Collegiality’s dark underbelly

There is a trend you need to be aware of.  Indeed, this is a virus you need to help inoculate others against.

Here are a couple examples of the virus that is spreading.

First, turn your attention a piece on the site of a news agency in Asia, UCANEWS.  A Maryknoller (almost never a good starting point these days) and UCANews publisher Fr William Grimm MM, makes a proposal for decentralization of the Curia.  What he is actually proposing is the reduction of the role of the Pope to something like the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Let’s look at just a couple things he proposes.

Inspired by Pope Francis appointment of a group of 8 Cardinals with whom he can consult, Grimm writes:

A half-millennium of attempts to reform the central administration of the Catholic Church has not succeeded. Hopes that the Operations Octet will perform better against entrenched special interests than others have in the past are probably excessively optimistic. The most radical, and therefore probably the most effective and necessary reform of the Curia would be its abolition.

500 years?  Grimm doesn’t know his history.  I can think of a successful reform of the Curia which was undertaken by Pope Pius X in 1909 (cf Sapienti consilio) when the Pope was no longer monarch of the Papal States.

Think about what would happen with the abolition of the Curia.

The Curia is the extension of the Roman Pontiff.  The offices of the Curia do, in various spheres of the Church’s life, what the Pope can’t do by himself.  Were the Curia to be decentralized, the Pope would be reduced to a Roman tourist attraction who kisses babies and blesses things once in a while.  Furthermore, nothing will be accomplished.  Get a load of Grimm’s next idea.  Because Grimm doesn’t like Italian language (sheesh, this is petty and anti-intellectual), he says:

The solution is not to start teaching three-year-olds to speak Latin so that we can restore the past. The solution is to make one or more of the world’s international languages that function as Latin once did the administrative language of the Church. Then the Church could once again draw upon a world of talent, knowledge, information and experience without being limited to clerical natives of one country or careerists.

The writer doesn’t have a clue.  Italian serves that purpose in the Curia now.  But… more languages?   Think of how well the EU functions with their 23 official languages, which have equal status.  Again, nothing would get done.

But the whopper is his idea of having different offices in different parts of the world.

A Church that claims to be global must globalize. That means that, like the United Nations, it must have major parts of its operations outside the headquarters, in places where communications, international transportation and a global ethos make for efficiency and a broader vision. New York, Brussels, Nairobi, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, London and many more places come to mind as places where Church offices could function and have better contact than they can have in Rome with the realities that Catholics and others throughout the world face.

Because the UN gets so much done. Right.

I can picture it: the UN-ization of the Roman Curia.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – were it to be necessary anymore – could be in, say, Jakarta.  The Council for Interpretation of Legislative Texts could be in Nairobi, Divine Worship in Moscow, Oriental Churches in Rio, and Clergy in Hong Kong.   That would make things so much better.

And there is:

Most, if not all, of what it claims as its scope of authority could and should be handled by regional, national and local bishops’ conferences and synods of leaders and laity.

The bottom line is that Grimm wants to be an Anglican.   This is an ecclesiology that Rowan Williams would recognize.

There is a lot more, but let’s move on.

On the site of Vatican Insider we find that the retired Archbishop of San Francisco, Most Rev. John Quinn, has issued his magnum opus, a 57-page book which he says he started working on in 2005.

Quinn makes proposals along the lines that Grimm desires. Quinn…

concludes by proposing that, in line with the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on collegiality, new patriarchal structures be created in other parts of the world, and that the synod of bishops be given decision-making power. He believes these proposals, if implemented, would remedy the excessive centralization and strengthen communion in the Catholic Church today.

Let’s drill in.

QUESTION: Your new book takes the whole discussion a step further by proposing the creation of new patriarchal structures in parts of the world where they do not yet exist, and by advocating that deliberative or decision-making power be granted to the synod of bishops to enable it to function more effectively. Could you explain this?

QUINN: To begin with, patriarchal structures are not a novelty in the Church. They began almost 1500 years before the modem democracies arose. The Council of Nicaea in 325 called the patriarchal structure ancient. In the Western Latin Church, the Roman synods held in the later part of the first millennium and during the first half of the second millennium were deliberative, decision-making synods. Consequently, these structures are not new, nor are they mechanisms to weaken papal authority since the Popes themselves used them, and the patriarchal structures, ….

When one of these old liberal warriors says that “this is not about weakening the Pope”, then weakening the Pope is exactly what it is all about.


Patriarchal structures would involve some administrative decentralization.  […]  So my book does propose the creation of new patriarchal structures in the Latin Church and these would mean some decentralization. […]   Two major responsibilities which would fall within the competence of new patriarchal structures would be the appointment of bishops and the creation of dioceses. There would be other things as well such as the determination of liturgical texts.  […]  A deliberative or decision-making synod would have several advantages.  […]  Clearly such far reaching responsibilities could not be assumed by regional structures without some preparation. I would think it very useful if this were to be done, that the planning might begin with taking a look at how the Religious Orders went about renewal after the Council. It would be wise to adopt some such process if these new structures were to be used in the Latin Church.

Here is the problem.

It was the LOCAL CHURCHES and LOCAL RELIGIOUS SUPERIORS who messed up the clerical sexual abuse crisis. That is the latest, and possibly the greatest proof that what Grimm and Quinn propose has a dark underbelly to it. When regional and national bishops are left to conspire among themselves, they sometimes engage in collective cover-ups. In the Ratzinger Report, the then Cardinal Ratzinger reminded us that in Germany during the Hitlerzeit, the most courageous anti-Nazi statements were made by individual bishops, whereas the collective statements of bishops were wan and weak.

What Grimm and Quinn are putting forward is the reduction of the Catholic Church to something like Anglicanism, with is various national synods and countless groups of laity pitted against clergy pitted against… pitted against… pitted against…. What will prevent bishops in one part of the world from taking doctrinal or moral stances that are flatly contradicted by bishops in other regions of the Church? This is what constantly happens in Anglicanism.

These are two examples, but there are more.  And there will be even more to come.

The virus is spreading quickly enough that there was an interview in L’Osservatore Romano with Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the “Sostituto” of the Secretariat of State which explains the group of 8 cardinals and makes distinctions about what its role really is.

Liberals are sensing an opportunity and they are tumbling over each other to offer their “solutions”.

The irony is that in making these suggestions, they demonstrate their contempt for the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Review Lumen gentium 18-25.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. incorpore says:

    “A Church that claims to be global must globalize. That means that, like the United Nations, it must have major parts of its operations outside the headquarters…”

    Gosh, if only the Lord had been as wise as this priest and done something as radical as, say, endowing His Apostles with the power of His Holy Spirit, and then sending them to all nations. If only the Church had realized that those local Churches, led by the bishops there could do an effective job of spreading the Gospel in their own places, using the tools of communication proper to their locales, yet held together in unity by the Bishop of Rome…

  2. RR says:

    Anglican ecclesiology or anything resembling it must be resisted at all costs. It was an unmitigated disaster for the Anglican Communion over the past few decades. The Anglican Communion is now quite literally broken. There are layers upon layers of factions among and within member bodies, no one truly trusts anyone, many will not take communion with each other, and no effective way to roll back the divergences.

    Also, it is not just the disorganized, decentralized structure that is a fatal flaw with the Anglican Communion, it’s also the lack of any real discipline for those who have gone against the direct, clear edicts of the Primates’ council, the Lambeth Conference, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury. Without discipline, will dissenters voluntarily be quiet? Of course not.

    The Catholic cardinals should do a very careful case study of the Anglican Communion and all of its erroneous decisions over the last 80 years.

  3. RR says:

    One other point about this decentralization/theological experimentation proposition. Just look at the Anglican Communion to see its fruits: the left-wing provinces of the Anglican Communion that departed from orthodox Christian principles are collapsing in terms of membership and mission.

    One can make all the theological arguments in the world about some of these issues, but an easy way to see the fruits of liberal Christianity is to look at the Episcopal Church’s membership decline. In the 1960s, there were somewhere on the order of 5-6 million Episcopalians, most of whom were in church on Sunday. Today, there are less than 2 million even registered, and they are vastly skewed towards the older demographics (average age north of 60 and climbing). Decline continues without any real hope of reversal. And this is despite growth in the American population over that time.

    Such are the fruits of watering down message, doctrine, and discipline in the Anglican experience.

  4. Phil_NL says:

    The part about regionalization, bishop’s synods etc. is pure garbage. If anything, Rome is leaving way too much to the individual countries and bishops. The church doesn’t have to be standardized to the extent of, say, McDonalds, but it would be desirable that the ‘big Mac’ (pardon the comparison) is the same across the globe. More, rather than less central control is needed.

    But on one (small) point Grimm has a point: a curia that works in Italian does not help matters. For starters, it means that Italians will always fill a large proportion, and below a certain level perhaps the majority, of the functions. And while there’s nothing wrong with Italians qua Italians, the Italian way of doing governance and bureaucracy is hardly a shining example for the rest of the world. The culture of the employees will heavily influence the culture of the organization.
    Secondly, one needs to attract the best and the brightest. Now one could argue that the best and the brightest can learn Italian, but for any priest it would likely be a third (after Latin) if not 4th, 5ht or 6th language. We’re not all polyglots, and I believe that this polyglot talent is rarely found among those who have a good talent for organization. No to mention that, regardless of natural ease of learning languages, it takes several years to acquire the level of mastery needed to govern in a foreign language. This isn’t ordering supper, it’s writing complex memos. While a 23-language structure (and counting) like the EU wouldn’t work, it would be better to get everything into Latin, or failing that, appoint 2-3 other working languages (English, Spanish, French or German, NOT Hungarian) and have a battery of professional translators available. They must have a fair bunch of them already anyway.

    And as a concluding remark (on the topic, but not the article under review): it would be a good idea if the curia combined both ideas and sent out some young promising priests, drawn from the best from dioceses across the world, to get secular management skills. (American MBAs and German accounting degrees for starters.) The church isn’t a company and definitely shouldn’t import the woes of management in commercial enterprises (God knows many universities etc. have made that error), but to ignore all knowledge that the secular world has amassed in these fields in the last century is equally foolish.

  5. Nancy D. says:

    I wonder what is in those Vatileaks papers regarding the coup by those within the Vatican who support same-sex sexual unions and thus same-sex sexual acts and what the correlation is between collegiality, and the failure to remove the heretics and apostates who have left Christ’s Church spiritually, but have been allowed to remain within His Church physically, causing chaos, confusion, and a Great Apostasy.

  6. Janol says:

    This “trend” has been developing for quite some time. It can probably be best epitomized by the Cardinal Kasper’s actions and writings since the 1990s’ seeking greater autonomy for the “individual Churches”. This has been referred to as the “Kasper-Ratzinger Debate”. (Original documents and discussions of this can be found through Google) For a concise summary of this by Cardinal Dulles see:

    Over a month ago, after Pope Francis’ first Angelus address I wrote the following in response to “What is Pope Francis Really Saying?”:

    “… I’ll mention something which disturbed me a bit when I read the Holy Father’s first Angelus address — he praised Cardinal Walter Kasper’s book on mercy (not translated into English as far as I know) and referred to him as “un teologo in gamba” which I’ve read is street Italian for “a good/clever/dude theologian”. It gave me pause since there has been for many years what is sometimes referred to as the “Kasper/Ratzinger Debate”. It seemed at the very least to be an insensitive remark coming at that time.

    The theological debate on ecclesiology, on the relationship between the universal and particular church, has had its practical repercussions in discussions of whether bishops may independently interpret/adapt universal norms to what they think is most beneficial to the welfare of souls in their dioceses, e.g. administering communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. It may be that what Pope Francis is really saying is that mercy trumps judgement/canon and liturgical law.”

  7. Bob B. says:

    Yep, that’s what we need: a USCCB is multiple regions of the world….heaven help us!

  8. What these folks really want is to relive the glory days of their youth, the 1960s and 1970s. Younger folks today may ask how it happened then, that the whole edifice of traditional Catholicism, built up over the centuries, went down the drain in a decade or so, contrary to the intentions of the bishops at Vatican II. As Pope Benedict explained in one of his presentations, in the backwash of the Council, the hierarchy lost control of its implementation to various local and national bodies of so-called and often self-styled “experts” and alleged theologians, who also took over many national bishops conference staffs (and seminary faculties), sometimes issuing rulings that the bishops themselves had no opportunity to approve in advance. The same folks who now pine for a re-run of that euphoric era when they rode so high in the saddle. So it’s mostly about power–they want it back. And de-centralization (de-Romanization) is the way for them to get it.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  9. Choirmaster says:

    The current scheme of national bishops’ conferences already function in the manner described/proposed by Grimm. Very often the conferences issue documents and moral pronouncements that read as if the conference has a magisterial function within the Church and/or describes or creates a “national church” where the conference has a hierarchical character.

    Of course, we know that this is not the case, and the conferences are simply a meeting of the Catholic bishops within the geographic limits of a particular polity.

    However, I am fully in support of dissolving all the bishops’ conferences and instead using the language of “patriarchs” and “synods”, although without the additional layers of power and authority that Grimm is proposing. It seems to be a good idea to recognize the cultural or geographical segments within the Church, but “conference” is an empty word, whereas “patriarch” has real significance and historical precedent. A “patriarch” could be a better figure for making pronouncements on behalf of a national synod, and speak with more “authority” because he would be an auspicious archbishop close to the Pope rather than a simple majority vote of an arbitrary collection of bishops.

    The bishops’ conference are already way too democratic to be meaningful, effective, or relevant. We are already experiencing the Anglican paradigm in practice even if the theory or actuality is not so.

    I would love to see a piece of Z-Swag: “Disband the USCCB”!

  10. sw85 says:

    I genuinely don’t get where the sense of difficulty in reforming the Curia comes from. The entire Curia serves at the pleasure of the Pope, no? Whither the difficulty, then? Why not simply impose changes, toss out the trash, etc.? Is it a sense that the Pope is incompetent to do this, i.e., that he doesn’t know who he can trust and who he can’t? Is it a fear that doing so will alienate bishops who have become accustomed to autonomy and so promote the risk of schism? Is it fear for his own health and safety?

  11. anna 6 says:

    Given the recent decisions and comments from the German Bishops’ Conference regarding the morning after pill, female deacons and who know what else, giving them more authority would be disastrous.

  12. Cafea Fruor says:

    “A Church that claims to be global must globalize. That means that, like the United Nations, it must have major parts of its operations outside the headquarters […]. New York, Brussels, Nairobi, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, London and many more places come to mind as places where Church offices could function and have better contact than they can have in Rome with the realities that Catholics and others throughout the world face.”

    Yeah, right… Quinn appears to be operating under that old fallacy that the hierarchy and the Church are synonymous, but the hierarchy is part of the Church. There ARE operations of the Church wherever there are Catholics. The Church truly is global, even if her higher-level administration is not. He’s equating operations of the curia with operations of the Church. Bad argument, Quinn.

    And spreading out curial operations across the globe is only going to weaken our view of Who our head is, I think. Quinn forgets that the United Nations is exactly that, a group of separate, sovereign nations. The Church is not. Apples and oranges! The Church isn’t a bunch of separate local churches coming together into a single body for the welfare of individual dioceses. She’s just one Body of many members under the headship of Christ and happens to have developed into many dioceses and local churches as she has spread throughout the world, or, to use Quinn’s word, “globalized”.

    It sounds like what he is looking for is democracy, but the Church is not a democracy! She’s under the headship of a King, whether Quinn likes it or not. If you want democracy, go join the Anglicans. I’m sure they’ll welcome you. I, on the other hand, rather like the Church that’s the Body of Christ, the King, and will take her over a church fashioned after the UN, thank you very much. Go follow your way, Mr. Quinn, and in fifty years, let’s get together for coffee, and I’ll enjoy hearing how that UN model works for you and restrain myself from saying, “I told you so.”

  13. anilwang says:

    I don’t think Quinn wants to go as far as Anglicanism, in that he doesn’t seem to talk about faith or morals being decentralized.

    He identifies the existing problem of curia corruption as “excessive centralization”. This is ridiculous. Spreading the curia throughout the world will only spread the corruption and make it harder to tame.

    But let’s go with the idea. He proposes creating new patriarchates, which as he says is consistent with the Catholic faith….we already have several Eastern Catholic patriarchates within the Church.

    What powers would these patriarchates have?
    (1) appointment of bishops
    (2) creation of dioceses
    (3) determination of liturgical texts

    Here the real agenda shows. Appointment of bishops? Bishops are already mostly selected at the local level and presented to the Vatican for approval, and the Vatican will approve the selection unless there are issues. Stripping this power from the Vatican will mean that local regions (e.g. China and Germany and the US) who are under pressure are more likely to appoint safer bishops that will not aggravate secular rulers. There’s a reason that the Lateran Council changed the practice of local appointments. It’s called caesaropapism, and it leads to corruption (and also the Great Schism).

    Creation of diocese? Looks harmless, but when combined with (1) will give the patriarch the ability to change a mostly traditional college of bishops into a mostly liberal college of bishops without removing a single bishop.

    Determination of liturgical texts? Obviously, the “Pro multis” issue “needs to be taken care of”. Additional rites for SOH Masses, Rock Masses, and reverting back to the previous Roman Missal, and other accommodations to culture are surely planned. The Eastern Churches are mostly safe on the liturgical front precisely because they do not believe they have the authority to make drastic changes.

  14. everett says:

    Archbishop Quinn has been pushing this “permanent synod” thing for at least a decade. Back in 2002 or thereabouts, he came to Gonzaga as a part of their ridiculous “Catholicism for a New Millenium” series, and spoke about it. It isn’t any less crazy than when it was proposed then.

  15. UncleBlobb says:

    Perhaps the Pope and his centralized Roman Curia could create an “Progressivist Ordinariate” for those who want this type of egalitarianized structure to exist, and then force them to be within it? It could serve as an umbrella for all of the many heterodox, progressivist clergy and religious. Then they could show the rest of the Church how “wonderful” it is by their “example”, and leave the rest of us be. Then they can write their own liturgical documents, make up their dioceses, and have fun running their own regional structures, all while claiming to be in communion with the radical patriarchy of the rest of us.

  16. Athelstan says:

    There’s no question that the Roman Curia can be inefficient, ham-fisted, and ignorant in its operations. Read some of the correspondence of Abbot Vonier, or Fr. Fortescue, and you’ll see that this is nothing new.

    Such is the temptation to the rest of us to support more radical reform proposals – even George Weigel is out there pushing to replace Italian with English as the Curia’s operative language. But the real motivations are theological and ideological – and not in the way they like us to think.

    The reality, in most of the West (and in much of Asia and Latin America), bishops’ conferences are more liberal than Rome. A Curia that has been deconstructed will mean much more empowered bishops’ conferences. Empowered not only to push the Church (at least locally) in more progressive directions (had this been done in the 60’s, we’d not only have had altar girls much sooner, but female deacons by now), but also to block things. There would be NO Summorum Pontificum or Anglicanorum Coetibus – or Dominus Iesus or Redemptionis Sacramentum. There would be no MR3, but instead a translation even more packed full of inclusive language and dubious theological tones like the failed 1998 ICEL.

    And yes, it’s about power, pure and simple. Power to do what they want without restraint. Power to replicate themselves by controlling appointment of their own successors (forget ever seeing a Mark Davies in England, or an Alexander Sample in America). It’s not surprising to see bishops militating for “reforms” that increase the power of, er. bishops, but the real winners here would be conference bureaucracies, free to stage their ecclesiastical revolution to their heart’s content. All while the Pope kisses babies in Rome.

    The result would indeed start to look a lot like the Anglican Communion. And I suspect the risk of schisms and centrifugal forces don’t much bother them, any more than the defection of GAFCON churches really bothers the leadership of the Episcopal Church.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  17. BLB Oregon says:

    When comparing the problems the Anglicans are having with our own, let us not forget that the faithful in the Anglican communion only number 85 million.

    The Roman Catholic Church does have administrative offices that allow substantial administrative authority to local leaders, and they can be found in places all around the world. We have one near us: it is called the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. Tell our Archbishop that Rome does all his administrative work for him; I think it will come as a surprise! (Tell my pastor that Archbishop Samples handles all his administrative decisions for him–they’d both be very surprised, indeed!

  18. Phil_NL says:


    That would be the “Ordinariatum Personalem Sanctii Purgatorii”?

  19. Athelstan says:

    Hello Phil,

    But on one (small) point Grimm has a point: a curia that works in Italian does not help matters. For starters, it means that Italians will always fill a large proportion, and below a certain level perhaps the majority, of the functions. And while there’s nothing wrong with Italians qua Italians, the Italian way of doing governance and bureaucracy is hardly a shining example for the rest of the world. The culture of the employees will heavily influence the culture of the organization.

    The problem, though, is that the Curia is located in *Italy.* And that means that anyone posted to a Curial office is going to *have* to be reasonably fluent in Italian – simply to function in daily life in the city of Rome. That’s just the reality.

    So if we make English the working language of the Curia, that’s one more language Curial officials need to know. So if you’re from, say, Cote d”Ivoire, and you already have had to learn French and local tribal dialects, you now must master English and Italian (if you have not already). It imposes a higher barrier to entry for a lot of potential Curial officials.

    That said, I’m all for working to increase more Latin fluency in Churchmen. And laymen. And appointing more non-Italians. I think the latter is inevitable now.

  20. RR says:

    “I don’t think Quinn wants to go as far as Anglicanism, in that he doesn’t seem to talk about faith or morals being decentralized.”

    Yes, but even if a conference does not specifically except from an issue of faith or morals (though the Canadian conference famously did so for Humanae Vitae, a terrible tear to the fabric), which any conference would be clever enough not to do specifically, if it acts in a manner that is inconsistent with Catholic faith or morals, it becomes the same thing. The same with”blessing” something contrary to faith or morals, or “proposing a departure” (as the German conference seems to have done), it’s a difference without much distinction. By making a public proposal, you are saying you disagree on the public record, so to speak. Hard to unwrite what is written.

    Until the Anglican fabric was completely torn, not one single province specifically excepted to an item of faith or morals, yet they acted so inconsistently with them and institutionalized dissent so much that there was no going back after a turning point was reached.

  21. Phil_NL says:


    While it would be easier to have some Italian, it isn’t a condition sine qua non. In fact, many expats all around the world are posted to countries of which they do note speak more than a few words (if that, when they arrive). With a bit of help regarding paperwork one can go a long way. In fact, I have several colleagues at my university who, after several years, speak very little Dutch. It doesn’t really hurt them. And last but not least: there is a whole world of difference between being able to order asperin at a pharmacy, and being able to decide a dispute between a bishop and an abott over some vague point. The first is a level of italian everyone will get sooner or later by living in a city that speaks Italian (and little else), the second is probably eternally out of reach for a great many otherwise excellent minds.

    By all means, let the matters pertaining to the diocese of Rome being dealt with in Italian, but anything related to the global church (or Vatican Finances) could also be done in another language, and probably more easily and eventually better.

  22. Phil_NL says:


    I replied, but it went in to moderation. Looks like the filter surely is twitchy, as it undoubtedly needs to be. But do check back later, please.

  23. chonak says:

    It sounds a bit contradictory that Quinn’s “magnum opus” is only 57 pages in length. That sounds like the size of an ample journal article rather than even a small book, and it doesn’t sound as if he’d made a really magisterial study of the questions involved.

    A structural reform of the Roman church (e.g., the erection of patriarchates and synods with some degree of authority) will take decades to study in its ecclesiological and canonical implications, so this whole topic need to kicked into the pages of academia.

  24. anilwang says:


    But this isn’t an issue specific to the patriarchate. As you’ve stated its a problem of the bishops conferences. Catholicism is global. There is no American Catholicism and Chinese Catholicism and German Catholicism. There’s just Catholicism.

    My own thinking is that if you want to reduce the bureaucracy of the curia, you’ll need to do three things:
    (1) Decrease the number of communications and co-ordinations that need to happen
    (2) Decrease the need for bishop conferences to be disciplined
    (3) Decrease the independent power of the curia as as to decrease the need for the curia to be disciplined by the Pope.

    In short, we need centralization not decentralization. The curia’s job is solely to advise the Pope and do his bidding, not to make independent statements (e.g. Lombardi’s statement on civil unions). And bishops conferences only exist to implement the curia’s bidding and to advise the curia of the local situation, not to make independent statements (e.g. Canada’s Winnipeg statement). Same thing for the LWCR. It would also make sense for the heads of each bishops conference to be selected by the Pope and be in the Vatican. Having each Eastern Church Patriarch in the Vatican would also be wise.

  25. Athelstan says:

    Hello Phil,

    I don’t think it’s quite so simple as that. Being a professor is one thing; being in the Curia is a more collegial enterprise. And English competency, in my impression (Correct me if I am wrong) seems to be higher in the Netherlands than it does in Rome.

    I would recommend this essay by Joseph Trabbic, critiquing George Weigel’s call for English to replace Italian as the main Curial language.

  26. merlk says:

    It must be said that the Pope, when he was the cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires, had very strong reservations about decision-making power and authority of the Episcopal Conferenices. Nevertheless that he welcomed it as advisory bodies, very good for building of the communion between bishops.

  27. Marcello says:

    Fr. Grimm would simply have Catholicism spin off into essentially “national” churches run by mid-level bureaucrats. Look at how good that has worked out with the various episcopal conferences where these bureaucrats act in the name of all to suffocate the teaching authority of the individual residential bishops. These episcopal conferences are very troublesome, they have no theological basis and very limited canonical authority. Pope Benedict XVI saw the mischief they create in his own homeland. Fr. Grimm would do well to re-read Lumen Gentium, n. 18 et seq.

  28. Marcello says:

    I should add that what language does Fr. Grimm think should be spoken in Rome? Hello, it’s in Italy. Should they use Urdu or Swahili? The UN here in New York uses English as its operational language because it’s in, well, the USA. (In fact, he contemptuously refers to Italian as some dialect of Latin, as if it’s a tongue spoken by some tribe of savages.)

  29. jacobi says:

    The Pope must retain his role as Supreme Pontiff and the Successor of St Peter and to do this he needs a Curia, albeit reformed. The alternative, which is growing the power of national bishop’s conferences, is very dangerous.

    If I can use the UK as an example, we have a growing gap between the character of Catholicism in what is, after all, quite a small area with small Catholic populations. Increasingly, we have the emergence of the “English” Catholic Church or the “Scottish” Catholic Church rather than the Catholic Church in England, or in Scotland. That’s all very well for the Protestants, but then we are not Protestants, are we?

  30. FaithfulCatechist says:

    The irony is that in making these suggestions, they demonstrate their contempt for the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

    Not to mention the so-called (and not quite correctly so) Global South, where “patriarchal” institutions are still much the norm. I wonder what, say, a Nigerian congregation would make of these sorts of suggestions.

    Comparisons with the EU and the UN reveal a mindset that views the Church as just another human instutition. An NGO, as someone recently said. The biggest different between the Church on the one hand and the EU and the UN on the other is that the former is a divine institution. Another difference, of course, is that when the latter stop working we are all better off.

  31. Andkaras says:

    Too late I already started teaching my babes Latin,because I heard that once you know Latin, Italian is a piece of cake. All you do is add a lot of “tutti’s” ; )

  32. Gallia Albanensis says:

    As an upstate New York layman nobody, I am of the belief that the Latin Church should be decentralized. There are many different nuances to this discussion, it is not ideal to adopt a strictly uniformitarian outlook.

    Unfortunately there are leftists who also want their own kind of decentralization, usually all at once. I want to make to clear, to use a metaphor, that to my mind legitimate diversity is “the diversity between the baroque and iconography; or between Classical and Renaissance,” so to speak.

    Looking at history and especially the Old Testament, I believe God is diversitarian. Remember the prohibition against the Tribes of Israel intermarrying? God wanted Judah to be Judah and Nephtali to be Nephtali. Et cetera. there are many other examples. Just as in the Old Testament, foreign wars and apostasy have cut us down to being mostly of two tribes … then, Judah and Benjamin; now, Peter and Paul.

    I pick up on this line of thought from Bonaventure, in his Collations on the Hexameron. It is not mine.

    Anyhow, if any good is to come from our moment in history, perhaps a rebirth of legitimate Catholic diversity is forthcoming.

    It seems to me that perhaps “decentralist priviliges” be given slowly to those dioceses and metropolitans that deserve them. Slowly. Doing something “all at once” is usually a leftist idea. This is not new. It was very common in the Middle Ages (AKA “The Catholic Ages”).

  33. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Phil,

    allow the argument of a backwoodsman, but I’d rather want the Curia (or the EU for that matter) speak Italian than English… for the simple reason that English is dominating the world enough already.

    Subsidiarity, not uniformization, should be the parole. (I except the Church’s own language, of course, which at least for the West is Latin.)

    Please (@all) take no offence.

  34. Imrahil says:

    Indeed I agree to about everything Dr Trabbic wrote in his article quoted above. (Only that English is not my mother tongue.)

    That English is the world language (while not being the Church’s own language nor the language spoken in the Roman diocese) is precisely a reason for the Curia not to work in English.

  35. Bea says:

    Just loved this solution:
    “Then the Church could once again draw upon a world of talent, knowledge, information and experience without being limited to clerical natives of one country or careerists.”

    “once again”?
    I thought the Church drew its strength from the sacrifice and teachings of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
    Not from the world and what it would have to “offer”.

    This is the world I would rather draw upon:
    Faith instead of “talent”,
    Obedience to the Magisterium instead of “knowledge”,
    Teachings of Christ and the bible instead of “information”
    Examples of the saints instead of “experience”

    And as you say, Fr. Z.
    “But the whopper is his idea of having different offices in different parts of the world.”
    Can’t Grimm imagine what this would do to the Church?
    It would counter God’s Will as in… :
    “That they may be one even as we are one.” John 17:2.
    How many Popes would we then have?

    Worldly solutions to Spiritual problems? I think not.

  36. JMody says:

    I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church …

    If we diminish the Pope, are we sure that we have an apostolic Church?
    If we empower local conferences to make “significant” changes regarding things like the liturgy, and promote “individuality” because we feel we have to “globalize”, will the Church really be one, or will it be a confederation, a relatively unified agglomeration of many?
    And if it is not really “one”, then none of its parts is truly catholic, or universal, any moreso than the universal desire to eat.
    And if it isn’t one, catholic, or apostolic, are we sure it’s still holy?

    Nope – these guys are Church-bashing, fifth columnists, hoping to come out on top after the invader overthrows. The only real question is if they are acting from a spirit of the 1960’s or of the 1520’s.

  37. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    If I recall correctly, in the imagined future of R.H. Benson’s Lord of the World (1907), everybody spoke Esperanto (while the Church also continued to speak Latin)… ;)

    In the course of Anglican comparisons, Athelstan mentioned “GAFCON churches”. If I am not mistaken, some of the Primates of these most populous of Anglican Provinces (more than half of the global membership figure) aspire to a cconciliarity that can express and act upon orthodox theology and morality – in contrast to the ‘Lambeth Conference’ tradition as defined by its first convenor, C.T. Longley, who (in 1867) said, “I should refuse to convene any assembly which pretended to enact any Canons or affected to make any decisions binding on the Church”!

  38. Phil_NL says:

    Ok, I read mr Trabbic’s piece, and I’m not convinced. Not at all. Allow me to rebut some points and reply to some commenters here by those means as well:

    “(…) we would have every reason to believe that it would become a linguistic and cultural ghetto”
    As they say in the games world: working as intended. In terms of sound administration, Italy is an impediment, rather than an asset. Italy works in spite of its bureaucracies, not because of it. As the governing of a world-wide body requires a reasonably extensive bureaucracy, it should not adapt the culture of Italy. Some isolation from this would be highly desirable.

    “Furthermore, not knowing the local tongue, the apostolates these curial workers could undertake in the evenings and on the weekends would be quite limited.”
    Excuse me? There isn’t enough work to be done in the Vatican to keep them busy 24/7? I get a distinctly different impression. Besides, to say Mass, latin is quite enough, thank you very much. And hearing confessions in other langauges would be an asset for the many pilgrims in Rome. Non-starter argument.

    “There is also the perception of American cultural imperialism. If respect for the curia is already low in Europe, this may lower it further. (…) The McCuria?”
    Get over it. Besides, this is mainly something that can be found among the generations of the 60s and 70s, and leftist elites. Exactly the segment which we should ignore anyway. In fact, as I said above, the Church would benefit from more standardization a la McDonalds. One may get resentment from the locals if one would be so foolish to conduct the business of the diocese of Rome in another language than Italian, but no-one is proposing that. And every Roman knows – and I believes takes pride in – that their bishop is a global figure. One has to take the flip-side of that coin too.

    “Whether or not it’s true that English is the “world language,” Weigel will certainly come off as an arrogant Yankee to a lot of people”
    Well, I’m a Dutchman, and I’m making exactly the same argument. Although not necessarily for English as the sole working language (I think an organization can have 3 or so in total without the translation becoming too much of an issue), but realistically, English would always be among them. It is as much as a lingua franca the world has.

    And last but not least, Trabbic also fails to make the distinction that the language skills needed for live in a city are vastly less than those needed to govern a church. He’s right that some people can indeed learn Italian to a sufficient degree. But many can not, and are now by virtue of that excluded from the talent pool. And again, I think it is in fact of paramount importance to isolate the curia to a substantial extent from the Italy that surrounds it; that’s a management culture you do not want to spread over your entire organization. That’s the real problem with Italian.

  39. Phil_NL says:

    And a last point, at dear Imrahil:

    I don’t give a yot about the language in which the Church works. But I do care if it works. And since I doubt it could work in latin, and since we’ve seen that Italian-style management comes with the Italian language, I believe it would work a whole lot better if it had several working languages, English among them (with Spanish most likely a good second).

  40. The Masked Chicken says:

    “concludes by proposing that, in line with the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on collegiality, new patriarchal structures be created in other parts of the world, and that the synod of bishops be given decision-making power. He believes these proposals, if implemented, would remedy the excessive centralization and strengthen communion in the Catholic Church today.”

    We would like to thank the Fr. Grimm and Archbishop Quinn, on behalf of historians, everywhere, for rediscovering the 13th-century argument called, Collegialism: “a theory of church polity that defines the church as a society of voluntary members independent of the state, self-governing, and with authority vested in the members,”

    Oh, by the way, did I mention that this was one of the underlying stresses that lead to the Protestant Reformation?

    In more modern times, as mentioned in Jim Baysinger’s review of the scurrilous book, Hitler’s Pope (by John Cornwell) :

    “Since around 1870 there has been a debate going on between two factions of the Roman Catholic church: the Collegialists (Cornwell’s own term) and the Authoritarians. Collegialists are Catholics who believe that control of the Church should be decentralized and locally-oriented, with congregations able to choose their own bishops and whether or not to engage in organized political activity under the Church aegis. Authoritarians believe that the Pope is infallible in all matters of doctrine, able to choose bishops for local congregations whether or not they meet the approval of their flocks, and that the Pope and the Vatican Curia are the only entities sanctioned to engage in political/diplomatic activity in the name of the Church. Cornwell [the author of, Hitler’s Pope] is manifestly a collegialist. Authoritarians have had the upper hand in the Church for some time now, thus prompting this attempt to undermine their position. This issue will be addressed in greater depth in the next article.”

    Alas, this is just another page in the old, worn out Collegialist argument refuted, in embryo, by St. Paul, who made the astounding claim that a hand is not an eye.

    The Chicken

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  42. Gallia Albanensis says:

    Why is this an all-or-nothing discussion?

    There are specific instances where decentralization would be extremely useful to the Vatican. For example, imagine if we returned to the ancient system of the metropolitans having actual authority over their local bishops, and then being more accountable to the pope? That could neuter the troublesome “national bishop’s conferences.” This is a change that would be at once decentralizing and hierarchizing, to coin a word.

    Further, I am of the opinion that it was centralization that made the recent world-wide pandemic of liturgical collapse possible. The opposition only had to “strike at the root,” and the whole of Latin liturgy almost collapsed over the entire globe. If there were liturgiarchs beneath the pope (I don’t care if they’re patriarchs, or ordinaries, or whatever), then it’s very likely that the liturgical disasters would be been stanched to Western Europe and North America, saving the rest of the world.

    As an example where this is working right now, in the US one of the Greek Rite churches recently re-translated and modernized the Divine Liturgy. Because there are other Greek Rite jurisdictions, there are other churches that stand as a witness to more traditional methods, and this keeps the conversation going and keeps the pressure on the modernizers to justify everything they do. I am sure they did not get everything they wanted.

    Now I personally think that the Greek Rite has the opposite problem of being broken up into too many “particular churches” for its size, and I’m not suggesting that the Latin church emulate it precisely in this case. But this provides an interesting example of how decentralization, when done correctly, more often than not works in favor of tradition.

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