pressures of all kinds, whatever their source may be, which can be exerted upon her.... Earlier examples [include] the independence of the Church and the orthodoxy of her faith against emperors who ... supported ... semi-pagan heresies. There are also more recent examples.... The growth of nationalism and the increase in totalitarian states ... [T]he Church is vulnerable to many servitudes in relation to various social forces and to the tyrannies of opinion. What some would like to give us as expressing the sentiment of the Christian people ... In such dangers, which can be daily, reference to Peter is a light and a support.
It is again in this same reference that each church or each group of churches finds the safeguard for its personal identity.... And it is, finally, this reference, this direct tie with Rome, which maintains Catholic fidelity most effectively each time an internal crisis occurs to put it to the test.
Two orientations have taken shape in various areas of the Church during the past few years ...
The first is a tendency to loose in a practical way, through a series of omissions rather than through clearly declared positions, the bonds of each church with the center. This appears principally in certain churches which we have called local, for it seeks justification very wrongly in the idea of collegiality.... demand of ones rights ... ecclesiology of power ... certain astonishing silences. It is sometimes manifested even in liturgical texts: ... for the pope ... Here ... we are facing an adolescent reaction ... In fact, proceeding from a completely local conception of the collegial bond, the advocated movement away from the center becomes at the same stroke ... a tendency to dissolve the bonds of universal collegiality.... According to the teaching of Saint Gregory, taken up again by Vatican I, is the object of the popes authority not precisely that of strengthening the authority of the bishops? [FN: Episcopal authority is affirmed, strengthened and protected by the supreme and universal pastor] ... Nearly one hundred fifty years ago, Moehler ... pointed out the intimate link between respect for the pope and community spirit.... [T]he weakening of one also involves a threat to the other ... Saint Avitus, Bishop of Vienne: ... if the bishop of Rome is challenged, if his office is shaken, it is not a bishop, it is the entire episcopacy that falters.... [W]hat is essential to the structure of the Church: the communion of each particular church, in the person of her bishop ... with the pastor of the church of Rome, the universal pastor and center of Catholic unity.
The second orientation, or the second tendency, takes shape in a series of more explicitly formulated theses, protests and plans for reform. It also claims to promote in actuality the idea of episcopal collegiality by reducing to a minimum the exercise of authority by the bishop of Rome.... It is, to begin with, the call for more frequent councils.... [W]rites Monsignor Gerard Philips, ... by its very nature, the council is an event rather than an institution ... Today, a number would like the episcopal synod that Paul VI instituted ... the regular organ of the magisterium of the universal episcopate.... This is to be doubly mistaken, in my opinion. The synod is an expression, one might even say that it is today the most outstanding expression, of collegiality.... [C]ertain neither the pope nor the bishops conceived of the full exercise of episcopal collegiality under the single species of conciliarity ... [O]n the other hand, there has never been cause for setting up an opposition between the pope and the other bishops, or all the more, for bringing the former under the subjection of the later.
Is that not unquestionably what one is seeking to do when ... one makes another proposal: that henceforward the pope be elected by a delegation from the universal episcopate.... Would that not ... make the pope ... a constitutional monarch or president of a Church ...? Would the one elected still plainly be the bishop of Rome and, as such, successor of Peter and heir to his mission?
[T]he forms of the election for the Roman Church have undergone more than one modification in the course of the ages, and ... the present college of cardinals can be thought to represent the Church of Rome only rather fictitiously.... The election, we are told, should be by a council truly representative of the Church ... But where then have they gotten this assumption of representation? Was Peter elected by the Eleven? ... I will not say that such a method is impossible. But would this not, in any case, take very great liberties, not only with respect to ecclesiastical tradition but with respect to the Gospel: According to Saint Matthew ... Peter ... received the same power that will be given jointly to the Twelve ... as the apostle in whom, personally, all that is shared or possessed in common by the entire apostolic college is brought together. ... Is it not an attempt to adapt the constitution of the Church to secular customs rather than to emphasize and revitalize its own originality? Does it not go contrary to one of the most important elements renewed by Vatican II, the value of the particular church based on the bond of the Church and of the Eucharist?
Neither are the lively reactions it has provoked on the part of the Eastern churches surprising.... [T]hey strongly emphasize ... that the primacy is bound to a well-determined local see and owed nothing to any representation whatever.... The plan presented to us ... would undoubtedly constitute ... a major obstacle to the ecumenical cause....
[T]he prerogative of Peters successor consists above all in a role of personal intervention.... How, without betraying his mission, could the successor of Peter dismiss in advance the exercise of a prerogative which Christ wished him to have, not as an individual privilege that he could renounce, but as the foundation of a service for the universal Church, a service which circumstances might render necessary?
A collectivist-style democratization ... would not be to return to a more effective collegial tradition, but to make concessions to secular views.
The forms of intervention by the apostolic see in the life of the Church, especially in doctrinal matters, have varied greatly in the course of the centuries. It would be impossible, we repeat, to take any of these forms as an absolute norm.
The frequency of interventions has varied no less than their form....
When the assembly of pastors exercises with the necessary assiduity its responsibility as the teacher of doctrine and guardian of the faith, when local initiatives are successively taken to assure necessary adaptations and to maintain Christian vitality through the endlessly varied conditions of existence, then the universal pastor is less likely to intervene.... If ... we are concerned about Christian unity ... we must anticipate, for the reunited Church of the future, rather considerable differences in organization ... But the essential prerogative of Peter will remain....
In Christian antiquity, the papacy had not yet experienced ... developments ... [i]ts authority had not yet been defined ... [I]n everything, in fact guidance came less from written and codified rules than from the living tradition and example of the ancients.... But in every important matter of discipline or doctrine, all knew very well that in the last resort it was necessary to have recourse to the Apostolic See.
Saint Augustine again offers us, at a slightly later period, a perfect example of this conviction.... [A]fter having received letters informing him of the Pelagian influence in the East ... he fully entered the lists against the new heresy.... Aware of his collegial duty, Augustine saw no less clearly that the intervention of Rome is alone capable of resolving the crisis: so long as Rome has not testified, the question remains undecided ...
Such was the essential process, long ago just as yesterday, throughout the extreme diversity of cases... All initiative obviously did not come from Rome.... In the final analysis, when a grave crisis arose, it was not the bishop of Rome who sought a majority with whom to take sides: it was, on the contrary, the bishops, powerful or not, numerous or not, effectively united by collegial bonds or not, who turned toward their brother of Rome to call for his decision. For such is, above all, in its unalterable simplicity, the charism, the office, the service of Peter.
No mystery. Jesus believed in teaching through people not books. Jesus selected 12 people and Peter to be one to head the effort to teach all nations. And so it began until the end of the world.
Yes, this whole side of papal authority needs to take hold in the Catholic consciousness, not the ossified Ultramontane mentality that developed in reaction to secular politics.
Fr. John Romanidies a Greek Orthodox scholar theorizes that as the Frankish Germans began to take over the Western Church and the papacy, their cultural attitudes and feudalism took over as well.
The bonds between the bishops of the Catholic Church in the West were far looser prior to the Frankiziation of the papacy. Over the centuries the Petrine character of the papacy was redefined from the one of service found in the fathers of the Church and in your cited work. Instead, the Successor of St. Peter became the Emperor of the Church, and the bishops became his vassals.
The feudalization of the Western Church, I think had a detrimental impact on relations with the Christian East.
Now, ironically, we have a German pope who is working to re-establish the theological underpinnings of the end of ecclesiastical feudalism in the Latin Church.
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