Saturday, December 07, 2013

Centralisation?

Over at Pray Tell they are getting excited about Pope Francis' ambition to 'decentralise'. But what does this mean?

They give the example of the translations of the liturgy. In the good old days, before the bad old Pope John Paul II (they say), the Bishops Conferences of the English-speaking world could propose a translation and Rome could say 'no': which, of course, they did. Now, Rome proposes a translation and the Bishops' conference then votes on it (they said 'yes').

I'm afraid I can't summon up much outrage about this. The notion of some body theoretically answerable to the Bishops' Conferences of the entire Anglosphere being 'decentralised' is pretty ludicrous. And if a system doesn't work, that seems a good reason to try something else.

They are clearly a bit stuck for examples, so they turn to Summorum Pontificum.

'In another decision with implications for the relationship between Rome and bishops, the 2007 moto proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict gives every priest the right to celebrate Mass according to the books in use before the Second Vatican Council, taking this decision out of the hands of the local bishop who previously had to give his permission.'

Is this supposed to be an example of centralisation? To devolve authority from bishops to parish priests?

In fact of course Rome was heavily involved in the question of the Vetus Ordo before Summorum Pontificum - far too involved. We now know that the indults and celebrets coming from Rome pre-Summorum Pontificum were legally pointless as well as time-consuming and complicated.

Pray Tell's attitude is revealing. This is the blog above all which represents the lay and clerical apparatchiks of the Church's bureaucracy. These are the guys who advised the Bishops so brilliantly, over the decades, on how to cover up clerical abuse, how to wreck irreplaceable historic buildings, and how to give in to abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage. Some bishops resisted this better than others, but there is no mistaking the culture of the machine with which they had to deal.

Now they are complaining when power is taken away from them. It doesn't matter where it goes: to Rome, to parish priests, or to bishops who tell them to get lost. They say the first is 'centralisation', they say the last is 'clericalism', and they say the second is just bad.

Well, their time is drawing to an end.


6 comments:

  1. Excellent. Of course, the supreme act of 'centralization' of the past 50 years was the imposition of a new form of Roman Mass - seemingly legally required of all Roman Rite Catholics - from a central source, Rome. Even Pope Pius V didn't require all Roman Rite Catholics to adopt his Missal in the 16th century. Bugnini would not have had the success he did without centralization.

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  2. The important point about this discussion of Bishops Conferences and decentralisation, is that the Pope, The Vicar of Christ, who has responsibility to guard and further Christ’s teaching, may delegate, subject to his approval, but he cannot cede his authority, since it is not his to cede.

    As Pope his authority extends over all bishops, and any decisions made by bishops or bishop conferences which are contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, are invalid and must be reversed, on pain of excommunication.

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  3. Sorry. Missed out two important words, should now read.

    The important point about this discussion of Bishops Conferences and decentralisation, is that the Pope, The Vicar of Christ, who has responsibility to guard and further Christ’s teaching, may delegate, subject to his approval, but he cannot cede his authority, since it is not his to cede.

    As Pope his authority extends over all bishops, and any decisions made by bishops or bishop conferences which are contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, are invalid and must be reversed, on pain of excommunication by him.

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    1. Absolutely. Ideally, when you have good bishops (and conferences) teaching the faith well on the local level that is great - and in a sense normative (i.e. the principle of subsidiarity). When they see it as an excuse to "do their own thing" - to be out of communion with the See of Peter - that is when the Pope MUST step in.

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  4. I think the difficulty here is that ecclesiology is really a means to an end for many progressives.

    Paul VI with some pretty sweeping acts of centralization imposed the 1970 Missal (and de facto abrogated the TLM), swept away minor orders and the Index, among many other things. Suddenly, progressives could find ways to love Roman centralization. It produced fruits they admired and coveted.

    When it started to move back in the other direction, beginning with Humanae Vitae, and progressed up to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Dominus Iesus, Summorum Pontificum and MR3, well...suddenly the old enthusiasm for bishops' conferences came back with renewed vigor. Why? Because most bishops' conferences have been, since the 70's, generally more liberal than Rome on most of these issues. Progressives generally controlled (and still do, to varying degrees) most conference bureaucracies (if not indeed the benches themselves), most chanceries, and most seminaries.

    Of course, as the U.S. Conference shifts in a more conservative direction, power is now urged to devolve to other levels. If a Conference (say Brazil) has enough numbers for direct democracy to produce the results they want, progressives will push it. If a particular diocese or jurisdiction lacks such a majority and rejects it (say, Campos), they would be happy to force uniformity on it from above.

    For too many, it's all results-oriented. Whatever gets the job done.

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