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The Claims of the Primacy and the Costly Call to Unity

by Archbishop John R. Quinn


Lecture on the Occasion of the Centennial of Campion Hall, Oxford June 29, 1996, by Archbishop John R. Quinn, Visiting Fellow, Campion Hall, Oxford.

Publisher & Date

Unknown, June 29, 1996

This document also contains the following articles, all of which comment on Archbishop Quinn's lecture:

Reflections on Church Governance
Cardinal John O'Connor

What is the "New Situation"?
Bishop James McHugh

The Local Churches and the Church of Rome
Archbishop Rembert Weakland

NOTE: The following lecture is made available online for informational purposes, and its availability does not imply the endorsement of Trinity Communications.

I acknowledge with profound gratitude the honor that has come to me through the invitation of Father Munitiz, Master of Campion Hall, to give this centennial lecture. It gives me the opportunity to express my great admiration for those splendid, storied Jesuits who, for a century now, have served the Church with such distinction at Campion Hall in the heart of Oxford.

But I must also say how deeply moving it is to me that this lecture takes place at Oxford which is hallowed by such poignant and treasured memories of his journey "ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem." I hear again the distant voices of eager students echoing over more than a century and a half their confident proclamation, "Credo in Newmanum."

The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, observed today, turns our thoughts to Rome. And this centennial, by a double title, brings us very naturally to considerations of the papacy. The patron of Campion Hall, Edmond Campion of the Society of Jesus, was put to death precisely because he would not repudiate the primacy of the Pope. In addition, the Society of Jesus traces its very foundation to its fourth vow linking it to the Pope. It is eminently fitting, then, that on this centennial we should take up a complex and challenging invitation issued recently by Pope John Paul II.


In his 1995 Encyclical Letter, Ut Unum Sint, on ecumenism, Pope John Paul II has this to say about the papacy,

. . . (T)he Catholic Church's conviction that in the ministry of the Bishop of Rome she has preserved, in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of the Fathers, the visible sign and guarantor of unity, constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians, whose memory is marked by certain painful recollections. To the extent that we are responsible for these, I join my Predecessor, Paul VI, in asking forgiveness.1

The Pope plainly admits that there have been painful things which have wounded unity among Christians, and that together with others, the Popes must accept some responsibility for them. This frank admission and the request for forgiveness place the Pope in the line of Peter, the penitent. A study of early Christian art reveals that, after Christ, one of the most frequent images found in the first centuries is the image of Peter, Peter weeping for his sins. 2 The Pope here identifies himself with that Peter who acknowledges and weeps for his sins.

He then goes on to cite his remarks to the Patriarch of Constantinople,

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 (of Peter) may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned. 3

Then he issues this challenge:

This is an immense task, which we 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 dialog in which, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another, keeping before us only the will of Christ for his church...?4

The object of the dialog as the Pope describes it, is

. . .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.5

Rooted in the scholarly work of historians and theologians, there are doctrinal and historical questions about the papacy which have been discussed in the official dialogs among the churches for some thirty years. But the Pope here introduces a new and important question: the "forms" of the papal ministry, "a way of exercising the primacy... "open to a new situation." Thus the Pope distinguishes between the substance of the papal office -- "what is essential to its mission" and the style of the papal office -- the historically conditioned forms in which it has been embodied.

The Pope himself, in apostolic discernment, sees that there must be new forms of exercising the primacy as the Church approaches the threshold of a new millennium. He calls the Christian family to look at how the gift which is the papacy can become more credible and speak more effectively to the contemporary world.

Those, of course, who respond to the request of the Pope, must bear in mind the paradoxical nature of the project they are undertaking. The Holy Father asks for public consideration of new forms in which the Petrine ministry can be embodied and exercised. But one can only advance the need for new forms if the past or current forms are evaluated as inadequate. To consider inadequacy seriously is to embark upon careful criticism. This obviously must be done if one is to give attentive and loyal response to the papal request. But that very response, which issues out of an obediential hearing, can be misread as carping negativity, a distancing of oneself from the Holy See. Exactly the opposite is true. The Pope has asked us for an honest and serious critique. He has every right to expect that this call will be heard and that this response will be especially forthcoming from those who recognize and reverence the primacy of the Roman Pontiff -- as the Church searches out the will of God in the new millennium that is before us.

The "new situation" is shaped by the shattering of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Communist dictatorships, by the awakening of China and her movement into the political and economic world of the twentieth century, by the movement toward unification in Europe, by a new and spreading consciousness of the dignity of woman, by the arrival of an immense cultural diversity in the Church, by the insistent thirst for unity among Christians. This new situation is not only political, economic, cultural and technological. It is marked as well by a new psychology. People think differently, react differently, have new aspirations, a new sense of what is possible, new hopes and dreams. In the Church there is a new consciousness of the dignity conferred by Baptism and the responsibility for the mission of the Church rooted in Baptism

The "new situation" is also one in which the Church confronts great challenges. It is estimated that by the year 2000 there will be more than fifty million internally displaced persons and refugees in the world. The gap between the wealthy and the poor nations is growing, There is real danger that Africa may become a marginalized continent. Large numbers of Catholics are turning to sects or non-christian religions.

The "new situation" for the primacy is indeed comparable to the situation which confronted the primitive Church when it abandoned the requirements of the Mosaic Law and embraced the mission to the gentiles. This action required immense courage, vision and sacrifice. It was an uncharted path, a major change. There were grave reasons for keeping the Mosaic Law, not least of which was the fact that Our Lord himself had observed it. Yet trusting in the Holy Spirit, the Apostles made that momentous decision. There was intense and bitter opposition to it so much so that some scholars believe that there is founded evidence to show that it was ultraconservative members of the Christian community at Rome, opposed to the changes Peter and Paul had introduced, who denounced them to the Roman authorities and brought about their arrest and execution.6 Similarly today, there are strong divisions within the Church and accompanying pressures pulling in conflicting directions. The decisions required by the "new situation" will be exacting and costly.

The Church and the papacy in particular have to respond to this "new situation" and Pope John Paul II courageously asks the question of how the primacy can be exercised in a way that is open to this great cosmic drama.

My experience as a bishop for some thirty years, as President of the American Episcopal Conference, as Pontifical Delegate for Religious Life in the United States and as a member of a Pontifical Commission to deal with problems in the Archdiocese of Seattle, has involved close and frequent interaction with the Pope and with the offices of the Holy See. It is in light of this personal experience that I want to propose my response to the Pope's invitation to rethink with him the style and manner of exercising the papal ministry open to a "new situation." First I will deal with my personal experience of the papacy. Then I will take up the need for structural reform, followed by some reflections on the Roman Curia. In light of this I will make some observations about collegiality and the teaching, sanctifying and governing office of bishops with specific reference to the principle of subsidiarity in the Church. Finally, I will touch on the fundamental imperative in the search for a new primacy in a new situation, the imperative of the Will of God and its bearing on the search for unity.


When he appointed me as Pontifical Delegate for Religious Life in 1983, Pope John Paul told me that he had a very personal interest in this issue and that he wanted me to report directly to him and to come to see him often. As a result I did visit Rome frequently and when I requested it I was received by the Pope at once and given all the time I needed. During these visits I was quite frank with him about my own views and Convictions and Set down my proposals for action with precision and clarity. In no instance did the Pope reject my proposals or impose any preordained mode of action on me. He himself frequently spoke of the work as an act of collegiality. I found the experience to be in fact a brotherly collaboration in which the Pope entrusted responsibility to me and supported me in carrying it out even in the face of same opposition both in the curia and in the United States.

From 1987 to 1989, when I was a participant with two American Cardinals on a papal Commission charged to resolve problems in the Archdiocese of Seattle, I had a similar experience. At times there were differing views between the officials of the Holy See and our Commission about what course to follow. Differing viewpoints were expressed forthrightly and with candor by all the participants in our meetings with the Pope. The Pope listened carefully to all sides of the issue, but, in the end, almost without exception, endorsed the position of the Commission.

These examples show that the Pope thinks in collaborative terms and that his personal style is marked by openness to ask for help and a willingness to listen. Yet these are instances not so much of collegiality as they are of collaboration by bishops in a task undertaken by the Pope at his initiative. But in the Encyclical he specifically mentions 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.7

The unity of which the Pope is the sign and the guarantor is first realized and expressed in his relationship with the College of Bishops. This collegial unity is the fundamental paradigm for all the other ways in which the Pope is the sign and guarantor of unity. In other words, the style and "way of exercising the primacy" in relationship to the College of Bishops determines in a primordial way all the other moments of unity of which the Pope is guarantor and sign. And so collaboration by Bishops with the Pope in a task he specifically entrusts to them is not the full measure of collegiality. "Collegiality" is predicated of the Bishops precisely because with the Pope -- they have from Christ a true responsibility for the whole Church. Hence Bishops by this fact have the responsibility from Christ to take initiative in bringing forward problems and possibilities for the mission of the Church. Collegiality does not exist in its fullest sense if Bishops are merely passive recipients of papal directives and initiatives. Bishops are not only "sub Petro". They are also "cum Petro".


To ask the question about new ways of exercising the primacy "open to a new situation" is to raise the issue of the reform of the papacy. Yves Congar, the distinguished theologian, named Cardinal late in life, has pointed out the inadequacy of a purely "moral" reform by which I understand him to mean an attitudinal reform. He believes that any true and effective reform must touch structures. He goes on to observe the lesson of history that personal holiness of itself is not sufficient to bring about a change and that great holiness has existed in the very midst of situations that cried out for change.

But he comes to a fundamental and inescapable challenge when he raises the question of why reform-minded men and women of the Middle Ages in fact missed the rendezvous with opportunity. Why did so little happen when there was such a general thirst for reform? Among other things, he cites their penchant for focusing on this or that specific abuse such as concubinage, failure of canons to fulfill their obligations in singing the office in choir, the notorious failure of Bishops to live in or even visit their dioceses.

Most of those who wanted reform, he said, were prisoners of the system, incapable of reforming the structures themselves through a recovery of the original vision, incapable of asking the new questions raised by a new situation. Reform meant to them simply putting the existing structures in order. The further, deeper, long-term questions were never asked.8 Their vision stopped at the water's edge. The moment passed, and a wounded Church suffered incomparable tragedy.

It is these deeper, more comprehensive issues in regard to the exercise of the primacy that must be raised in the search for unity: What does a realistic desire for unity demand in terms of changes in curial structure, policy, and procedures? What do the signs of the times, the desire for unity, the doctrine of episcopal collegiality, the cultural diversity of the Church, the new technological age call for in curial reform and adaptation to what the Pope calls "a new situation"? What does all this demand of the Pope himself?


Pope Adrian VI sent the Nuncio, Chieregati, to the Diet of Nuremberg in 1522. This is an excerpt from the instruction the Pope gave to him,

You are also to say that we frankly acknowledge that God permits this persecution of His Church on account of the sins of men, and especially of prelates and clergy. . . Therefore, in our name, give promises that we shall use all diligence to reform before all things the Roman Curia. . .(9)

Here Pope Adrian affirms something which was one of the main concerns of the reform Councils of Constance and Basel, a prominent concern of the Council of Trent, Vatican Council I and II, and which continues to be of critical importance today: the directive power of the Roman Curia, and the Curia's need of reform.

One week before the opening of the second session of the Second Vatican Council, in September, 1963, Paul VI himself stated the importance for the Church of a true and ongoing reform of the Roman Curia:

We have to accept criticism with humility and reflection and admit what is justly pointed out.

Rome has no need to be defensive, turning a deaf ear to observations which come from respected sources, still less, when those sources are friends and brothers.

The call for modernization of juridical structures and a deepening of spiritual awareness does not meet with resistance from the center of the Church, the Roman Curia. Rather, the Curia is in the front ranks of that perennial reform of which the Church itself, as a human and earthly institution, stands in continual need.10

Two years later, the Second Vatican Council itself explicitly called for a reform of the Curia in its Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church.11

The curial system was not created by Pope John Paul II. Though the Curia existed in some form since the time of Gregory I in the sixth century, it goes back, as we know it, to Pope Sixtus V in 1588. And so if we are to search for new ways of exercising the papal ministry we must go beyond the personal style of the Pope and consider the curial system itself. The question of new forms or new ways of exercising the primacy is not only personal. It is also systemic. The Curia and the Pope cannot be completely separated.

It is self-evident that the Pope could not fulfill his responsibilities of communion and communication with more than three thousand bishops and dioceses in a wide diversity of cultures and languages without the Curia. At the same time it must be admitted that any reformulation or change the Pope may personally decide to pursue can be retarded or diminished, even thwarted, by segments of the Curia which may not agree with him or may have a different vision. It is a matter of record, for instance, that powerful segments of the Curia strongly opposed the convocation of the Second Vatican Council.12 Paul VI touched on this in his 1963 address to the Curia telling the members of the Curia that if there had been resistance and disagreement before, now was the time for the Curia to give public witness to its solidarity with the Pope and the aims of the Council.13 The Pope is necessarily dependent to some degree on his Curia for the effectiveness of his relationship with the College of Bishops and of his ministry.

My personal experience over many years in dealing with the Roman Curia has brought me to appreciate the great diversity of its makeup. I have met in the Curia men and women of great intelligence, broad experience, great vision and exemplary holiness of life. Many members of the Curia serve the Church with extraordinary unselfishness and devotion and with little thanks. The Church is the beneficiary of their dedicated service.

But it is to be expected that in a Curia of some three thousand people working in an array of secretariats, congregations and tribunals, not all share these qualities to the same degree. Some are very narrow, with limited experience, especially pastoral experience. Pastoral experience can provide a hermeneutic for statutes and laws which stands between wanton disregard and blind, rigid application. Laws, conscientiously upheld, assume another, more real value when seen in terms of people with names and faces and histories and personal struggles. The understanding of human nature is a necessary condiment of wisdom.

Yet it must be honestly acknowledged that many Orthodox and other Christians are hesitant about full communion with the Holy See not so much because they see some doctrinal issues as unsolvable, not because of unfortunate and reprehensible historical events, but precisely because of the way issues are dealt with by the Curia.14 It must also be said that this is a concern all over the world. Recent events in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and France, in Brazil, Africa and the United States are only one indication of how widespread this concern is. The concern has to do with the appointment of bishops, the approval of documents such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the grave decline in the numbers of priests and the consequent decline in the availability of Mass for the people, the cognate issue of the celibacy of the clergy, the role of episcopal conferences, the role of women and the issue of the ordination of women. Two things are involved in these issues: the decision of the Holy See on a specific issue and the way in which these decisions are reached and implemented. For instance, are such decisions imposed without consultation with the episcopate and without appropriate dialog? Are bishops appointed against an overwhelming objection of people and priests in a given diocese? Where the answer to these and other such questions is affirmative there are serious difficulties for Christian unity.

The importance of a major structural reform of the Curia cannot be underestimated. After the internationalization effected by Paul VI and the rearrangement of some competencies, the reforms which have taken place since have been relatively minor and have been designed by members of the Curia itself, The major change of outlook and structural reform which "the new situation" requires Would ideally be the work of a broader constituency. A commission, for example, could be created with three presidents. One, a representative of an episcopal conference, one, a representative of the Curia and the third, a lay person.

Under this three-member presidency, there could be a working Commission which would include bishops, priests, religious and lay persons. The commission should be given a time line of not more than three years and should have authority to consult experts in management, government, theology, canon law and other useful disciplines and professions. The Pope and the episcopal conferences should be kept informed of the progress of the work. When it is completed and in a state which the Pope indicates he could accept, the plan should be presented for a vote to the presidents of episcopal conferences in a meeting held for this purpose and finally presented to the Pope for approval and implementation. At this time the Pope in consultation with the episcopal conferences could create an implementation commission to oversee the carrying out of the restructuring and with the mandate to report to the Pope periodically, The work of the commission should be public and its conclusions Should be public.


A prominent theme in the Second Vatican Council and in the teaching of Pope John Paul II has been the participation of Bishops in the threefold role of Christ as Priest, King and Prophet,15 This role is also called the threefold role of sanctifying, governing and teaching. In the dialog on the forms and way of exercising the primacy, there must, then, be an important place for dialog about how the style and policies of the Papal Curia affect both the Pope's ministry as head of the episcopal college, and the collegial ministry of the bishops in communion with him.

The doctrine of episcopal collegiality is firmly in possession in the Church, explicitly affirmed by the Second Vatican Council and frequently invoked by Pope John Paul II. In any realistic dialog about the primacy, there has to be some consideration of how collegiality is lived, and how, not merely in theory, but in actual fact, the Papal Curia -- an administrative structure - relates to and fosters collegiality -- a doctrine of faith.

The Curia is the arm of the Pope. But the Curia always runs the real risk of seeing itself as a "tertium quid". When this happens, in place of the dogmatic structure comprised of the Pope and the rest of the Episcopate, there emerges a new and threefold structure: The Pope, the Curia and the Episcopate. This makes it possible for the Curia to see itself as exercising oversight and authority over the College of Bishops, to see itself as subordinate to the Pope but superior to the College of Bishops. To the degree that this is so and is reflected in the policies and actions of the Curia it obscures and diminishes both the doctrine and the reality of episcopal collegiality.

Yet the Vatican Council points out explicitly that the Curia is in the service of the Bishops,

These (the departments of the Roman Curia) therefore, perform their duties in his name and with his authority (i.e. the name and authority of the Pope) for the good of the churches and in the service of the sacred pastors.16

The same risk exists also in regard to papal Nuncios who can easily assume too great a directive power in regard to the episcopate of a nation, weakening the authentic collegiality of that episcopate. Nuncios, of course, can also be a source of great strength to episcopates under duress, encouraging them and backing them up when they take public positions denouncing injustice or oppression in a nation. And Nuncios can play an effective role of reconciliation in countries where an episcopate is divided.17


Some years ago the future Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, wrote that what the Church needs is,

. . . not adulators to extol the status quo, but men whose humility and obedience are no less than their passion for truth; men who brave every misunderstanding and attack as they bear witness; men who, in a word, love the church more than ease and the unruffled course of their personal destiny.18

It is in that spirit, and in the interest of the honest and fraternal dialog requested by the Pope, that I would like to bring up some specific instances that I believe illustrate how the "way of exercising the primacy", as well as the curial system, have an important bearing on any realistic hope for unity.

I begin with the first of the threefold offices of Christ in which the Bishops participate, the office of teaching. It is significant that it was Pope Pius IX, who defined the dogma of papal primacy and infallibility, who also vigorously upheld the public statement of the German Bishops that Bishops are not mere legates of the Pope.19 This doctrine was more amply articulated in the Second Vatican Council.20 Such a doctrine cannot be affirmed in theory and denied in practice. Yet there are practical instances which are tantamount to making Bishops managers who only work under instructions rather than true witnesses of faith who teach -- in communion with the Pope -- in the name of Christ.

There comes to mind, for instance, the English version of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. On the positive side, Bishops from various parts of the world were involved in preparing the Catechism and did in fact complete their work. An English translation was prepared which was agreed on by the English speaking task force charged with its preparation. But objections to the translation were raised. Because of these objections, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, halted publication, rejected the proposed translation and called for a completely new translation. The majority of the active English speaking Cardinals of the world supported the original translation and vigorously opposed any new translation. Yet they were overruled.

This suggests that the English speaking Cardinals, and the Bishops of English speaking countries, were not competent as teachers of the faith to judge the appropriateness or accuracy of an ecclesiastical document in their own language. This is certainly a diminishment of what it means to say that Bishops share in the teaching office of Christ, and a diminishment of true collegiality.

In addition, a collegiality which consists largely in embracing decisions which have been made by higher authority is a very attenuated collegiality and the question must be asked how such limited collegiality truly responds to the will of Christ and how it responds "to the new situation." For instance Bishops and episcopal conferences feel that such grave questions as contraception, the ordination of women, general absolution, and the celibacy of the clergy are closed to discussion.

The Pope is not just a member of the Episcopal College. He is member and head. No one who understands this denies the Pope the right to teach on his own initiative as he judges it necessary or appropriate. Granting that he has such a right, the real issue is when and under what circumstances he should prudently exercise such a right. Often discussion of these questions in the Church becomes frustrated because when they are raised it is said that one does not have sufficient loyalty to the Pope or that there is a defect in one's faith. But faith and loyalty are not at question. It is the question of prudence and appropriateness. Far from signaling a lack of loyalty or defect in faith, raising such questions respectfully and honestly is in reality an expression of both faith and loyalty.

In the last century, a number of persons in Rome, as well as Cardinal Manning and others in England, thought that John Henry Newman, who expressed clear and principled objection to the opportunness of the definition of papal infallibility and who spoke in strong condemnatory tones about the methods used by the pro-definition group, was lacking in Catholic faith and disloyal to the Pope. Yet today, Newman is under consideration for canonization as a saint of the Catholic Church. Newman himself distinguished between the truth of a dogmatic definition and the prudence of the Pope in making it.21 This example makes it clear that while great emphasis has been given to the doctrinal aspects of the exercise of the primacy, too little attention has been given to the place of prudence in the exercise of the primacy. The doctrinal questions do not exhaust the discussion of the primacy. There is a legitimate and necessary place also for discussion of what is prudent at a given time in history.

Since it is the constant teaching of the Church that Bishops are judges and teachers of the faith22, it would be more in keeping with this truth of faith if Bishops were seriously consulted, not only individually but also in episcopal conferences, before doctrinal declarations are issued or binding decisions are made of a disciplinary or liturgical nature. In this way there would be a true, active, collegiality and not merely a passive collegiality. It is true that Peter is charged by Christ "confirm" his brothers23, but the brothers also support Peter. When Peter says, "I am going fishing", the others say, "We are going with you."24 Some commentators are of the opinion that in this passage, Peter, despondent over the discovery of the empty tomb and not yet having encountered the Risen Lord, was returning to his former way of life. The others go with him to support him in a difficult moment.25

The Bishops, if routinely and widely consulted on doctrinal and other important pronouncements, could be a better support to the Pope, could help in bringing to bear the mind of the whole Church on a given issue and in formulating a teaching so that the Pope would not have to bear the burden all alone. The evident participation of bishops in these major decisions would also dispose larger numbers of people to accept them more readily. In other words, even in doctrinal matters, there should be an effort to prepare and dispose people to accept teaching. The ancient canonical principle, "What touches everyone must be approved by everyone",26 bespeaks not only prudence but an understanding of human nature.

Newman postulated consultation in doctrinal matters not only because of prudence but also because of charity, He says,

We do not move at railroad pace in theological matters even in the 19th century. We must be patient, and that for two reasons: -- first, in order to get at truth ourselves, and next in order to carry others with us.

The Church moves as a whole; it is not a mere philosophy; it is a communion; it not only discovers, but it teaches; it is bound to consult for charity, as well as for faith. You must prepare men's minds for the doctrine...27

The international Synod of Bishops is another exercise of the collegial teaching office of bishops. But the Synod has not met the original expectations of its establishment. The Synod was envisioned as being a way for the bishops of the world with the Pope to deal with major issues touching the Church. At the present time, however, the topic of the Synod is identified by a small commission of approximately fifteen Cardinals and Bishops, elected by the Synod, who present their proposal to the Pope. Ultimately the Pope chooses the topic. An approach more expressive of episcopal collegiality would be to charge the presidents of episcopal conferences to get input from their national conferences and then to meet together and vote on three topics in order of priority. The topic receiving a majority of votes would be presented to the Pope for confirmation and approval for the next Synod.

Many Bishops feel that issues which they would like to discuss responsibly cannot come up -- such as those mentioned above, as well as others, such as divorce, remarriage and the reception of the Sacraments. I am not here taking a personal position on any of these issues. My point is simply to underline that issues of major concern in the Church are not really open to a free and collegial evaluation and discussion by bishops, whose office includes being judges in matters of faith. A free discussion is one in which loyalty to the Pope and the orthodoxy of faith of those who discuss these issues is not called into question. In subtle ways and sometimes in very direct ways, the position of the Curia on these issues is communicated to bishops at Synods and intimidates them. In addition it is made clear that certain recommendations should not be made to the Pope at the conclusion of a Synod.

Responsible for unity, bishops do not want to create an appearance of rebellion and so, perplexed, they keep silence. The bishops also have great faith and a personal reverence for the Pope and do not wish to embarrass him by the appearance of conflict.

The procedures of the Synod are outdated and not conducive to collegiality in its fuller sense. They would, in fact, prove alien to many of those seeking unity who are used to parliamentary procedures and more free exchange and debate on issues. A new way of structuring and holding these Synods could have a significant effect on the search for unity and the exercise of true collegiality.

It would make the Synod more truly a collegial act if the Synod had a deliberative vote and not merely a consultative one. And this, too, would be a greater incentive to unity and a more authentic embodiment of collegiality.

Reflecting on a way of exercising the papal ministry more suitable to the times, we need to recapture the importance of ecumenical Councils in the life of the Church. The Council of Constance in the fifteenth century decreed that there should be regularly scheduled Councils every ten years.28 If that decree had been observed perhaps the history of the Reformation would have been different.

A Council is a witness of the unity of the whole Church, of the Bishops with the Pope and the Pope with the Bishops. It is a witness that amid the certainties of faith, still the Church does not have all the answers ready made, that she must struggle and search for the truth, as the primitive Church struggled over the doctrinal and disciplinary issue of the Mosaic Law.

It is difficult in today's world perhaps to say how often Councils should be held but given the gravity of the problems and opportunities which confront the Church today -- the rapidity of change, the availability and instant character of electronic communication, the facility of travel, and the great diversity of cultures, I believe it would greatly benefit both the unity and effectiveness of the Church if a Council were held to mark the beginning of the new millennium. It would be timely if such a Council were to deliberate on how often Councils should be held given "the new situation".


The second of the three-fold offices is sanctifying.

A number of Bishops in various parts of the world believe that general absolution has beneficial effects in some instances and desire to authorize this practice. Certainly there are some obvious points against general absolution. For example, since the penitent does not have the opportunity for spiritual and pastoral direction in this circumstance he can be left with a troubled conscience. But it would be a fitting work of collegiality if Bishops themselves could face the various problems connected with general absolution in a full and free discussion of its doctrinal and pastoral aspects.

Inculturation of the Liturgy is another source of tension in many episcopates. Here the fundamental question must be raised and discussed: the principle that the Roman Rite must serve as the Rite in the Latin Church. When this principle was adopted in the Second Vatican Council there was not yet the sufficient appreciation or consciousness of the great cultural diversity in the Church. The Roman Rite with its hieratic, measured gravity greatly appeals to many people and rightly so. But there are other cultures which are not well suited to this approach. Bishops as judges of the faith and as those who preside over the Liturgy and prayer of their Churches should have the opportunity in Synod or Council to address this question more openly and in light of their experience. Difference in culture is, however, not the only consideration. We have also to keep in mind that there is a basic, common humanity shared by all peoples and which recognizes the need for reverence, adoration, the acknowledgement of the transcendence of God. There is as well the need for some common signs and practices in the Church which express her universality and communion.


The third office of Christ is governing. Here I would instance the policies regarding the appointment of Bishops. The process as we have it in the United States, begins when a given Bishop presents names of candidates to be discussed at a meeting of the Bishops of a particular region called a provincial meeting.

At the provincial meeting, the names and qualifications of candidates are discussed in strict confidence and a vote taken. The names, with accompanying information, are sent to the Nuncio in Washington, who forwards the list and the assembled information to Rome to the Congregation for Bishops. The Nuncio's judgment is generally thought to have the greatest weight, more than that of the local episcopate. The material is then presented to a meeting of some fifteen Cardinals and a few bishops who are called "members" of the Congregation for Bishops. This body discusses the candidates and votes on them. They usually, but not always, endorse the candidates as proposed by the Nuncio. When the voting is completed the cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops brings the results to the Pope and the Pope personally makes the final selection.

It is not uncommon for bishops of a province to discover that no candidate they proposed has been accepted for approval. On the other hand it may happen that candidates whom bishops do not approve at all may be appointed. There have been instances of priests of religious orders being named bishops without the knowledge of their own provincial superior and of diocesan priests appointed bishops when their own bishop was not consulted. Under the existing policy, collegiality in the appointment of bishops consists largely in offering bishops an opportunity to make suggestions. But the real decisions are made at other levels: the Nuncio, the Congregation of Bishops, the Secretariat of State.

There are, indeed, certain things to recommend the existing procedure. It distances the appointment of bishops from local factions and pressures. It prevents the development of pressure groups favoring one candidate and rejecting another. In some instances it also removes the possibility of the State becoming involved in the appointment of bishops. Yet honest, fraternal dialog compels me to raise the question whether the time has not come to make some modifications in this procedure so that the local churches really have a significant and truly substantive role in the appointment of bishops. In light of the decrees of the Vatican Council itself, the participation of the local churches in this process cannot properly be confined merely to the participation of bishops but must include a meaningful and responsible role for priests, lay persons and religious.

Until roughly 1800, Rome's intervention in the appointment of bishops in dioceses outside the Papal States was rare. Until 1825, it was the policy of the Holy See to leave the appointment of Bishops to the local church where possible. At the death of Pope Leo XII in 1829 there were 646 diocesan Bishops in the Latin Church. Of this number, excluding those in the Papal States, only twenty-four were directly appointed by Rome.29 The present practice, therefore, is fairly recent. It has historic foundations in the chaos created in Europe by the French Revolution and the fall of Napoleon, and by the withdrawal of the Italian government from the process of the appointment of bishops in Italy at the time of the unification. In default of any other responsible agent, Rome was suddenly confronted with the need to provide for hundreds of dioceses. But simply because a policy became necessary at a certain time due to historical circumstances does not mean that it is prudent to continue that policy in all future times. It is obviously not a practice required by the nature of the primacy but one which developed because of historical circumstances.


Clearly linked, then, with the doctrinal truth of collegiality is the principle of subsidiarity. John Mahoney, S.J. has made the point that the word "subsidiarity" derives from the Latin word "subsidium" which means "help" or "support".30 Hence the principle of subsidiarity means that a larger social body with more resources does not routinely absorb the role or functions of smaller and less powerful bodies. But it does help and support the smaller bodies to be able to fulfill their own role. This principle, enunciated first by Pope Pius XI 1931 in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, gained wider understanding in the Church through the Encyclical of Pope John XXIII Mater et Magistra. These two encyclicals, however, speak of this principle in regard to secular society.

But in a little-cited address to newly named Cardinals in 1946, Pope Pius XII explicitly stated that the principle of subsidiarity applies also to the internal life of the Church. The Pope says,

Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, in his Encyclical on the social order Quadragesimo Anno, drew from this line of thought a practical conclusion and enunciated a principle of universal validity: what single individuals, using their own resources, can do of themselves, must not be removed and given to the community. This principle is equally valid for smaller and lesser communities in relationship to larger or more powerful communities. And the wise Pope (i.e Pius XI) goes on to explain, "This is true because all social activity by its nature is subsidiary; it should serve as a support for the members of the social body and never destroy them or absorb them." These words are indeed illuminating. They apply to all levels of life in society as well as to the life of the Church, without prejudice to her hierarchical structure.31

And Pius XII goes on to say,

... The Church as she moves through history pursues without hesitation the providential path of the times. So profound is this sense, this vital law of continual adaptation, that some incapable of rising to such magnificent perspectives, dismiss it all as opportunism. But no, the universal vision of the Church has nothing to do with the narrowness of a sect or with a self- satisfied imperialism which is a prisoner of its own traditions.32

A careful study of this address shows that the idea of subsidiarity in the Church is not a mere secondary consideration or an afterthought. It is central to what the Pope is saying. Important too is the fact that he contrasts subsidiarity in the Church with the centralization of the imperialistic societies of our time.33

Subsidiarity in the Church has been a continuing concern. A distinguished member of the Curia, Archbishop Giovanni Benelli, while serving as Substitute Secretary of State, made this observation,

The real, effective power of jurisdiction of the Pope over the whole Church is one thing. But the centralization of power is another. The first is of divine law. The second is the result of human circumstances. The first has produced many good things. The second is an anomaly.34

This concern has been expressed now over a period of thirty years. The Synod of 1967 voted to apply subsidiarity in the revision of the Code of Canon Law. The Synod of 1969 voted in favor of applying it to episcopal conferences. And in the Preface to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, we read that one of the important principles which underlies the new law is "the principle of subsidiarity which must all the more be applied in the Church since the office of the bishops and their powers are of divine law."35 Notice that the reason given for subsidiarity is not because it is a sign of the times but for dogmatic reasons.

In order to do justice to this declaration of Pius XII, to the Vatican Council and subsequent documents, not to mention the aspirations of Catholics and other Christians who hope for unity, many of the existing procedures and policies involved in the "way of exercising the primacy" as well as of the papal Curia need to undergo a major and thorough revision. This should recognize the true authority given to bishops by Christ and proclaimed by both the First and Second Vatican Councils and the Popes who presided over them. Large segments of the Catholic Church as well as many Orthodox and other Christians do not believe that collegiality and subsidiarity are being practiced in the Catholic Church in a sufficiently meaningful way. The seriousness of our obligation to seek christian unity sincerely, means that this obstacle to unity cannot be overlooked or dismissed as if it were the quirk of malcontents or the scheme of those who want to undermine the papacy. On more than one occasion, Pope John Paul II has said,

We must take every care to meet the legitimate desires and expectations of our Christian brethren, coming to know their way, of thinking and their sensibilities.36


During a television interview I was once asked, "What is the strength of the Catholic Church?" The first thing I mentioned was the Pope. The Pope, because I was thinking about how the Second Vatican Council came about. The Church and the world have some very grave and serious crises today, Both are going through a profound cultural shift. But the Catholic Church would be in an even greater and mote chaotic condition if Pope John XXIII had not convoked the Vatican Council and given the Church a compass for this present turbulent age.

The Second Vatican Council is a witness of the importance of the Pope for the existence and well-being of the Church. Had there been no Pope, the bishops of the world thirty years ago would never of themselves have come together, the priests of the world would not have called for a Council and still less the lay people. But it was the vision of a Pope with true authority who called the Council. I think it very likely also that we would never have an encyclical such as Ut Unum Sint with its candor and openness if there had been no Council.

Neither the sources of Revelation nor the facts of history present to us an idealized Pope distanced from all human limitations and failings. Rather, the New Testament, theology and Christian art present two portraits of Peter. Peter the Apostle, Peter, first among the Apostles. And Peter, the weak human being, Peter, the penitent. While the ecumenical dialogues nave tended to deal with the first, more doctrinal aspect of Peter, the second and human aspect should not be overlooked. When we speak of the human dimensions of the holder of the petrine office we do not necessarily speak of, moral failure as in the case of Peter who denied Christ. We speak of what it means inherently to be human, and that is to be limited. Even if we were to say that this or that Pope was a perfect human being and a perfect Christian, he would still be a limited human being who could not know everything or please everyone.37 The distinguished Scripture scholar, Raymond Brown, has observed that we never cease to be scandalized that the mystery of salvation has been placed in human hands.

In considering the papal office and the call to christian unity, we have to confront the challenging truth that it is not permitted to defer unity until there is a Pope who can fulfill everyone's expectations or agenda. We cannot hold unity hostage until there is a perfect Pope in a perfect Church. Christian unity will require sacrifice. But it cannot mean that all the sacrifices must be made by those who want full communion with the Catholic Church while the Catholic Church herself makes no significant sacrifices. Of the individual Christian the Scripture Says, You have been bought at a price."38 Similarly, we all have to face the fact that unity among Christians will be bought at a price. All will have to sacrifice. If we are serious about the goal of unity, we must be serious about the cost of unity.

Gustavo Gutierrez was criticized by Rome for some of his work on liberation theology. When the media asked him his reaction he said, "I would rather walk with the Church than walk with my theology." He revealed his deep love for the Church even while suffering at her hands. Ignatius Loyola went to Rome with his first companions to offer themselves to the Pope for whatever mission he might wish to give them. He could not see the Pope just then because the Pope, Paul III, was in Nice dealing with political affairs and arranging the marriage of his grandson, Ottavio Farnese, to the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor. Yet Ignatius and the first Fathers waited for the Pope's return and then placed their talents, their future and their lives into his hands. They witnessed their faith and showed fidelity to the papacy in the face of the grave personal defects of the Pope.39 These are only a few instances in the long history of the Church of a wholehearted acceptance of and reverence in faith for the Church and for the person of the Pope and his office.

And as our thoughts range over the specific examples I have raised today, it is clear that there is an underlying issue that needs to be dealt with. Pope Eugene III had been a monk under St. Bernard at Clairvaux. In the course of the lengthy letter he wrote to Eugene on his election, Bernard admonishes him, "You have been more the successor of Constantine than the successor of Peter."40

This admonition of St. Bernard was directed at the pomp and adornment of papal public appearances, While the Vatican Council has brought a greater simplicity to the modern papacy, and John Paul II has introduced further simplifications, Bernard's comment readily brings to mind the tension between the political model and the ecclesial model at work in the Church. The fundamental concern of the political model is order and therefore control. The fundamental concern of the ecclesial model is communion and therefore discernment in faith of the diversity of the gifts and works of the Spirit. The claims of discernment and the claims of order must always coexist for one cannot be embraced and the other rejected. They must always exist in tension. But it is always wrong when the claims of discernment are all but eliminated in favor of the claims of order thereby making control and the political model the supreme good.

But in the end, the real question is not about the style, or "forms" or the "way of exercising" the papal office, important and critical as these are. For in this encyclical on Christian unity, there is the unspoken question driving everything else. The ultimate question which the Pope -- and all of us who seek the unity of Christians -- must ask first and last is: "What is the will of God?" The question we must address is in the last analysis not a question of management, it is not how to reconcile differences or resolve disputes. The question is "What is God's will for Peter?" This is the courageous question Pope John Paul II has raised, the question he admits he struggles with and which he cannot answer alone.

Newman, who was treated very badly by bishops and by Rome over a period of many years, stands as an example of the search for God's will in the face of great personal suffering at the hands of the Church and the undeniable human defects of her ministers. When asked whether he had found what he hoped for in the Catholic Church, he replied,

"Have I found," you ask of me, "in the Catholic Church, what I hoped and longed for?".. . I did not hope or long for any "peace or satisfaction," as you express it, for any illumination or success. I did not hope or long for any thing except to do God's will...41

The challenge of John Paul II to search out as brothers and sisters a new way of shaping the papacy as we approach the dawn of a new millennium is a sign of Christ, the Conqueror of sin and death and division. It is a sign of Him who is the Beginning and the end of all human history and who says, "Behold, I make all things new."42 Christ as Lord makes everything new, a new heavens, a new earth, a new humanity. He is drawing us all forward into the future by the Spirit of the new covenant of love. We and the whole of creation are straining toward that future which God has prepared for those who love Him and do His will.

I am conscious that what I have said here today in Newman's Oxford has potential for distorted reporting and distorted appropriation by various extremes with their own agenda. These agenda are not mine. I speak completely in fidelity to the Church, One and Catholic. Indeed in the Second Vatican Council many Cardinals and Bishops said much of what I have said here today.

My reflections, then, are offered as a response to the Pope by one who wishes to walk with him in an unbreakable communion of faith and love on the costly journey of discovery as together we search for the Will of God. It is the response of one who reverences the papal office and the person of the Pope, who loves the Church, who was born of her womb in Baptism, who received the name of Christ from her lips.

Most importantly, it is the response of one who prays to Christ each day as Newman did, "...that I may receive the gift of perseverance, and die, as I desire to live, in Thy faith, in Thy Church, in Thy service, and in Thy love."43


(1) Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, May 25, 1995; n.88

(2) See Encyclopedia of the Early Church, Oxford University Press, 1990; Peter, part V. Iconography; p.677

(3) Pope John Paul II, ibid. n.95

(4) ibid.n.96

(5) ibid.n.95

(6) See Raymond E. Brown, Antioch and Rome, Paulist Press, New York; c,VII, pp.124-125; c.IX, pp. 168-169

(7) Pope John Paul II, ibid. n.95

(8) See Y. Congar, Vraie et Fausse Reforme dans l'Eglise, Editions du Cerf, Paris, 1950; cc. 2 & 3

(9) See Y. Congar, O.P., Divided Christendom; Geoffrey Bles: The Centenary Press, London, l939 Appendix One, p. 277

(10) Pope Paul VI, Address to the Roman Curia, Sept 21, 1963. AAS, 55, Oct. 12, 1963; p.797

(11) Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Bishops' Pastoral Office in the Church, c.I:9-1O; Oct.28, 1965: The Fathers of this most sacred Council, however, strongly desire that these departments... be reorganized and better adapted to the needs of the times, and of various regions and rites. This task should give special thought to their number, name, competence, and particular method of procedure, as well as to the coordination of their activities."

(12) See Giuseppe Alberigo and Joseph A. Komonchak, History of Vatican II, Vol 1, Orbis/Peeters 1995; c.2, part V, n.l, pp.133- 135

(13) Pope Paul VI, Ibid. pp.795-6

(14) See Cardinal Yves Congar, Eglise at Papaute, Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, 1994; c. XI, n.3, pp.59-64; see also Emmanuel Ghikas, Comment "redresser" les definitions du premier concile du Vatican, Part II, La Primaute de Juridiction, Irenikon, vol.68, n.2, 1995, pp. 192-204

(15) See Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on The Church, n.21

(16) Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Bishops' Pastoral Office in the Church, c.I:9

(17) See ibid. n. 10

(18) J. Ratzinger, "Free Expression and Obedience in the Church"; in The Church, Readings in Theology, Compiled at the Canisianum, Innsbruck; P. J. Kenedy & Sons, New York; pp.194-217

(19) See Declaratio Collectiva Episcoporum Germaniae, February, 1875; Denziger-Schonmetzer, Editio XXXVI, Herder 1976, n.3113 & 3115; Pius IX, Letter to the German Bishops, Mirabilis illa constantia, March 4, 1875,ibid. n.3117

(20) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on The Church, n. 27

(21) See John R. Page, What Will Dr. Newman Do?,The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1994; c.2, p.120; c.3,p.129

(22) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on The Church, n.25

(23) Lc.22:32

(24) Jn.21:3

(25) See Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI, The Anchor Bible, Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1972; p. 1091

(26) "Quod autem omnes uti singulos tangit, ab omnibus approbari debet." See Code of Canon Law, 1983, canon 119, n. a. Code of Canon Law, 1917, canon 101, I,n.2; See also Cardinal Yves Congar, Eglise et Papaute, Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, 1994; c.2, pp. 42- 43

(27) John R. Page, What Will Dr. Newman Do?, c.2, p.109

(28) Norman P. Tanner, S.J., Editor, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Sheed & Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990; Council of Constance, Session 39; Vol 1, p. 438

(29) See Garrett Sweeney in Bishops and Writers, Anthony Clarke Books, 1977; 0.8, pp.199-200; c.9, pp. 207-231 (30) John Mahoney, S.J., Subsidiarity in the Church; The Month, Nov. 1988

(31) AAS,38. 1946; pp.144-46

(32) ibid.

(33) See Joseph Komonchak, "Subsidiarity in the Church: State of the Question"; in The Nature and Future of Episcopal Conferences, CUA Press, 1968; pp.298-344

(34) Quoted by Cardinal Yves Congar, Eglise et Papaute, Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, 1994; c.l, p. 28, b

(35) Codex Iuris Canonici, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1983; Preface, p.xxii, n.5, Latin text

(36) Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint,n.87

(37) Pope John Paul II, ibid. nn.91-93

(38) I Cor.6:2

(39) See John W. O'Malley, S.J. The First Jesuits, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1993; pp.71 & 191; Andre Ravier, S.J., St. Ignatius Loyola and the Founding of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1987:pp.29-35; Andre Ravier, S.J., Las Chroniques Saint Ignace de Loyola, Nouvelle Librairie de France, 1973; p. 40

(40) St. Bernard, De Consideratione, Romae, Editiones Cistercienses, 1963; Book IV, c. III, 6, p.453

(41) John R. Page, ibid.c.2, p.122

(42) Rev.21:5

(43) J.H. Newman, Meditations and Devotions, Christian Classics Inc.,1975; Prayer for a Happy Death.

Cardinal John O'Connor

Column for the July 25, 1996 edition of Catholic New York

A number of people have questioned me about a lecture given at Oxford by San Francisco's retired Archbishop John R. Quinn. Many have asked because of a report in The New York Times, as they almost always do because the Times is published in my bailiwick. Some, because the entire text has now been published in Commonweal (July 12, 1996), also New York-based. Most who ask me about the lecture don't know that the archbishop and I are friends. Nor would they necessarily know that he has a special, indeed, a reverent affection for the pope he is perceived as criticizing in his lecture, or that he has great respect for the Roman Curia that he is seen as censuring, at times, rather severely.

The lecture was titled "The Claims of the Primacy and the Costly Call to Unity." From reading the text, I judge it would have taken me about two-and-a-half hours to deliver, which is a lot of lecture. To reflect on it in even a long column, therefore, is difficult. Moreover, its nuanced, scholarly language does not yield easily to my rough journalese. If some of my comments sin, therefore, by oversimplification, certainly no misrepresentation is intended.

The archbishop's lecture takes as context Pope John Paul II's encyclical on Christian unity Ut Unum Sint ("That They May Be One") and offers a response to the pope's invitation to "fraternal dialogue." I had personally interpreted the pope's call to dialogue in this encyclical as an invitation to "church leaders and their theologians" of other Christian persuasion, rather than to Roman Catholics. Archbishop Quinn clearly considers it to be a call to Roman Catholic bishops, theologians and others to make recommendations to the pope.

I'm not sure our differences in interpretation are unimportant. The archbishop's interpretation calls for him to address a number of issues which he considers essential in relation to Christian unity, whereas I respectfully question how many such issues are the impediments to unity that the archbishop perceives them to be. Indeed, I question whether they would be the issues addressed by nonRoman Catholic Christian church leaders and theologians in response to the pope's call for dialogue. Very few of these issues, in fact, have been cited by those I have personally met with, such as Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexis of Moscow, Pope Shenouda III, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Manoogian or others, including leading Christian church leaders here in New York. It is my own conviction that the crucial obstacles to Christian unity remain doctrinal, including the very concept of the primacy of the pope, and not simply the mode of exercising the primacy.

Nonetheless, whatever my interpretation, it is not Archbishop Quinn's, and if I am to reflect on questions raised about his lecture, I must do so within the context of his interpretation and the issues that he considers relevant to Christian unity. First, however, I must emphasize that by no means does the archbishop indulge in wanton criticism of the Curia or any other individual or body. He has much good to say, for example, about the many hardworking, highly intelligent and dedicated members of the Curia. He is looking for ways of correcting what he believes to be inadequacies in the church he loves. But church in this context means people. So people come under criticism, but criticism that is neither personal nor vindictive.

Now to categorizing the issues. In the first category I would include the archbishop's reflections on ways of exercising the primacy of the pope, a reform of the Roman Curia, the question of collegiality vs. collaboration, the issue of synods.

The Primacy of the Pope

It is, of course, as the archbishop notes, the pope himself who wants 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." I would say that there can be no question but that the pope seeks dialogue to achieve unity, but at the same time, elsewhere in Ut Unum Sint, he makes sure to note that his office would be illusory without certain power and authority and that it is with this "power and authority" that he "must ensure the communion of all the churches" (No. 94). In other words, the pope can't "give away the store." Seeking a new way of exercising the primacy is a highly delicate and complex business, and I sincerely applaud Archbishop Quinn for trying to help our Holy Father think it through. Again, however, I question that this search for the best way to exercise primacy today in respect to other Christian churches is advanced by exploring the long list of specific issues the archbishop raises.

This aspect of the question of primacy is too intertwined with historical, political, cultural, theological and ecclesiological developments and debates, particularly between East and West, in my judgment, to be reduced to many of the issues popularly debated today and raised in the archbishop's lecture. But the archbishop does, indeed, legitimately provoke those who have paid too little attention to the pope's effort to begin trying to help him in that effort.

The Roman Curia is another matter altogether. (The Curia would be the rough equivalent of a president's Cabinet. Its members assist the pope in governing the church. Their authority is delegated by him.) The archbishop notes that he speaks from experience in dealing with the Curia. As a member of some 10 different congregations, pontifical councils and commissions, I share some of the archbishop's frustration, but for the most part for different reasons. I believe that many members of the Curia likewise experience frustrations. Doing the daily "business" of the church is demanding and complicated, rarely yielding to easy solutions. Indeed, back in 1985, I participated in a special consistory of the world's cardinals convoked by Pope John Paul II to study the organization. The result was the papal document Pastor Bonus, which introduced a number of significant reforms in governance in the interest of making things work better. My experience is that many members of the Curia regularly evaluate the way things are done and try to improve them not only in administrative, but in pastoral affairs as well.

When, for example, I was appointed a member of a council of 15 cardinals to study financial and organizational ways of doing business in the church in Rome (we were running an atrocious annual deficit), I was struck by both the frustration and the openness of curial cardinals, the secretary of state and the pope himself. They sincerely wanted and knew they needed radical improvement. The council of cardinals contributed significantly. Eventually, with the advent of Detroit's former archbishop, Cardinal Edmund Szoka, to a key position in the Curia, the deficit was turned around. Business is now done in the black.

Similar complexities, hence potential frustrations, confront the Curia in regard to pastoral issues, including those which relate to the office of each bishop to teach, to sanctify, to govern. We are a huge church. Precisely how can the Curia or the pope himself, even working through nuncios and apostolic delegates in countries throughout the world, satisfactorily support every bishop, in every country, in every culture in shepherding his people? It's a terribly difficult thing to do. Bishops may differ widely in their experiential backgrounds and in resources available to them. I find curial officials consulting bishops and others far more frequently than might appear to be the case. As with all consultation, members of the Curia find themselves not infrequently getting differing accounts from different individuals consulted. Wherein lies the truth? Or the whole truth?

If, for example, the Congregation for Catholic Education consults elected officials of a national episcopal conference on educational matters in a given country, can it be assured that they adequately represent the thinking of the majority of bishops? I'm not suggesting deliberate misrepresentation, but the pragmatic problem of learning what bishops and their people really think. And what of minority opinions? Might they in some circumstances be better-informed opinions? I have personally never ascribed to Robert's Rules of Order as guaranteeing infallibility.

The Nomination of Bishops

One of the most frequently challenged congregations is the Congregation for Bishops. (Congregations include cardinals, bishops and others from throughout the world. The Congregation for Bishops includes at this moment some 40 members: 31 cardinals, nine archbishops and bishops. A number of these have been nuncios in the very countries that may be under discussion.) I have been a member for 11 years, a high privilege, but not one devoid of frustrations.

The procedure that precedes final nomination of any priest to our Holy Father, or of proposing a bishop for transfer from one see to another, is far more elaborate and calls for far more extensive consultation than the archbishop describes in his lecture.

How do the 40 human beings who comprise the congregation sort out the immense amount of data submitted on various proposed candidates or, far more difficult, the varieties of testimonies offered? What is the motive of an individual giving testimony? Have they been hurt by the candidate at some time? Have they been longtime friends? Has the consultation been broad enough? (Not everyone realizes how broad it usually is or the number of bishops, priests, deacons, women religious and laypersons consulted.)

Is this candidate best suited to meet the needs of God's people in this diocese? How do we try to get at all this? We pray, we read, we discuss, we argue, we listen, we vote. But above all we hope that we are guided by the Holy Spirit, and we take comfort in the fact that only the Holy Father can make the decision.

Is the process faulty? In my judgment, it is, but because we are human beings functioning within the human condition, less than because of the system itself. Nor would I personally think that moving in any of the directions Archbishop Quinn describes would improve the situation. For instance, he notes that in 1829 there were 646 diocesan bishops in the Latin church and that, excluding the Papal States, only 24 of these were appointed directly by Rome. But how many of the non-Roman appointees were appointed by emperors, kings and other rulers? Surely that would be the last thing we would want to return to.

Would anyone want any president of the United States, of any party, involved in appointing bishops? In fact, it has often been rumored that the first archbishop of New York, the famous "Dagger John" Hughes, never received the red hat of a cardinal precisely because President Abraham Lincoln wrote to the pope in favor of the archbishop's promotion. True? Who knows?

Another old-time usage was for "cathedral chapters" to appoint bishops. If one is looking for a way to broaden input on appointments or to make them more "democratic," this would hardly be the way to go. A cathedral chapter is a relatively small body of priests technically charged with the spiritual and temporal concerns of a cathedral. Hardly a populist approach to the election of a bishop.

The archbishop raises a question in regard to the appointment of bishops, however, that I can't answer. Are bishops appointed over the objection of the people and the priests? I simply don't know of any; perhaps he does. It is certainly possible, of course, that here and there a bishop has been appointed over the objection of some people and some priests, how many of either I don't know. I can think of protests in certain European countries. I know of none in the United States, although certainly some people complain to the Holy See that a certain bishop is either too liberal or too conservative.

And as for election of the bishop by the priests and people, I don't know that any one of us can hazard more than a guess about how such a system might work. It would seem to me-but I have no empirical data or personal experience -that it would be an extraordinarily difficult approach, subject to great emotional forces, dependent on enclaves of individuals who know a prospective candidate personally and so on. Human nature being what it is, could it indeed tend to generate political campaigns for the episcopacy? Who can say?

In my own judgment, the situation today is so radically different from that of St. Augustine's day-he was not only popularly elected, but almost forced to accept-that we cannot compare the two. Hence, we are really without any modern experience to guide us. Should the idea be explored? Why not? Any bishop would be free to design a prospective approach and submit it to the Holy Father, but one reality must be faced. Election, whatever the procedure, is really "nomination." Only the pope can make the actual appointment. One thing such a system might do might be to protect an archdiocese like New York from someone like the present incumbent. In my wildest fancy I cannot imagine being elected to this extraordinary see.

Does the Curia in general interpose its own authority between the pope and the college of bishops? My guess would be that some curial authorities might well act to supersede the authority of an individual bishop or reject a proposal (in liturgy, for example) of a national conference of bishops. I do not see how anyone in the Curia could in practice interpose between the pope and the college itself. The college of bishops, after all, includes the supreme authority, the pope, the bishop of Rome.

Do members of the Curia try to influence the pope? Of course they do. I would consider that natural, just as I consider it natural for individuals in the New York chancery to try to influence me. Are some members of the Curia overly zealous? Were those, for example, who might have preferred that the Second Vatican Council not occur, too aggressive in their objections? Can I automatically assume nefarious motives or "ultraconservatism" on their parts, or did they act out of a sincere love of the church? After all, the story is still floating around that the famous "ultraconservative" Cardinal Ottaviani had been privately mandated by the "liberal" Pope John XXIII to make sure the council didn't go "too far"! Wheels within wheels? Who knows?

Don't we see in our own bishops' conference those bishops who in public, on the floor of the conference, argue for various positions? Do the "conservatives" love the church more than the "liberals" or vice versa? I must reject either hypothesis categorically. I have too many friends in each camp, and I know their sincerity.

The Question of Authority

But let's examine the question of authority.

The pope acts through authority that he himself delegates in carrying out the ordinary affairs of the church. Is the Curia, then, pre-empting authority when it acts in his name or on the basis of his delegation? Admittedly I have been personally irked at times by the tone of letters received from a prefect or secretary of this or that body, and I have disagreed at times with decisions affecting "my" area of responsibility. In such cases I have expressed my views, sometimes quite firmly, but I have never had reason to believe that my authority was being arbitrarily usurped. Had I believed such, I would have appealed to "Peter," the right of every bishop.

Moreover, in all due honesty, I must admit that when a situation in New York is involved, I could be readily tempted to minimize the importance of universal doctrine. We are, after all, the Catholic Church. We are not congregational.

But could not some curial officials be more sensitive and more consultative? Which of them would deny the need? Indeed, which of us bishops are always unconditionally sensitive to our pastors, our religious, our people at large? Which pastor never grouses over the alleged insensitivity or unavailability of his bishop for consultation? Which pastor, in turn, is unfailingly sensitive and available to everyone in his parish? Some are, certainly. Is everyone? It's the human condition.

On synods, I not only agree with the archbishop that they could be improved, I'll share an anecdote to that effect. In the final session of a synod in which I participated, we were all asked for ideas for the next synod. One ranking cardinal suggested quite seriously that we should have a synod on synods! I agreed, as did others. I suspect synods could be far more fruitful. It is not the case in my experience, however, that bishops are not given enough input into proposing topics for synods. As memory serves me, we have all been asked on a number of occasions. Then, after a topic has been determined, we are all sent the "working document" to have at as we please before a final document is agreed on.

Collegiality vs. Collaboration

From my viewpoint, one of the most interesting issues Archbishop Quinn addresses is that of collegiality vs. collaboration. A key illustration he uses to suggest that the Holy Father tends to act "collaboratively" rather than "collegially" IS particularly fascinating to me because I was personally involved in the situation he describes.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Archbishop Quinn and I were asked to serve on a papal commission to address some matters of interest to the church in Seattle and the church in Rome. I felt privileged to work with both prelates, and despite the complexities of the situation, the three of us saw eye to eye and made our recommendations accordingly.

What surprises me now is what I considered to be the collegiality of the process, Archbishop Quinn apparently considered it to have been not collegiality, but collaboration. It seems to me we were treated as equals by the nuncio in Washington, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, the prefect for the congregation on doctrine, the secretary of state, the pope himself. To me, that was collegiality at its best. We designed and executed the process. We sat with the Holy Father and others named above to discuss our findings and to make recommendations, every one of which, to my recollection, was accepted. Nor was the commission itself mandated by the Holy Father. The idea came from bishops of the United States, who so advised the nuncio.

Are we talking semantics here or is Archbishop Quinn on to something in distinguishing between collegiality and collaboration as he does? He may be, but I'm not sure they differ in practice in relations between bishops and the pope. In fact, some theologians argue that the biblical meaning in the Second Vatican Council's understanding of church structure is expressed in the term collaboration, used some 15 times in the New Testament.

Like no other this term dominates the different council texts. What is demanded is a 'fraternal collaboration of the faithful' (Gaudium et Spes, 21), a 'parochial and interparochial, diocesan and interdiocesan, national and international collaboration' (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 10), a liturgical, missionary, economic, social and political collaboration, and especially a collaboration of the faithful, priests and bishops among one another and with one another, a collaboration from below up and from above down (Johann Auer and Joseph Ratzinger, The Church: The Universal Sacrament of Salvation, pp. 170-171).

Maybe we should use the term collegial collaboration to characterize the approach of this pope. At the same time, I would encourage Archbishop Quinn to pursue from a theological or ecclesiological perspective the distinction he makes. It's an interesting subject.

The Catechism Translation

I am surprised, however, by the archbishop's use of the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as illustrative of the undue exercise of authority by the Curia and a violation of collegiality. The archbishop says, for example: "The majority of English-speaking cardinals of the world supported the original translation (of an English-speaking task force) and vigorously opposed any new translation." This is news to me and to other English-speaking cardinals I have talked with. I may have missed the process completely, but I have no recollection that we were consulted and certainly no recollection of being asked if we supported or opposed the draft of the English translation. Most of us were on the fringes, dependent largely on hearsay.

The archbishop says the process suggests that English-speaking cardinals and bishops were considered incompetent "as teachers of the faith to judge the appropriateness or accuracy of an ecclesiastical document in their own language." I simply don't know how the archbishop arrives at such a conclusion. At most, it seems to me, those appointed to do the initial translation, a very small group, were considered by the Holy See to have come up with a less-than-satisfactory document, and one or two of the English speakers on the English-speaking task force, as I understand it lost the argument in favor of that particular document. The cardinals of the English-speaking world in general, to my knowledge, were simply not involved.

I personally worked very hard in preparing a full year's worth of homilies based on the catechism and delivered them Sunday after Sunday in St. Patrick's Cathedral until I had preached it in its entirety. I consulted the disputed English text, much of which I found good, some of which I did not consider accurate.

While public controversy seemed to focus on the question of "inclusive" language, my problems stemmed from what seemed to me to be confusing interpretations-not great in number, but enough that might have confused general readers on matters of doctrine. As a result, I preferred to work directly from the French, the Italian and the Spanish. The Italian seemed to me to be the most useful. Interestingly, however, when the "approved" English publication finally appeared, much of the original draft had been retained. I saw the entire exercise as an effort to be as accurate as possible in an official universal catechism, the first after so many years. I certainly didn't construe it as an insult to English-speaking cardinals or bishops.

In my judgment, the real problem is that an "official" French version appeared before an official universal Latin version was published. I believe it should have come first. Since it did not, many people worked off the French, with mixed results. As a matter of fact, I received only today in an all-bishops mailing from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops a form to make note of any changes we believe should be made in the current approved English text as the Latin text is being created. The guide I used in my own unofficial "preaching" translation was my own estimate of what the bishops of the world teach and would intend the catechism to say.

Archbishop Quinn may know something of the consultation process that I am unaware of. If so, I regret seeming to contradict him, but I believe factual data are at issue here.

Popularly Debated Issues

In a second category, which I will treat much more briefly although without demeaning its importance, I would include under the rubric of the Curia as an impediment to Christian unity many of the popularly debated issues that the archbishop addresses. Such would be, for example, the decline in priests, hence of Masses available to the people, celibacy, the role of episcopal conferences (hardly, I would suspect, the hottest item with the laity), the role of women, ordination of women, contraception, general absolution.

First, my surprise at attributing the decline in numbers of priests in any way to the Curia. I simply don't understand that one, much less as an impediment to Christian unity. Most "First World" bishops are gravely troubled by the decline in the numbers of priests. Many have a pretty good handle on the reasons and are working on them. Some obstacles are soluble, some may be intractable at the moment. I do not know of any other bishop who has cited any obstacles to vocations caused by the Curia. I'm willing to learn. If the Curia is impeding vocations, I'm not clear on how this would impede Christian unity. The archbishop should certainly spell this out. If he is right, corrective action is strongly needed.

Celibacy? Could it really be discussed much more than it has been? Should it be? Can it be without arousing false expectations? Has responsible discussion in an appropriate forum been radically interdicted by the Holy Father or the Curia? Is the impact on Christian unity, if there is such, attributable to the fact that various other Christian churches have a married clergy?

For some 27 years of my life as a military chaplain, I lived and worked with married chaplains of all religious persuasions on a first-name basis and knew their wives as good friends. We spoke very frankly on many things, including Christian unity. Not once was my celibate status ever invoked by any of them as an obstacle. Indeed, I found many of them highly respectful of celibacy itself. That, of course, is only my personal experience. Such questions, however, provoke in my own mind the immense opportunities this pope has provided by way of the ad limina visits open to every bishop in the world every five years.

During the ad limina visits the Holy Father customarily meets all the bishops from a given area such as the province of New York in a group. He is given a brief presentation and gives a brief address. He invites all the bishops to lunch (it takes two days for New Yorkers), where the discussion is totally unrestricted. He meets privately with each ordinary individually. As I understand it, we are perfectly free, indeed, encouraged to tell him what we think, what we see as problems and so on.

Is it possible that we are not preparing adequately for these visits, hence, not surfacing questions we should? Are we lacking the courage of our convictions if we fail to present issues that we consider critical or in need of discussion? In any event, I do not see that we can fault the Curia if we are not maximizing these opportunities with our Holy Father. As a matter of fact I have the impression that the regularly scheduled visits of the leadership of the bishops' conferences to members of the Curia, quite apart from the ad limina visits, have yielded very open discussion, dispelled a number of misunderstandings and, in general, been quite helpful to our conference.

The ordination of women? Is it discussion of the subject that is needed or a clear explanation of church teaching? Wouldn't we dispel a great deal of confusion and not a little bit of rancor if we did for our people what Jesuit theologian Father Avery Dulles did for us bishops at a semiannual meeting this year in Oregon? He gave an absolutely marvelous address on the issue, both explaining and supporting the interventions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and our Holy Father himself, while simultaneously delineating the solid grounds for the church's position. In any event, from the perspective of Christian unity, whatever the effect the ordination of women as Catholic priests would have on unity with Protestant Christians, I suspect it would be devastating to unity with Orthodox Christians.

The use of general absolution? Again Archbishop Quinn's recollection differs from mine. This question has been openly discussed with the Curia. In 1989, 35 cardinals and archbishops of the United States were invited to Rome to discuss a variety of items informally with our "opposite numbers" in the Curia. I was astonished and privileged to be asked to share giving the keynote address with Cardinal Ratzinger. The subject was "The Bishop as Teacher of the Faith." During the discussion, I personally raised and encouraged the potential use of general absolution as I had done on the floor of the bishops' conference in Washington, based on my own experience as a military chaplain. Cardinal Ratzinger gently but very incisively disagreed, offering a number of what seemed to me to be significant arguments. I personally had no valid response.

We all know of abuses of general absolution. There have been some instances in which its use was so widespread and routine that the ordinary practice of confession had been virtually abandoned. I am unaware of any instance in which, truly required, it would be canonically prohibited or "denounced" by the Curia. What is imperative, of course, is that as soon as possible after general absolution is used in justifiable circumstances, mortal sins must still be confessed. Sometimes that can be forgotten.

We have discussed the matter in the New York priests' council, an advisory body of some 36 priests. From my perspective, no convincing arguments prevailed. But I have certainly never considered it an undiscussable issue. Perhaps a broader airing in an appropriate forum would help.

I would be surprised if discussion were interdicted by the Curia, but since the Holy See has a grave responsibility for universal doctrinal teaching and practice, I would not think we should be upset in being required to submit the results of such discussions to the Holy See for decision. That helps make us "church," and again I do not see it as an obstacle to Christian unity.

The Right Forum

In my judgment, much the same could be said about a number of other issues the archbishop raises, simply too numerous and important to be treated in this already inordinately long column. I believe that many questions are discussable in the right forum. I do not believe that their purported nondiscussability is either a Curia-imposed obstacle to unity nor do I believe that the Curia prohibits their discussion.

Compare, after all, at least some of what is said about the Curia and the individual bishops to the situation in our own National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which itself struggles periodically to improve its ways of doing business. We are a big, unwieldy body, parliamentary procedure notwithstanding. We are expected to study reams of documents in advance of meetings. Many busy bishops simply can't do it. We have an impossibly lengthy agenda, with most agenda items meritorious, a severely limited period of time, a great number of bishops wanting to address many of the issues and so on.

In terms of feeling "intimidated," I honestly believe that some bishops feel more intimidated on the floor of the bishops' conference than they do by anyone in the Curia. I don't suggest that as critical of the bishops' conference, but simply as reflective of what I believe to be the reality. One man's friend can be perceived as another man's intimidator.

I know the situation differs in kind from that of the Curia, but the human limitations are similar. And we must admit that some bishops leave some NCCB meetings convinced that they didn't get a hearing, that the staff had rigged the whole business, that a select few ran the show, etc., etc., etc. Then we all go home knowing in our heart of hearts that the tone of our respective dioceses and what is done or left undone is far, far more up to us as bishops than to the NCCB or anyone else. Including, I would say, the Curia.

I cannot conclude without a passing reference to one of Archbishop Quinn's own concluding statements. "We all have to face the fact that unity among Christians will be bought at a price. All will have to sacrifice. If we are serious about the goal of unity, we must be serious about the cost of unity." In order that I may express an enthusiastic "Amen," may I add what I am absolutely certain would yield Archbishop Quinn's unqualified agreement: "Unity itself can be achieved only in truth, which can never be sacrificed."

Early in his lecture, the archbishop references speculation that ultraconservative Christians had betrayed Peter and Paul to Roman authorities and brought about their deaths. He implies his fear that similar forces could thwart the church's meeting the new situation of our day which he likens analogously to the day of primitive Christianity. I'm much more optimistic. The Holy Spirit who came upon the church at Pentecost is far too dynamic to be hemmed in by either "ultraconservatives" or "ultraliberals." The winds of the Spirit blow where they will and the fire of the Spirit flames up in its own appointed time..:

Bishop James McHugh

Discussion of Archbishop John Quinn's lecture at Oxford appeared in the August 2, 1996 issue of The Catholic Star Herald.

Retired Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco recently gave a lecture at Oxford University in England. He focused on the primacy of the papal office in the modern world. By primacy we mean that the pope, like Peter, is the head of the college of bishops, and by Christ's design, he enjoys ordinary and immediate authority over the whole church. He confirms and inspires the ministry of the bishops in their dioceses and their teaching responsibility as members of the college of bishops. Archbishop Quinn recognized both the collegiality of the bishops and the primacy of the pope. But in his lecture he takes up a statement of Pope John Paul II in a recent encyclical on ecumenism, That All May Be One. Toward the end of the encyclical John Paul II speaks of the particular ministry of the pope to be the center of unity for the Catholic Church and to promote unity with other Christian communities seeking unity in the church of Christ. The pope says he is convinced that he has a "particular responsibility" to meet the request of other Christian communities "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" (No. 95). Thus the Holy Father asks whether, on the basis of the imperfect communion existing among the Christian churches and the continuing ecumenical dialogue, the leaders and theologians of the Christian churches might engage in a patient and fraternal dialogue with the primary goal of achieving unity.

Archbishop Quinn focuses on the words "open to a new situation," though he never describes precisely what he sees that "new situation" to be. Certainly it could be the worldwide visibility and popularity of the pope as a consequence of his travels, writings and audiences in Rome. It could be the growing rift between Catholicism and other Christian churches over doctrinal matters such as the primacy, abortion, the divinity of Christ, the permanence of marriage and the ordination of men only to priesthood. Surely these, and others, are hotly contested issues- more so today than during the Second Vatican Council.

In Archbishop Quinn's view, it seems to be the pope's exercise of the papal office which he thinks is presently inadequate and ineffective. Thus, the rest of his essay deals with the ways in which the pope functions -exercising his primacy-primarily within the Catholic Church.

I am not convinced that the exercise of the primacy-especially within Catholicism-is necessarily "the new situation" the pope refers to. For me, the new situation confronting all the Christian churches is the pervasive secularism of the present age, which reduces all Christian faith to irrelevance. For the pope and bishops, the bishops and leaders of all Christian churches, the major challenge is to overcome secularism-to restore a sense of the sacred, of religious mystery, a realization of human deficiency and inadequacy to solve all problems and thus reawaken the need for faith and trust in God. Faith is the source of unity, and the successor of Peter can call all the churches to find new ways to help strengthen the faith of their people.

However, Archbishop Quinn's analysis leads him to focus on the internal structures of the Catholic Church. Thus, he looks at the Roman Curia, that is, the offices in Rome that assist the pope in carrying out his duties. Quinn believes that the Curia has interposed itself between the pope and the bishops, and thus, far from helping both to work in unity, it attempts to interpret the pope's will and make up for the weaknesses of the episcopal college. Quinn draws on some personal experiences and what seems to be hearsay evidence. He gives the impression that the Curia doesn't trust bishops or episcopal conferences, and thus is unwilling to consult them.

My experience is just the reverse. Having been involved in a number of projects over the years, I find that the curial offices generally go to great lengths to consult theologians and other scholars, representatives of bishops' conferences and laypersons involved in the daily life of the church. In truth, the Curia is understaffed, overworked, subject to constant change of personnel and thus hard put to keep up with its own workload. Some may consider it a poor model of a professionalized civil service, but then it has other purposes.

Quinn also criticizes the process for the selection of bishops. He claims that "it is not uncommon for bishops of a province to discover that no candidate they proposed has been accepted" and that "it may happen that candidates whom bishops. do not approve at all may be appointed."

Those statements are hard to verify.

If one looks at appointments in California and Texas, almost all originated as priests of the dioceses in those states. So also New York and New Jersey. And while I can find one or two who may not have been put forward by their own diocesan bishop, they have been very effective once appointed. Quinn claims that a weakness of the process is that while bishops can suggest candidates, the real decisions are made by the nuncio, the Congregation for Bishops and the Secretariat of State. But Quinn does not recognize that the method of proposing candidates in the United States does not function well. For instance, consultations among priests rarely achieve more than 10 percent participation.

Archbishop Quinn suggests that it may be highly effective if all the bishops of the world convened in Rome for a minicouncil every 10 years. I agree with-this suggestion. While it would be difficult and such meetings could not accomplish as much as the Second Vatican Council in its four-year life span, it would bring the college of bishops together with the pope and allow all to understand better the universal problems of the church.

Archbishop Quinn covered a great deal more in his lecture, and I found it useful and thought provoking. I suspect we haven't heard his last word, and I'm sure this lecture will touch off some further discussion and debate.

Archbishop Rembert Weakland

July 11, 1996 column in The Catholic Herald.

The Holy Father is aware that in every ecumenical dialogue the question of the papacy ultimately arises. He knows that it is a stumbling block to all unity. Although very much aware of the special role he has as pope, namely, to be the servant of unity in the church, in a rare gesture of openness and willingness to listen, he asked that our partners in dialogue reflect with us on ways that the exercise of this role might be changed to make this Petrine ministry less of an obstacle to unity.

In particular, the Holy Father posed this question to the Orthodox churches. Their response thus far in public has been muted.

Recently Archbishop John Quinn, former archbishop of San Francisco, took up the challenge in a speech at Oxford University in England in an effort to be of help. What he said openly can often be heard in the dialogue with the Orthodox, especially in the corridors.

The Orthodox have less of a problem with the question of infallibility than with the way the pope exercises a universal jurisdiction over the whole church. In this they are very "republican" and emphasize the rights of the local churches. We would say that they believe strongly in the doctrine of subsidiarily within the church.

Archbishop Quinn would have more participation of the local churches in the governance of the universal church with the Holy Father and less control and interference by the Curia. In Catholic circles he thus articulated again something that was much discussed during Vatican Council II and in the decades that followed but that did not lead to positive results. The Synod of Bishops was to be this ongoing forum. It has proven to be a useful but very limited symposium on restricted topics, with no governance role.

Archbishop Quinn also pointed out the need for more local involvement in the selection of bishops. Perhaps this is the most delicate area of concern in the Catholic Church throughout the world today and one that has the priests and the faithful the most disconcerted. Here in the United States a large consultation that included the laity was customary during the years following the council. Now such a consultation has been reduced greatly.

On one extreme would be the election of the bishop by everyone in the local church. (I do not think that even the Orthodox would be in favor of that kind of an election.) Although there is historical precedence for this procedure, it also has its drawbacks and can politicize the local church. The other extreme is the appointment of the bishops by Rome without sufficient involvement and trust on the part of the local church.

Seeking the happy medium in this issue is urgent for the morale of priests and faithful throughout the world. Among the Orthodox, bishops are named by a synod of bishops. Their system seeks to respect the synodal nature of their church structure.

Archbishop Quinn also called for an ecumenical council before the year 2000 to open debate on some of the neuralgic points that seem to haunt the church today and where its teaching often is at odds with the practice of the faithful. (Among his urgent issues can be found many that a few of us bishops in the United States had listed as urgent in a document submitted to a committee studying the restructuring of the U.S. bishops' conference.)

Although I see much wisdom in the suggestion of another ecumenical council soon, I am not sure that we can have another such council in the West without posing the question of ecumenical participation. Whose council would it be? The Orthodox would be unenthusiastic about another council of the West only.

Underneath all of Archbishop Quinn's profound and wise analysis of the church today lies a quest for better models of shared responsibility between the local churches and the church of Rome, without diminishing the role of the Holy Father. On the local level one could say that we are searching for similar models. Are parish councils really fulfilling that task of shared responsibility within the parish community while respecting the role of the pastor? Are priest councils and diocesan pastoral councils doing so on the level of the whole local church?

We all know that stagnation can enter in when everything in a society has to be determined by a popular vote. Moreover, it is not in the nature and history of our hierarchical church. On the other hand, we also know that more involvement by everyone in the church and on all levels is needed, be it parish, diocese or universal church.

Archbishop Quinn has opened the needed discussion on the right issues, issues that will not go away and that are very much at the heart of the ecumenical dialogue. He accepted the pope's request to talk about the exercise of papal authority in our contemporary culture and has given some admirable insights on the direction such a discussion should take.

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