May 25-28, 2001
volume 12, no. 131

An Urgent Plea: Do Not Change the Papacy

Part Five: This planned reform of the Papacy is being praised by various progressivist theologians


Atila Sinke Guimar„es, Michael J. Matt, Dr. Marian Horvat and John Vennari

    Footnotes in Blue
Dear Holy Father,

    Lately there has been a lot of discussion on the topic of this reform. Some of the American sources include the book The Reform of the Papacy by Archbishop John Quinn (1999); the book Papal Primacy in the Third Millennium by Russell Shaw (2000); a series of articles in the Jesuit magazine America: "The Millennium and the Papalization of Catholicism" (April 9, 2000) by John O'Malley, "The Papacy for a Global Church" (July 15, 2000) by Avery Dulles, "The Papacy for an Ecumenical Age: A Response to Avery Dulles" (October 21, 2000) by Ladislas Orsy; the article "Toward a New and Improved Primacy," by Ann Carey (Our Sunday Visitor, November 19, 2000); and the article "The Papacy under review" by Richard McBrien (The Tidings, Los Angeles, December 1, 2000). These numerous writings give the impression that there may have been some recent directive to address the subject so as to create a climate propitious for exactly such a reform. The news and articles about the subject reached an apex after the official convocation of an extraordinary Consistory to meet May 21-24, which would address the topic of the Petrine ministry and episcopal collegiality. Further, almost all of these works claim that their critiques and suggestions are in response to the requests of Your Holiness in the Encyclical Ut unum sint.

    We ask your leave to present by way of example some excerpts from the book of Archbishop Quinn, The Reform of the Papacy (Chapter I). In response to the requests of Your Holiness for suggestions to change the Papacy, Msgr. Quinn establishes this presupposition: Since the publication of your Encyclical, any reform or revolution in the Papacy relies entirely upon the "revolutionary" character of your document. He copiously cites Ut unum sint to prove this presupposition. In fact, Quinn argues: "The Encyclical of Pope John Paul II on Christian unity .... must also be called a revolution. For the first time, it is the Pope himself who raises and legitimizes the question of reform, and change in the papal office in the Church". (27)

    (27) John R. Quinn, The Reform of the Papacy - The Costly Call to Christian Unity (New York: Herder & Herder, 1999), pp. 13-14.
    Further on, he again cites your Encyclical to demonstrate his presupposition: "The search for unity [with the other religions] must pervade the whole life of the Church. This is another example of the revolutionary character of this Encyclical. Until the Second Vatican Council, ecumenism was regarded as dangerous to Faith, and only tried and true experts engaged in it very cautiously, if at all. Here the Pope is saying that it must pervade everything in the Church." (28)
    (28) Ibid., p. 17.
    Quinn offers still more evidence: "Another sign of the revolutionary character of this Encyclical are these words of the Pope: 'This is a specific duty of the Bishop of Rome .... I carry out this duty [the quest for unity among religions] with the profound conviction that I am obeying the Lord' (UUS n. 3-4)." (29)
    Ibid., p. 18. For convenience sake, we quote here paragraph 3c from the Encyclical Ut Unum Sint: "I myself intend to promote every suitable initiative aimed at making the witness of the Catholic community understood in its full purity and consistency, especially considering the engagement which awaits the Church at the threshold of the new Millennium. That will be an exceptional occasion, in view of which she asks the Lord to increase the unity of all Christians until they reach full communion. The present Encyclical letter is meant as a contribution to this most noble goal. Essentially pastoral in character, it seeks to encourage the efforts of all who work for the cause of unity."
    The former Archbishop of San Francisco presents yet another argument: "Still another revolutionary feature of this Encyclical, the invitation to join the search for a new way of exercising the Primacy, is not confined only to Orthodox and Catholic Bishops and theologians. The Pope addresses all Christian churches and communions, issuing the same invitation: '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 ....?' (UUS n. 96)." (30)
    (30) Ibid., p. 22.
    With regard to the revolutionary character of the papal document, the author's conclusion seems indisputable: "The Encyclical Ut unum sint is clearly precedent breaking and, in many respects, revolutionary. It calls for a discussion of the Papacy by all Christians with the goal of finding a new way of making it more a service of love than of domination. It holds up the synodal [democratic] model of the Church in the first millennium and emphasizes that the Pope is a member of the College of Bishops and that the Primacy should be exercised in a collegial manner." (31)
    (31) Ibid., p. 34.
    Your Holiness certainly was not shocked by the affirmations of the American Prelate, since, as soon as his book was published, he offered you a copy in a private audience with which Your Holiness honored him. According to Vatican conventions, you would have been informed beforehand of the contents of the work. Therefore, to all appearances, the audience that you granted to Archbishop John Quinn represented a tacit approval of his conclusions about the revolutionary character of your Encyclical.

    Everything seems to indicate, therefore, that we are walking in the direction toward which Msgr. Quinn pointed - a revolution in the Papacy.

Tuesday: Part Six: Collegiality in the powers of the Pope


            For the complete book, "An Urgent Plea" write: Tradition In Action, P.O. Box 23135, Los Angeles, CA 90023 or call 1-323-725-0219 to order the book. Costs in the U.S. are $7. plus $3. for shipping and handling. Overseas orders are more for shipping. We recommend going to for more information and other books and tapes available.

May 25-28, 2001
volume 12, no. 131
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