Question of Collegiality Prompts Differing Views from Cardinals

One Speaks of Subsidiarity, Another of Service

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2001 ( A proposal for smaller, more-frequent and more-specialized synods was offered as Church leaders continued to discuss the nature of relations among bishops and their ties with the Pope.

Cardinals Godfried Danneels and Darío Castrillón Hoyos spoke on this topic Monday during the ongoing Synod of Bishops, proposing divergent solutions.

Cardinal Danneels, archbishop of Brussels and president of the Belgian episcopal conference, said: «The bishop is a member of the episcopal college, a college ´cum Petro et sub Petro.´ This implies the grace and duty of collegiality. The most important instrument of this collegiality is the Synod of Bishops. Its functioning is certainly to be improved; everything is to be more perfect.»

He later explained: «Any reforms must let all bishops have the possibility of speaking freely and being protected from external pressures, to develop all the issues that they deem important for the good of the Church.»

«Even if ordinary synods remain precious instruments of affective collegiality,» Cardinal Danneels added, «effective collegiality would be no doubt better served by convening more frequently — with a more restricted number of participants — synods that are more targeted and dedicated to one or more particular themes. These types of special synods have already been envisaged.»

Regarding relations between bishops´ conferences and Rome, Cardinal Danneels suggested the practice of subsidiarity.

No. 1883 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the principle of subsidiarity, according to which «a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society.»

In drawing up the texts of the magisterium, Cardinal Danneels proposed the practice of «´ars definiendi´ as well as ´ars persuadendi et communicandi.´»

«In this sense,» he said, «and taking into account almost unavoidable distortions practiced voluntarily or not by the large media, the Roman dicasteries could communicate their texts earlier, especially at the episcopal conferences, which live on volcanic soil where media eruptions are frequent and where the anti-authoritarian allergies from time to time take» on epidemic proportions.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, spoke of the figure of the bishop in different terms.

«As in better times in the Church, there are today bishops everywhere fully dedicated to evangelization, (and) not a few confessors and martyrs to the faith,» the Colombian cardinal said. «This hall also has the joy to be able to embrace brothers who have borne chains for Christ.»

He observed that modern man «builds his liberty on the absolute autonomy of his reason, living in the pretense of ´homo autonomous,´ who only accepts otherness on the basis of consensus, and the social rules for the democratic game.»

«There are people who alter this cultural scheme under the words
´communio-collegialitas,´ [which is] theologically weak,» Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos said. He emphasized that the «figure of the bishop, bearer of a message and a transcendent power, can only be fully understood in light of the risen Christ.»

«The ´munus regendi´ makes the bishop the first servant of the diocesan family,» the cardinal added. «The bishop is the ´sacramental leader´ of the local Church who, united to Peter, leads in the footprints of Jesus. He is the ´paterfamilias´ who takes total care of the house, [and] defends, feeds and purifies it.»

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos emphasized that the bishop «dominated by fear will be neither a man of the Gospel nor a man of hope.»

«Fearful of public opinion, he does not preserve the faith with timely correction,» the cardinal said. «Origen reminded a new bishop of St. Paul´s admonition: ´to be a teacher, capable of refuting those who contradict it, silencing the empty talkers and deceivers with his wisdom.´ St. Jerome added: ´The furious rage of wolves must be silenced by the barking of the dogs and the crook of the shepherd.´»

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos continued: «The bishop educates as a teacher, corrects as a leader, celebrates divine worship as a liturgist. As a governor he is firm in facing abuses, as a teacher he preaches morals, as a governor he reveals and corrects failures and preserves customs.

«The bishop, guide and leader of the diocesan community, does not fail to exert himself, so that Christ´s thought will find a place in public life.»

The cardinal ended with a proposal. Noting that the Church is faced with secularism, practical apostasy and the disregard of customs, he said: «Among the respectful propositions, perhaps we could present to the Holy Father one that would allow, in the choice of candidates to the episcopate … bishops that guide [the Church] with courage, in the spiritual line of Ignatius, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Eusebius of Vercelli, Borromeo, Faulhaber and those beyond the Iron Curtain who defended and maintained the faith.»

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