Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Pope and the College of Bishops - a reaction on Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago's Speech on The Reproductive Health Act

What generally caught my attention regarding the co-sponsorship speech that Sen. Miriam Santiago gave just recently (August 1, 2011) on the Reproductive Health Act which is currently scheduled for deliberation(?) at the Philippine Senate were the following:

"... The central issue of Vatican 2 was authority.  Before Vatican 2, the typical Catholic accepted the authoritarian structure of the Church “as a dictate of divine revelation.”[2] My generation were still children at that time.  We were taught that the Pope was a kind of superhuman potentate, whose every word was a command coming from a supernatural authority.  I recall that the autocratic procedures of the Church were positively medieval.

"But with Vatican 2, the seeds of a democratic revolution were sown.  It emphasized that the Church is primarily the whole people of God.  It called for dialogue between all members of the Church.  It asserted that the Pope and bishops are collegial.  And it called for the establishment of senates among the priests and of pastoral councils that include the laity ..."

Although I must admit that her speech would definitely be very attractive to most "typical Catholics" specially for those who keeps on insisting that they can remain Catholic while supporting a Bill which has already been denounced by our Bishops' conference, the speech already can speak for itself,  that its very contents were very carefully written, but very obviously "selective" in its entirety.

The writer simply presented the arguments in such a way that when read upon, it would seem that Vatican II have "purportedly" redefined the Catholic Church's Hierarchical authority, by making the chair of Peter co-equal with the college of Bishops, when in reality it never did. 

Since from the looks of it,  the writer had an amnesia and have totally forgotten to express what "Lumen Gentium", one of the document that came out of the Second Vatican Council really means when it comes to the Church's Hierarchy and Authority, allow me to humbly opine on the matter to the best of my limited knowledge.

The following statement which I found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which can also be found in the Code of Canon Law (CAN), I believe, is what Sen Santiago were referring to:

     884 "The college of bishops exercises power over the universal Church in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council."[Canon 337]..." 

However, if this is indeed the statement that she was referring too, they have missed the continuing statement which says that 
"there never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter's successor."[LG 22]'
When we simply read a specific part of the Catechism and deliberately disregard the other statements attached to it, it would simply mean that you we are ignoring the simple Truth.

So what is the Truth? Lets read CCC from 880 to 884 and see for our selves how  it Explains what "Lumen Gentium" expresses in regards to "Authority" which according to Sen Santiago, was the "Central Issue" of the Second Vatican Council.

880 'When Christ instituted the Twelve, " he constituted them in the form of college or permanent assembly, at the head of which is placed Peter, chosen among them" [LG 19] Just as "by the Lord's institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in the like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successor of the apostles, are related with and united to one another."[LG 22]' (Emphasis mine)

881 " The Lord made Simon alone, whom He named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head."[LG 22] This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope." (Emphasis mine)

882 'The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful."[LG 23] "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."[LG 22]'(emphasis mine)

883 '"The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, as its head." As such, this college has "supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff."[LG 22]' (Emphasis mine)

884 '"The college of bishops exercises power over the universal Church in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council."[Canon 337] But "there never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter's successor."[LG 22]'
Moving out from the CCC, lets now refer to the Code of Canon Law,  CAN 337 also states that "The college of bishops exercises power [over] the universal Church in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council.." as used in the CCC, it is worth noting that CAN 337 also has the following statements when read in full:

 "§2. It exercises the same power through the united action of the bishops dispersed in the world, which the Roman Pontiff has publicly declared or freely accepted as such so that it becomes a true collegial act." (Emphasis mine)

 "§3. It is for the Roman Pontiff, according to the needs of the Church, to select and promote the ways by which the college of bishops is to exercise its function collegially regarding the universal Church." (Emphasis mine)
Also in  CAN 338 
"§2. It is for the Roman Pontiff to determine the matters to be treated in a council and establish the order to be observed in a council. To the questions proposed by the Roman Pontiff, the council fathers can add others which are to be approved by the Roman Pontiff." (Emphasis mine)

and lastly in CAN 341 
 "§1. The decrees of an ecumenical council do not have obligatory force unless they have been approved by the Roman Pontiff together with the council fathers, confirmed by him, and promulgated at his order." (Emphasis mine)

In summary, what are the facts and the Truth in regards to the Church's Hierarchal Structure and Authority? Was it really change by Vatican 2?

I believe the document can speak for itself, it remains that the Supreme Authority in the Catholic Church is the Roman Pontiff. [LG 22, LG 23]; and although the College of Bishops can Exercise the same power (as the Roman Pontiff) when acting as an Ecumenical Council, "this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff, "[Lg 22] which just happen to be the one that Catholics often referred to as the Pope. (I guess we're still in the medieval age.)

The following cited explanations are very important when it comes to understanding what Vatican II was all about and in truly understanding what Humana Vitae is, which I will try to cover in my succeeding blogs.


Catechism of the Catholic Church Second Edition on-line - Retrieved on Aug 18, 2011-

Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "Lumen Gentium" on-line. Retrieved on Aug 18, 2011 -

Code of Canon Law on-line. Retrived on Aug. 18, 2011 -

The reproductive Health Act, part 1: The Primacy of Conscience in Catholic Theology. Retrived on Aug 18, 2011 -

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