Collegiality Means Responsibility

January 2002

Many bishops the world over have been complaining that Rome, in intervening in their affairs, treats them like children.

At the World Synod of Bishops in Rome this past October, the hot topic was collegiality — i.e., decentralization of authority in the Church. In our view, the most memorable words on the topic were spoken by Cardinal Ratzinger: “Being at the service of hope means to proclaim God with His human face, with the face of Christ. The world thirsts for knowledge, not for our ecclesial problems, but the fire that Jesus brought to earth.” Ah, but we have so many ecclesial problems! Ratzinger continued: “This proclamation [of the Gospel] requires the courage of truth and the disposition to suffer for the truth. To enter the Apostolic Succession [i.e., to become a bishop] also implies entering this battle for the Gospel…. The problem central to our time is the emptying of the historical figure of Jesus Christ. An impoverished Jesus…becomes a vain hope…. If the bishops have the courage to judge and to decide with authority about this battle for the Gospel, the so hoped-for decentralization is automatically achieved.”

Well, there it is! If certain bishops want more freedom, all they need do is have the courage to proclaim the truth, even at the risk of suffering, and to run a tight ship. If certain bishops don’t want to be treated like children, then they must act like adults. If they want more freedom, all they have to do is act responsibly. (Actually, given the New Oxford Note above, it looks like some bishops have too much freedom and Rome isn’t intervening enough.) In the Church as elsewhere, there can be no freedom without responsibility.


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New Oxford Notes: January 2002

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