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May 14, 2010


Bill Cork

Don't hold your breath! The structure of the Catholic church is considered to be of the "esse" of the church, not simply for its "bene esse" (of its essence, not simply for its well being). Bishops are said to have the fullness of apostolic authority. They rule "in persona Christi capitis." To have a body which would hold them accountable would negate this. Because of this, all boards at the diocesan level (and at the parish level) are "advisory only"--the bishop (or pastor, in the case of the parish) has authority, plain and simple. The clergy (bishops, priests, deacons) rule, teach, and sanctify by virtue of the charism which is theirs through the sacrament of holy orders, Catholic theology says. They have an "indelible character" that separates them from the laity. How, then, can they be judged by those they rule?

The issue of cardinals and archbishops is really irrelevant--cardinals advise and elect the pope. Period. Archbishops are simply bishops of metropolitan sees, with no supervisory authority over any of the other bishops in their province. Oh, they get more press, and have a louder voice, but in terms of the real structure of the church, the diocesan bishop is everything.

And bishops are all considered equal. Each is "vicar of Christ" for his own local church (the diocese). The Vatican has been especially resistant to the idea that a national bishops conference could try to insert itself over individual bishops.

In short, were the organizational structure of the Catholic Church to change, it would not be the Catholic church--the unity, catholicity, and apostolicity of which is realized (in Catholic theology) in the unity of the bishops with one another and with the bishop of Rome, the head of their college.

And the scandal has most definitely been felt in the south--thanks to folks like the Mexican priest, Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ.

As to its effect on the young--they are energized and excited by figures like John Paul II and Benedict XVI who take the faith seriously, live lives of demonstrated piety, and show themselves willing to engage the questions of the young--hence the huge numbers of papal World Youth Days.

Gary Walter

"The drip, drip, drip could move large numbers of younger people to look elsewhere to meet their spiritual needs, adding momentum a trend that is already well underway."

You're right Monte. The implications for all of Christianity are staggering - especially the larger, centralized church structures. Within Adventism, I've been impressed and encouraged by the restructuring of ARM and the R&H. But what we really need is a systematic restructuring of the entire bureaucratic hierarchy.


Had a discussion today with an older Adventist member about the shift in church structure from Top-down directive (with which this member was very comfortable) to administration as support for grass-roots initiatives. Like Gary, I think we need restructuring and am praying for those church leaders who are trying to accomplish this objective despite the firestorms of criticism.


There are several phenomenons currently occurring:
Ineffective governance; as leadership is being strangled by the weight of the persistent recession, and subsequent snowball effects.
The exponential drive of change causes folks to cling to their known certainty as their security blanket.
The church represents the final bedrock of certainty. The scandals certainly have implication beyond the Catholic Church.
What will matter to most folks will not be the degree of hierarchy, but on the restoration of trust, based on genuine sorrow for the horrors, and a solid program of accountability.
The church represents the final frontier of moral leadership. A vacuum here will place us in a situation that is more precarious than the current recession, but a recession of the religious world.

Monte Sahlin

Chris, is the church more about certainty or more about faith?


@ Monte, the certainty the church represent is the faith in God's leading thru human agents. The hall of fame of faith of Hebrews 11 allowed folks get that certainty to navigate the challenges of life not from reactionary fear but from a sense of a Divine presence communicate thru His agents.

Renee Hernandez

I have watched the the Catholic Church scandal but how about the Adventist church scandals. I have been in one for 26 years. I have been treated miserably. how about breaking up the Adventist "vatican"? The GC. There is no justice there or any where in this church only the "in crowd". But God has a way of dealing with these sorts of situations doesn't He? I have learned it is in his time that answers happen. Oh, when a prominent D.C. pastor says to you after you plead please testify at my divorce & custody hearing about your church boards action to my husband his quote to me " better that you & your son suffer than the Adventist church, your husband could maybe sue the church if I testify". Now that comment sounded strangely similar to me how about you? better that one man die etc how hypocritical of him?

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