Mutuae Relationes 18: Universal and Particular Churches

SenanquecloisterFive Vatican II documents are cited to explore “particular” churches. Universal church needs little introduction. “Particular” would include dioceses, and also, in context of the document, national conferences–remember these were still valued in 1978. You can check the full document online here.

Reciprocal influence between universal and particular Churches

18. The problem of the mutual influence between universal and particular values of the People of God arises from the need to insert the mystery of the Church into the setting distinctive of each region.

A positive note: churches influence one another. Less about hierarchy and authority, as we read that decentralization is affirmed:

Vatican Council II dealt not only with the universal Church but also with particular and local Churches, which it presented as one of the aspects of renewal in ecclesial life (cf. Lumen Gentium 13; 23; 26; Christus Dominus 3; 11; 15; Ad Gentes 22; Perfectae Caritatis 20). In this light, a certain process of decentralization, which necessarily has its consequences in the relations between bishops and religious (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 61-64), can have a positive significance.

Culture contributes to the Church and its building up. Culture contributes to evangelization as well–how western Europeans do things is not always attractive, perhaps even to some Europeans themselves:

Every particular Church becomes enriched by sound human elements, characteristic of the genius and nature of each nation. Such elements, nevertheless, are not to be regarded as indications of division, of partìcularism or of nationalism, but as expressions of variety within the same unity and of the fullness of that incarnation which enriches the entire Mystical Body (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio 14-17). The Church universal, in fact, is not the sum total of particular Churches, nor is it a federation of them (cf. EN 62), but it is the total and enlarged presence of the unique universal sacrament of salvation (cf. EN 54). This multiform unity, however, carries with it various concrete exigencies for bishops and religious in the fulfillment of their duties.

Without the particular and Spirit-guided contributions of people of local churches around the planet, the universal Church lacks a wholeness. In many places, those contributions are needed to further the spread of the Gospel. It is no accident that just three years after Evangelii Nuntiandi, this document joins Vatican constitutions and decrees as an important reference. And so far, Trent? Not a thing.

Clergy have a first responsibility in a missionary role, not just because they are the bosses of people:

a) Bishops and their priest-collaborators are responsible before all others both for the correct discernment of the local cultural values in the life of their Church, and of the clear perspective of universality, by reason of their missionary role of successors to the Apostles, who were sent out into the whole world (cf. CD 6; LG 20; 23; 24; AG 5; 38).

An interesting list of qualities and duties:

b) Religious, then, even if they belong to an institute of pontifical right, should feel themselves truly a part of the “diocesan family” (cf. CD 34) and accept the duty of necessary adaptation. They should foster local vocations both for the diocesan clergy and for religious life. Furthermore, they should form candidates for their congregation in such a way that these really live according to the actual local culture. At the same time, however they should be watchful that there be no deviation from the missionary call inherent in the religious vocation, or from the unity and distinctive character of each institute.

Do you think of religious, especially women, as called to foster clerical vocations as well as their own? It would seem the frequent upwelling of antagonism between men and women might be an obstacle to this. How would you interpret the balance (some might say paradox, even impossible conundrum) of faithfulness to local culture, the missionary mandate of Christ, and the charisms of their community? The first two are certainly part of any missionary’s life, even a bishop. But sometimes these can be in conflict and it can seem to easy to rely on an acquiescence either to Church rules or local mores.

Thoughts or comments?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in bishops, Mutuae Relationes, women religious. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s