Lumen Gentium 21

Let’s get back to the thick of Vatican II’s statements on the hierarchy. First, the promise of Christ’s presence in the sacramental ministry of the Church. Accomplished through preaching, liturgical administration (notably baptism) the ministry of bishops is evident in the efforts and actions of assistant, namely priests:

In the bishops, therefore, for whom priests are assistants, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Supreme High Priest, is present in the midst of those who believe. For sitting at the right hand of God the Father, He is not absent from the gathering of His high priests,(S. Leo M., Serm. 5, 3: PL 54, 154.) but above all through their excellent service He is preaching the word of God to all nations, and constantly administering the sacraments of faith to those who believe, by their paternal functioning(Cf. 1 Cor. 4, 15) He incorporates new members in His Body by a heavenly regeneration, and finally by their wisdom and prudence He directs and guides the People of the New Testament in their pilgrimage toward eternal happiness. These pastors, chosen to shepherd the Lord’s flock of the elect, are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,(Cf. 1 Cor. 4, 1) to whom has been assigned the bearing of witness to the Gospel of the grace of God,(Cf. Rom. 15, 16; Act. 20, 24) and the ministration of the Spirit and of justice in glory.(Cf. 2 Cor. 3, 8-9)

The following is an interesting section. Look at it carefully:

For the discharging of such great duties, the apostles were enriched by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them,(Cf Acts 1, 8 2 4, Jn. 20, 22-23) and they passed on this spiritual gift to their helpers by the imposition of hands,(Cf 1 Tim. 4 14; 2 Tim. 1, 6-7) and it has been transmitted down to us in episcopal consecration.(Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, cap. 3, citat verba 2 Tim. 1, 6-7, ut demonstret Ordinem esse verum sacramentum: Denz. 959 (1766).) And the Sacred Council teaches that by episcopal consecration the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred, that fullness of power, namely, which both in the Church’s liturgical practice and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the supreme power of the sacred ministry.(In Trad. Apost. 3, ed. Botte, Sources Chr., pp. 27-30, Episcopo tribuitur primatus sacerdotii. Cfr. Sacramentarium Leonianum, ed. C. Mohlberg, Sacramentarium Veronense, Romae, 195S, p. 119: ad summi sacerdotii ministerium… Comple in sacerdotibus tuis mysterii tui summam…. Idem, Liber Sacramentorum Romanae Ecclesiae Romae, 1960, pp. 121-122: Tribuas eis, Domine, cathedram episcopalem ad regendam Ecclesiam tuam et plebem universam.. Cfr. PL 78, 224.) But episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college. For from the tradition, which is expressed especially in liturgical rites and in the practice of both the Church of the East and of the West, it is clear that, by means of the imposition of hands and the words of consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is so conferred,(Trad. Apost. 2, ed. Botte, p. 27.) and the sacred character so impressed,(Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, cap. 4, docet Ordinis sacramentum imprimere characterem indelebilem: Denz. 960 (1767) . Cfr. Ioannes XXIII, Alloc. Iubilate Deo, 8 maii 1960: AAS S2 (1960) p. 466. Pall1us VI, Homelia in Bas, Vaticana, 20 oct. 1963: AAS 55 (1963) p. 1014.) that bishops in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ Himself as Teacher, Shepherd and High Priest, and that they act in His person.(S. Cyprianus, Epist. 63, 14: PL 4, 386; Hartel, III B, p. 713: Saccrdos vice Christi vere fungitur .. S. Io. Chrysostomus, In 2 Tim. Hom. 2, 4: PG 62, 612: Saccrdos est symbolon . Christi. S. Ambrosius, In Ps. 38, 25-26: PL 14, 105 1-52: CSEL 64, 203- 204. Ambrosiascr In I Tim. S 19: PL 17, 479 C ct in Eph. 4, 1;-12: col. 387. C. Theodorus Mops., from. Catech. XV, 21 ct 24: ed. Tonneau, pp. 497 et 503. Hesychiu Hieros., In Lcv. L. 2, 9, 23: PG 93, 894 B.) Therefore it pertains to the bishops to admit newly elected members into the episcopal body by means of the sacrament of Orders.

The office of “teaching and governing” is offered in communion with the head (namely the pope) and other bishops. Lacking the pope’s particular presence, I think the presumption is that communion with Rome is a given. Christus Dominus 36-38 instructs that associations of bishops should “flourish with fresh vigor,” as a part of the ministry of the college of bishops:

Therefore, this sacred synod considers it to be supremely fitting that everywhere bishops belonging to the same nation or region form an association which would meet at fixed times. Thus, when the insights of prudence and experience have been shared and views exchanged, there will emerge a holy union of energies in the service of the common good of the churches.

Those in the curia and outside of it critical of bishop’s conferences have perhaps strayed a bit from church teaching on this matter. Comments?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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