The Doctrine of the People of God and Hierarchical Authority as Service in Latin Church Legislation on the Local Church
- The Jurist: Studies in Church Law and Ministry
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 68, Number 2, 2008
- pp. 328-349
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* Catholic Theological Faculty, University of Erfurt, Germany. 1 Pope Benedict XVI prefers to speak of a “hermeneutic of reform” and not of “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.” See his address to the Roman Curia as Christmas greetings on December 22, 2005: published as Ansprache von Papst Benedikt XVI. an das Kardinalskollegium und die Mitglieder der Römischen Kurie beim Weihnachtsempfang am 22. Dezember 2005, Verlautbarungen des Apostolischen Stuhls, Nr. 172 (Bonn: Sekretariat der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz, 2006) 10ff. 328 The Jurist 68 (2008) 328–349 THE DOCTRINE OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD AND HIERARCHICAL AUTHORITY AS SERVICE IN LATIN CHURCH LEGISLATION ON THE LOCAL CHURCH Myriam Wijlens* More than forty years after the council and almost twenty five years after the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law it seems rather appropriate to investigate the contribution that post conciliar juridical structures have made to the reception of the teaching of Vatican II in the Latin Church. Or to phrase this in the form of a question: what contribution did the legislation of the Church make so that the council could shape the lives of people and the life of the Church? To investigate such a question implies working on the basis of three presumptions: first, that legal structures can make a contribution to the reception of the council or by the same token could also hamper it; second, that there is an intended connection between the council and the post conciliar juridical life of the Church; and third, that a modality can be found allowing for a secure way to judge the reception of Vatican II. It will be necessary to attend to these presumptions before we can address the central question of this contribution. That central question finds its origin in the great reform1 in the ecclesiology of Vatican II vis-à-vis the pre-Vatican II ecclesiology, namely to see the Church not so much as a perfect society with a strong focus on the hierarchical structure, but more as the people of God and hierarchical authority as service. When this doctrine is taken as a hermeneutical criterion , two questions may be raised: first, how well was the doctrine received in the legislation of the Church? And second, what role does and should it play today not only in the interpretation but also, and in particular , in the application of the legislation, that is, when law and life meet? Whereas the former question can be answered by attending to the promulgated legislation and thus might produce a reliable and verifiable answer , the latter one will be more speculative in nature, because it is more 2 For a reflection on the application of the law see Myriam Wijlens, “Das zweite Vatikanum als Fundament für die Anwendung des Rechtes: Hermeneutische Reflexionen und praktische Konsequenzen,” Theologie der Gegenwart 50 (2007) 2–14. 3 The papers reflecting the first results of the investigation conducted by the members of the Peter and Paul Seminar are published in The Jurist 64 (2004) 1–360. 4 In the previous research project this author focused on the cooperation of bishops in supra national or continental structures. See Myriam Wijlens, “Exercising Collegiality in a Supra-national or Continental Institution such as the FABC, CCEE and ComECE,” The Jurist 64 (2004) 168–204. This study revealed that the different juridical responses to the nature of the power exercised by these institutions depend very much on one’s ecclesiological point of departure. If one starts from membership in the college of bishops without too much attention being paid to the connection of the bishop to the local church, this will imply that such cooperation is considered to involve only a few members of the college and thus cannot be given too much weight, since the few cannot speak for the whole college . If, on the other hand, one starts from the perspective that membership in the college and responsibility for a local church are concurrent, this implies that the bishop is to be a pontifex between the local church and the universal Church and vice versa. Both these perspectives reflect the weakness of the fact that they still start from the perspective of bishops and not from the local...