The obedient Church

In looking at what changes might be needed in the culture of the Church in order to avoid the scandal examined in the Australian Royal Commission we come back to a subject which we have addressed before on these pages: subsidiarity. One reflection of the Commission was the hierarchical nature of the Church. This suggests an acceptance of the virtue of obedience: we simply obey the regulations of our immediate authority. We do not question.

Subsidiarity, as a principle, does not exclude obedience but it requires that, as far as possible, senior authority should not make decisions which can be made at a lower level.

Not only is it a general principle, it is one which has been formally accepted by the Church in its teaching. In practice it depends not so much on a set of rules but on an attitude of mind. Because we are fallen we tend to be reluctant to reduce our power by allowing decisions to be made by our inferiors. We can always find a rationalisation for holding on to our authority. The right attitude of mind is one which constantly seeks ways to increase the responsibility and commitment of those we lead.

And this appears to be a dangerous thing to do. If something, for which we are ultimately responsible, goes wrong, it looks a poor defence to say that the error was made by a junior who had not been given precise instructions. So a good delegator needs to be tough, confident and to believe that in the long run subsidiarity will give the best outcomes. Weak and anxious leaders find it nigh impossible. The neurologists suggest that such people have a greater brain capacity for emotion which has to be controlled through creating certainty wherever possible.

But even those who wholeheartedly accept subsidiarity will know that there still have to be some basic rules. The difficulty lies in distinguishing these from those decisions which should be left to individual choice. Everyone who has been a parent will have to judge similarly as the children grow up. And in this situation the judgment continuously changes as the growing children must learn to take on more and more responsibility.

However the practical instinct of the Church, despite some changes initiated by Vatican II which have not yet gone very far, is to rely on permanent tradition. Unfortunately this carries the danger that we do not easily distinguish between what is true for all time, and what may well be changed because our understanding has developed.

That is, I would argue, why change in the Church’s culture is inherently a problem. Little details can change here or there but since the culture is characterised by the avoidance of change it is hard to see how it might come about. It may teach subsidiarity but its own structure protects it from putting it into action.

Strangely enough the occurrence of great importance is our old friend Humanae Vitae. I am not talking about whether the doctrine is right or wrong but that the verdict was likely to be so damaging that even many bishops felt it necessary to make it clear that conscience – even in a moral doctrine which had been taught for centuries as an absolute demand of natural law – must give way to the authority of conscience. And that a rejection of this solemn teaching was consistent with being a fully paid up Catholic.

Today, it is the conscience of a pope which is at question. Should it ever be possible, under certain circumstances, for a remarried Catholic who will not undertake to forego the act of marriage to receive the Eucharist? I won’t try to answer this. But it seems ironic that the issue is between the traditional understanding of adultery and the traditional understanding of the authority of the pope.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Advocatus Diaboli, Bio-ethics, Church and Society, Moral judgment, Pope Francis. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to The obedient Church

  1. John Nolan says:

    Didn’t the Royal Commission criticize ‘subsidiarity’ when it referred to the ‘autonomy’ of dioceses and religious institutions as contributing, historically, to child abuse?

    Scandals were covered up at local level long before they came to the notice of the Holy See.

  2. John Thomas says:

    “a remarried Catholic who will not undertake to forego the act of marriage” – surely, for a “remarried” Catholic it is too late to “undertake to forego the act of marriage” …? Or am I missing something? I guess you mean the specific acts within their new marriage which complete, consummate, their marriage, Quentin.

    • Quentin says:

      Thank you John. It might have been clearer to have said ‘marriage act’. I was trying to emphasis the potential mismatch in a case where the Church teaches that the second relationship cannot be a marriage in her terms.

      • John Thomas says:

        Thanks, Quentin. Does the Catholic church “remarry” people, and then ask them to refrain from physical acts? I’d not heard of that … I have heard of remarried Catholics being asked not to take the sacrament.

  3. galerimo says:

    The Commission shows concern for the lack of accountability of the office of Bishop. It points to the absence of the voices of children or any way Church leaders have of listening to the voices of Children. And yet Jesus made children absolutely central as a model for Kingdom membership.

    In this context I am reminded how Albert Einstein while living in Switzerland as a young man wrote to Professor Jost Winteler: ‘Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth’. And for victims of clerical abuse unthinking respect for Church authority vested in the clerical/hierarchical structure cost them dearly.

    In the early centuries the Church is understood to be the “communion of the baptised”, with the Eucharist effecting and manifesting that communion. Any more advanced theological understanding of the Church emerged very late in Church dogmatic teaching. I don’t think there is a single question in the Summa where Thomas Aquinas addresses the question of the Church, (which is not to say that he did not treat the topic in other places in his writings). But everything, even the hierarchical structure, when it did finally come to dominate, is meant to serve this communion.

    The problem is, subsidiarity is still hierarchy. It sounds too much like moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic. It’s an attempt to strain some meaning out of the historical accretion, which is this dominant hierarchical model of Church we have today. But it is not the only one.

    We need to continue to work more towards the “communion” model of Church. Lumen Gentium (Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) articulated this “communion” Church model when it describes church as “A people made one by the Unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (LG 14).

    When John Paul II described the nature of the Church he repeated the words of The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1985 acknowledging that the word “communion” is the central and fundamental idea of the documents of Vatican II on this subject. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 34).

    So what is required is a shift from hierarchy towards Communion. This Communion model reflects the many and varied interactions of persons who are equal. It is the reflection of the Trinity into which we are baptised. This does not mean abolishing the offices or suppressing any of the current charisms, but it must mean reordering them on a scale that is less top down and more truly communal.

  4. G.D says:

    Quentin you say “Everyone who has been a parent will have to judge similarly as the children grow up. And in this situation the judgement continuously changes as the growing children must learn to take on more and more responsibility.” …. and i think this has the key to resolving the SEEMING conflict between authority and subsidiarity …..

    I take the liberty of putting it thus ….
    Everyone who is in a relationship will have to judge similarly as the relationship continually (as opposed to continuously) develops, and each learns to take responsibility for each other.

    In this scenario, there are three types of people – those who’s basic orientation is to control. Those who’s basic ‘orientation’ is to be controlled. And those who’s basic orientation is to seek neither to control, or, to be controlled.

    Those who’s basic ‘orientation’ is to control will see the third type as a threat to ‘authority’, and oppress them. The second will feel resentment and/or rejection, and appeal to an authority figure to oppress them.
    Only the third type will be able to accept being BOTH authoritative ( as in – ‘commanding and self-confident; likely to be respected’ ) and defer to another’s authority. Be they considered ‘subordinate servant’ or ‘superior ruler’.

    It’s ‘both and’ applied to all by all … in mutual respect and responsibility … that resolves the hierarchical structure, without taking anything away from it, and allows for each to be ‘both &’ the third type for each other.

    Of course we can all continually & responsibly choose any type if the situation/relationship calls for it, by mutual agreement (often unconsciously) at any given moment.
    But it seem to me the basic ‘orientation’ in most people continuously wins out and rules the heart & mind.
    All well and good for the first two types, they can go on as usual consolidating their positions as dictated by the status quo …. the third tend to have a hard time of it.

    Two scripture quotes (combined) spring to mind and i include them. Whether they address the topic or not i’m not sure …….
    “If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each others feet.” (J.13;14)
    “You are my friends …… love one another” (J. 15; 14-17)

  5. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan

    In different ways and arguments, theological and biblical, this point below you site:

    We need to continue to work more towards the “communion” model of Church. Lumen Gentium (Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) articulated this “communion” Church model when it describes church as We need to continue to work more towards the “communion” model of Church. Lumen Gentium (Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) articulated this “communion” Church model when it describes church as “A people made one by the Unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (LG 14).
    Why is it, apart from bias and prejudice that you constantly try to down what I say with your acerbic comments, when you site the very same here as I have asserted.many times, for example:
    We need to continue to work more to towards the communion; Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) articulated this “communion” Church model when it describes church as “A people made one by the Unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (LG 14).

    This is quite right of course, nothing wrong with that.
    What is wrong is not made explicit and that is, the view of the hierarchy on what constitutes in Apostolic terms the Church. The One Church is not an earthy unity, but a spiritual one.
    This has led to many detractions concerning the unity of the whole Church in Christ, in God the Father and in the Holy Spirit. The very terminology help ones understand it is spiritual in its unity,
    in its communion and in its life, not some man made earthy institutions so many have become,
    and alien to what the Church is actually.

    • John Nolan says:

      Nektarios

      That comment was made by Galerimo, not me, and for the record I disagree with virtually everything he posts.

  6. Horace says:

    Surely ‘subsidiarity’ applies to behaviour but cannot apply to belief !

  7. Hock says:

    I do despair when I read these articulate and knowledgeable posts but cannot but help think that we continue to lose the plot.
    What is needed here is plain talk followed by plain action, both of which are miles away from what we have now.
    The Church continues to seek remedies that do not involve ‘grasping the nettle’ but pay lip service to solutions and think that ‘apologies’ are a starting and finishing point.
    We have had previous examples of where bodies of lay persons have been recruited to look into certain matters of scandal only for them to be thwarted at every turn by a hierarchy who refuse to have their powers curtailed.
    It is obviously easier ( or looks that way,) to smile nicely and then carry on as before. The whole rotten structure of the Church’s adherence to a hierarchy that is self-perpetuating in its belief and practice needs to be dismantled and a fresh start made with a complete blank sheet.
    This can only be achieved by a commission consisting of qualified persons without a dog collar in sight whose recommendations will be carried through to the letter.

  8. galerimo says:

    Communion Church by contrast with Hierarchical Church is how we started as Church, it is what we need to return to and I hope it is what is emerging in our time.

    We become Church, a “communio fidelium” when we are baptised “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is the communion model of equal persons interacting as a collective which we should strive to become as Body of Christ.

    Even a very brief sketch can show you how this hierarchical baggage accrued as structure for the living Body of Christ and dominate over Communion.

    Leo I (440-461) claimed primacy, universal and supreme authority on the basis of Apostolic succession (Matt 16:13-17, Lk 22:31-32 and Jn 21:15-19). Leo’s Tome was accorded great significance at Chalcedon in 451. He appropriated the title of “Pontifex Maximus” for the Papacy accepting it from the Emperor Gratian himself.

    The Gregorian reforms (Pope Gregory VII 1073-1085) further buttressed the papacy virtually as a monarchical power with even greater pre-eminence for the Pope. Again at the councils of Lyons (1274) and Florence (1431-39) the primacy of hierarchical power was asserted for the papacy.

    Despite such increasing centralization a more collegial form of church government always persisted. Bishops did meet in councils regularly to confer about controversies, heresies and matters of discipline. The Council of Constance (1414-1418) in the decree “Haec Sancta”, declared that an ecumenical council receives its power straight from Christ and not from the pope and so has a superior authority to the pope alone.

    The Protestant Reformation challenged this ecclesial system, as well as the primacy of the pope, the authority of bishops and priests, the magisterium and the sacraments. However the Council of Trent (1545-63), though it did introduce a number of reforms confirmed the hierarchical structure.

    The twentieth century saw the real rise in interest in ecclesial structures – Vatican I (1869-1870). If it had not been abruptly terminated by the Franco Prussian War, the declaration on the nature of the Church (Pastor Aeternus), on which it had embarked, may have been more wide ranging and inclusive in its nature. Of the proposed fifteen chapters, only four were enacted and they were the ones that dealt with jurisdictional primacy and papal infallibility.

    Thankfully a new understanding of fellowship, subsidiarity, collegiality and what could be named as “communion ecclesiology” emerged from Vatican II. Ratzinger described this as “the real core of Vatican II’s teaching on the Church, the novel and at the same time the original element in what the Council wanted to give us”.

    • John Nolan says:

      galerimo

      Your romantic view of the primitive Church is at odds with the known facts. Early Christians did not live in a state of ‘charismatic democracy’ with little need for authority. Heresies of all kinds were widespread and had to be excluded from the mainstream. As early as the first century Clement of Rome was comparing the clergy to the officers of the Roman army, and their authority was seen as essential for unity. In AD 107 Ignatius of Antioch made it clear that only the authority of the bishop guaranteed a legitimate Christian Church.

      The rest of your analysis is similarly flawed. What is somewhat misleadingly called the Counter-Reformation did rather more than ‘introduce a number of reforms’ and in any case these could not have been carried through unless the hierarchical structure had been maintained.

      If one looks at the history of Church Councils it is difficult to see them as the persistence of a ‘more collegial form of church government’ in opposition to ‘increasing centralization’. The idea of ‘conciliarism’ associated with Constance was a novel idea, and was short-lived, being finally condemned by another Council (5th Lateran, 1512-17). This was confirmed by Vatican I and Vatican II.

      It is impossible to return to a putative primitive Church – the protestants thought they were doing this, but as Newman pointed out, ‘to be deep in history is to cease to be a protestant.’

      • Nektarios says:

        John Nolan

        Your critical faculties seem to be working overtime regarding ‘galerimo’s contribution.
        It is quite clear, to me at least and many others who read this, that the workings of the hierarchies then and present are a far cry from the Apostolic Doctrine and Teaching and Practice concerning what the Christian Church actually is.
        For example, the view of the Bishop is very different in the NT from the working of a Bishop today.

        Concerning your last paragraph neither Newman really did not know at this point what he was talking about. As usual with arguments like these, Newman pushes his view to the extreme.
        I am too deep as he would say in Biblical History as well as Theology. The truth is, one really cannot understand Christianity or the Christian life apart from its History OT and NT and the foundation of the Church at Pentecost. If it shows anything, the Church is not something man does per se, but something God by his Holy Spirit is doing, communicating the life and power of the spiritual life of Christ in and to us.

        The Roman Catholic Church as other Churches too, think that it is something they are able to do with their committees etc etc.
        What one lands up with, is a corruption of what ecclesia means. It has divided the Church into all sorts of groups principally Hierarchy and Laity then sub divisions in each category.

        Why did this unapostolic approach happen? It happened because they were slowly departing from the Apostolic Doctrine Teaching and Practice. Like the Orthodox Church this happen in the same period of time, over the first seven centuries.
        It has the appearance of a Christian Church, but is nothing of the kind, a characture the real thing.
        It also has gone down this unapostilic route, because it has no spiritual power, and trusts in the wits, power and power and prestige of men.
        So don’t be so critical or hard on galerimo, your own seeming authority barracking, is empty, powerless and contributes nothing to the Church or the discussion.

      • Quentin says:

        I think that structure is a red herring. Most secular organisations have structure: boards of control, chief executives, senior managers etc, etc. The Church is no different in this respect.

        But amongst secular organisations there are those which use subsidiarity and those which don’t. It was a discovery of the 20th century that the application of subsidiarity was nearly always a feature of the more successful organisation.

        Interestingly, my Donald Nicholl quote was from an article distinguishing hospitals which had good communication (horizontal and vertical) throughout all ranks and those which didn’t. The first kind had significantly better patient results than the others. He was arguing that the Church should consider this. Perhaps that’s where we should start.

  9. Geordie says:

    Nektarios,
    I disagree with you on the contributions of John Nolan. They are clear and valuable and I may not agree with everything he says but at least I can understand what he is saying; (unless it is Latin because my Latin is very rusty now). There are a number of posts on this blog which are supposedly in English and I often haven’t a clue what they are trying to convey. They are often far too long and disjointed. I just give up and skip to the next post.

  10. ignatius says:

    If anyone thinks that the early church was a model of good practice then I suggest they take a careful read of the letters of St Paul, particularly to the churches at Corinth, Galatia and Ephesus,
    There was never a golden age of the church to hearken back to and it is a mistake to try.

    One of the things which brought this home to me was my 5 year period of working with the underground church in China just after Tiannmenn square…house church structures, meeting at night in fear of an oppressive regime….ring any bells? Also, at that time being part of the many inputs from different aspects of the western church going into China as a whole: evangelical, charismatic, Anglican, Lutheran and experiencing at first hand the results of their fragmentation in terms of confusion.

    In terms of overall behaviour I do get the impression that to put on a dog collar and a black shirt is to invite the closest possible scrutiny whereas to be a plain clothes part time ‘elder’ in a house church does not invite the same mistrust. When the inevitable shocking failure in personal behaviour shows itself in those churches however it is usually the individual rather than the denonimation that takes the flack, no one for example demands that, say the Conservative evangelical wing of the church sets about cleaning out its stables despite the not infrequent expose of crooks hoodlums and sexual predators from that particular religious fraternity.

    We are banging on about ‘subsidiarity here and to a degree I share Hocks despair at this kind of
    warbling on when no one seems to give much thought to explaining by simple example how they think these principles would, in practice, operate. I would also like to say that in my diocese I get to meet and rub shoulders with priests, bishops etc pretty regularly and I get to know some of them quite well enough to resent the blanket imputations of rottenness that appear here on this blog from time to time all dressed up as wisdom.

    I

  11. John Nolan says:

    I actually agree in principle with Quentin about subsidiarity; as Newman was at pains to point out, bishops are not merely papal lieutenants. What is interesting about the current state of affairs is that the most ultramontane, indeed papolatrous faction consists of ‘liberals’; ‘conservatives’, on the other hand distance themselves from the current pontiff and align with those bishops who criticize him.

    I am, and always have been, suspicious of those who look to change structures not for reasons of principle, but because they expect these new structures to deliver the results, in doctrine and discipline, which they have already predetermined.

  12. Nektarios says:

    Quentin
    You write: Most secular organisations have structure: boards of control, chief executives, senior managers etc, etc. The Church is no different in this respect.

    I have to disagree with you profoundly. The Church was never a man-made institution it has become. Like I say, It is the action of God, the life of the Church is the Life of Christ, the power in the Church is the Holy Spirit.
    All this was and is laid out in Holy Scriptures for our benefit who the children of God by the Holy Apostles. We think we are so advanced so modern with modern day problems the Apostle could not have imagined. But the Gospel is not an imagination, but an inspiration and revelation by God of everything necessary for Salvation.
    The issues like so many issues discussed on the blog really are besides the point and generally quite liberal or grinding the denominational axes.

    I am well aware of denominations stealing the glory of God and giving it to themselves. Not only denomination but individuals.
    Before God, the People of God are equal. That does not mean that they all have the same gifts, they don’t. But, we are to exercise what gifts we truly have of God operating within the one body, to the glory of God.

    The Apostles have laid out for us what a Church is and how it is to operate. If we pick and choose
    our own way then as we see all around the world, sadly, the Christian Church is failing at practically every level. It is indeed a day of confusion for many, sorrow for many, concern for many.
    In the Churches long history is this anything unique, it has happened many times, and God has revived it. It is well over 70 years especially here in the West, since there has been an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the Church.
    This is why I pray from revival of the Church and preach the only message of God that addresses the whole man.

  13. ignatius says:

    Here is a nice little link to a basic explanation of subsidiarity if anyone is interested:
    http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2013/12/09/subsidiarity/
    I find it interesting to consider these topics in the light of ordinary parish life and then to try and see the relevance or lack of the issue under discussion.

  14. Iona says:

    Nektarios: you belong to one of the Orthodox Churches, I believe. Are you including your Church in your criticisms of Churches operating by means of hierarchical structures? Or do you think your Church is exempt?
    Also, you say it is at least 70 years since there was an outpouring of God’s Spirit on the Church, That would take us back to 1948 or earlier. Do you have any particular event in mind, and if so what is it?

    Thank you for the article, Ignatius; very clear.

    • Nektarios says:

      Iona
      I am not judging the Church simply observing the decline that has been taking place.

      You ask: Nektarios: you belong to one of the Orthodox Churches, I believe. Are you including your Church in your criticisms of Churches operating by means of hierarchical structures? Or do you think your Church is exempt?

      I was thinking of the Welsh revival which spread here and abroad. The Revival in the Northern Hebrides.
      I am not against Church structures, as long as they conform to the Apostolic pattern as laid down by Christ and His Holy Apostles in the NT., but they are a long way from that.
      No Church these days is exempt from failure, no Christian, no Church plan or system to cause a division.
      The devil would like us to go on fighting one another. It’s his strategy and he also has his willing people in the Church who claim to be God’s people but are not, and are of this world.

      These hierarchies think they are the Apostles seccessors. Clearly they are not, just lurching from one crisis to another. Intellectually they play their games to no avail and clearly they are failing.

      People think these hierarchies speak for God, some occasionally may do, but no they don’t, and they are full of corruption and all greediness.
      If we believe these people speak for God to us lesser mortals, then hear them, but as Jesus says, ‘don’t do as they do.’
      They also make the ordinary believer not only feel inferior and are not. They claim authority and this in turn tends to make the believers dependent on them, mere pawns in their silly games which are failing.

      Sorry to put things in the negatives, even the Apostle Paul did that constantly, before he could tell them of the positives.

  15. galerimo says:

    I think the Red Herring is the point, Quentin. After all Donald Nicholl is talking about a good way for ‘Structures’ to function. Both his model (vertical/horizontal) and your analogy using the ‘family’ (communio) when you illustrate subsidiarity, presuppose such structures.

    In my experience ‘the business model’ of operating has won out in both our universities and our hospitals. If that is what underscores Nicholl’s example I wonder if outsourcing is what he means by subsidiarity. Sorry- that really is a big red one!!

    Those ‘changes initiated by Vatican II that you mention should not be down played in our discussion here. They do include structural subsidiarity after all and our liturgical progress including the truly wonderful enrichments of our Eucharistic celebrations. All of this contributes greatly to a return to a ‘Communio’ church – of course without the cultural and historical baggage of earlier centuries.

    Our Protestant and Orthodox brethren have always been better at Church making. I think they can accommodate a Trinitarian approach in their response to Jesus’ mandate to ‘go out and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. I like their emphasis. More provincial than centralised, as one prominent theologian has commented.

    Our Constantinian influence and narrower ‘incarnation’ view leaves us with quite a bit of catching up as far as subsidiarity and inclusiveness is concerned with this ‘Communio’ Church. But we are making progress both with our Eucharistic overhaul (source of Church) as well as our bringing subsidiarity into the discussion.

    If it wasn’t for the horrible reality of paedophilia a lot of people these days would hardly be aware of how the Catholic Church exercises its power and authority. Most people’s contact with Church is around sacramental occasions of birth,death and marriage. And anyway the Church’s reaction long ago to ‘Humanae Vitae’ (you mentioned it first!), demonstrates clearly how unaffected our daily living is by Church governance.

    So if we really are to become Church again – and it is the solemn obligation of ever generation of Christians to do so as they follow the impoverished carpenter of Nazareth, then our little local communio of the ‘faith filled’ in all its social and celebratory interactions is our challenge. Just as much as it ever was, including the time when Jesus was also historically present,

    • ignatius says:

      This is all very compelling Galerimo but WHAT DOES IT ACTUALLY MEAN?
      Its great expressing a vision of how ‘church’ should be but unless you can picture and give precise detail of how all this would operate then it remains a fantasy. I have plenty of personal experience of small ‘faith filled communities’ in various corners of the world and believe me they have their own difficulties, tyranny of leadership being strong among them wierdness of belief a close second and psychological damage running a close third.
      It is impossible to get around the fact that ‘faith’ when contained in the human heart is a messy business at best and this will be true always.

  16. ignatius says:

    “If it wasn’t for the horrible reality of paedophilia a lot of people these days would hardly be aware of how the Catholic Church exercises its power and authority. Most people’s contact with Church is around sacramental occasions of birth,death and marriage. And anyway the Church’s reaction long
    ago to ‘Humanae Vitae’ (you mentioned it first!), demonstrates clearly how unaffected our daily living is by Church governance.”

    Yes this is the point. Here it is endorsed by the view expressed in the Catholic world view article whose link I have cited above:
    ” The life of the Church provides a concrete example of why subsidiarity makes sense and how it works. The point of the formal structure of the Church, her hierarchy, sacraments, disciplines, and subordinate bodies, is to help the faithful become what God intended them to be. That purpose can’t be legislated, administered, or forced on anyone, but it can be aided, and that is the point of what the Church does as an organized community. As the saying goes, salus animarum suprema lex (“the salvation of souls is the supreme law”).

    To that end, the aspects of the life of the Church that normally matter most—parish life, the availability of the sacraments, and the religious life of the believer and his network of family and friends—are necessarily local. Some things, such as doctrine, have to be determined universally, because doctrine is the necessary background for Catholic life, and if it is true for anyone it is true for everyone. Others, such as particular devotions and apostolates, may become widespread, but they depend on local needs and initiatives. They normally aren’t begun by councils, popes, or ecclesiastical bureaucracies, but by individual believers, and grow through acceptance by those who find they suit their spiritual needs.”

    I know quotes are not greatly in favour here but at least this one is fairly clear. I guess that most of the intelligent, articulate and cogent but otherwise terribly opaque discussion so far about subsidiarity is aimed higher up the tree at the “ecclesiastical bureaucracies” of which most of us know very little and experience practically never.

    • galerimo says:

      I think you clarify the issues very well here, Ignatius, thank you. It is a struggle to try and get points across when dealing with these vast and many sided topics that Quentin can serve up to us so well. Great quote.

  17. John Nolan says:

    Ignatius, what you have linked to is a good understanding of subsidiarity from a ‘conservative’ point of view. This can still be articulated in the USA but in this country the once great Conservative Party, whose principles were set out by Peel in the Tamworth Manifesto of 1834, has bought into the politically correct agenda. Cameron was bad enough in this regard; May, the vicar’s daughter, is even worse.

    When I turn on the television I see people whose opinions are sought by the media, and are highly paid for expressing them, but who talk arrant nonsense – it’s like Nektarios and John Candido on stilts.

    God help us!

  18. Iona says:

    John N. –
    You could eschew the television altogether? – See http://www.cutunplugtv.co.uk/

  19. John Nolan says:

    Galerimo

    Wherein lie ‘the truly wonderful enrichments of our Eucharistic celebrations’? Pop music? Well, I suppose it is unencumbered by the cultural baggage of tradition. Like your notion that the Virgin Mary was a single mother.

    I notice that you did not attempt to defend your warped interpretation of history. There might be hope for you yet.

  20. G.D says:

    Am a bit confused ….. are we talking about the way the church, or The Church, or the denominational church, are governed? Or are they all the same thing in peoples minds? Has the Kingdom of God got anything to do with it? Does it matter?

    • John Nolan says:

      G.D

      There is the Church Militant, the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant – all existing diachronically.

      The Church institutional or the Church Denominational are modernist constructs and have nothing to do with the Church founded by OLJC.

    • ignatius says:

      GD
      You are rightly confused since you have stumbled into a babel of undefined chatter!

      you raise a good point however which will be answered differently by whoever picks up your question.
      as I understand the Catholic view ‘The Church’ is that body of persons both living and dead who cooperate with God in the bringing in of his kingdom which finds its expression in being increasingly identified with Jesus Christ both in terms of His teaching and His presence in our lives. This identification is achieved at least partially through sacramental means. The Church is not a denominational or an institutional entity simply because denominational and institutional identities are not the determinants of our being conformed to Christ. The Catholic perspective is that the church grows out of and is grouped closely around the seven sacraments it believes to have been instituted by Christ. Denominational/institutional beliefs which are non sacramental in nature may still be part of the wider Church but do not partake in the fullness of the reality of Christ as mediated by sacrament.
      The discussion on this thread regarding ‘the way church is governed’ has mainly the Catholic Church in mind but wishful consideration of modes of government of more non sacramental churches is being presented by one or two…geddit?
      You raise a good point however which will be answered differently by whoever picks up on it .. yes it does matter quite a lot to get as clear as possible on issues of this kind. According to subsidiarity principles though it seems that matters of belief are usually fixed a bit higher up than down here at the shallower end of the gene pool. 🙂

  21. John Nolan says:

    And another thing, galerimo – in the ancient world a skilled artisan like a carpenter would be in modern terms middle class and certainly not impoverished. I have also heard Mary referred to as a ‘peasant girl’ – she was anything but.

    Is there no end to your speculative nonsense?

  22. Iona says:

    At the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (as first-born son) his parents brought as their offering two doves or pigeons, which I understand was the expected offering from relatively poor parents. Yes, I know this is totally off topic.

    • galerimo says:

      It is still a very pertinent image, Iona, thank you for mentioning it. Yahweh, the Lod God Almighty enters his temple for the first time in human flesh and we see an infant carried on the shoulders of his Dad the lowly traddie, probably fast asleep on those shoulders with his mother fussing about making sure the child is warm enough. God – structures – official religious practice – and the stipend of two doves. A lot to reflect on here.

  23. ignatius says:

    Que?

  24. G.D says:

    John Nolan say’s …… “The Church institutional or the Church Denominational are modernist constructs and have nothing to do with the Church founded by OLJC.”
    ignatius say’s ……….. “‘The Church’ is that body of persons both living and dead who cooperate with God in the bringing in of his kingdom which finds its expression in being increasingly identified with Jesus Christ both in terms of His teaching and His presence in our lives. ”

    The above says it all for me … (thank you both) … everything else is mere speculation.
    Subsidiarity, when viewed in conjunction with the above ‘definition’ of ‘Church’, is a given. Cooperation with God, growing in communion with God, towards unity. Anything that does not enhance that, is not Church.

    It takes nothing away from any individuals, or collectives, sincere attempts to achieve that unity, imperfect as they are ALL bound to be.
    But only by the recognition of the fruit of unity, in love, will we know what to accept as ‘Church’; and how to put it into practice.
    Anything else throws out many babies with the bath waters.

  25. Geordie says:

    Iona,
    I believe two doves was the offering made for the Purification of a woman who had just given birth.

  26. Iona says:

    Geordie – Leviticus 12, vs 6 – 8: “she is to bring to the priest… a lamb one year old … and a young pigeon or turtledove. … If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to take two turtledoves or two young pigeons”.

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