excessive centralization complicates the church’s life

An Advent Journey with Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium, Part 13

The papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion. (Evangelii Gaudium, 32)

Pope Francis believes that it his duty as the Bishop of Rome to “be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization.”

Vatican II called for a greater collegiality among the pope and bishops as well as a greater sense of subsidiarity for episcopal conferences. Francis is now calling for a renewed effort to make this a reality. He believes that “Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

These are rumblings of a major paradigm shift about to happen. Whenever there are rumblings, there will be those who fear the uncertainty that comes with change. For some, it will require a major letting go not only of old ways of doing things, but of a leadership structure of elitism and privilege that will be hard to give up. Francis won’t have much trouble convincing many Catholics on the ground of a more horizontal style of leadership. The tougher sell will be among the “princely” leaders of the church.

4 thoughts on “excessive centralization complicates the church’s life

  1. There was an attempt a few years ago with “Ut Unam Sint” that didn’t seem to go anywhere. I think Pope Francis might have the momentum of the Faithful, and the power of the Holy Spirit to make real change happen. I expect he will be challenged mightily by those who fear the unknown and those who will have to relinquish power and privilege. So be it!
    The Spirit blows where he/she wills.

  2. Thank you Isabella for bringing to light Evangelii Gaudium and your insightful reflections. I remember the “heady days” of learning about collegiality and subsidiarity as a result of Vatican II and our struggle to incorporate these principles into the constitutions/life of our religious community. Perhaps as women religious, without the trappings of “clericalism” we were more able to “renew” and take to heart these calls to shared leadership and community building. Do keep the blogs coming…

    • Thanks so much! I did a research paper once on this exact topic, using our local Benedictine community for the source. This is exactly what I found. The Sisters were so open to the spirit if collegiality and subsidiarity. No, it wasn’t easy to upturn old traditions. It took real dialogue and courageous faith. Clericalism was a barrier then, and continues to be. Religious women really were and are inspirational trail blazers. God bless you!!!

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