Wednesday 21 August 2013

From local government - save us O Lord.

His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, and  Archbishop of Bombay, visiting the Santhigiri Ashram in 2012.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias told The Catholic Register on a visit to Toronto earlier this month some of his thoughts about the reforming commission he is part of.  Cardinal Gracias is one of eight cardinals chosen to advise Pope Francis on reforming the Vatican administration. The commission will meet with Francis the first three days of October, but the cardinals have already been talking to each other informally and are planning to meet as a group before their deliberations with the Pope. Each of the eight have met individually with Pope Francis to discuss the commission’s mandate, and Pope Francis has urged the commission to reread Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Evangelii nuntiandi and reflect on the new evangelization.

The interview contains mostly the expected sort of general comments but also a suggestion that bishop's conferences might take a greater role:

More consultation, more understanding of the different situations faced by the Church in different parts of the world, may also mean greater responsibility for national conferences of bishops. 
“They (bishops’ conferences) should take greater responsibility,” said the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. “But it’s both ways. If we are going to take more responsibility... we’ve got to be more responsible, more accountable, more conscious. Right now it’s very comfortable because we know that everything has got to be double checked. So we’re not that serious. If you know that you have more responsibility then you know that more responsibility comes with that, more consciousness, more care, more involvement in problems. That’s simple. That’s good for the Church.”
"more responsible, more accountable, more conscious"

My question would be, "More accountable to whom?"  "More responsible to whom?"  "More conscious of what?"  It has been generally considered that while the bishops conferences have been decentralising from Rome, they have become responsible for the sort of "local" or national centralisation that stifles individual dioceses and individual bishop's initiatives, creating a bland politically correct national church, often keen to climb into bed with politicians and those in power. A centralisation that robs the local church of any colour and initiative - perhaps particularly affecting the ability of the Church to evangelise.  A national church where you have to be in with the in crowd to get anywhere.  In Scotland, the latest appointment of a relative outsider to the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh is instructive.  As is the uproar over the appointment of a couple of some slightly more orthodox bishops here in the UK recently.  Surely, it cannot be that there is no room among a bishop's conference for a little diversity?  Catholic subsidiarity means doing things at the lowest local level - the diocese and the parish, not the nation.

If the bishop's conferences are to be further de-centralised from Rome then to whom are they to be accountable?  Are we to have democratic elections among the Catholic populace to elect them?  The truth is they would become accountable to no-one but themselves.  Strange at a time when virtually all other institutions in the world are moving away from self accountability.  The whole point of an "internal inquiry" is usually precisely to NOT find anyone accountable!

Surely, this "Anglican Province" model would only lead us down the same road as the Anglican Communion - where in fact, the various provinces are hardly in communion with one another at all. Can the good Cardinal not see the failure of such a model?  Let us hope that he is not representative of the wider views of the others on the commission in this area, at least.

The evidence of devolving local government her in the United Kingdom might also be instructive, with the possibility of breaking up the country through the devolved local governments wanting more and more for themselves.

The Holy Father has apparently asked the commission members to reflect on the New Evangelisation.  They might note that all the growing orders and thriving Societies are Traditional in one sense or another.  Also, to re-read Evangelii nuntiandi. Here are some quotes from it they could bear in mind.

3. In order to give a valid answer to the demands of the Council which call for our attention, it is absolutely necessary for us to take into account a heritage of faith that the Church has the duty of preserving in its untouchable purity, and of presenting it to the people of our time, in a way that is as understandable and persuasive as possible.

 5. [Evangelisation] does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people's salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. 

9. As the kernel and centre of His Good News, Christ proclaims salvation, this great gift of God which is liberation from everything that oppresses man but which is above all liberation from sin and the Evil One, in the joy of knowing God and being known by Him, of seeing Him, and of being given over to Him.

14. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.

 16. There is thus a profound link between Christ, the Church and evangelization. During the period of the Church that we are living in, it is she who has the task of evangelizing. This mandate is not accomplished without her, and still less against her.

It is certainly fitting to recall this fact at a moment like the present one when it happens that not without sorrow we can hear people - whom we wish to believe are well-intentioned but who are certainly misguided in their attitude - continually claiming to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church. The absurdity of this dichotomy is clearly evident in this phrase of the Gospel: "Anyone who rejects you rejects me." And how can one wish to love Christ without loving the Church, if the finest witness to Christ is that of St. Paul: "Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her"?

32. We must not ignore the fact that many, even generous Christians who are sensitive to the dramatic questions involved in the problem of liberation, in their wish to commit the Church to the liberation effort are frequently tempted to reduce her mission to the dimensions of a simply temporal project. They would reduce her aims to a man-centred goal; the salvation of which she is the messenger would be reduced to material well-being. Her activity, forgetful of all spiritual and religious preoccupation, would become initiatives of the political or social order. But if this were so, the Church would lose her fundamental meaning. Her message of liberation would no longer have any originality and would easily be open to monopolization and manipulation by ideological systems and political parties. She would have no more authority to proclaim freedom as in the name of God. This is why we have wished to emphasize, in the same address at the opening of the Synod, "the need to restate clearly the specifically religious finality of evangelization. This latter would lose its reason for existence if it were to diverge from the religious axis that guides it: the kingdom of God, before anything else, in its fully theological meaning...."

62. Let us be very careful not to conceive of the universal Church as the sum, or, if one can say so, the more or less anomalous federation of essentially different individual Churches.

64. The more an individual Church is attached to the universal Church by solid bonds of communion, in charity and loyalty, in receptiveness to the Magisterium of Peter, in the unity of the lex orandi which is also the lex credendi, in the desire for unity with all the other Churches which make up the whole- the more such a Church will be capable of translating the treasure of faith into the legitimate variety of expressions of the profession of faith, of prayer and worship, of Christian life and conduct and of the spiritual influence on the people among which it dwells. The more will it also be truly evangelizing, that is to say, capable of drawing upon the universal patrimony in order to enable its own people to profit from it, and capable too of communicating to the universal Church the experience and the life of this people, for the benefit of all.


Sixupman said...

"National Catholic Churches" with an International Synod every few years? Remind you of anything? Of Course - The Church of England!

National Bishops' Conferences - rulers of all the survey, with only notion obeisance to the papacy.

Catholicism, Not!

Sixupman said...

BTW, I have just remembered that at least one CofE parish [Orton in Westmorland] actually holds elections when a replacement incumbent is required.

There's a thought, the ultimate devolution of Mother Church!

Damask Rose said...

"A centralisation that robs the local church of any colour and initiative [No, not if you're the Neo-Cats, Liberals, "women who run the parish" who can uber-participate during Mass through dance and helping children perform plays in front of the altar (please nobody say they're reviving the medieval mystery plays!) and so on] - perhaps particularly affecting the ability of the Church to evangelise. A national church where you have to be in with the in crowd to get anywhere [Yep.].

"Can the good Cardinal not see the failure of such a model?"

No. We're in the Times of the Prophecies.

Our Lady of Akita (1973), "Cardinals opposing Cardinals, Bishops against other Bishops", Our Lady of Good Success in Quito, Ecuador, (17thC), prophecies to Mother Mariana for our times regarding the Church (priests). Our Lady of Fatima (1917) and I'd also add Garabandal (1960s) as the apparitions of Our Lady there seem to centre on the priesthood.

GOR said...

National Bishops’ Conferences have been an unmitigated disaster for the Church. In the halcyon days of the 60s and Vat II, opposition to the heavy hand of an insular Curia and with the agitation of the French and German hierarchies, gave new ‘standing’ to national conferences. Under the cover of ‘decentralization’ these Council Fathers pushed for more local autonomy.

The results have been evident. Bishops though ‘sovereign in their own dioceses’ all too easily abdicate their personal responsibilities and toss the ball to the conference.

Pope Benedict who - under Cardinal Frings during Vat II - was on the side of decentralization back then, later admitted that Bishops Conferences were weak, ineffective and had no ‘theological basis’ in the Church.

He noted that while the German Bishops Conference was weak and mealy-mouthed during the Nazi era, it took individual bishops (like Von Galen) to take the initiative and speak out strongly.

The same situation is all too often repeated today.

Jacobi said...

Further decentralisation to the bishops will lead inevitably to national churches, which sooner or later will slide into schism and then heresy. This sadly is a danger which has been made worse by the adoption of the vernacular Mass.

The Successor of Peter is the head of the Catholic Church and bishops have authority only they act in union with him. They have no remit or authority to act as national groupings

This trend is much in line with current Western political theory. However it exists today in the Church and is but a further example of how the much Catholic Church in this post- Vatican II liberal/Modernist crisis, has become ever more Secularised.

The Holy Catholic Church is neither a democracy nor any other form of political structure. It is Christ’s Mystical Body on Earth, the vehicle of salvation for Mankind through the Redemptive Sacrifice of the Mass and the teaching of the Magisterium.

As you say, Father, loving Christ is not enough. Protestants, even atheists who admire Christ as a social teacher, could conceivably do that. We must also accept Scripture, Revelation, Tradition and the full teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church. otherwise we cannot claim to be Catholic.

Damask Rose said...

Yes, indeed GOR.

"Bishops though ‘sovereign in their own dioceses’ all too easily abdicate their personal responsibilities and toss the ball to the conference."

It's become all very French Revolution and Communist Collective.

Of course, the Church needs to follow a monarchial system because Christ is the Head, and God the Father is Creator of all.

johnh said...

God help us in this country . Without wishing to 'dumb down' the thread , with maybe half a dozen exceptions , the members of our Bishops Conference are unable to think in joined up words . They are hopeless and pointless Father , and your phrase 'creating a bland politically correct national church, often keen to climb into bed with politicians and those in power' sums them up perfectly for me .

Dominic MacCarthy said...

The internal management of the Church is a problem as yet unsolved.
Does it really make sense to have each one of 2500+ dioceses and Bishops directly under the Pope and Roman Curia, without any intermediate bodies. If you were running a business with chain stores, you would not have one Chief Exec with 2500 local managers immediately under him: you would have regional and area managers - a hierarchy in fact.

When there were only 400 or 500 dioceses, mostly in Europe, the old structure was manageable, but now the Church is worldwide, how can the centre keep tabs on all the dioceses on the periphery?

Yet, our experience of national Bishops' Conferences has been far from a happy one. They seem to get smothered by bureaucracy, and the individual bishops seem to feel intimidated and unable to speak out on anything which is not the portfolio designated to them by the movers and shakers in charge.

Should there be a Primate in each country who does have direct oversight over the other bishops? - They seem to operate more like that in Poland. The Eastern Churches, in union with Rome, have their own synods of bishops which are determinative, and do not seem to be in the liberal mould.

Maybe even a Bishops' Conference with a majority of strong and orthodox bishops would be quite a different entity......