An Urgent Plea: Do Not Change the Papacy |
Part Two: Vatican II opened the doors of reform of the Papacy
Atila Sinke Guimarães, Michael J. Matt, Dr. Marian Horvat and John Vennari
Dear Holy Father,
What is collegiality? The term refers to the College of Apostles, and, by extension, to the College of Bishops, successors of the former. Our Lord conferred certain powers to the Apostles in genere [in general], while He conferred others to Peter in specie [in particular]. The term collegiality, while completely legitimate in its etymology, is habitually utilized erroneously in the language of the Conciliar Church to signify that Jesus Christ would have given the same powers to all the Apostles, including Peter. Therefore, Peter should not have the primacy, the full and supreme authority over the other Apostles. In other words, the notion of the Petrine Primacy that the Church teaches would be wrong. What would be necessary is to reform the Papacy and to do away with the notion that the Sovereign Pontiff has supreme powers. The monarchical Papacy should be replaced with a new form of government in which all the Bishops would participate in the supreme power of the Church.
In the opening speech of the second session of Vatican Council II, Pope Paul VI introduced the concept of collegiality in the powers of the Pope. He affirmed: "The Council should deepen our understanding of the doctrine of the Episcopate, its functions, and its relations with Peter. Thus the means that we will use to exercise our apostolic function in the doctrinal and pastoral plane will be explained. This universal function, which Christ bestowed with the plenitude and legitimate efficacy of power that you know, could nonetheless receive a greater support and assistance if our brothers in the Episcopate .… would render us, by means and methods that it will be necessary to establish opportunely, an assistance that is more active, more considerable, and more conscious of the mission you have received." (10)
(10) Paulo VI, Solenne inizio della seconda sessione del Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II, Insegnamenti di Paolo VI (Vatican: Tipografia Poliglotta, 1965), pp. 174-175; René Laurentin, Bilan de la deuxième session (Paris: Seuil, 1964), pp. 30-31.
In the second session on October 30, 1963, the directors of the Council submitted to a vote four questions about the College of Bishops. The third one was this: Does the Body or College of Bishops, as successor of the College of Apostles and always in communion with the Pope who is its head, possess the supreme power of the Universal Church?" To this question, 1,808 Bishops responded "yes" and only 336 said "no." The fourth question was: Does this power belong to the College by divine right? Here, 1,717 Bishops responded "yes," and only 408 said "no." (11)
(11) R. Laurentin, ibid., p. 104.
These two votes meant that already at the second session of the Council many Bishops gave their adhesion to an erroneous notion of the supreme power of the Church. These unexpected ruptures with the perennial Catholic Magisterium were among the most expressive victories of Progressivism in Vatican II.
With such an "electoral" basis, the concept of collegiality was introduced in the Constitution Lumen gentium. In the official text, one can read: "Together with its head, the Roman Pontiff, and never without this head, the Episcopal order is the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church .… The supreme authority with which this College is empowered over the whole Church is exercised in a solemn way through an Ecumenical Council" (n. 22b). (12)
(12) The doctrine on collegiality in Lumen gentium provoked much discussion, during which requests were made for the introduction of a Preliminary Explanatory Note. This note, added in order to satisfy some conservative Bishops, is in blatant contradiction with what is affirmed in the text, as well as with the general interpretation given to collegiality after the Council. On the topic of this Explanatory Note, see A. S. Guimarães, In the Murky Waters of Vatican II (Metairie, La.: Maeta, 1997), Chap VI, §§ 61-62, 101-102.
Although in other parts of the same paragraph it recognizes an accidental primacy of papal power, the position of Lumen gentium essentially places papal power on equal footing with the power of the College or the Council. (13)
On this topic the intention of the authors of the present Plea is not to open an academic discussion on possible interpretations of Lumen gentium according to tradition. Such a discussion would be endless, because the official text itself pays tribute to ambiguity. We place ourselves in a practical perspective: since Vatican II, the doctrine of collegiality in Lumen gentium has been constantly applied to increase the powers of the Bishops in accordance with what we state in the text.
It establishes that the fullness of the Church's power normally would be exercised when both the Pope and the College speak jointly. This supposed dependence of the fullness of papal power on the College or Council is an attempt to destabilize the power of the Church. It rests on the assumption that the Pope/College or Pope/Council relationship would receive greater assistance from the Holy Ghost and be more representative of Christ than when the Pontiff acts by himself.
This sophism is based on a semantic misunderstanding about what the fullness of Church power actually is and who exercises it. From this comes a consequent juridical and theological confusion.
The truth is that, in the Church, the full visible power is the supreme power of the Pope to teach and govern, derived, by divine mandate, from the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the continuous assistance of the Holy Ghost. This supreme power of the Pope is exercised in the use of his broadest prerogatives as Vicar of Christ.
There is an undeniable accidental fullness of the power to teach when a doctrinal definition is made by the Pontiff together with a Council or the ensemble of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world. This accidental fullness derives from the desire of the Pope himself to confer to his decision a certain solemnity, which signifies that he is making use of all his power. The unanimous or partial agreement of the College, or even its hypothetical rejection of a solemn act of teaching or governing of the Pontiff, would not alter the essence of the decision. The Pope's full power lies in his supreme prerogative as Vicar of Christ. The submission or rejection of the College or Council to the Pope's decision would be a different question outside the terrain of the origin and plenitude of this power. This would be a moral and disciplinary question, which is not the case to deal with here.
To suppose that an essential fullness of the power of the Church to teach and govern would be exercised by both the Bishops and the Pope would change the very nature of this power. It would imply that its source is not divine and that such power was not delegated by Christ to one man alone: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my Church" (Mt. 16:18). It would promote the notion that this power resides in the College of Bishops. With regard to the power to govern, this would deny the Papal Monarchy and would transform the Holy Catholic Church into a Church in which the Holy Pontiff would be reduced in essence to the role of either a president or a constitutional monarch, obedient to the norms that issue from the College. This is unacceptable and condemned by Catholic teaching. [in section 6B this will be further delineated]. However, even though this has been condemned, it seems that this is, in fact, what is now a desired objective in the proposed reform of the Papacy.
TOMORROW: Part Three: Since the Council, well-known Prelates and theologians have asked for the reform of the Papacy.
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