- statements disputable in themselves - you proposed changing the traditional doctrine of the Papal Primacy in order to remove the "difficulty" that the Papacy causes for Protestants and Schismatics. In your Encyclical Ut unum sint, you gave new emphasis to words you had already spoken: "As I acknowledged on the important occasion of a visit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva on June 12, 1984, the Catholic Church's conviction that in the ministry of the Bishop of Rome she has preserved .… the visible sign and guarantor of unity constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians" (n. 88).
To remove this "difficulty," you assume the responsibility of this reform: "I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian communities and in heeding the request made of me to find 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" (n. 95b).
You have expressed the desire that, together with the Protestants and Schismatics, a search for a new way of exercising the Primacy should be made. In fact, you affirmed: "I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the pastors and theologians of our churches, that we may seek, together of course, the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned" (n. 95c).
Further on, you even insisted upon receiving the doctrinal collaboration of heretics and Schismatics in order to model the new face of the Papacy: "This is an immense task, which I cannot refuse and which I cannot carry out by myself. Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a dialogue in which, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another, keeping before us only the will of Christ?" (n. 96).
Thus, there is not the least doubt that you are the principal impelling force for the reform of the Petrine Primacy.
However, an important question still remains to be answered. How would you construct the "reformed" face of the Papacy? What you have written in Ut unum sint offers some indication.
Basing yourself on the Decree Unitatis redintegratio of Vatican II, you are committed to make "every effort to eliminate words, judgments, and actions which do not respond to the condition of separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations between them more difficult" (UR n. 4b; UUS n. 29). How can this norm be applied to the Papacy, since the Protestants deny even the need for its existence and the Schismatics are in a millennium-old revolt against it? It seems that we are walking toward an effective negation of the makeup of the Papacy by which only some of its appearances would be maintained.
Another principle that you adopted for this proposed reform is that "the manner and order in which Catholic belief is expressed should in no way become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren" (UR n. 11a; UUS n. 36c). Thus, should one "in no way" make a re-affirmation of the dogmas of Papal Infallibility and the Petrine Primacy, because both are clear obstacles to the desired pan-religious unity?
According to your words, the first characteristic of the new Papacy is collegiality: "When the Catholic Church affirms that the office of the Bishop of Rome corresponds to the will of Christ, she does not separate this office from the mission entrusted to the whole body of Bishops, who are also 'vicars and ambassadors of Christ.' The Bishop of Rome is a member of the 'College,' and the Bishops are his brothers in the ministry" (UUS n. 95a). Everything seems to indicate that we are facing the same error taught in Lumen gentium (n. 22b), pointed out above. That is to say, the supreme power of the Church would not be the power of the Roman Pontiff, but that of the College, of which the Pope is but a part.
The second characteristic that you present for the revolution in the Papacy involves the keynote of power. Instead of maintaining the power to command that it has had up until now, the papal "power" would come to be simply the capacity to serve: "The authority proper to this [papal] ministry is completely at the service of God's merciful plan, and it must always be seen in this perspective. Its power is explained from this perspective" (UUS n. 92b).
How does Your Holiness understand this "service of God's merciful plan"? You identify it with ecumenism: "Ecumenism is not only an internal question of the Christian communities. It is a matter of the love which God has in Jesus Christ for all humanity" (n. 99). Further on you argue that the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity would be working for the success of ecumenism: "There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is active in this [ecumenical] endeavor and that He is leading the church to the full realization of the Father's plan, in conformity with the will of Christ" (n. 100). In a text already quoted, you speak straightforwardly: "This ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned [the pastors and theologians of our Christian churches]" (n. 95c). Thus, the Papacy you desire would be a "service" to achieve the union of religions without asking the non-Catholic confessions to make a conversion from their false creeds. At times this pan-religious aim is ambiguously presented under the goal of "the unity of the Church." (26)