Principle of subsidiarity?
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has sent a letter to the primates of the Anglican Communion on the present difficult situation in the life of that communion.
It includes the following paragraph:
But what our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety. The tacit conventions between us need spelling out – not for the sake of some central mechanism of control but so that we have ways of being sure we’re still talking the same language, aware of belonging to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ. It is becoming urgent to work at what adequate structures for decision-making might look like. We need ways of translating this underlying sacramental communion into a more effective institutional reality, so that we don’t compromise or embarrass each other in ways that get in the way of our local and our universal mission, but learn how to share responsibility.
This reminded me of the discussion of whether the principle of subsidiarity should apply within the Church. When Roman Catholics advocate it, it usually is with the idea that it will promote local decision-making. But when the principle is discussed within the Anglican Communion, where local provinces enjoy a good deal of autonomy (so much that it seems to have provoked the present crisis), there are some who do not wish to see the principle of subsidiarity applied because it admits the need for some intervention of a superior authority if an autonomous local authority fails to live up to its responsibilities. The archbishop’s letter allows Catholics to look at the question from the other side.