Monday, 27 February 2012

College of Cardinals and Vatican II

Cardinal Collins receives red hat
The College of Cardinals, a group of approximately 120 members (as we know them today) has a relatively short history in the Roman Catholic Church.  As part of the ecclesiastical reforms of the eleventh century, the bishops and priests who were cardinals gained increased significance and became a collegial body under Pope Nicholas II.  
The College of Cardinals has become increasingly influential in the church.  Pope John Paul II expanded their role by calling on them – and not the Synod of Bishops – for advice and counsel on certain key issues, like church finances and the child abuse crisis.  More importantly it is this group that holds the exclusive and political right to elect the next pope. 
At Vatican II the decline of monarchy and the democratic ethos prompted the rediscovery of a traditional Christian conviction: every member of the church is fundamentally equal in dignity, destiny and rights.  Vatican II reclaimed this truth and wanted to infuse the church’s life and thinking.  So the Council re-framed the roles of the Pope, bishops and priests from superiority to service.  This concept remains most vigorously opposed by the present hierarchy.  Pope Benedict XVI refuses to recognize that it is the laity, the most numerous body of the church and rightfully recognized by Vatican II as the ‘People of God’, have an equal role to play in the spiritual and political direction of the church. In that sense the Catholic hierarchy including The College of Cardinals therefore usurps the right of the laity to take part in the church’s future.

Cardinal's Oath
I [name and surname], Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, promise and swear to be faithful henceforth and forever, while I live, to Christ and his Gospel, being constantly obedient to the Holy Roman Apostolic Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, and of his canonically elected Successors; to maintain communion with the Catholic Church always, in word and deed; not to reveal to any one what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church; to carry out with great diligence and faithfulness those tasks to which I am called by my service to the Church, in accord with the norms of the law.
So help me Almighty God.
[Translation by Zenit.]

The recent display of opulence at the Vatican surrounding the election of 22 new Cardinals flies in the face of world wide poverty and the promise to uphold the 'preferential option for the poor'.  
Anyone who thinks that the church’s hierarchy is simply a body that exists primarily to benefit the people it serves relinquishes their most important role and responsibility as Christians to serve the world community in the manner portrayed by Jesus Christ .  Under Canon Law all Catholics are called to share in this responsibility as follows:
  •     All Catholics have the right to follow their informed consciences in all matters (Canon 748,1).
  • Officers of the church have the right to teach on all matters both of private and public morality only after wide consultation with the faithful prior to the formulation (C.212,C747,C749,C752,C774.1).

  • All Catholics have the right to engage in any activity that does not infringe on the rights of others: e.g. they have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of association (C.212,C.215,C.223)

  • All Catholics have the right of access to all information possessed by Church authorities concerning the former's spiritual and temporal welfare, provided such access does not infringe on the rights of others (C.218,C.221,C.223,C.1287).
  • All Catholics have the right in a voice in all decisions that affect hem including the choosing of their leaders. All Catholics have the right to have their leaders accountable to them. (C492,C.1287).
  • All Catholics have the right to form voluntary associations to pursue Catholic aims, including the right to worship together, such associations have the right to decide on their own rules of governance (C.215, C.299,C.300,C.305,C.309).
·       All Catholics have the right to express publicly their dissent in regard to decisions made by church authorities (C212,C.218,C.753).
  • All Catholics have the right while being mindful of Gospel norms to follow whatever paths will enhance their life in Christ; that is their self-realization as unique human beings created by God. They also have the right to guidance that will foster authentic human living both on a personal level and in relation to their communities and the world (C.213).

  • All Catholics regardless of race, age, nationality or sex and sexual orientation, state of life or social position have the right to receive all the sacraments for which they are adequately prepared (C.213, C.843).
  • All Catholics have the right to have church office holders foster a sense of community. (C.369).
     Since the College of Cardinals and Bishops must swear an oath of fidelity and obedience to the Pope and his Successors its political implications cannot be avoided.  The ever increasing tension between those who want to hold on to Tradition as it existed before Vatican II and those of the ‘Sensus Fidelium’ who visualize and desire a community  that moves and speaks to their struggles and concerns in the present.  This tension is being escalated by a hierarchy that is simply built on power and control.

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