"Fr. Thomas Doyle, op., has an essay in The Tablet (24 July 2010) wherein he comments, mostly negatively, on some canonical procedural norms recently revised and published by Rome. My concern here, though, is with what I will call an “ecclesiology of despair” to which I think Fr. Doyle’s essay gives voice.
Concluding his criticisms of the new norms, Fr. Doyle asserts that: “They are tragic evidence that the hierarchical governing body of the Church is no longer capable of leading the People of God.” Now, for Catholics called to maintain communion with the Church in all things (c. 209), such an assertion, no matter what context occasioned it, is disturbing.
The “hierarchical governing body of the Church” is the pope and bishops in union with him (cc. 331, 336), usually operating dispersed throughout the world (cc. 375, 381), sometimes operating in an ecumenical council (c. 337). But let's be clear: the “hierarchical governing body of the Church” is not the ecclesiastical equivalent of, say, the Democratic or Republican Party (groups that can and do lose their mandate to govern in any number of ways), nor is the Church's hierarchy even the equivalent of the federal-state governmental system we know in America (a structure that need not have been adopted and that many nations do not follow). Not at all.
Rather, the “hierarchical governing body of the Church” is the divinely-mandated governing structure that Christ left to his Church. See Lumen gentium 8, 18-29. It is the way that Christ wants his Church to shepherd the People of God. To assert, then, that “the hierarchical governing body of the Church is no longer capable of leading the People of God” is to assert that Christ’s plan and his promise of abiding protection were insufficient to preserve (not so much individuals from sin, for they still have free will, etc., but rather, to preserve) the Petrine-Apostolic foundations of his Church from eventual collapse and, at least from then on, to save her very reason for existence from radical frustration. In short, one sighs in despair, So much for Christ and his divine promises.
Of course Fr. Doyle, blessed with free will, can urge this viewpoint, and others are, I trust, free to contradict him. But we should make no mistake about what his assertion implies for ecclesiology:..."
Monday, August 2, 2010
From the blog of Edward N. Peters, Canon Laywer: