Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 19, 2000
Reform always on Church agenda
The Reform of the Papacy: The Costly Call to Christian Unity, by John R. Quinn, New York: Crossroad, 1999. 182 pp.
Review by FR. JOHN SPICER
Special to the WCR
Pope John Paul has opened up the papacy to reform because, as he said, the papacy as now exercised "constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians" (from the encyclical Ut Unum Sint, That All May Be One).
The pope concludes, "I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility . . . in heeding the request made to me to find a way of exercising the papacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation."
The pope also acknowledged that he could not accomplish this reform alone. He asked the bishops of the world, as well as theologians, to join him in meeting this challenge.
Archbishop John Quinn, a retired archbishop of San Francisco, took up this challenge in his book entitled, The Reform of the Papacy: The Costly Call to Christian Unity. He not only wrote this book but went to Rome and personally handed it to the pope.
After a lengthy survey of Ut Unum Sint, the archbishop takes up the question of reform and criticism in the Church.
He notes that "reform" has always been part of the Church's agenda. The Council of Trent used that term of its work and so did Vatican II. The archbishop concludes, "No criticisms are foreign to the Church or to the papacy."
Quinn next deals with papacy and collegiality in the Church. Collegiality of the bishops was a major concern of Vatican II since from Vatican I on more and more power became centralized in Rome.
So he notes, "The bishops of the world became convinced that the high centralization wrought by Rome had to be balanced by a clear teaching on the collegiality of the episcopate and that the practice of the Church had to be brought in line with that teaching."
The archbishop then goes on to deal specifically with the following areas of Church practice that he judges are in need of reform: the role of episcopal conferences (synods); the appointment of bishops; the papacy and the College of Cardinals; and the Roman Curia.
In the final chapter Quinn makes clear that in any organization "too much centralization is counter-productive." Though the Church, he notes, is not just any organization, "it can nevertheless learn from the experiences of today's large corporations."
I conclude this review by quoting the words of Patrick Granfield, a professor of theology in the Catholic University of Washington, D.C., in his summing up of Quinn's book: "Anyone interested in the papacy should read this book by Archbishop Quinn. Drawing on his personal experience he advocates decentralization, legitimate diversity, and reform in the Roman Curia. Clear, balanced and constructive, his insights will stimulate fruitful dialogue."
Quinn will be a keynote speaker at the archdiocesan jubilee celebration, Assembly 2000, Sept. 14-17.
(Redemptorist Father John Spicer is director of the archdiocesan Adult Learning Commission.)