Saturday, February 13, 2016
WOULDN'T DECENTRALIZATION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ALONG THE LINES OF EASTERN ORTHODOXY UPHOLD ORTHODOXY AND ORTHOPRAXIS IN DOCTRINE AND LITURGY AS IT HAS IN THE EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH?
Yet the model of decentralization that Pope Francis seems to desire is based upon the model of the Eastern Orthodox Churches where despite the decentralization there remains orthodoxy of doctrine, liturgy and life. How does this happen and why can't it happen in a more decentralized Roman Catholic Church?
It must be pointed out that Pope St. John Paul II was viewed as a poor administrator and often exhibited poor judgement in the choice of bishops. It is also true that he was an absentee Bishop of Rome globetrotting here there and everywhere and very frequently.
Because of this the various dicasteries of the Curia began to take on an authority which they did not have and issued documents galore as though these were coming from the Pope. This accelerated in the last years of the pope when His Holiness became incompacitated. Much of the dysfunction in the Curia today with its power plays and authoritarian approach to dioceses can be traced to Pope St. John Paul's mismanagement of the curia.
I always found it interesting that when Cardinal Ratzinger issued documents from the CDF, he always had the approbation of Pope John Paul II, that the pope had reviewed and approved the document. This was especially true of the document stating that the Holy Roman Pontiff had no authority whatsoever to allow women to enter the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
I don't think Pope Francis wants Conferences of Bishops to usurp the rightful role of each Bishop in his diocese just as he doesn't want low level curial offices at the Vatican to do so. In the past in the USA under Pope Paul VI, often Bishop's Conferences interfered with the rightful place of local bishops and the local bishop's authority over the liturgy and life of his diocese.
There were many dreadful documents coming from the Bishop's Conference that were pushed as though these where infallible teachings required for belief by every Catholic and that every bishop had to teach it.
Apart from moral teachings beyond the competence of bishops on specifics of war and the economy as well as the environment, there were documents issued by committees of the bishop's conference that were shoved down the throat of dioceses and parishes as though these were infallible papal teachings or encyclicals.
The two most offending documents from subcommittees of the Bishop's Conferences were documents turned into booklet on Church architecture and Environment as well as on Music in the Mass. Horrible documents both and both led to the iconoclasm that we see in older churches that were remodeled and newer ones that were constructed. And the music guidelines were equally as iconoclastic and horrible.
It seems to me that a decentralized Church means that the local bishop implements in his diocese what the Church teaches, not what Conferences of Bishops would like for the Church to teach.
When it comes to the vernacular translations of the Mass, conferences of bishops can work together but following the directives of Rome on how to translate. As much as some people disagree with the new and glorious English translation of the Mass, the guidelines were followed, the bishops proposed a translation, Rome reviewed it, tweaked it and gave its approval.
But more importantly, what does it mean for the Catholic Church to be synodal and to base its operations on the principles of subsidiarity?
All we have to do is to look to the Eastern Orthodox Churches as Pope Francis seems to be doing.
They are decentralized but have maintained orthodoxy and orthopraxis (right belief and right practice) in a scrupulous way with dogmas and doctrines as they have taught these since the Great Schism as well as with the form and format of their Divine Liturgies. In their liturgies there is some diversity but a great deal of uniformity and no real silliness in vernacular translations or inculturation.
There is more uniformity in the Orthodox world from nation to nation when it comes to the Liturgy than there is in the Latin Rite from parish to parish.
The problem with the dysfunction in Catholic liturgy even in our currently highly centralized system of governance is not with Rome or National Conferences of Bishops, but with local bishops who are not "orthodox" when it come to the Liturgy and allow the liturgy to be a source of disunity in dioceses rather than unity and allow the liturgy to sink to the lowest common denominator and not the highest it can be simply by celebrating the current Ordinary Form Missal by the book and without excesses.