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."