Mutuae Relationes 41-42: Innovations and Experiments

SenanquecloisterWhat about innovations? What happens when a long-standing effort must be blown up or replaced?

41. Apostolic innovations, which are later to be undertaken, should be planned with careful study.

Can the Church say it too much? Be exceedingly careful. Sometimes, it seems as if we are too timid, and the opportunity, the moment is lost. How to reconcile that? The bishops aren’t likely to listen to me–and I feel as if my enthusiasm for the effort has been blunted by three decades in the trenches.

On the one hand, it is the duty of the bishops through their office not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good (cf. 1 Thes 5:12 and 19-21; Lumen Gentium 12), in such a way however, “that the spontaneous zeal of those who engage in this work may be safeguarded and fostered” (Ad Gentes 30); religious superiors, on their part, should cooperate actively and dialogue with the bishops in seeking solutions, in arranging the programming of choices made, in launching experiments, even completely new ones, always acting in view of the most urgent needs of the Church and in conformity with the norms and directives of the Magisterium and according to the nature of their institute.

More dialogue. Yada yada yada. Conform to the Magisterium. Ditto. Sometimes spontaneity happens and later the Magisterium races, out of breath, to catch up. Maybe those lines of communication are pretty essential after all.

Bishops and superiors together monitor those experiments and innovations that can so easily go off the track.

42. The commitment to a mutual exchange of help between bishops and superiors in appraising objectively and judging with equity experiments already undertaken should never be disregarded. In this way, not only evasions and frustrations but also the dangers of crises and deviations will be avoided.

Sure. But it seems just as likely that old, ossified programs can easily hit crisis and/or deviation.

Periodically, therefore, such undertakings should be reviewed; and if the endeavor has not been successful (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 58), humility and at the same time the necessary firmness should be exercised to correct, suspend or direct more adequately the experiment examined.

So this means bishops and superiors must be working together. What happens when a prelate thinks something is going swimmingly and the superior sees sharks in the water? Or vice versa? Is there a level of trust between people in the Church to navigate these waters?

Thoughts or comments? Don’t forget that you can read the full document online here.

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.

1 Response to Mutuae Relationes 41-42: Innovations and Experiments

  1. Liam says:

    For the historical long-view: part of this unease with innovation is an inheritance from ancient Roman civic culture. The Romans cultivated a deep distrust of allowing charisma to be closely wed to authority/power. The distrust deepened during the century of civil disturbance that closed the era of the Republic. The Church’s culture is built in part on that Roman culture. This unease can be seen in the customary Roman preference for dull administrators to be tapped as pastors in preference to charismatic fire-eaters (btw, this sword cuts two ways, and one might also see in this why men like Raymond Burke were moved out of pastoral leadership roles). Innovation certainly happens in the Roman tradition, but by way of exception.

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