success stories

March 6, 2004

Book: The Ministry of Governance
Edited by James K. Mallett
Canon Law Society of America, Washington, D.C., pp. 225

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

When Pope John XXIII called for a revision of the Code of Canon Law and opened the Second Vatican Council, the Canon Law Society of America was almost 25 years old. The members of the Society responded enthusiastically to the papal call for church renewal. Many American canonists saw them mid-sixties as a time for a collegiate responsibility to the whole Church, a time for the Canon Law Society of America to set into motion a positive plan that would contribute to the world-wide process of renewal. The Society initiated cooperation with individuals and organizations doing research in the other church sciences, and committed itself to the service of the bishops on canonical matters with the pledge to participate in the constant renewal of the law by canonical research and proposals for revision.

In 1974 the Canon Law Society of America gathered together a select group of leaders, representing a cross-section within the Church for a three-day “think tank” situation to look ahead for a decade to identify goals and means by which they might be achieved.

The goals agreed upon fell into three broad areas: the Church as an ordered communio, the Church in dialogue with secular society, and within the Church an expanded concept of ministry. Goals undergirding these general areas related to the role of law and the process and dynamics of governance. The realization of all the goals was seen to involve research and development, legal reform, technical assistance, and massive education. (Origin, August 15, 1974.)

In addressing itself to the question of governance the report noted that Vatican II had “taught us to look at authority as service exercised through subsidiarity and coresponsibility,” but ignorance of administrative and legislative dynamics and obsolete structures had acted against this.

Laity, clergy and bishops alike need to be informed of the science and art of governance. They need to have some grasp of the process involved in formulating policy, solving problems, making decisions, shaping organization, maintaining communication, resolving conflict, deploying personnel, and establishing laws. Present structures should be evaluated to determine their effectiveness in the exercise of an authority understood as functional and diffused among the people of God. Where necessary new structures must be designed. (Origins. August 15, 1974.)

The recommendations of the think tank generally were accepted and acted upon by the Canon Law Society of America, which held a follow-up three-day consultation on the next year with somewhat broader participation of key persons from various national organizations and associations. Because of the priority given to tribunal procedures and advocacy in the revision of law, however, it was not until 1981 that the Board of Governors of the Canon Law Society of America commissioned a study to develop a proposal for a Symposium on Diocesan Governance.

. . . .These needs are among those which prompted the Canon Law Society of America to initiate a symposium on diocesan governance. . . .The major objectives of the symposium were to publish studies on diocesan governance. A secondary objective was to promote better communication and cooperation among the Canon Law Society of America and other professional associations concerned with diocesan governance.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Power and Authority in the Church: Reflection

The question of power and authority in relation to church governance is, in the last analysis, an ecclesiological question. This is to say that symbols, models, or paradigms of the nature and mission of the Church lie at the heart of the ways in which one might think of power and authority, charism and office, their relationship and their exercise. Further, as Newman understood so well, once the central principle or heart of an idea has been identified, its full development follows, growing out of an innermost core.

The understanding of spiritual power and ecclesiastical authority has, necessarily, been influenced by changing concepts of Church as these have been the result of or the reaction to deep shifts in the life and history of humankind: sociological, philosophical, cultural, scientific, ideological. The world on the eve of the twenty-first century is not the world of the second, the fourth, the thirteenth or the eighteenth. Community configurations, self-awareness and individualism, global consciousness, the threat of the nuclear winter: these are some of the challenges that must be faced by women and men today. In such a world the Church still has a mission. The power of the risen Lord and the authority of his Word are gifts still given by the Spirit to prevail against the darkness.

For the effective exercise of such power and authority it is necessary that the Church be made new in the mystery of the dying and rising of the Lord. Governance in the Church must enable and empower the diversity of charisms that are given for the building up of the Church as the body of the Lord and for the gathering into one of the entire family of god throughout the world. In the light of new achievements in human thought and progress, the Church, too, must know how to learn from the world in which she is to be a light to the nations. From the Christian past there is a legacy and an experience that need to be rediscovered and retrieved, insofar as they can enable us to address the problems that are of this time in the light of simple gospel imperatives: faith in the Lord Jesus: obedience to his Word: wisdom to ask , to seek, to knock with courage and fidelity.

Those who have studied the questions of power, authority, office and governance in the Church affirm that we are, indeed, living in an age of rediscovery of our heritage in this domain. They seem to suggest that Vatican II has set us on the right road theologically. They tell us that ecclesiologically, the time is right for a move toward restoration of a concept of authority that is in full harmony with the gospel and the best of our Tradition. Other efforts are, of course, needed as well: the recognition of each individual’s empowerment through baptism into the dying and rising of Jesus; the acknowledgment of each community’s pattern of expressing, strengthening and denying power in every situation; the courage to clarify the complexities of ecclesiastical governance, the relationship between the sacred and the secular in any given culture, and between spiritual power and the authority attached to church office in general. This is a weighty agenda. It reminds us of the one task that has to precede all the others: to preach Jesus Christ in a manner that leads to full recovery of the exercise of authority as God wills it for the new world in which the Lords calls us to service.

Table of Contents:

The Emergence and Development of a Style of American Diocesan Governance in Response to External Factors
Thomas Curry

Diocesan Structure and Governance in the United States
Gerald Fogarty, S.J.

Church Governance: The Protestant Experience
John E. Lynch, C.S.P.

Power and Authority in the Church
Agnes Cunningham, S.S.C.M.

The Role of Canon Law in Light of Lumen Gentium
John M. Huels, O.S.M.

Diocesan Governance in Modern Catholic Theology and in the 1983 Code of Canon Law
Michael A. Fahey, S.J.

The Evolving Church and Church Governance
Eugene Hemrick

Ministry, Governance in European Dioceses Following the 1983 Code: An Initial Inquiry
Roland-Bernhard Trauffer, O.P.

Canonical Reflections on Selected Issues in Diocesan Governance
James H. Provost