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Inside the Vatican 


True Collegiality is Union with Peter

By John Mallon

Clearly, one of the worst ideas swirling around the conclave scuttlebutt is the notion of making the Church "less centralized" "more democratic" and "more collegial" with more authority given to local bishops' conferences." 

What a nightmare. 

In the United States alone the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been a source of constant exasperation and humiliation to faithful Catholics with documents being issued at times by the heavily left-wing bureaucratic staff. This has even happened without the approval of the bishops themselves. Two examples spring to mind: “The Many Faces of AIDS” of 1986 and “Always our Children”, both of which flew in the face of Magisterial teaching, and requiring rewrites.

Ask yourself: Do you really want the crowd that brought us the 2002 sex scandals tying the hands of the Pope? Can you imagine the brilliant encyclicals and Apostolic Letters of John Paul II tied up in committees as things are at the USCCB?

The Roman Catholic Church is not an "episcopal" church, but was founded by Christ on the Rock of Peter, and the Pope is Peter's successor. When I read of the people who support these so-called "collegial" ideas they read like a list of people who have done terrible harm to their dioceses and restricted the promulgation of the Gospel as it comes to us in Magisterial teaching.

Spare us, O Lord. 

There has been a myth going around that for 40 years Blessed John XXIII was somehow a "liberal" Pope, and he is cited as the darling of the so-called "Progressives." The fact is, when he was preparing to convoke the Second Vatican Council someone asked him, "Holy Father, you are not going to change doctrine, are you?" He is said to have snapped, "Never!" Yet the myth lives on.

Obviously, John XXIII knew that doctrine comes from Christ; it cannot change. Our understanding and insight into doctrine may deepen, but no one, including a Pope can change it.

There are those who say that Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger have "rolled back" the "openness" "ushered in by the Council." This too is nonsense. Young Bishop Wojtyla and young Father Ratzinger were among the architects of the Council and Wojtyla did a fair amount of the writing of the Vatican II documents.

Most hotly contested, as usual, are issues involving human sexuality. During his papacy John Paul II always spoke of human sexuality in terms of generosity, of self-gift—total self donation. "Progressives," on the other hand, characteristically always represent a pulling back from sacrifice—and therefore from love. Their agenda always speaks of truncating love. Every item on the agenda represents a pull-back from genuine love and self gift, in the name of a terrible and selfish pragmatism. Who wants a "barrier" erected within love? Yet, this is exactly what contraception does both physically and symbolically, and the "love" and the world is poorer for it.

Contraception led to promiscuity which led to abortion, and the separation of the unitive and the procreative aspects of sexuality led to widespread homosexuality which led to AIDS. (By the way, this separating of the procreative from the unitive also destroyed the sanctity, security and stability of the unitive love between spouses, which led to widespread divorce.)

In a nutshell, you have the cause of most of the social evils of the present day, all because the Magisterial teaching of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae was treated as a scoff law in most of the world, including those responsible for teaching the Faith..

Do I want more collegiality between the Pope and those bishops who failed or refused to support Papal teachings? Not a chance.

Another papal teaching treated as a scoff law is Ex Code Ecclesiae. Few are the bishops in the West who have seriously enforced the mandatum for theology professors which would protect the young from novelties and speculations taught under the auspices of Catholic higher education. The 1998 Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem requiring the Oath of Fidelity from persons in certain responsible positions, including theology and philosophy faculties at Catholic colleges and universities is another scoff law. 

National bishops' conferences are not Magisterial bodies. Only bishops teaching in union with the Sovereign Pontiff make up members of the Magestrium. 

So in essence, those calling for "collegiality" who fail to honor Magisterial teaching are in fact calling for collegiality when there is no unity. The Apostolic Letter Apostolos Suos spelled out the theological and juridical nature of episcopal conferences reaffirming that apart from the See of Peter, they do not have Magisterial authority.

More recently, Vatican directives concerning pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Communion appear to be "lost in committee" at the USCCB. Another scoff law?

John Paul II has led the Church into the 21st century while those who absurdly continue to be called "Progressives" are stuck in the 1960s. The Barque of Peter has sailed on with much of the youth on board, leaving the "Progressives" in the doldrums. To follow the "Progressives" is to go backwards in both time and ideas. Let's go forward with Peter.


Mallon is a Contributing Editor to Inside the Vatican.