Bishops debate their role
(Compiled from various news sources)
Collegiality, the role of the bishop and his relationship to Rome
were the major subjects of discussion in the Sept. 30 - Oct. 27
Synod of Bishops in Rome.
Rome also was the site of a "shadow synod," called
the Synod of the People of God, in which Catholic reform groups
discussed at least some of the same issues and called for changes
in the church.
According to various news reports, 67 "secret" or non-published
proposals were made to the Pope by the bishops. Many of them related
to "collegiality," which generally refers to the need
for more dialogue between local bishops' conferences or local churches
and the Roman curia.
The synod consisted of speech-making phases as well as proposal
writing. Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, Texas and
outgoing president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,
said in one of the synod speeches, that local bishops should be
given more authority by applying "subsidiarity," the
principle whereby nothing is decided at a higher level that can
adequately be resolved at a lower level. Fiorenza said the bishops
should discuss "appropriate means for recognizing that particular
churches or regional churches can make specific decisions which
relate to local issues," according to the Catholic Trends
Although the Catholic News Service estimated that after 136 bishops
spoke, about 18% had addressed, in some fashion, the issue of governance
in the church, most merely raised questions or suggested further
studies. The synod's proposals do not have legal force; the bishops
act in an advisory capacity to the Pope.
Still, the synod was the latest in a series of assemblies, including
the cardinals' consistory, or world-wide gathering, in May, in
which decentralization and the balance of power between Rome and
local bishops was discussed. Clearly, the matter of how decisions
are made in the church, particularly when it comes to non-doctrinal
issues, has been on the minds of some bishops in recent years.
This theological and philosophical debate will no doubt continue
whenever the selection of the next pope takes place.
While not all the bishops at the Rome synod were in favor of
more collegiality, those from a variety of locations, including
Russia, Mexico, Poland, Switzerland and Columbia, spoke in favor
of the principle. According to the National Catholic Reporter,
Columbian Bishop Ruben Salazar Gomez extended the idea of collegiality
to the laity, saying bishops must promote structures "for
communion and participation, in order to listen to the Spirit who
lives in his people."
While the bishops' synod was taking place, so was its "shadow."
That coalition of reform groups called for sweeping changes in
church policy, including more rights for women and the laity, and
more dialogue about human sexuality. Specifically, the shadow synod
called for "non-discrimination" which includes opening
all church offices, including the priesthood, to all the baptized.