Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Bishop Raymond W. Lessard, Retired Bishop of Savannah

I suspect some people might think that I disagree with the documents of Vatican II, especially as it regards liturgy. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I disagree with is the "theology of dissent" promoted by many theologians and rank and file Catholics that cannot be found in Church teaching, especially Vatican II.

I disagree with the wrong implementation of Vatican II when that implementation is a rupture with the pre-Vatican II expression and promoted as though the post Vatican II Church is some kind of new Church unshackled from its pre-Vatican II roots.

I would say that one of my main mentors after I was ordained was our former now retired bishop, Bishop Raymond W. Lessard. He understood the documents of Vatican II better than anyone else I have known personally. He understood what collegiality meant. He understood what liturgical reform should include and not include. He was very much into "saying the black and doing the red."

While Bishop of Savannah, he tried to model on the diocesan level what should be going on in the parish level. He had a strong staff with delegated authority; he developed a diocesan pastoral council and expected strong pastoral councils on the parish level as well as committees to assist the pastor in his role. He was very much into consultation, although there was never any doubt about where the buck stopped and who has the final decision after the collaborative approach. He also scrutinized what his staff was doing and gave proper direction and criticism in the appropriate venue.

Here's an article on Bishop Lessard back in 2005 regarding Vatican II and some issues that were dear to his heart. He currently teaches at St. Vincent de Paul seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Collegiality in the church: Vatican II debate continues today

By Jerry Filteau

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Of the many debates that took place during the Second Vatican Council, one of the most important and complex -- and one that still goes on today -- concerned collegiality, or the role of the college of bishops in leading, guiding and teaching the church.

By extension, the collegial principle affects how parishes and dioceses are run, as well as how the church operates on the regional, national and worldwide levels.

Retired Bishop Raymond W. Lessard of Savannah, Ga., who worked at the Vatican during and after the council, told Catholic News Service that collegiality is at the heart of "the ongoing question of the relationship between the local and the universal church, which brings up a host of questions: centralization, the (Vatican) bureaucracy running things too much, but there's also the other extreme of isolationism of a local church -- the local bishop, for example, being too autonomous and independent."

Collegiality is also a central concern in the quest for church unity. At an ecumenical forum on the papacy at Georgetown University in September, several theologians of different faiths said they would welcome a papal ministry serving the unity of all Christians, but that one of the chief obstacles to such unity is the apparent lack of collegiality in the way papal authority is exercised currently.

The theologians participating in the forum extended that to the issue of conciliarity or synodality at every level of church life: the role of pastoral councils giving laity a say in parish life and of similar councils at the diocesan and national levels giving laity, deacons and priests a say in the life of the diocese or the church across the nation.

Bishop Lessard, who now teaches ecclesiology, or the theology of the church, at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Florida, distinguished between what theologians and church documents refer to as "effective collegiality" and what they call "affective collegiality."

Effective collegiality is what the council describes in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church when it says, "The order of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, and in it the apostolic college is perpetuated. Together with their head, the supreme pontiff, and never apart from him, they have supreme and full authority over the universal church."

The document says that since early Christianity the collegial character of the body of bishops has been evident in the union of all bishops with one another and with the pope in "unity, charity and peace." It also was evident in the ancient church practice of the church's bishops meeting in council to settle "all questions of major importance," it says.

Affective collegiality refers to the sense of unity with the pope and the world's bishops that ought to pervade the ministry of each bishop individually and the common actions of groups of bishops. Even though they do not act with the full authority held by the entire college of bishops gathered in council under the pope, bishops acting as individuals or in groups always "are related with and united to one another," the document says.

"While theologically there's a key concept of effective collegiality, to me just as important is that of affective collegiality, which cannot be spelled out so clearly in canonical norms or directives because it's more of a feeling, an instinct. But to me that's of crucial importance," Bishop Lessard said.

He said that underlying the notion of collegiality is the understanding of the church as a communion of the people of God. To the early Christian theologians, what was important about that communion was "how it is felt and lived," he said.

To make collegiality a living reality in the church "Paul VI was quite determined to carry out the conciliar directives," the bishop added. "I'm thinking now on the practical level of the initiatives he took by extending faculties to bishops for things they were restricted from doing before, and of course of the development of national (bishops') conferences."

During and immediately after the council, as a staff member of the Vatican's Consistorial Congregation and then its successor, the Congregation for Bishops, Bishop Lessard saw firsthand the efforts of Pope Paul to advance the understanding and practice of collegiality around the world.

He also cited Pope Paul's establishment of the Synod of Bishops as "a pioneering step" in advancing collegiality. Through the synod, the pope consults periodically with representatives of the world's bishops on major issues facing the church.

At the September forum on the papacy, panelists from the Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran traditions saw the Synod of Bishops, bishops' conferences and diocesan and parish pastoral councils as steps toward more decentralized authority and more consultative and participatory decision-making in the Catholic Church. But they thought those conciliar structures need to be strengthened further and the primacy of the pope reinterpreted before the papacy can be seen as exercising a ministry of unity for all Christians.

One panelist, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, former dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York, summed up the tension between no central authority and too much central authority: "Hierarchy without conciliarity is tyranny. ... Conciliarity without hierarchy is anarchy."


Templar said...

Such plans work well with Bishops like Lassard, less so with weaker men. And the same can be argued with historically strong, sound Popes, versus weaker ones in history when Hierarchy was more rigid.

I'm okay with the way you describe the Diocesan operations under Lassard, much less happy with Bishop's conferences. NOTHING good comes from Committees.

God didn't send a us a Committee now did he?

R. E. Ality said...

National bishops' conferences? If the USCCB is an indicator, their development has been a monumental disaster. How does having an Episcopal bureaucracy in the service of partisan liberal politics aid in the legitimate mission, teaching and governing functions of Bishops?
On another thread, a commentator mentioned that God's fundamental option is for the poor (meaning economically disadvantaged). Like St. Paul I thought the Church being all about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Isn't God's fundamental option the redemption of all mankind thus facilitating each individual human's choice to accept or reject salvation? Thus, isn’t the Church's fundamental for the salvation of souls, rich and poor alike? Rome determined that it wasn’t Liberation Theology. You say, “what?” Rome, you know, where the chair of Peter, the Vicar of Christ resides.
Perhaps our most pedantic contributor could site chapter and verse from Holy Scripture to prove that its author substituted or even encouraged governmental theft for individual charity.

Peter Maurin said...

Speaking for God, the Church's fundamental option:

"Our world is entering the new millennium burdened by the contradictions of an economic, cultural and technological progress which offers immense possibilities to a fortunate few, while leaving millions of others not only on the margins of progress but in living conditions far below the minimum demanded by human dignity...Christians must learn to make their act of faith in Christ by discerning his voice in the cry for help that rises from this world of poverty." Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, Apostolic Letter at the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, January 6, 2001

"From salvation history we learn that power is responsibility: it is service, not privilege. Its exercise is morally justifiable when it is used for the good of all, when it is sensitive to the needs of the poor and defenseless. – Pope John Paul II, St. Louis, Missouri, January 1999

"Love for others, and especially for the poor, is made concrete by promoting justice."
–Pope John Paul II
Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year)

"In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others."
–Pope Paul VI
Octogesima Adveniens (A Call to Action)

"In protecting the rights of private individuals, however, special consideration must be given to the weak and the poor. For the nation, as it were, of the rich, is guarded by its own defenses and is in less need of governmental protection, whereas the suffering multitude, without the means to protect itself, relies especially on the protection of the State. Wherefore, since wage workers are numbered among the great mass of the needy, the State must include them under its special care and foresight."
–Pope Leo XIII
Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Workers)

God's fundamental option, according to popes, is caring for the poor. When that is done, salvation is made incarnate.

Anonymous said...

This thread took three posts to get hijacked.

Honestly, it is painful to read those passages from great Popes that naively placed so much faith in States that eventually turned their backs on them and create economic poverty from their laws.

This makes me wonder even more if we have completely misunderstand the meaning of poverty as Christ does.


pinanv525 said...

I have posted pretty much the same thing that R.E. Ality posted, as have others. Maurin, who is Ignotus, continues to quote the obvious from various sources. What he misses is that this "option" for the poor has been co-opted by politically liberal factions within and without the Church and used as an anti-Capitalist, Socialist tool which, as Ality says, seeks to make the Church into a primarily social work organization.

I particularly like his statement, "when that is done, salvation is made incarnate..." I rather think the proper word is "immanent," not incarnate. He is equating salvation with "caring for the poor." So, if the poor get on WIC, have wide screen TV's and Game Boys, and pretty much free access to Wal Mart, the Kingdom has come. Well, Halleluja, pass the corn bread!

R. E. Ality said...

Do Maurin's mauraders really help the poor by decimating our economy, thus killing private sector jobs?

Inflation is technically not a "tax" yet it is the cruelist, most regressive "tax" of all as it disproportionally harms the economically disadvantaged.

Inflation fueled by liberal ideology and policies is an egregious assault on the poor. Liberals feel good when talking about the fundamental option for the poor. Conservatives prefer actually helping the poor instead of mouthing talking points.

Too bad Bush isn't still President. Then we would be subjected to daily bombardment by the Media condemning the president for unemployment and inflation.
Maurin would gleefully join that chorus.

Maurin's intellectual prowess is a case in point when considering that of those to whom much is given, much is expected. Such a gift should not be wasted on the failed ideologies of Socialism and Maraxism, neither of which is approved of by the Church or by those genuinely concerned for the poor or for the common good.

pinanv525 said...

Ality, I think you are my long lost twin! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Excellent point concerning 'incarnate' vs 'immanent'. Otherwise we could maintain a celestial balance sheet of good and bad actions.


Peter Maurin said...

Papal teachings are not "talking points." They are the bases for action. A person can choose to act, basing his/her behaviour on the Church's teaching, or one can choose to prevaricate, throwing up smoke screens and sounding like so many right AND left wing TV Talking Heads.

If caring for the poor equates to socialiam and Marxism, I am, once again, in good company with popes, Saints, and a host of others who understood that salvation is made INCARNATE in us when we live virtuous lives.

pinanv525 said...

No one on this Blog is questioning our duty to the poor or Christ's commandment to care for them. Your continued perseveration about it tells me you have nothing else to offer.For someone who complains about straw men, you have built a huge one.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to create a post and, when it sees the light of day, does really mean what the author meant.

Maurin, you last post seems to say the Popes and Saints were Socialists. Assuming that is not what you meant it seems you would want differentiate the Church from socialism and communism to clear up any confusion concurrent actions might cause.


Peter Maurin said...

rcg: Notice the word "If" at the beginning of my second paragraph.

pinanv525 said...

"Salvation is made incarnate in us when we live virtuous lives." That is Pelagianism. Salvation is incarnate in only one man, Christ. Perhaps you should have worded it differently...unless that is what you believe salvation to a good and virtuous life here below, being "open" to everyone, never getting angry, taking poor people and minorities to lunch, avoiding straw men, driving a Pious...I mean a Prius...all with only the minimum of self-righteousness. That is indeed commendable.

Peter Maurin said...

No, I am not Pelagian, not even semi-Pelagian.

To be Pelagian I would have to have said, "Salvation is ATTAINED or CAUSED BY or BROUGHT ABOUT BY caring for the poor."

Salvation is MADE PRESENT in acts or caring for the poor. The salvation CAUSED BY the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which dwells in each person through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is MADE PRESENT in the human person (incarnate) who, moved by the Spirit and acting on the grace of the already-won salvation, lives a life of virtue.

pinanv525 said...

That's better...

R. E. Ality said...

Maurin. Why do you use the sola scriptura text-slinging method to prove your points? No one else has even hinted that the Church, Popes or Scripture have approved of Socialism or Marxism.

I challenge you to cite any Church document or sections therein, any Scriptural passages or any CCC sections that support Socialism or Marxism.

No one in this Blob objects to helping the poor. The disagreement is about how best to truly help them in a lasting way, while respecting their human dignity.

You are no doubt an exception to the liberal penchant for "donating" everyone's money but their own to help the poor.

Also, help me to understand how killing the private sector and therby killing jobs helps the poor?

How does Obama's creating 200,000 federal bureaucratic jobs help the ecomony and/or the poor?

Kindly answer the questions in good old plain English, and don't forget the cites.

Peter Maurin said...

RE - I never suggested the Church supports Socialism or Marxism. I simply stated what the Church has said, authoritatively, about the responsibility we all bear, individually and corporately, for the Common Good.

If you want to know about the corporate side of this equation, check out the CCC, esp in sections 1906, which addresses those who exercise the office of authority; 1907, which speaks about the role of public authorities and society; 1908, which addresses social well-being and development as social duties and the proper function of authority (governments); 1909 which speaks to government's role in maintaining the security of a just order, etc.

Note especially 1910 which specifically addresses the "political community" as the "most complete realization" of the human community.

The notion that care for the poor is uniquely the responsibility of individuals and not governments is not supported by our Church's teaching, as found in the citations I have given. A much greater explication is found in many sections of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace.

R. E. Ality said...

Mr. Maurin, based on the premise that actions speak more loudly than words, tell us for whom you have voted in the presidential elections 1976-2008, and we will know what you have “said” and/or “suggested.”
I have re-read CCC sections 1901-1910 and noticed the many things I underlined last time around. The credibility of government action depends upon adherence to the doctrine of subsidiarity which the CCC and encyclicals have clearly set forth.
1901 – Note reference to “natural law” which includes the right to private property.
1902 – (Govt) must not behave in a despotic manner
1903 – if it employs morally licit means to attain it
1903 – principle of the rule of law
1905 – the good of each individual is necessarily related to the common good
1906 - conditions which ALLOW people to reach their fulfillment
1907 – the common good presupposes respect for the person
respect for inalienable rights (each and all of them)
1908 – make accessible (as opposed to “provide”)
1909 - the common good requires peace; that is , the stability and
security of a just order
the right to legitimate personal and collective defence
1910 - it says, “political community” not “government,” which could reasonably mean “an educated and informed electorate.”
Government ‘s role, pursuant to Church teaching must be subject to and in conformance to the doctrine of subsidiarity. If that doctrine were followed, we wouldn’t be sending DC a $1.00 and getting $. 50, if that, back. There would be no Department of Education and many other bureaucracies sponging off the money that smaller governments and entities could more effectively use for the common good.

Peter Maurin said...

A "political community" includes, necessarily, an electorate AND a government. Or can you find an electorate that doesn't elect anyone?

The right to private property is not absolute. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: #177: Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute and untouchable: “On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone”[372- Laborem Exercens, no 14]. The principle of the universal destination of goods is an affirmation both of God's full and perennial lordship over every reality and of the requirement that the goods of creation remain ever destined to the development of the whole person and of all humanity[373, Gaudium et Spes, no 69]. This principle is not opposed to the right to private property[374, Rereum Novarum, 102] but indicates the need to regulate it. Private property, in fact, regardless of the concrete forms of the regulations and juridical norms relative to it, is in its essence only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods; in the final analysis, therefore, it is not an end but a means[375, Populorum Progressio, 22-23].

R. E. Ality said...

Mr. Maurin, you forgot to address the doctrine of subsidiarity. The USCCB has apparently forgotten it as well.
Also, the various principles/goals you site inarguably exist, but there are moral, constitutional and effective means to proceed and there are immoral, despotic and destructive means to achieve the desired ends. If that hasn't hit you over the head these past two years that the latter has held sway, you are such a slave to ideology that nothing I can say will convert you.

R. E. Ality said...

In Rerum Novarum, past principles were applied to the times without, at that time or prospectively, endorsing any political ideology. Unfortunately the written word, with no opportunity for "cross examination," seems to escape nuances and outright abuse. In fact Socialism, by whatever name, was soundly condemned in Paragraph 15: “15. And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the levelling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation. Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found.”
Church documents, including the Bible, and also our founding documents have really been under fierce attack, especially these last two years.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the Diocese suffered under Lessard, but it was not really his fault, and his successor has not done much better. At least Lessard was a kind, pious, and learned man. In his (and the yes man he replaced - Frey's) diocese, traditionalists had no place to worship. Traditional elements of Catholic piety and worship, art and architecture were removed. Sacramentals were no longer encourged. Catholic school teachers (except for isolated instances such as the saintly Sr. Gilbert) stopped teaching the Catholic faith. Sexual immorality became rampant among the kids. But I guess Lessard, as we all were, was, in a strange sense, as much a victim as anyone of the attitude inherent in the laughable statement that the ancient liturgy was never "abrogated." No disrespect to the successor of Peter intended. Once, ordinary folks could see the names of their ancestors, like proverbial stones in the walls of the church. The illusion that the Church is a family is gone. The Church is almost dead in Europe, the English speaking Church is riddled with scandal, but seemingly there is no one to blame but "liberals." ...It was conservative men who destroyed much of the Catholic Church, not women, not nuns, not gays - men who sought power over faith - men who jostled for power at any cost, men who loved power more than justice.