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Bishops and Their Function (Wed Nov 24, 2004 2:42 pm)

If Bishops can't control it or don't own it, they don't trust it, and it ain't Catholic! Keep in mind that they all trek to Rome every five years to visit the alleged tombs of Peter and Paul and renew their vow of absolute loyalty to the Vatican. This is good news for the Pope and the Curia, but bad news for the Catholic people of the world and for the long term health of the organization. Not having been chosen by their people to assume a leadership role in the Church, the bishops' first loyalty is to Rome rather than to the people of their own diocese. They, and others, bring the word from Rome to be enforced rather than bringing the faith experience of their people to inform Rome. They are representatives of the monarchy commissioned to teach and enforce the rules rather than be representatives of their people of faith to share the faith experience of the local Church with the world through Rome.

The democratic principles of participation, openness, accountability and subsidiarity, while highly recommended by the Pope, remain just that, recommendations, as long as the loyalty of the CEO of the local Catholic Church franchise remains unresponsive to the stockholders, and unaccountable to them. These "secular" descriptive terms are appropriate as long as the institution continues to act like its secular counterparts.

Rather, the bishops - and even more, we laity! - need to take the popes at their word. In 1965 Pope Paul VI called for a Catholic Constitution, a Lex Fundamentalis Ecclesiae. He went further in 1967: "It belongs to the laity, without waiting passively for orders and directives, to take the initiative...infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws and structures of the community in which they live." [Paul VI, Populorum progressio, 1967] And one of the most important communities we live in is the Catholic Church!

And yet more: "Let each one examine himself, to see what he has done up to now, and what he ought to do. It is not enough to recall principles, state intentions, point to crying injustice and utter prophetic denunciations; these words will lack real weight unless they are accompanied for each individual by a livelier awareness of personal responsibility and by effective action."[Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens,1971] Here is a clarion call to action to all of us by the pope himself!

Pope John Paul II continued on this path when he insisted that "Democracy...represents a most important topic for the new millennium...[the Church] values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them".[ "John Paul II to the Participants in the 6th Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences," February 23, 2000.]

ARCC believes in, and works toward, establishing a Constitution for the Church which attempts to realize these democratic principles which our popes have been encouraging us Catholics to practice. Some might wish to claim that the Popes are urging democracy in the civil sphere, but not in the religious sphere. That's nonsense! If democracy is judged to be vital in the secular world, it is "a fortiori" all the more important in the most important area of human life - the religious area, the Church!

Response to ARCC spot LIGHT - Bishops and their Functions (Wed Dec 8, 2004 3:37 pm)

Dear ARCC Members,

Jesus said nothing about popes,cardinals, bishops,archbishops, and monsignors (that word means "My Lord" and should be reserved for God) and when Jesus used the word "priest" he was talking about the temple officials who slaughtered animals in sacrifice. We followers of Jesus moved away from human sacrifice as the Children of Israel had done, and we also moved away from animal sacrifice. Jesus invited us to celebrate the Lord's Supper in memory of him but did not call it a sacrifice. I'm sure most members of the hierarchy and clergy are sincere men, but they have built up an elaborate system of power which seems to keep people away from the Gospel of Jesus. A democratic model which eliminates the current distinction between clergy and laity would seem to be much more effective for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the world.

---- Dr. Bernard Lammers -- Professor of Public Law & Government -- St. Lawrence University -- Canton NY l36l7.


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