Limits of the Papacy

Chirico, Peter

UNLOCKING THE KEYS THE LIMITS OF THE PAPACY Patrick Granfield Crossroad, $15.95, 207 pp. Peter Chirico It is a pleasure to read this clearly written, non-polemical, balanced, and...

...or (b) one which presents dissenting views to the general public as pastoral norms that any good Catholic may choose in preference to magisterial teaching...
...and tensions arising from interchanges between Rome and individual bishops (e.g., Hunthausen) or groups of bishops...
...First, there is the collegial relationship of the pope to the episcopate in the conduct of the universal church...
...Roman regulation of religious communities...
...He recognizes that public dissent from the authentic teaching of the church by theologians in a scholarly forum, better called "non-assent" or "withholding assent," is permissible when presented tentatively with a diffidence and humility which safeguards the respect of the faithful for the magisterium's teaching...
...I personally hold that one does not need to interpret Vatican I's teaching that the pope has ordinary, universal, full, supreme, and immediate juridical authority in the church in such a way as to make that authority untouched in practice by genuine divinely established limits...
...Second, papal power is presented as limited by the divinely willed institution of local churches...
...papally ordered studies of seminaries and religious communities in the United States...
...The remainder of the book takes up in some detail four factors in the Christian community which work to counterbalance the seemingly total papal supremacy...
...Such non-assent is to be distinguished from dissent which Granfield considers impermissible, namely either (a) one which involves the assertion that one's views are correct and those of the magisterium are in error...
...Third, the sense of the faithful, as accurately described by Granfield, places limits upon what the pope can teach...
...In this context Granfield speaks of several voluntary restrictions by the pope on the exercise of his authority...
...First, I think Granfield's treatment of the thorny question of public dissent is a model of balance...
...In discussing the practical handling of dissent, Granfield asserts that the magisterium should function as a courtof-last resort to sanction dissenting theologians only after extensive dialogue and the use of local authorities...
...interchanges between the papal magisterium and theologians resulting in various cerfsures or restrictions...
...Because the faith lives in the faithful, their reception of papal teaching is significant, and the possibility of non-reception and dissent within limits comes into being...
...In particular, I wish he had discussed the significant conclusions of modern biblical scholarship on the role of Peter in the New Testament as well as the different views on papal primacy that were reflected in the tension between the popes and the Eastern bishops in the first Christian millennium...
...Second, I wish Granfield had treated some of the ancient historical background for papal authority more fully...
...The pope simply does not possess an unconditioned authority that permits him to act as he pleases against the unity of the church...
...Third, I have doubts about Granfield's view that the practical exercise of the pope's juridical authority is virtually unlimited by the divine will and that the only way to get around the problems this unlimited authority creates for collegiality and for the ecumenical venture is for the pope to voluntarily renounce some degree of his powers...
...If one accepts this point of view, then what is required to meet the fear of a pope who acts arbitrarily and dictatorially is the detailing of a process which combines (1) the recognition of the Catholic doctrine that there is no legal authority in the church superior to that of the pope with (2) a creative strategy which practically enforces the divinely willed limits to the exercise of papal authority...
...papal restrictions on political activities of individual religious and priests...
...The 633 teaching of Vatican II is compared with the church's experience of collegiality in the operations of the Synod of Bishops and of the episcopal conferences...
...Finally, the existence of other Christian communities called to oneness in the church suggests the need for (1) a primatial office dedicated to the unity of the whole church and for (2) certain reasonable limits to the authority of that office which will encourage other churches to accept the pope as the de facto primate...
...Rather, one can say, and I believe one must say, that the pope's juridical authority derives from the purpose and goal of his office and that its extent is limited by that purpose and goal...
...A few comments...
...Granfield opens by describing the historical events of the post-Vatican II church under John Paul II which have raised questions about papal authority and its limits today: the general tendency of the pope to insist on complete obedience to magisterial teaching at all levels...
...After treating the theological and canonical claims made for the pope's supreme executive, legislative, jurisdictional, and teaching authority, Granfield examines (1) the historical attempts to limit the pope's powers, and (2) the recognized possibilities of restrictions on these powers official, legal (natural law, divine law, and ecclesiastical law), dogmatic, and practical...
...Peter Chirico It is a pleasure to read this clearly written, non-polemical, balanced, and ecumenically sensitive account of the limits to the authority of the pope in the church...
...I fear voluntary renouncement because what is freely laid down can be freely taken up again, as Granfield himself acknowledges...
...Thus, the pope has the right to intervene immediately in a concrete case in any diocese in the world only if and when such an intervention is necessary for building the unity of faith and communion...
...Despite the controversial contents of this first chapter, Granfield's account is a model of sobriety and objectivity...
...My personal views notwithstanding, I believe Granfield has given us an excellent treatment of a truly significant but formerly neglected theological problem...
...These distinctions tend to overlap one another...
...The pope's function as the center of unity for all the churches is shown to operate in tension with the authority of each local bishop and with a legitimate concern for the working of the principle of subsidiarity...

Vol. 114 • November 1987 • No. 19


 
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