- I. Ecclesiological Premises
- II. Aspects of the Democratic Crisis.
- III. Ecclesiological Prospects for Overcoming the Crisis.
- IV. Conclusion
1. Limitations of an Ecclesiology of the Particular Church
Before entering into the problem of the structure of the particular Church, it is useful to make a proposition of a general ecclesiological order on the relationship that exists between the particular and the universal Church. This proposition is justified by the fact that the problem of the so-called “democratization” of the Church is posed – at least in those places where it is done with a serious intention – not so much on the level of the universal Church, as on that of the particular Church.
In fact, after the ecclesial experience of the celebration of the Second Vatican Council and after the Council’s ecclesiological pronouncements on episcopal “collegiality”, no one has dared to speak explicitly of a democratic regime of the universal Church. The universal Church is governed by the college of bishops, with the Pope as its head, who are invested with this ministry not by the ecclesial body, but by God through the mediation of the sacrament and the missio canonica. 1
On the contrary, discussion with regard to “democratization” is frequently made openly and in terms of a brusque change with regard to the particular Church (=diocese), as if the structure of the particular Church were radically different from that of the universal Church. Although “democratization” is evidently not possible with regard to the universal Church, it is seen to be possible with regard to the particular Church. 2
To avoid this very grave equivocation, it is necessary to affront the problem of the structural relationship that exists between the universal and the particular Church.
The clarification of this problem is all the more important in that the tendency of modern ecclesiology, in reaction to that which has dominated up to the Second Vatican Council, is that of treating the particular Church in an autonomous way. 3This is a discourse that risks becoming a “slogan” every time it is developed within a particularistic horizon, in polemics with the ecclesial experience of preceding centuries, which has essentially been an experience of the universal Church. This is also true when it is done in support of a pluralistic conception of the Church in which unity is conceived not as the supreme value, prior to the Church and therefore something to be recognized and fought for, with a priority over every other preoccupation, but simply as the more or less casual and hypothetical result of a de facto convergence of many particular ecclesial experiences.
Is it possible to develop a theology of the particular Church in so far as it is particular, disconnecting it from its essential relationship with the universal Church? Or vice versa, does the universal Church have a priority over the particular, so as to fully justify a theology of the Church unilaterally seen as the universal Church, like that which has been developed in the Latin Church, especially beginning with the Middle Ages? 4 Evidently, posed in this way as has already been done in the course of the conciliar debates, 5 the problematic of the priority of the universal over the particular Church, and vice versa, is not correct. The problem, on the contrary, can only be posed correctly when the universal Church is not understood as an entity in itself conceived in competition with the particular Church, as has been done in the past and which was repeated on the occasion of the project “Lex fundamentalis” (textus emendatus). 6 In fact, Christ did not establish, from the structural point of view, either the universal or the particular Church, but rather the Church as such with her double dimension and reality: universal and particular. The universal Church cannot, in consequence, be understood as a great unitary reality, uniform and self-sufficient like a great diocese, but only as a “communio Ecclesiarum.”
If, as we will see below, the communio is the anthropological peculiarity of the Christian, who is the “homo novus,” the Church also cannot be conceived without taking into account this fact, precisely because it is the area in which the Christian lives his intersubjective relationships, is constituted as a Christian, and grows. Thecommunio as an ontological dimension of the Christian, and thus as the formal regulating criterion and principle of relationships between Christians, is manifested on the institutional level as a relationship of communion between the Churches. The communio is therefore, together with the Sacraments, the criterion of belonging to the Church. Indeed, in contrast with the Sacraments, it transcends not only every particular Church, but the sacramental fact itself. In fact, Sacraments celebrated outside of the communio cannot realize in themselves the fulness of their significance which is that of making present the whole Church, the universal Church. Every particular Church is therefore constituted in its authenticity by the truth with which it celebrates the sacrament of the Eucharist, efficacious sign of the communio. The communion with the Church of Rome, and through this with all the other particular Churches, is therefore a constitutive element of the particular Church; it gives her the guarantee of realizing in herself the whole Church. The particular Church thus does not possess in herself the final guarantee of her own authenticity; she is not completely autonomous. The guarantee is given to the particular Church by the communio which she maintains with all the other Churches – the “communio Ecclesiarum” of which she is a constitutive part.
2. The Structural Relationship between the Universal and the Particular Church
Even if the ecclesiology of Vatican II has remained still profoundly marked by the Latin theological tradition and has thus conserved the universal Church as a global ecclesiological horizon, nevertheless it has also received the concept of the particular Church, proper above all to Eastern ecclesiology. In the conciliar texts some ecclesiological elements have been inserted which, although they have not become the guiding lines of the theological framework of the Council with regard to the Church, have nevertheless given some extremely precious indications for resolving the tension immanent in the dynamic relationship existing between the universal and the particular Church.
The most significant text from this point of view is undoubtedly that of article 23, 1 of Lumen gentium, in which it is said that the universal Church exists and is realized in and from the particular Churches (“in quibus et ex quibus”). This formula, in its concision and density, is perhaps the most brilliant of the entire ecclesiology of the Council. Even if it is not possible here to make a detailed and exhaustive analysis of this ecclesiological pronouncement, 7 it is nevertheless necessary for our purposes to bring out some of its essential contents.
It signifies, on the one hand, that the universal Church is formed from the particular Churches (“ex quibus”), precisely because she is a “communio Ecclesiarum.” On the other hand, it signifies that the universal Church exists only through the mediation of the particular Church (“in quibus”). This also means, however, that the particular Church cannot exist except in so far as she is a concrete realization of the universal Church. Therefore, she is not a reality essentially different from that of the universal Church. If she realizes the same fundamental values as the universal Church, of which she is the effective sign and sacrament, the particular Church cannot but be governed by the same constitutional principles. Therefore, only those realities can qualify as particular Churches which realize all the existential and structural foundational elements of the universal Church, that is, of the “communio Ecclesiarum.” 8
Vatican II, from the point of view of constitutional structures, has rediscovered with extreme clarity the fact that ministry within the Church essentially possesses a synodal dimension. The Council has expressed this intuition, which is rooted in the entire conciliar tradition of the Church, with the principle of “collegiality.” “Collegiality” has emerged as a theological-juridical formulation, both from the doctrine of the “communio Ecclesiarum” – that is, from the fact that the universal Church is a communion of particular Churches and the college of bishops is the communion of the bishops responsible for the individual Churches – as well as from the doctrine of the communio as a typical element of Christian anthropology. 9
However, after having grasped the communio and the “communio Ecclesiarum” as essential elements of the ecclesial reality, the Second Vatican Council was able to translate these values explicitly in structural-constitutional terms only on the level of the universal Church. Terminologically, in fact, it has recognized only the universal body of bishops united in hierarchical communion with the Pope as having a “collegial” character. This was a debatable expedient in order to express the idea that only the college of bishops with the Pope as head is invested with the full and supreme power over the universal Church. In reality, there is no doubt that also the other synodal episcopal forms, at the level of lesser ecclesial realities (patriarchates, ecclesiastical regions with a conference of bishops at their head, as an example of an intermediate hierarchical collegial level), as well as on the level of the particular Church (dioceses), are a manifestation of the synodal element and have a “collegial” character, both from the theological and juridical points of view, when, in this latter case, the necessary conditions are realized.
If the communio is the essence of the life of the Church, then the synodal-collegial element must be considered on the structural plane to be a typical expression of the constitutional regime of the Church in both its universal and particular dimensions, although taking into account the diversity which is imposed by the different ecclesial realities. In virtue of the principle according to which the universal Church is realized only through the mediation of the particular Church (“in quibus”), it is necessary to conclude, on the one hand, that an essential aspect of the constitutional structure of the Church, such as that of the synodal dimension of ecclesial ministries, must be present also at the level of the particular Church. On the other hand, one must also conclude that the synodal structure, in so far as it is a characteristic and fundamental dimension of all ecclesial offices, is the only possible form of co-responsibility and of participation of the entire People of God in the management of the life of the particular Church.
Every discourse on the “democratic” structure of the particular Church is therefore ecclesiologically unacceptable and every attempt to interpret and to live synodal structures of the particular Church (synods, presbyteral and pastoral councils, etc.) in democratic terms is equivalent to a falsification of the ecclesial reality. 10
The democratic temptation that is found in the Church today, both on the level of ideological-doctrinal justification and that of ecclesial practice, is in fact one of the causes of the current constitutional crisis within the particular Church.
1. Worldly Logic and the Division of Power
The new diocesan councils created by the Second Vatican Council 11 have already been troubled by a profound crisis just a few years after their institution. The symptoms are given on the one hand by the uncertainty with which many bishops use these new organisms, and, on the other hand, by the increasing distrust and absenteeism of the clergy and laity.
The causes of this crisis are undoubtedly multiple and diversified, and therefore they can be enumerated in a complete way only on the basis of a sufficiently broad analysis of the varied and very numerous concrete situations. However, it would be a mistake to believe that they can all be reduced to problems of a technical-juridical nature. 12 The origin of the crisis is much deeper, and touches, at all levels, the ecclesial conscience of very many Christians of today. It is a crisis of conceptions, and therefore of a theological nature, more than a crisis of technical-juridical functioning, or simply a psychological crisis of a moral order. For this reason, if the causes of the crisis are not to be found in explicit manipulations carried out either under the banner of conservatis 13 or of a progressive empiricism, 14 it manifests itself with the above-mentioned symptoms which are the typical signs of a crisis of power: the crisis of one who is afraid to lose power, confusing it with the accumulation of all competencies, or the crisis of one who has hoped to be able to gain power and realizes that he does not have it and cannot reach it. Very frequently, in fact, these new synodal structures of the particular Church 15 are conceived and instrumentalized in view of a worldly logic of power: from above to below for the preservation of the “status quo,” 16 from below to above to climb up the ladder of power according to the so-called “democratization” of the Church. Precisely within this latter tendency it is easily forgotten that democracy also, like any constitutional system, is a power structure. 17 Thus it is located, whether one likes it or not, on the same plane as any authoritarian system, essentially in terms of a division of power. 18 It is clear that this dynamism of power, if brought into the ecclesial environment, cannot fail to become radically equivocal. This is because the structural relationship in the Church between the hierarchy and the rest of the People of God, also on the level of operation and decision-making, can never ultimately be posed in terms of a division of power without falling into a theological empiricism, and thus also into a juridical empiricism. In fact, the problem cannot be posed either in the ideological terms of a class struggle nor in the more typically political terms of an equilibrium of forces. 19 Within the Church, the problem of a necessary and ordered division of competencies can never coincide with the problem of the possession of a larger or smaller section of power, as ultimately happens within the area of the state. This is because power here is not divisible, if by power one understands the ultimate responsibility, and therefore the specific service of bishops with regard to the life of the Church. The division of competencies in the canonical order should serve only to regulate the operative intervention of individual persons and organisms according to a legitimate criterion of efficiency, taking into account their function and their charism. However, no one can be excluded in the name of a division of competencies from having an effective and global co-responsibility in the preparation of the judgment of communion from which the decisive intervention of the ecclesial authority should genetically take its origin. 20 Thus in the last analysis the problem of power within the People of God cannot concern anything other than the nature of the relationship between the bishops and the other Christians on an operative decision-making level. Consequently, it will concern only the way in which the clergy and the laity participate in the responsibility for the proclamation of the Gospel in the world, which ultimately belongs to the successors of the Apostles.
2. Radical Insufficiency of the Consultative Vote?
Evidently, within a secular conception of the dynamics of power, the institution of the consultative vote might appear only as a heavy reduction of the effective exercise of the collegial principle in the Church, 21 and in practice as an exclusion from the exercise of power. Components of a psychological nature also clearly play a role in this judgment, but in addition, it has roots in an ecclesial conception borrowed from worldly parameters. A correct explication of the synodal structure of the Church proper also to the particular Church on the juridical formal level of collegiality, can be based only on the principle that the bishop, being the foundation of the unity of his Church, cannot delegate the responsibility of this service to anyone, even to a majority. 22 The problem of unity within the Christian community, which constantly experiences the existence of a majority and a minority, cannot thus be resolved by an absolutization of the majority principle. Even in an ecumenical council, where the bishops enjoy a deliberative vote, the voting cannot be understood as an act of force through which a majority imposes its point of view as in a parliament.
Voting is a juridical-formal fact, which serves above all to determine the opinion of the individual bishops who represent the individual particular Churches. It is not an act of political power, but primarily the determination of a fact. It is a matter of determining which Churches have reached a communion on a particular problem. The reason why the testimony of the Pope is essential in this regard comes from the fact that the communion of the bishop of Rome is constitutive for the communion of the bishops among themselves. 23 The “communio Ecclesiarum” is not necessarily given by the majority of the bishops as such, but by those bishops who express themselves in communion with the bishop of Rome. 24 Nevertheless, the vote of the bishops is the decisive and ultimate testimony. It does not only have a consultative character, because their task is not, at this level, that of advising the Pope, 25 but that of giving witness to the faith that they have and live together with their particular Church. In rigorous terms, however, the vote of the bishops in a council is not a deliberative vote either, if by a deliberative vote one understands a vote whose formally binding value is simply given by the human will, along the lines of a voluntarist tradition. It is deliberative in the sense that the witness of the bishops maintains all its weight and inappellable force. In their vote, the faith of their Church, of all the particular Churches, emerges in way that is beyond appeal. Faith is not a fact which can be decided in a voluntaristic way with political criteria; faith can only be made known, and it is integral only if it is lived. No political manipulation or changes for reasons of opportunism or parliamentary tactics are possible on the level of a vote of this kind. This testimony can be changed only by the fact of conversion, by adhesion to a Christian wisdom that better translates the values contained in the Word of God.
Precisely because priests and laity do not have the same function within the diocesan councils as bishops do in an ecumenical council, their testimony is not expressed in the same way. Priests are only the collaborators of the bishop, even if they are necessary collaborators. 26 The laity are those members of the People of God who live the same mystery of the Church and realize the same Christian communion as the bishops and priests, without having special ministerial functions, but with that function of service which is proper to the entire people of God. The bishop, in so far as he is the ultimate foundation of the life of the particular Church, has the responsibility to give an authoritative judgment on the validity of the collaboration of his presbyterium and on the authenticity of the charisms of all Christians in his own particular Church. The judgment of the bishop is authoritative, which means that it is genetically expressed within the proper structure of the Church only if it is formed within the concreteness of relationships of communion of the entire people of God. Otherwise, it would not only be sociologically abstract and removed from reality, but, and more importantly, it would not take its place as a fact of Christian communion, which is the proper structure of the Church. 27 It would become in the last analysis a simple act of power that is expressed according to worldly logic. If the communion of the entire People of God is the environment within which the bishop needs to have the ecclesial judgment mature, it follows that the synodal structure – conceived as essentially ordered to the formation of that judgment – must be necessarily characterized as an environment of communication and consultation. Consultation is essential and the consultative vote is an integral and constitutive part of the process from which the judgment of the authority must be born. The judgment that has become common within a particular Church emerges in it. Here the notion of “common” is never measurable with the mathematical criterion of the majority. Indeed, the common judgment is not constituted as such until the authority pronounces his last word. This obviously does not eliminate the risk of errors. The possibility of error, however, signifies precisely that in the Christian communion the supreme value is not the affirmation of anyone’s will, whether of a majority or a minority, but the common awareness that communion is a reality that comes before all, because it is made by Christ.
The institution of the consultative vote cannot, therefore, be considered to be a kind of compromise between an authoritarian and a democratic practice. It is not an instrument of exclusion from power, but it has its own proper binding force, generated by the structure of communion, especially on the level of the particular Church.
In the last analysis, both the deliberative and the consultative vote are juridical institutions which translate a reality in the Church that is radically different from that of human social intercourse. Their significance and juridical function is only analogous to those of modern civil institutions, even if it now seems to have been demonstrated that these civil institutions have been strongly influenced by ecclesial models, especially by those developed by religious Orders. 28 Therefore it would be profoundly erroneous to claim for the diocesan councils a deliberative function which would render the majority view binding on the bishop. The bishop cannot globally delegate his responsibility to anyone, because this would betray his function within the ecclesial community, which is a function of judgment and decision concerning unity. 29
These considerations and premises seek to transcend a purely civil juridical conception – even if formulated with canonical concepts – so as to grasp the mystery and the structure of ecclesial communion, which cannot be reduced to a problem of division of power. It follows as a corollary that the crisis of the diocesan councils cannot be resolved with reforms of a purely technical-juridical nature, even if these are truly correct from a canonical point of view. The crisis is much deeper. It touches first of all the mental structure and the criterion with which the People of God, from bishops to the laity, approach their commitment. Moreover, every juridical reform is always relative, and the nature of things, their concrete situations, the limitation of means of expression, the necessity of fully respecting the conception that people have of their own freedom, will always require one to have recourse to the juridical-formal institution of voting. 30
We hold, therefore, that the diocesan councils do not work, or work less well than was expected, first of all because these structures are not always used from above and lived from below according to an ecclesial mentality. On the contrary, they are lived according to the notion in which what is at stake is the possession of power. In other words, they are conceived as if they were little parliaments and not as service (diakonia) within the area of communion.
3. The Ambiguity of Associations
The mistake Christians almost always make in their understanding of the organisms through which the Christian communion is expressed on the level of operation and decision-making is that of too much adherence to parliamentary models. 31 There is a tendency generally to put synodal organisms (councils, conferences of bishops, synods, diocesan councils) on the same level with the more expressive institutions created by democracies for their own operation, such as parliaments and related structures. 32
To do this would be to commit a grave methodological error, consisting in uncritically assuming elements from secular reality which then turn out to be extraneous bodies within the ecclesial reality. The history of the Church demonstrates that secular reality has always offered indications and elements for a renewal of the life of the Church. However, in order for this to occur, an effort almost always has to be made to effect a radical refoundation and restructuring of these elements. 33 Insofar as this has failed to occur, the Church has fallen into the so-called “Constantinian” model. In the case of diocesan councils, that which has been uncritically assumed has been the parliamentarian model, along with the democratic principle of association which has given rise to it. In the latter, the human person is conceived individualistically, and the relationship between the person and society turns out to be dualistic. On the one hand, the person is considered as an already formed entity, radically autonomous and irreducible in his individual being; 34 on the other hand, the urgency and weight of other individuals and of the entire society is felt, and this ineluctably poses the problem of the relationship between these two levels. The association is precisely that place where the meeting between the individual and society occurs; it is a juridical instrument which places a connection between two realities which are already dualistically conceived. It cannot, however, overcome the antinomy between the person and society, because the latter is ideologically rooted in an individualistic conception of the person. 35 Associations are considered necessary at the most pressing level, in which the most urgent and general needs and necessities are at stake. This is the level of the modern state, considered as a necessary social and political associative form. Associations are considered only as “convenient,” on the other hand, where interests are more particular and are classified as “private,” such as at the level of the various associative forms generated by such varied motivations as economics, philanthropy, athletic interests, and so on.
Ecclesial structure is also often understood by means of these secular categories. On the one hand, beyond all possible personalistic conceptions, the Christian is considered de facto as an individual. On the other hand, there is recognition of the existence of a sociological reality created from the plurality of Christians, which is the ecclesial society with all of its structural and organizational implications. In response to the urgent need for the creation of a connection between these two poles, institutions which were imposed or made available by the public juridical system have often been uncritically accepted. 36 However, above all, there has been a tendency to have recourse to operative categories borrowed from modern associationism, instead of making an effort to draw from categories proper to the “communio ecclesiastica.” In fact, there is an evident tendency to distort the authentic physiognomy even of typically canonical forms such as the diocesan councils or the new diocesan synods, which better reflect the typical structure of the synodal element of the Church. The tendency is that of isolating the specific and immediate ends for which Christians unite (consultative, charitable, cultural, etc.) from the globally generative context of the Christian experience. 37
Within these associative forms, the personal life of the Christian that is lived individualistically under the influence of modern rationalist culture is still separated from the associative life, which is sought in order to fill the gaps of that personal life by means of a series of activities done in common. The associative experience in the Church thus generally becomes the area of a reduced or partial Christian experience, in which the Christian is not called to play out his existence and faith in a global way. 38
This situation has its origins in a conceptual confusion, and thus it cannot be overcome except on this level. It is necessary to profoundly grasp the Christian fact as a possibility of existence that is radically new, founded on a new conception of the person understood as communion. Therefore, it is a reality which structurally includes and contains all other persons and things. The foundation of this structure of communion of the “new man” are the sacraments. Only by assuming the communitarian logic proper to the sacramental element, can the Christian express himself in his personal and social dimension without a break of continuity. 39 The Church cannot be conceived as a great association or as a mass of associations, but as an organic body of communities founded in the communion of man with God and of men with each other in the Holy Spirit, where Christians – even as lay persons – can integrally play out their personality assuming all its possibilities of expression. With the dismantling of that associative conception which limits Christian personality, and of the apparatus of associations which are derived from it, the problem of their optimal functioning – which can only be conceived in terms of power – would also disappear. This would lead to the dissolution of the false problem of the democratization of the Church, which conceives synodal structures as areas for a greater sharing in the administration of power.
1. Communion as a Formal Principle of Ecclesial Life 40
The Christian is the new man. He is one who, having encountered Christ, possesses in fact a new structure that is not only moral, but ontological. 41 He is a new man because he recognizes in the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, the fact which constitutes him in his Christian being and in his personal identity. The new man has Christ as the ultimate cause of his salvation and of his hope. Salvation, in fact, has been given us by Christ; it is not the work of our hands. Man is called to recognize this salvation by making it the one criterion of his life understood in all its concreteness. The unity of the person, and the unity of the person with other persons, is already within the Christian in seed, in virtue of Baptism which renews him in the Holy Spirit with the gift of faith.42 The new man is the person who knows that he belongs to Christ, and knows also that he belongs to Christ with all the others, who are a constitutive part of himself because they also belong to Christ, as Christ belongs to the Father. He knows, further, that this belonging generates in him a new and unique criterion for dealing with reality and existence.
The Christian, therefore, possess a new method of life. His life is a real tension towards the total involvement of himself with the others. He is a new man who – no longer belonging to himself, but to Christ – tends to put all spiritual and material goods in common, nothing excluded, so as to live from communion.
A preeminent aspect of this new methodology is that of the common judgment or judgment of communion. 43 Its importance derives harmoniously from the importance that judgment has in human life, animating, generating and regulating its development. If Christian life is communion, then this must also be true of the judgment that rules and accompanies that life. The common judgment should not be understood either as a deductive application of a criterion that is abstract from the reality in which one lives, nor in an associative manner as an effort to arrive at a common opinion, independently of the way it has been reached. Rather, it is a constant tension to read reality, shared in a daily way, according to the principle of faith generated by the one Spirit, which made the first Christians to be “of one heart and one soul.” 44
The reality of the common judgment cannot ultimately be measured by any rational criterion. The instruments invented by juridical science, even if they are indispensable, do not succeed in the ecclesial context – still less than in the secular context – in controlling this common judgment in all its dimensions, which in the Church are those of mystery. 45
The conception of man as the new man, inaugurated by Christ, is the only conception capable of resolving the antinomy between person and society, and also of making it possible for pluralism within the Church to be conceived in a new way. If the Christian personality is constituted only within the context of communion, it follows that ecclesial pluralism cannot be conceived as a pluralism of individuals, but fundamentally as a pluralism of particular Churches or communities. 46
The universal Church, in fact, is not given by the sum of all the Christians united in a great diocese, but first of all by the communion of many particular Churches. This structure is repeated also within the individual particular Churches, from which and in which the universal Church is realized. 47 If ecclesial pluralism is constituted in the first place by a pluralism of communities which have their genetic moment in the celebration of the Eucharist, it is evident that the technique of universal suffrage can never represent the complete criterion governing the expression of ecclesial opinion. 48
The fact of communion dominates the entire Christian personality and informs all of its expressions. Therefore it is not something that can be done among other things; it is the way to do everything. 49 This is fundamental for the correct understanding of synodal structures, and consequently for the way of working in them. That which is specific to the ecclesial element – that is, the endeavor to form a common judgment concerning operation and decision-making within the Christian community – can never be reduced to a form of associative activism. The idea of “doing or deciding something together” might possibly exhaust the significance of secular associations, such as cultural circles, economic societies and other similar things, which do not require persons to involve themselves totally or beyond the services that are requested. Christians, on the other hand, are never united solely to do or decide something together, merely to perform a service, but rather to live the communion, doing and deciding things together. The Christian, and therefore also the lay person, is called to play out the totality of his personality at every level and in every gathering, and not simply to make the contribution of his own intelligence and competence. To gather together, by definition, implies putting one’s faith into act. Communion does not stand in service of activity, but it is activity that is in service of life in communion. The ultimate reason, in fact, why Christians gather together, comes from the fact that they recognize themselves to be called together by Christ; they are generated and constituted in communion by Him. Only in this recognition do they become capable of making judgments and decisions for the Church. This method of recognizing oneself in the Christian fact and in the communion, must determine the way of working in the synodal structures at all the levels, both of the universal and of the particular Church, if one wishes them to correspond to their specific function of generating the judgments that are indispensable to resolve the concrete problems of the life of the Church. The entire conciliar tradition of the Church has always applied this method, sometimes perhaps formalizing it and reducing it in its dimensions, although affirming it at least in principle. 50 This must be recuperated in its significance and relived in its original content, beyond any formalism, in a perspective which does not separate the operative and specific encounter of the experience of the conversion to faith that every member is daily called to live, even in the specific context of the synodal structures of the Church, such as the “diocesan councils.” 51
In the light of this discourse, all the synodal articulations also of the diocese are to be seen as areas of living communion, ordered towards the generation of a common judgment on the life of the entire community, as a contribution to the pastoral action of which the bishop is ultimately responsible. It is a matter of a service in communion, which can be called diakonia, to use a Biblical category. The problem of the functioning of the new consultative diocesan structures is thus essentially the problem of conversion to this kind of conceptual category. From this conception of the Christian and of the Church as a reality of communion, certain consequences can be drawn.
2. The Construction of the Church as Global Commitment of the Christian
The first task of the Christian is that of constructing the Church, so that through the Church the explicit proclamation of salvation can be made to the world.
The Christian proclamation cannot occur in an individualistic way; it is a proclamation of communion generated by a communion. 52 The ecclesial communion is the Christian proposal for the radical and global liberation of man. The construction of the Church is the task that invests and constitutes the entire personality of the Christian, including in a unitary way all his energies and all his time. It is the concern that absorbs and commits his entire existence in a tension of prayer that transcends any sin. The construction of the Church is the immediate task to which every Christian without distinction is called, independently of any ministerial function. Thus it is also the task to which the lay person is called. The lay person, in fact, is not constituted as such by his secular character, but by the participation “suo modo et pro sua parte” in the priestly, prophetic and regal office of Christ. 53
Constructing the Church, the Christian constructs the world, animating it, transforming and redeeming it because the Church is immanent in the world. Realizing a new way of living human, affective, cultural, economic, social and political relations, the Christian constructs a new reality of the world without the risk of falling into a situation of dualism. As, in fact, the Christian is called to respect the internal logic of Word and Sacrament, likewise he must respect the value and the internal logic of terrestrial realities in obedience to their proper order. The life of the Christian in the world is marked and supported by the categories generated by the ecclesial communion without conflict and discontinuity – except in the case of a sin against faith – with the truth intrinsic to terrestrial realities. Understood in this sense there does not exist an autonomy of the Christian as a person, but only of things. 54 His task consists in knowing how to sanctify terrestrial realities using the categories proper to faith.
Therefore, there does not exist an autonomy of the lay person with regard to the hierarchy, in the sense that there is no area in which the lay person constructs the world in a disjointed and independent way, without at the same time also building up the Church. However, he can only build up the Church in communion with the entire People of God, and thus also with the hierarchy. 55 The relationship between the laity and the hierarchy is thus a relationship of communion, not of submission or of power.
Once the confusion is removed, according to which the Christian could have an “autonomous commitment,” it follows that competencies within the Christian communion turn out to be gifts (charisms) whose function is that of orienting the community towards the experience of the common judgment. This emphasizes the fact that the Christian commitment cannot fail to be global. If the Christian plays out his existence in building up the Church, it follows that he must play out his existence in a global way. This eliminates any risk of clericalism, which consists precisely in the pretense of inserting oneself into the Church while maintaining oneself outside of a global experience of Christian communion, above all when one’s vocation is that of carrying out a service in the synodal structures of the Christian community which has called him.
The efficacy of the diocesan councils depends thus, in the first place, on the measure in which the persons who belong to it, including the bishop, are authoritative. This authority comes from the commitment and totality with which they let themselves be involved among themselves by the logic of communion, and from the prudence with which they carry out the function or use the charism of the competence that is proper to them. Outside of this dynamism, one falls inevitably into a parliamentary logic ultimately founded on a play of force and on the juridical-formal authority of the decisions that have been taken. 56
3. Service as Christian Efficiency
The operative efficacy of a consultative decision-making organism – and thus also its force of proclamation within the particular Church – cannot be measured in the last analysis by a criterion of efficiency, even if the tension towards efficiency must be real and total. An associational and parliamentary mentality expresses itself and operates essentially according to a secular logic of efficiency, which aims not only at achieving concrete results, but tends to control the effects of its own effort by means of purely rational criteria. The elements which escape from the effort at planning are attributed to ignorance, lack of science, and to a provisional incapacity to calculate. Efficiency is a human value which cannot be simply transposed into the ecclesial context, where it is never the final criterion of judgment, because the force of the Christian proposal does not depend on human wisdom. The criterion of efficiency is the product of a logic of power. This worldly logic can never be totally corrected by any social or philosophical morality, because only the mystery of the death and Resurrection of Christ is capable of shattering at its root any category of power, even one that is very balanced and moral, humanly speaking. Even the logic of interest, which – like the logic of power from which it derives – moves and dominates secular operative efficiency, cannot be erected into a criterion and support for Christian action. 57 Interest is overcome and turned upside down at all levels in the Christian vision by the concept of service (diakonia), which is a service that is rendered gratuitously: “He who loses his life for my sake, will find it.” 58
The crisis of the diocesan councils can now be easily understood as deriving from the more or less conscious use of criteria of efficiency and of interest. In them, in fact, Christians surrender themselves to the obstacles which are inevitable in the functioning of such organisms, whereas only gratuitousness transcends them. When the assigned goal is not reached, or the authority does not decide according to the proposal that has been made, or the work requested seems out of proportion to the commitment and personal interests of those involved, the only criterion which can save the functioning and thus the ecclesial efficiency of consultative organisms is that of gratuitousness, which is service without the demand for any tangible immediate, personal, or communitarian result.
4. Witness Instead of Representation
The fundamental idea of the parliamentary system is that of representation. Power is transferred from the people to persons who represent them, on the basis of universal suffrage. In the Christian community the concept of representation is fundamentally different for two orders of reasons. First of all, the persons who lead the People of God, even if they were elected, are not invested with the power in virtue of which they exercise their service from the bottom, but rather from above, through the Sacrament and the Mission. At the level of the universal Church, only the Pope or the whole college of bishops can speak in the name of the Church, so as to represent the Church. At the level of the particular Church, only the bishop represents the diocese. In fact, it is he and not one of the diocesan councils who represents the diocese in an ecumenical council, 59 nor can the diocesan councils represent the Catholics of a diocese without the bishop.
Secondly, faith cannot be represented by anyone, because salvation is an eminently personal fact; it cannot be delegated to anyone. 60 A person cannot have himself be saved by another in the same way as he can have himself represented by a third party in political or economic affairs, or even in more personal contexts, as in marriage by procurator. 61
On the contrary, it is correct to say that the bishop represents the faith of the members of his particular Church, for example, at an ecumenical council. The concept of representation, however, assumes a different significance here, a sense that is originally ecclesial. He represents this faith only in the measure in which his faith is orthodox and that of his Church corresponds to it. He does not represent it in virtue of a mandate of the faithful of his diocese, but he gives witness to it in virtue of his fuller participation in the prophetic, priestly and regal office of Christ, mediator between God and men. The most correct translation of the concept of representation in the ecclesial context is therefore that of testimony. Only the testimony of the bishop regarding his diocese has an ultimately binding, and therefore juridical, significance: that is, with the value of a “deliberative” vote in an ecumenical council. It follows, therefore, on the one hand, that the relationship between the persons within the communion cannot be reduced to any civil juridical category. In fact, the nature of canon law is only analogous to that of secular law. 62 On the other hand, the diocesan councils are not representative organs in the parliamentary sense of the word. The members of the diocesan councils do not represent the faith of anyone, but only their own faith. By analogy with the bishop – but only by analogy, since their action does not have the same binding force – they give witness to the faith of the community from which they come.
All this implies various consequences. The members of the diocesan council are not parliamentary representatives, but simply persons chosen, perhaps by election, to counsel and aid the bishop in the government of the diocese. This does not take away the fact that their choice can and should occur according to criteria that are very “representative,” precisely because the connection of the bishop with the parishes and other communitarian groups, organized or not, should be tight and functional. Their function, therefore, is not that of democratically representing the faith of the others, and their first service is that of realizing the experience of faith common to the entire People of God also within the context in which they have to carry out their specific task. 63 A similar conception excludes the possibility of seeking the solution for the needs of the Christian community in parliamentary style, which is ever more determined by political parties and therefore by the struggle for power between the forces of the right and the left. The formation also within the Church of positions tending towards conservatism or progressivism, is practically inevitable on account of our human limitation. These positions have always been the limitations of all the councils. The phenomenon must simply be accepted as such, without undervaluing the positive aspect, which is the possibility that through a plurality of accents, the most complete reading of the complexity of the problems may be attained. However, it would be incorrect to absolutize this dialectic, so as to define it as necessary for progress in the Church, without realizing that this cannot be foreseen, programmed and schematized according to categories of this kind, which are too restricted and inadequate to grasp a reality whose realization occurs on the level of mystery. Once more, we are facing an uncritical assumption of ideological elements which have their root in an idealist philosophical perspective.
Communion is the formal principle of the Christian community. Therefore, it is also the formal principle of all of its structures and juridical institutions. 64
The relationship between the bishop and the faithful cannot ultimately be resolved in terms of the control of power, but only in terms of the experience of communion. The forms of control introduced in the course of history to contain abuses of power on the part of the hierarchy, have rarely generated an authentic experience of Christian communion. 65
Applied to bishops, the discourse on communion implies not only a profound transformation of the feudal mentality to which they are frequently still linked, but also an adjustment of their competencies, to the measure in which these have been conceived by the current canonical order according to criteria that are too individualistic, outside of any context of information and consultation.
The diocesan councils have been introduced by Vatican II as an explication of the synodal element proper to the ecclesial communion. Their consultative competence tends to embrace all the sectors of the life of the diocese and the mission of the Church. 66 This does not eliminate the eminently personal responsibility of the bishop and the fact that certain relations and problems deserve, by their nature, either to be treated promptly or protected with discretion. It is a matter of knowing how to read situations and the nature of things with prudence.
The discretionary power of the bishop is a guarantee of communion, because it excludes any form of mechanical collectivism. However, it is necessary that the bishop not arbitrarily neglect the duty of information and consultation, if communion is not to be reduced to being just a sentimental expression which therefore is easily eluded. To live in communion with the members of the faithful signifies, as a norm, that they are to be invited to assume a function of collaboration in all the sectors of ecclesial life, without precluding anyone for political reasons, and without using categories of power and force.
The bishop is requested to invest the diocesan councils with all the responsibility and authority necessary to prepare and construct the common judgment which is indispensable for guiding the life of the diocese according to a Christian criterion of service. In this way, he fulfills his own service, which is first, and has a value of being a sign, in so far as it comes from Him who is the foundation of the unity of the People of God and the first Person responsible for the life of the communion.
2 The literature in this regard is very vast; cf., for example, Demokratisierung der Kirche. Ein Memorandum deutscher Katholiken. Herausgegeben vom Bensberger Kreis (Mainz 1970); H. Küng, “Mitentscheidung der Laien in der Kirchenleitung und bei kirchlichen Wahlen,” ThQ 149 (1969), 147-165. Among those that are critical of the process of democratization, cf. J. Ratzinger-H. Maier, Demokratie in der Kirche. Möglichkeiten, Grenzen, Gefahren (Limburg 1970); G. May, Demokratisierung der Kirche. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen (Vienna-Munich 1971). This last volume has been reviewed from a critical perspective by W. Aymans, in AfkKR 140 (1971), 299-303.
4 On the different development of ecclesiology in East and West, cf., among the numerous writings of Y. M.-J. Congar which touch on the question, De la communion des Églises à une ecclésiologie de l’Église universelle. L’Épiscopat et l’Église universelle (Paris 1964), 227-260; for an attempt to systematise the problem from a structural-juridical point of view, cf. for example, E. Corecco, “Il Vescovo, capo della Chiesa locale, protettore e promotore della disciplina locale,” Concilium 4 (1968), 106-121.
6 Concerning the ecclesiological perspective of the “Lex fundamentalis,” cf., among others, the criticisms made in the volume Legge e Vangelo. Discussione su una legge fondamentale per la Chiesa, ed. by the Istituto per le Scienze Religiose di Bologna (Brescia 1972).
8 The term “collegial” is not of canonical but of Roman origin (cf. W. Aymans, Kollegium und kollegialer Akt im kanonischen Recht [Munich 1969], pp. 3-5; on the use of the term in the Latin theological tradition, cf. J. Ratzinger, “La collegialità episcopale. Spiegazione teologica del testo conciliare,” in La Chiesa del Vaticano II, collective work directed by G. Baraúna [Florence 1965], 733-736). Etymologically, therefore, it cannot adequately express the reality it is called to signify, because it is not based on the functional equality of the different members of the People of God. The term “synodal,” which can claim a stronger and less interrupted tradition, thanks especially to the Eastern Church, and which was not appropriated by Vatican II to designate any particular ecclesial structure, could be used to express the operative structure of the communio on all the levels of the Church, both universal and particular.
10 It is an urgent task to eliminate from theological and canonical terminology every concept borrowed from civil political systems, since these are radically inadequate to express the reality of the Church. The idea of “democracy,” for example, can perhaps denote the equality of all Christians before God in the order of salvation, but because it essentially implies that power comes from below, it is incompatible with the constitutional structure of the Church. The term “monarchy,” in its turn, succeeds in expressing the idea of a hierarchical subordination of functions, but it perverts the proper regime of the Church, because the lower ecclesial levels in many cases have their own justification, a proper ecclesial power, a competence and inalienable responsibilities, which are not derived from above. In this regard, cf. also A. Schöpping, “Laien- und Pastoralräte,” Der Seelsorger 39 (1969) 39; Y. M.-J. Congar, “Conclusion,” in Le Concile et les Conciles (Chevetogne 1960), p. 301.
11 These are the presbyteral council, the pastoral council (cf. Vat. Ep. art. 27, par. 5, art. 28, par. 2; Vat. Presb. art. 7, par. 2; Eccl. Sanc. I, art. 15-16), and the councils proposed, also at a diocesan level, by the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Vat. Laic. art. 26, par 1-2).
12 From this point of view the most common objections that have been made against the structure of the new diocesan councils are two in number. First of all, there is the lack of clarity in the division of competences, both among the different councils, and between the individual councils and the bishop. Secondly, it does not satisfy the functions primarily of study and research given to the pastoral council, in which also members of the laity are present. In order to meet these structural deficiencies, which undoubtedly contribute to creating an atmosphere of dissatisfaction, different solutions can be proposed. An attentive evaluation of the experience initiated with the diocesan or interdiocesan Synods (especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland), could give some indications concerning the possibility and the opportuneness of turning this renewed synodal structure into a stable structure, and restructuring the other diocesan or interdiocesan councils as permanent commissions within it. However, the problem of the exact collocation of the clergy, which in the above-mentioned synods has found a response on the basis of empirical criteria, still remains to be resolved. Priests and laity have been put on the same level for the most part, with the difference that the clergy has been given a proportionately higher number (in the projected Statutes of the Synod 72 in Switzerland, for example, an effective presence of clergy of 50% has been provided for). The problem cannot be resolved only with quantitative criteria, because the priest is distinguished from the lay person by a qualitatively different participation in the priestly, prophetic and regal functions of Christ [cf. K. Mörsdorf, “Die Stellung der Laien in der Kirche,” RDC 10/11 (1960/61), 221]. M. Kaiser (“Aussagen des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils über die Kirchengewalt,” in Ius Sacrum. K. Mörsdorf zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. by A. Scheuermann and G. May [Munich/Paderborn/Vienna 1969], p. 269), maintains that the difference lies only in the capacity of the priest to represent Christ as Head of the Church in virtue of the sacrament of Orders. Aside from the fact that the thesis of Kaiser cannot be understood without accepting the former, it is still a matter of being able to correctly evaluate the consequences that need to be drawn on the structural-juridical level, from the difference that exists between priests and the laity. The Second Vatican Council has imposed only the institution of the presbyteral Council (Vat. Presb., art. 7, par. 2), granting it for the most part solely the right to be heard in certain matters of particular importance (Eccl. Sanc. I, art. 21 § 2-3). The theological consciousness of the Church may have come out in this fact, even if the doctrinal development has not been exhaustive, that the clergy must be recognized to have a specific function also on the operative level of decision-making. In order to save the unity of the presbyterium (to which the bishop also belongs), and thus the direct contact between the bishop and the presbyteral council, one could conceive of the latter as a commission presided over by the bishop and including all the priests belonging to the one diocesan council or synod. A few precise competences could be given to it, concerning in the first place the relationship between the bishop and the clergy. Before expressing their own vote, this commission could be bound to listen to the view of the entire diocesan council or synod. On the theological and juridical structure of the presbyterium, cf. O. Saier, “Die hierarchische Struktur des Presbyteriums,” AfkKR 136 (1967), 341-491; H. Schmitz, “Das Presbyterium der Diözese,” TThZ 77 (1968), 133-152.
13 For example, one cannot fail to denounce the grave fact that in many dioceses, especially Italian – such as the very important diocese of Milan – pastoral councils have not yet been instituted, and the choice of the members of the presbyteral councils has been made too frequently according to paternalistic criteria, along the lines of a monarchical tradition and practice that goes back for centuries.
14 Cf. the criticism made by K. Mörsdorf [“Die andere Hierarchie. Eine kritische Untersuchung zur Einsetzung von Laienräten in den Diözesen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland,” AfkKR 138 (1969), 504-509] of certain synodal statutes of the dioceses of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).
15 The fundamental work on the synodal element in the Church is that of W. Aymans (Das synodale Element in der Kirchenverfassung, loc. cit.). Aymans arrives at the conclusion that the theological category in which the synodal element should be placed is the “communio Ecclesiarum,” in which the collegial-episcopal element has a constitutive function. This does not exclude, however, the possibility of speaking of a synodal structure on the level of the particular Church, although it will have its own proper character in that the principle and foundation of the particular Church is not a college, but the diocesan bishop. This analogy is based on the fact not only that the universal Church is present in the particular Church, but also that the particular Churches are structured on the model of the universal Church (LG 23,1). The foundation of the participation of priests and laity in the synodal structure of the particular Church (diocesan councils, etc.) is their common, even if qualititatively different, participation in the three munera of Christ. Cf. also E. Corecco, “Note sulla Chiesa particolare e sulle strutture della Diocesi di Lugano,” Civitas 24 (1968-69), 628-635.
16 It is symptomatic that the most radical criticism has been that which has denounced the new diocesan councils as organisms introduced by the system to conserve the “status quo.” Cf., for example, G. Piano, “La diocesi di Novara: riforma di struttura o conversione di mentalità?,” Testimonianze 13 (1970), n. 122, 149-150; also along the same lines is M. Cuminetti, “Verso nuove strutture nella Chiesa,” in La Chiesa locale, ed. by A. Tessarolo, loc. cit., p. 431.
18 Parliaments are organs of a constitutional state in which, through an “Aufteilung der Macht ein System wirksamer Beschränkung für das Handeln der Regierung besteht” (C.J. Friedrich), cited by G.E. Kafka, “Parlament,” in StLex, VI, loc. cit., p. 174.
19 The American principle of “checks and balances” has its origin in Montesquieu’s doctrine of the separation of powers, and therefore in the principle “Le pouvoir arrête le pouvoir.” This conception does not come from Christian thought but from the rationalist school of natural law, which having broken with medieval thought, denied with Ch. Thomasius any relationship between natural law and divine law, thus losing all connection with the transcendent. Since a transcendent authority is lacking, modern philosophy of the State has been forced to see human reason as the only criterion and point of reference for the division of power. That this system is radically extraneous to the structure of the “Communio ecclesiastica” goes without saying. H. Küng has spoken in favor of the application of the principle of “checks and balances” joined, moreover, with the right of veto, a typical instrument of power, in “Mitentscheidung der Laien in der Kirchenleitung und bei kirchlichen Wahlen,” loc. cit., 147-165.
21 It is necessary to distinguish the formal from the material aspect of collegiality. In the material sense, collegiality is identified with the synodal element in its juridical aspect, which is only one of the aspects of the synodal element in the Church (other aspects are, for example, the reciprocal aid between Churches, etc.). In the formal sense, collegiality is expressed in decisions of a college when the will of individual members are integrated, so that they become the one act of the will of the college as such. In this sense they are distinguished, for example, from collective acts. Cf. W. Aymans, Das synodale Element, loc. cit.
23 As a result, the “communio” with the other members of the college of bishops has a consecutive character; cf. W. Aymans, “Die ‘Communio Ecclesiarum’ als Gestaltgesetz der einen Kirche,” AfkKR 139 (1970), 90.
24 According to the doctrine of Vatican II, the “communio plena” is hierarchical; cf. O. Saier, Communio in der Lehre des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils, loc. cit. It is should be noted that Latin and Eastern ecclesiology differ precisely on this point; cf., for example, W. De Vries, “Neuerungen in Theorie und Praxis des römischen Primates. Die Entwicklung nach der konstantinischen Wende,” Concilium 7 (1971), 253.
25 For this reason we hold that the current status given to the synod of bishops, based on the purely consultative character of the vote, is debatable from the point of view of ecclesial life. On the other hand, however, if one were to make of the synod of bishops a miniature permanent ecumenical council (with a deliberative vote) – which for that matter cannot be understood along the lines of the Endemusa Synod, given its essentially acephalous structure (cf. V. Pospischil, Der Patriarch in der Serbisch-Orthodoxen Kirche [Vienna 1966], pp. 63-78; J. Hajjar, “La collegialità nella tradizione orientale,” in La Chiesa del Vaticano II, ed. by G. Baraúna, ed. Vallecchi [Florence 1965], pp. 818-831) – one would have to pose the problem of its representative nature. Thus it would not be without foundation to think that the ecumenical or universal value of its collegial decisions (no longer founded only on papal primacy) could come only from a subsequent reception on the part of the universal episcopate, as has been the case for many particular and general councils. In order to understand and accept the formula of a synod of bishops with a deliberative vote, one would have to have recourse to the idea of the canonical institution of the “Votum per compromissum” with which an attempt has been made to make a synthesis between the principle of the “pars sanior” and that of the “pars maior” [cf. L. Moulin, “Sanior et maior pars, Note sur l’évolution des techniques électorales dans les Ordres religieux du VIe e XIIIe siècle,” RHDFE 36 (1958), 493-501]. This would require, however, that the universal episcopate would be called to decide on the order of the day of the synod, to which it would then cede its proper competency each time. Even in this case, however, the problem would be posed of the legitimacy of those decisions which explicitly and immediately touch on the content of the faith, since the task of giving witness to one’s own faith cannot be delegated to others (for a deeper analysis of this problem, cf. below, II, 4).
26 Even if the priestly order derives from the fullness of the priesthood of the bishop, and not vice versa, this does not means that it has branched off from the episcopate only for practical reasons of supplementation. Abandoning the tradition that goes back to St. Jerome, modern theology is oriented in the sense of holding the presbyterate to be a necessary synodal explicitation of the episcopal office; cf. T.G. Barberena, “Kollegialität auf diözesaner Ebene. Das Priestertum in der Weltkirche,” Concilium 1 (1965), 636; G. D’Ercole, “Die Priesterkollegien in der Urkirche,” Concilium 2 (1966), 487-492.
27 The most ample study on the ecclesiological significance of communion in the texts of Vatican II has been made by O. Saier, Communio in der Lehre des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils, loc. cit., passim.
29 The concession of a deliberative vote to diocesan councils in particular cases and problems is possible, not least because there exists a long tradition in this regard. However, this does not take away the fact that it is quite problematic. Can. 105 of the Code provides for this possibility, but it must not be forgotten that the relationship between the bishop and the cathedral chapter, to take just one example, has normally been understood according to criteria which aimed at control of episcopal activity rather than stemming from a conception of the Church understood as communion. Furthermore, even the hypothetical value of the deliberative vote, when not anchored in common law, would always depend on a discretionary decision of the bishop. In addition to generating a false impression of “democracy,” conceding a deliberative vote in a systematic way would have the effect of diminishing the value of the consultative vote. On the other hand, an occasional concession of a deliberative vote could become an instrument for authoritarian government, because it could not escape being used in an arbitrary way. Even in the modern constitutional State, authority is “democratic” precisely because it is constrained to respect with absolute fidelity the nature of things (the Constitution), which does not permit the arbitrary creation of exceptions. Manipulations with regard to the modalities of power are typical of authoritarian regimes.
30 We note in this regard that the tradition of the Church is acquainted with voting “quasi per inspirationem.” It is sufficient to call to mind cases of the election of bishops by popular acclamation, as, for example, that of St. Ambrose. As an electoral technique, the vote “quasi per inspirationem” goes back at least to the fifth century and was applied much more frequently than is commonly believed. In reality, however, it is not a true and proper type of voting because by its nature it does not tend to count dissenting votes. Only subsequently, to remedy abuses, it was structured as an electoral form based on the rigorous principle of unanimity and limited therefore to qualified electoral bodies. However, it should be considered as the expression of the common will of an ecclesial environment in which communion of judgment has reached an intensity that is fundamentally perfect. On this problem, cf. also L. Moulin, “Sanior et maior pars,” loc. cit., pp. 491-493.
31 The term is taken in its broadest sense of indicating a representational system. Thus it should not be confused with the “parliamentary system” taken in its technical sense, in which it signifies the dependence of a government – in its existence and activity – on the vote of confidence of a Parliament; cf. R. Herzog, “Parlamentarisches System,” in: EvStLex, pp. 1479-1483.
32 Private forms of association can be considered related to parliament in that their democratic structure is drawn from rationalist contractual theories (Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau), and function with criteria of representation. This has not impeded that in the subsequent development of thought (A. de Tocqueville), they have been juxtaposed to the State as means to guarantee individual freedom against bureaucratic centralization and therefore indirectly also against parliament; cf. N. Matteucci, “Democrazia,” Enciclopedia Filosofica 1 (Venice-Rome 1957), pp. 1465-1469. For a denunciation of the danger of a parliamentary mentality in the Church, cf. also G. Philips, La Chiesa e il suo mistero, II (Milan 1969), p. 54.
33 To take only one example of a strictly juridical character, one may consider the transformation undergone in the canonical order by institutions of Roman origin such as that of aequitas, dispensation and privilege; cf P. Fedele, Lo spirito del diritto canonico (Padua 1962), esp. pp. 197-348.
34 According to W.V. Humboldt, to cite just one example, the supreme and final end of every man is given from the “höchsten und proportionierlichsten Ausbildung seiner Kräfte in ihrer individuellen Eigentümlichkeit,” quoted by H. Peters, “Demokratie,” in: StLex, 11, p. 576.
35 The associationism referred to here is of liberal-bourgeois origin, whose roots can be found in the nominalism of the beginning of the Modern Age. It must, however, be distinguished from the Medieval corporative system: in this regard cf. J.M.-Y. Congar, “Quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus tractari et approbari debet,”RHDFE 36 (1968), esp. 222-224. Marxism also contests the associationism of liberal-bourgeois extraction based on the duplicity of personal existence, to propose another conception of the relationship between the individual and society based on the identity between the interests of the citizen and those of the state. It seems to us, however, that the present tendency of the democratization of the Church is due more to liberal-bourgeois thought, and so our analysis will limit itself to this phenomenon.. On this question, cf., for example, R. Bäumlin, “Demokratie,” in: EvStLex, pp. 278-285; G. Leibholz, “Repräsentation,” in: ibid., pp. 1859-1864.
37 In order to be able to determine whether the medieval corporative forms – conserved in their essential elements in canons 684-725 of the Code, despite subsequent legislative interventions starting from the Council of Trent – better respect the organic structure of the “communio ecclesiale,” one would have to make a particular study. However, it is symptomatic that they were perceived to be bodies extraneous to liberal-bourgeois culture. Indeed they underwent a very strong deflection already in the eighteenth century, under the vigorous and scoffing critique of the rationalist philosophers. Cf. G. Le Bras, “Les Confreries chrétiennes. Problèmes et propositions,” RHDFE 29 (1940-41), 311ff
38 One is able to better understand the nature of modern associations by comparing them with their medieval counterpart. O. v. Gierke (Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht, I, Berlin 1868), makes the following observations: “Die mittelalterliche Genossenschaft forderte den ganzen Menschen, ihre Mitglieder konnten daher ursprünglich keinem anderen Vereinen angehören… (dies) unterschied die mittelalterliche Assoziation in charakteristischer Weise von der unsrigen (p. 227). Niemals aber war dieses Bedürfnis, dieser Zweck (sc. um dessentwillen sich die Genossen einander verbunden hatten) das eigentliche Bindemittel der Genossen: immer waren sie zugleich für alle andern menschlichen Gesellschaftszwecke vereint, sie waren so verbunden, wie heute nur noch Staat und Gemeinde verbinden… Jede germanische Gilde hatte daher zugleich religiöse, gesellige, sittliche, privatrechtliche und politische Ziele… (So) waren sie mithin sehr wesentlich von unseren heutigen Vereinen zu frommen Zwecken, die eben nur um dieses Einen Zweckes willen existieren, unterschieden” (p. 228).
40 A first attempt to pose the “communio” as the formal principle of ecclesiology, limited, however, to the structural level of the relationship between the different particular Churches between themselves, and of them with the Church of Rome, has been made by W. Aymans, “Die ‘Communio Ecclesiarum’ als Gestaltgesetz der einen Kirche,” AfkKR 139 (1970), 69-90; cf. also A. Ganoczy, “Wie kann die Kollegialität dem päpstlichen Primat gegenüber aufgewertet werden,” Concilium 7 (1971), pp. 267-273.
42 Cf. Jn 17:21-23: “…that all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us… that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them and thou in me; that they may be perfected in unity…”
45 An example of this difficulty comes to us from the apparent contrast of some principles developed through canonical science: that of “pars sanior” and that of requiring strongly qualified majorities (as in conciliar voting), or that of the vote “iuxta modum,” by which one seeks to save the common elements of judgment as much as possible. Cf. L. Moulin, “Sanior et maior pars,” loc. cit., esp. pp. 370-397; cf. also W. Aymans, Das synodale Element, loc. cit., pp. 239ff.
46 Here also we observe that the category of pluralism, proper to modern culture, cannot be transported to the Church without reservations. Nominalist and rationalist philosophy conceive society as a sum of individuals, following an atomistic conception of the person, which is not overcome even by the so-called federalist systems, because, within each political entity (State, Canton, municipality, etc…) the structure remains purely individual.
48 It is for this reason that in ecclesial electoral systems, large space has always been given to the representation of particular communitarian groups (religious orders, charitable groups, and more recently, to groups of Catholic Action, etc.).
49 Therefore, every particular community must constitute itself as an area of communion embracing all the dimensions of life, where man can realize himself in an integral way. Parishes are born in this way, and it is for this reason that from the beginning they have put the celebration of the Word and the Sacrament at the center of their concern. They have ceased to be operative areas generating Christian cultural facts only when the liturgical experience of prayer ceased to structurally invest the existence of the persons involved, leaving the way open to a moralistic and pietistic dualism.
51 It is for this reason that bishops also, when they break the “communio ecclesiastica” in a grave way, are excluded from the college of bishops and consequently from participation at the level of operation and decision-making in the life of the Church.
53 On this problem, cf. K. Mörsdorf, “Das eine Volk Gottes und die Teilhabe der Laien an der Sendung der Kirche,” in: Ecclesia et Jus. Festgabe für A. Scheuermann zum 60. Geburstag, ed. by Siepen, Weitzel and Wirth (Munich/Paderborn/Vienna 1968), pp. 105-111.
54 Cf. P. Hinder, Autonomie der Laien in der Kirche? Eine Untersuchung über die Eigenständigkeit der Laien in der Kirche nach den Dokumenten des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils (Freiburg [CH] 1971) (dissertation not yet published).
55 The problem of the political autonomy of the laity is very difficult. However, it does not seem possible to us to be able to resolve it adequately by theorizing in a reductive way – as the school of Maritain has done – concerning the possible legitimacy of disobedience of the laity with regard to the hierarchy.
56 This is not the place to give a value judgment on the democratic-parliamentary political reality. The problem is always that of denouncing the equivocal transposition of a similar structure into the ecclesial reality. It is true that the authority of the bishop is also formal, but if it is cut off from the context of real communion, it easily falls into authoritarianism. Indeed, at the limit when he is cut off from the context of the “communio ecclesiastica plena,” the bishop loses his authority within the Catholic Church, ceasing to belong to the college of bishops.
58 Mt 10:39. On the ambiguity of the transposition in the Church of the concepts of “bonum commune” and “interest,” in their typically secular sense, cf. J. Ratzinger, “Demokratisierung der Kirche?”; J. Ratzinger-H. Maier, Demokratie in der Kirche. Möglichkeiten, Grenzen, Gefahren, loc. cit., pp. 18-22.
59 In the general councils of the Middle Ages, the envoys of the chapters did not represent the diocese, but defended the corporate interests of the canons; cf. G. Tangl, Die Teilnehmer an den allgemeinen Konzilien des Mittelalters (Darmstadt 1969), pp. 219-220.
60 The canonical order has always been conscious of this fact. Can. 1407, in fact, excludes the possibility of making the profession of faith by procurator. The same principle is applied to oaths (can. 1316 § 2). Also the exclusion of the double vote of the procurator to the council (when he is already one of the Fathers of the ecumenical council), and the concession of a solely consultative vote to the procurators in minor councils (can. 224 § 2, 287 § 2), translates the conviction of the Church that every conciliar decision, even if only disciplinary, always has a very strict connection with the profession of faith.
61 In our opinion, however, canonical marriage by procurator (can. 1088 § 1) should be abolished, precisely because its sacramental character implies the faith. Starting with Duns Scotus until the end of the eighteenth century, there were always great theologians – like Cajetan de Vio, F. de Vitoria, G. Vázquez, the Salmanticenses, the Virceburgenses, and R. Billuart – who denied the sacramentality of marriage by procurator, although recognizing it to have the value of a natural contract. On this problem, cf. E. Corecco, “Il sacerdote ministro del Matrimonio? Analisi del problema in relazione alla dottrina della inseparabilità tra contratto e sacramento, nei lavori preparatori del Concilio Vaticano I,” La Scuola Cattolica 98 (1970), 353, 450-458.
63 It seems to us that this concept is correctly expressed also by G. Carenzo (Le strutture rappresentative della Chiesa, loc. cit., pp. 345-353) when he affirms that representation must be “true and credible” in the sense that between the corpus that is posed as a “representation” of the Church and the Church herself, there must be a perfect correspondence, in the sense that “the Church must recognize herself in it and express in it all the richness of her mystery.” In this sense, it is also exact to say that an assembly “elected by the universal suffrage of the whole People of God, might also fail to be ‘representative’; whereas an assembly entirely chosen and convoked from above” could be (p. 349). Perhaps the author forgets to emphasize that the Church can be represented even by the bishop alone, without any synodal assembly. On the other hand, the concept of representation used by A. Ganoczy, “Wie kann die Kollegialität dem päpstlichen Primat gegenüber aufgewertet werden,” loc. cit., pp. 269-270, does not seem to be entirely exact. The author, in fact, seems to put on the same level the capacity to represent Christ of persons who have received this ministerial task, and their capacity to represent the community. The latter is conceived, however, as a fact coming from below, so that the term is used in two different senses. The minister, and the bishop in the first place, represents Christ and the Christian community only in virtue of the one power received from Christ Himself. The power of being mediator, by analogy with Christ, both towards above and below, is derived from the bishop’s fuller participation in the priestly, prophetic, and regal office of Christ.