EG 32: A Conversion of the Papacy

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium suggests he must walk the walk, not just talk the talk:

32. Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization. Pope John Paul II asked for help in finding “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”.[Ut Unum Sint 95] We have made little progress in this regard. The papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion. The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position “to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit”.[Lumen Gentium 23] Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated.[JOHN PAUL II, Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998)] Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.

Pope Francis has already said that attitudes must be adjusted before specifics of internal reform can be accomplished. A few attitudes are mentioned here–attitudes, not theology.

How to keep the ministry of Peter flexible and effective without sacrificing essentials? Too much centralization points somewhat at the curia. The pastoral friction between conferences and Vatican bureaucracy will eventually find resolution. What to make of the comment on “genuine doctrinal authority?” Will the CDF be eclipsed somewhat in the years to come? How will they be placed at the service of bishops instead of giving doctrinal orders? Will the dust-up between the German bishops and the CDF head be repeated, or will some degree of calmness between bishops be restored?

I have a sense that bishops are still finding their way in all this. I suspect that CDF pronouncements will be more considered and widely consulted in the future. And bishop conferences will be making particular addresses to their flocks in language tempered by particular situations. Once we get to that point, I suspect the unneeded complications will be much rarer.

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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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