Monday, 4 June 2007


Someone—perhaps one of you will remember who it was—famously made the remark at Vatican II, when collegiality was being discussed, that holy writ only mentions one example of collegial decision making, when it records of the apostles: 'and they all ran away'.
One Cardinal Ratzinger first raised doubts about the theological underpinning of the priniciple in The Ratzinger Report, an interview with a journalist, Victor Messori, in the 1980s.
Looking at the way bishops govern their dioceses these days, one has a certain sympathy for his point of view. The point is, surely, that a bishop does belong to a college, but it is not primarily that of his brother bishops, but of his brother priests; those who belong to his diocese. It is them 'with whom he shares his priestly ministry', as the ordination rite puts it; it is to the care of this college that the people of the diocese are entrusted.
To jointly govern a country, rather than a diocese, risks all sorts of things; for instance (and not least) neglecting the very important Catholic principle of subsidiarity; it creates a system where one size fits all and, most crucially, it takes the bishop away from, precisely, the forum that he has been ordained/consecrated to serve.
A bishop's secretary of my acquaintance used to lament the huge sheaves of paperwork his master was expected to digest before every bishops' meeting. Paper generated by a new expensive civil service whose job it is to provide this stuff to justify their salaries. A priest friend observed that his diocese was employing (at full salaries) all sorts of people doing very little, but who had to nag or bombard already over-pressed parish clergy with paperwork, or demands for this or that, simply to have something to do.
Somehow, I think we need a simplification. Of course it is a good thing for bishops to meet, but it shouldn't be the principal legislative unit of the Church in this country.
As the Holy Father said all those years ago; bishops are of divine institution. Bishops' Conferences are not.


Sue Sims said...

The quip about collegiality I've seen attributed to Cardinal Ottaviani, but can't remember where.

Ttony said...

Well said, Father. You weren't expecting a call about preferment, I imagine.

Please don't confuse the Hierarchy's Bureaucracy with a Civil Service. I could put up with "A pseudo-Civil Service like thing" (or some such) but I don't want to be compared to or (horror!) confused with the bureaucrats in the diocese I live in.

A Priest said...

The pastoral care of priests by their bishops in the UK at least seems to be very poor, as does the lack of consultation. If it happened in industry or the commercial it would be though of as bad management, part of this comes from them failing to understand their headship of the Presbyteral College

Fr. Anonymous said...

I may be wrong, but I though that the bishops were only responsible for the pastoral care of the people at Eccleston Square and the good folks there (who are paid for by the priests and people of E and W) do all the pastoral care of the rest of us on behalf of the bishops.

The only exception seems to be those priests who have had the misfortune to be accused of offences against children (very often, falsely accused), for whom their pastoral care has been delegated to COPCA - the non-Catholic-led quango which we also have to pay for.

Or have I got it wrong all these years?

a priest once accused said...

"those priests who have had the misfortune to be accused of offences against children (very often, falsely accused)"

They don't have care, only terror, and the loss of everything.

Fr Justin said...

God bless you, Father. One of my predecessors was in that situation. It is truly horrible. I will remember you in my prayers.

abused said...

... and very often NOT falsely accused at all! Could you spare a prayer for those who have been sexually, physically, mentally or spiritually abused by 'priests' - could there be a worst betrayel of trust?

Fr Justin said...

Of course; such are frequently in my prayers.