Vatican Deliberations

Later this month the church’s 184 cardinals will gather at the Vatican for the sixth consistory of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate. The subject of this meeting, the first since 1994 when the pope broached the idea of issuing an apology for historic Catholic offenses, will be to chart the direction of the church for the third millennium. John Paul’s apostolic letter Novo millennio ineunte (At the Start of the New Millennium), which was released January 6, the last day of the Jubilee Year, will serve as an outline for the four-day gathering (May 21–24). It is expected that the consistory will influence the agenda for next October’s synod of bishops in Rome.

During John Paul’s pontificate, synods and consistories have been criticized for being tightly managed by the curia and consequently for reflecting the Vatican’s agenda rather than the concerns, legitimate interests, and views of the church’s bishops. Sadly, there is little indication that this shortsighted approach to episcopal collegiality will change. Contentious issues, such as the priestly discipline of celibacy or the control Rome now exerts over the appointment of bishops, are almost never raised. There is an element of charade to the whole enterprise. Yet the church needs inspiring leadership at all levels, not just from the pope, and not just as a chorus behind every papal declaration. A few brave souls can occasionally be heard urging...

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