Sunday, February 06, 2005

a "new situation" for the chair of st. peter?

so there is much on the news about the pope's blessing from his hospital window in rome and all the talk about whether or not the time has come for his "abdication" (how can one "abdicate" from paternity?)....and it's interesting, isnt' it, that monarchical language is still used in relation to the papacy. perhaps it is only fitting.

anyway, an issue larger than whether or not john paul should "abdicate" is the issue of the role of the papacy itself. and so it is important to remember that even john paul in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint from 1995 has admitted that he has a particular responsibility "in heeding the request made of [him] to find a way of exercising the primacy [of the office of Peter] which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation."

and so what form or forms might this "new situation" take? well, as william j. la due points out in his well-researched book The Chair of St. Peter (1999), "There are also those who feel that the current highly monarchical exercise of the papal role is indeed an obstacle even to the growth and vitality of faith and communion within the Church. The charismatic structure of the Church would seem to provide a base for a wider distribution of decision making, especially in regard to issues like the selection of bishops and the regional organization of various apostolic endeavors. There are ample precedents for these developments in the first millennium of the Church's life." so, perhaps a new way in which bishops are appointed? or a new way in which regional churches interact with rome? hmm....

and lastly, here is john paul's own prayer in the presence of the ecumencial patriarch demetrios in december 1987, asking our pastors and theologians to seek for new "forms" in which the petrine ministry can take: "I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine His light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that all may seek--together, of course--the forms in which this [papal] ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned."

Powered by Blogger