decentralizing the papacy

An Advent Journey with Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium, Part 6

Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world. (Evangelii Gaudium. 16)

Don’t tell me what to do. I mean it! When faced with a question in life, big or small, I need time to wrap my own brain around it. I need to ponder it, turn it around and inside out. Yes, I seek the wisdom of others. But, than I need to measure that wisdom against what my own mind, heart and gut are telling me.

For me, the days of doing things just because the Church or the Pope “says so” are long gone. I believe in freedom of conscience. I also believe that this conscience must be carefully formed and informed. Morality is not a free for all, but it is also not always clearly discernible in black and white answers. We must be willing to do the hard work in seeking the truth in our own lives.

Two main themes of Vatican II are collegiality and subsidiarity. Collegiality calls for a more horizontal style of leadership that is collaborative and more participatory. Subsidiarity states that decisions shouldn’t be made on a higher level if they can be made more effectively on a more local level. Collegiality and subsidiarity respect the wisdom of us all. They do not impose unreasonably or expect blind obedience.

Pope Francis writes,  “It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound ‘decentralization’.”

This is big…really big! We have seen the harm that an increasingly centralized leadership in the church can bring. One example is the recent translation of the Roman Missal. The men in Rome threw out the version worked on by the English speaking bishops and imposed their own, stilted translation with no regard for the wishes of the local churches.

Ghandi famously said “be the change you wish to see.” Francis is already doing this in modelling a simpler style of life. I have hope he can also do this by modelling a new style of leadership.

4 thoughts on “decentralizing the papacy

  1. Ghandi famously said “be the change you wish to see.”
    These are certainly words to “live-by”…to attain this one MUST be true to ones self. We need more pure, honest, compassionate and loving leaders in the Church before we can trust and follow. Like in all matters of life, taking more responsibility for our thoughts and actions will facilitate the change.
    Thank you Isabella for ALL you are as LEADER.

  2. “Like in all matters of life, taking more responsibility for our thoughts and actions will facilitate the change”….wonderful words, Chris. I couldn’t agree more! And it’s wonderful when kind words come your way, just when you seem to need them most. 🙂

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