Would Collegiality Weaken Papal Primacy? Council Commission Is Split.

84th General Congregation
September 21, 1964

The pros and cons of collegiality — the supreme power of the College of Bishops to teach, rule and sanctify the Church — came vividly before the council Fathers in a capsule debate organized by officials of the council (Sept. 21).

The outstanding point at issue was whether this teaching would weaken or endanger the Pope’s primacy in any way.

Bishop Frane Franic of Split, Yugoslavia, declared that it would. Archbishop Pietro Parente, No. 2 administrator of the Congregation of the Holy Office, denied this. Both men spoke on behalf of the council’s doctrinal commission, which drew up the draft of the constitution “De Ecclesia” (On the Church), incorporating the concept of collegiality.

This departure from the customary procedure in presenting a schema was ordered by the council’s coordinating commission, the presidents and moderators. Instead of the usual announcement explaining the commission’s reasons for drafting or altering the schema, one spokesman presented objections to the schema and two others explained the schema as it stood.

Archbishop Parente presented the commission’s defense on the subject of collegiality while Auxiliary Bishop Luis Henriquez Jimenez of Caracas presented the commission’s defense of a permanent and noncelibate diaconate. This debate occupied so much of the council’s time that only five council Fathers were able to continue regular debate and only four of an announced six votes could be taken.

The first speaker in the regular debate was Paul-Emile Cardinal Leger of Montreal who said paternalism in the hierarchy is outmoded. He got applause when he urged that the council consider revising the dress and titles of clerics.

The first vote was on the text stating that the bishops are the successors of the apostles and the pope is the successor of St. Peter. This was passed by 2,166 to 53 with one null.

The second vote was on a passage declaring that the apostles were organized in the manner of a college, with Peter in charge, to exercise the mission of salvation in the world. This passed by a smaller majority — 2,012 in favor, 191 against, with three null.

In the course of the meeting, Archbishop Parente informed the council Fathers that two of their number had died earlier that day — Archbishops Jozef Gawlina and Leone Nigris, both of the Roman curia. Recalling that Archbishop Gawlina had spoken before the council in praise of the Blessed Virgin only four days earlier, Archbishop Parente voiced a prayer that the Polish prelate would be received by her in heaven.

Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, dean of the College of Cardinals and chairman of the council of the presidency, complained that certain council experts were violating the restrictions imposed on them by giving conferences and that some members of the doctrinal commission had distributed literature criticizing the statements that were to be presented that day on collegiality.

Archbishop Pericle Felici announced that the doctrinal commission had requested that Bishop Franic’s statement listing objections to chapter three of the schema be presented along with the statements in defense of it.

Franziskus Cardinal Koenig of Vienna, who introduced the statement defending the text, declared that the two statements, for and against, were not to be understood as majority and minority reports from the doctrinal commission. He said the entire commission had approved the text of both statements.

(However, Bishop John J. Wright of Pittsburgh, a member of the doctrinal commission, told newsmen at a meeting of the U.S. Bishops’ Press Panel, that Bishop Franic “spoke in great part for himself. It was not a minority report. It was the mind of the commission unanimously that Archbishop Parente’s relatio [statement] presented the mind of the commission.”

(Bishop Wright said that Bishop Franic asked if he could state the “difficulties lingering in the mind of a few.”)

Bishop Franic’s objections were directed against the concepts of the sacramentality of the episcopate and episcopal collegiality and the restoration of a permanent diaconate, either married or celibate.

He admitted that most theologians agree the episcopacy has sacramentality with the impression of a distinct character. But he felt the question was not yet sufficiently settled for a conciliar statement.

Turning to collegiality, he said the doctrine stated in the schema does not safeguard the teaching on papal primacy of the First Vatican Council. If the bishops were to receive full and supreme power from Christ Himself by virtue of their episcopal consecration, and are sharers even on a subordinate level of this supreme power, a diminishing of the Pope’s primacy would be inevitable, he held.

The schema uses Scripture and tradition to buttress its teaching that the episcopate has supreme power by divine institution, Bishop Frank said. But he asserted that the schema’s basic Scriptural proof from St. Matthew (18, 18) fails to establish that the power there given to Peter was also given to the apostolic college united to its head. He said the Pontifical Biblical Commission, in its reply to a question on this very point, backed him up.

(In May Archbishop Felici asked the Biblical commission to give its opinion on whether the Bible offers sufficient basis for doctrine of collegiality. The commission had four days in which to reply. In an opinion signed only by those of its consultors who live in Rome, the commission said it is not clear that the Bible gives foundation for the doctrine of collegiality.)

Bishop Frank said “many Fathers” are convinced that tradition offers no proof for collegiality. All arguments marshaled from tradition in the schema were known to the early Church fathers and teachers, and especially to the popes, yet all affirm that only the pope has full power received immediately from Christ, while the bishops take power immediately from the pope and only indirectly from Christ.

Bishop Frank rejected the distinction that these popes were speaking only of the exercise of jurisdiction and not of the jurisdiction itself.

He admitted that the proposed doctrine could be true, but he insisted that it is not ripe enough to warrant a decision.

He added that collegiality, unless fully explained, would restrict not only the Pope’s power but even the power of individual bishops in their dioceses.

Bishop Franic raised no doctrinal arguments against restoration of a permanent diaconate. But he argued that to restore it without making celibacy binding upon deacons has already been understood as a first step to abolishing priestly celibacy.

Cardinal Koenig then explained the method followed by the doctrinal commission in altering the schema. He urged the council to vote for the text.

Archbishop Parente prefaced his argument by declaring that he spoke not as assessor of the Holy Office but as titular archbishop of Thebaide. He noted that the ancient African see of Thebaide now lies in a desert. He said he hoped he was speaking “only as a voice from the desert, not as a voice in the desert.”

He asserted that the text should allay any fears that collegiality would rouse ancient ghosts of the conciliar heresy of Gallicanism.

Archbishop Parente then said that the Pontifical Biblical Commission had confirmed the text’s assertion that collegiality is of divine institution according to the letter and spirit of the New Testament.

He said the continuance of collegiality in the successors of Peter and the other apostles follows logically from the continuance promised by Christ to His Church. This is confirmed by the documents of tradition, he said.

The schema insists, he said, that the college of bishops has no authority except in union with the pope, understood as its head. This, said Archbishop Parente, forestalls erroneous interpretations; the text reiterates that collegiality implies no lessening of papal primacy.

The text emphasizes the full, supreme and universal power of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ, he continued. It says the body of bishops succeeds the college of the apostles in the power to teach and govern. It states that the body of bishops, with the Roman Pontiff at its head, and never without this head, is likewise a subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church.

This assertion is based on the 28th chapter of St. Matthew, he said, in which Christ gave His commission to the college of the apostles as a whole. The assertion is supported by the 18th chapter of St. Matthew, he said, where the power of binding and loosing given to Peter is likewise conferred on the other apostles.

The schema avoids the question of whether the holder of this power is one or plural, Archbishop Parente said. He added that in any case there is still only one power.

He said there is no validity to the objection against the word “full” used to modify the power of the Pope alone, and then to the power of the Pope and bishops in union with him.

However, he did admit difficulty arising from the use of the word “supreme” in those two ways. He said both difficulties disappear upon consideration of the fact that Christ instituted not a twofold power in the Church but only one power, and that He conferred it upon the entire apostolic college composed of Peter and the other apostles. Hence, the supreme power of the Pope remains intact, he said.

He asserted that participation of the bishops in the government of the Church makes the Pope’s primacy more solemn and “more palatable” (Latin suavior).

Archbishop Parente also said that the schema does not contradict the teaching of Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis that episcopal power is derived from Christ through the Roman Pontiff: “Our text sets forth clearly that this power, though derived from Christ, is understood only in dependence upon the Roman Pontiff, both as regards its existence, because of the organic structure of the Church, and as regards its exercise.”

Bishop Henriquez Jimenez delivered the section of the statement dealing with the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order. He said the schema does not prescribe such a re-establishment for the whole Church but contents itself with leaving such a restoration up to national episcopal conferences, with the Pope’s approval. He said the same schema merely leaves the door open for married deacons.

At the end of statements the voting began. During the balloting, five council Fathers spoke on the schema under debate, that on the pastoral duties of bishops.

The speakers were Cardinal Leger of Montreal; Carlo Cardinal Confalonieri, Secretary of the Consistorial Congregation; Bishop Enrico Compagnone, O.C.D., of Anagni, Italy; Archbishop Agnelo Rossi of Ribeirao Preto, Brazil; and Bishop Rudolf Staverman, O.F.M., for Sukarnapura, Indonesia.

Following is the gist of their points:

Cardinal Leger: The council’s aim is pastoral and therefore demands new methods of teaching and governing. Today’s men have a different approach from that of a generation ago: they are technical-minded, they reject any paternalism in the hierarchy or clergy, and their idea of obedience safeguards their personal responsibility. To be pastorally effective, bishops and priests must be personally present among their flock. Archaic ecclesiastical language may be one reason why we are like voices crying in the wilderness. Diocesan chanceries should be reorganized on more pastoral lines. There is room for reform in clerical dress and titles.

Cardinal Confalonieri: Pastors must pay special attention to people without a fixed residence such as immigrants and sailors.

Bishop Compagnone: The primary contribution of the Religious to the apostolate is prayer, expiation and example. The zeal for the apostolate should not make bishops focus attention exclusively on what merely appears to be a greater good. The danger of abusing the contribution of Religious to the apostolate must be forestalled by determining concrete legislation in the future code of canon law.

Archbishop Rossi: A fresh look might be taken at the ancient concept of what constitutes a diocese.

Bishop Staverman: While bishops must be Fathers, they must remember that not everybody in their flock is a child. Bishops should be the very first to give the cooperation that all desire; if they take the lead the clergy and laity will follow.

A bulletin paraphrased the rest of Bishop Staverman’s speech: “It is encouraging to see in the text a reference to the need of showing merciful attention to fallen priests, but there is likewise an element of sadness when we realize the practical impossibility of doing much to relieve their unfortunate situation. We cannot hold out a really helping hand [without] a more far-sighted solution to their problems, one which is free of worry over consequences, a worry which is a sign of weak faith. A solution must be found which will be in keeping with today’s mentality. There will be differences according to nations and localities, but it seems necessary to set aside the unduly rigoristic approach which has heretofore characterized all handling of the question.”

This 84th general congregation of the council had opened with the Mass of St. Matthew, the feast of the day, celebrated by Massachusetts-born Bishop Frederic Donaghy, M.M., exiled Bishop of Wuchow, China, who is now a missionary in Formosa and who is marking his silver jubilee as a bishop. The Gospel was enthroned by Illinois-born Bishop Adolph A. Nose, S.V.D., for Alexishafen, New Guinea. Julius Cardinal Doepfner of Munich was the moderator.

Patrick Riley
NCWC News Rome Correspondent

*          *          *          *

Will the constitution on the Church present an infallibly defined doctrine on the place of bishops in the structure of the Church?

Not as presently stated, according to Bishop John J. Wright of Pittsburgh, a member of the theological commission, which framed the document.

The words used in the text of the schema are “the council solemnly teaches” but not “the council defines,” Bishop Wright said. “So far, the council has not asked for a solemn definition with all its niceties and careful distinctions. What seems to be called for is an ‘authentic teaching’ of the Church on collegiality,” he said.

Speaking at a press panel after the first voting on the crucial chapter three of the Church schema which deals with collegiality, Bishop Wright further pointed out that “it is not the business of the theological commission to impose doctrine on the council, but to fulfill the council’s wishes in framing the text.”

So far, it is still at the option of the council Fathers whether the constitution will include a solemn definition, said Msgr. George W. Shea, a member of the press panel and rector of Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington, N.J.

Father George Tavard, chairman of the theology department at Mount Mercy College, Pittsburgh, added that he “would be surprised if this council did bring up a solemn definition.

“It does not seem to be in the pastoral spirit of the council,” he said.

Taking the words used by Archbishop Pietro Parente, an official of the Congregation of the Holy Office, in presenting the schema, Bishop Wright described the chapter as “historic” for three reasons.

“First, it completes the work of the First Vatican Council,” he said. “Second, it integrates the juridical and organizational structure of the Church into theology properly so-called. Third, it opens at an organic level of the Church the possibility of enormous intensification of the life of the Church on all levels of activity, including more corporate action on the part of all bishops, the pooling of energies in missionary endeavors and the passionate interest on the part of all bishops in the whole Church rather than merely in their own dioceses.”

*          *          *          *

Pope Paul VI disclosed the name of the first woman auditor to be authorized to attend the council’s sessions as Marie Louise Monnet, president of the international movement for the apostolate among independent social circles.

The Pope made the disclosure after the Sunday Mass he celebrated (Sept. 20) in St. Peter’s in the presence of delegates of the movement, which is a form of the apostolate among non-working women. Miss Monnet is the sister of Jean Monnet, one of the fathers of the European unity movement.

Miss Monnet was born Sept. 25, 1902, at Cognac in southwestern France. At Cognac she started the movement of Catholic independent youth, which was organized on the pattern of the Young Catholic Worker movement. It brought together young people of professional, middle class or aristocratic backgrounds and spread throughout France.

In 1941 she turned over the leadership of the movement to younger people and founded the Independent Catholic Action movement, with the support of Bishop Jean-Baptiste Megnin of Angouleme and later of Achille Cardinal Lienart of Lille. This movement centered on gathering together adults of the same social origin for apostolic work.

In 1949 Miss Monnet worked through Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini of the Papal Secretariat of State — now Pope Paul VI — to develop the movement on an international level. Its first international congress was held in 1958 at Lourdes. In 1963 the Secretariat of State approved the statutes of the new international organization, which goes by the French title, Mouvement International pour l’Apostolat des Milieux Sociaux Independents.

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