Summer 2001 Newsletter
Spirit Leads Consistory . . . Bishops' Synod Next
By: Christine Schenk, csj
As I write, it is the vigil of Pentecost and I am filled with both gratitude and conviction that the
Spirit is definitely behind some surprising new developments in Church governance. The May 21-
24 extraordinary consistory of Cardinals resulted in a resounding call for increased collegiality,
reform of the curia, and more consultation with the people of God in the local churches. Belgian
Cardinal Godfried Danneels said publicly that he would like to see more free-wheeling debate in
the Church's upper echelons, so he was happy when two Vatican cardinals spoke out. One curial
cardinal said the local churches might be given more responsibility in selecting candidates for
bishops and in some church law matters that now end up at the Vatican. Another questioned why
there was not more cross-consultation among Vatican offices when a single office is publishing a
major document. (ed. note: Dominus Iesus comes to mind). "The fact that some Roman curia
cardinals are saying these things is new. And they were more courageous than the other cardinals
outside the Curia," Cardinal Danneels told reporters on May 23.
Many cardinals wanted changes in the Synod of Bishops to make it a more responsive and effective
instrument of cooperation among the pope, the Vatican and local churches. Cardinal Francis E.
George of Chicago said he thought the Church could use a synod that is more "supple" and less tied
to the standard format of speech giving. Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law suggested that synods be
held once a year with an open agenda rather than the pre-packaged, highly controlled scenarios that
have been standard fare for recent gatherings. Scotland's Cardinal Thomas Winning wants Curia
offices to consult more with bishops' conferences and local churches before putting out documents.
He referred to the recent retrograde Vatican document Liturgicam Authenticam that requires literal
interpretation of Latin texts and is causing widespread consternation. South Africa's Cardinal
Wilfrid Fox Napier recently said the decision would arrest efforts to produce vernacular texts for
his people and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony said that liturgy and translation were the
consistory's most frequently cited examples of the need for collegiality.
In the meantime there has been an overwhelming response to FutureChurch's Contact the Cardinals
and cc: Your Bishops campaign. Hundreds of letters were sent U.S. Cardinals and Cardinals
worldwide asking that the availability of the Eucharist become a top priority in the consistory and
the international Synod of Bishops to be held next October. The letters were sent (often on parish
stationary) by priests and pastoral leaders, individual Catholics and national Church organizations
such as the Association for to Rights of Catholics in the Church and the Leadership of the
Carondelet Sisters of St. Joseph. Media coverage has been widespread, including coverage by CNN
International and a wire story picked up by Religion News Service which led to stories in the
National Catholic Reporter, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Prairie Messenger in
Saskatchewan, among other places.
While we do our part to plan, whether the media responds and whether people decide to take action
are ultimately beyond our control. It is the work of the Spirit to renew the Church and so far it sure
looks like S/he's up to the job!