Jacques Maritain Center : On the Church of Christ


The Structure of the Church

The Data of the Gospel
and the Prophetic Sketch Contained in It

1. Jesus, son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, wished, before beginning His public life, to receive the baptism of John, as a sign that He had come in order to take upon Himself the sins of all men.{1}

Then He began to preach and to teach, and to announce the good news of the Redemption. And He chose the Twelve for His apostles, among whom was Judas, who betrayed Him.

And Jesus designated Simon Peter as the prince of the apostles, -- "you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven," -- charged as such to govern the whole Church of Christ, -- "feed my lambs, feed my sheep," -- and to be in her the supreme guardian of the faith, -- "you in turn must strengthen your brothers."

Of Simon Peter I have already spoken in the preceding chapter. Concerning his primacy I shall come back further on (in Section 5).

This marvellously generous Peter was an apostle among aposties, although having a higher responsibility, and he was but a man like them. At the time of the Passion he will deny his master. But his repentance made of him the greatest witness and hero of the faith.

I remark here that in order to replace Judas the Eleven had chosen Matthias,{2} who was therefore with them on the day of Pentecost; but that to the thus reconstituted apostolic group God willed that two extraordinary men be further added, -- Barnabas (Bar Nabuah, the Consoler), that majestic one whom at Lystra the pagans took one day for Jupiter, and Paul, the persecutor convert (he had approved of the murder of Stephen, whose garments had been placed at his feet), Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, the great elect of the Holy Spirit, the incomparable master in the doctrine of truth.

But from the apostolic times Peter and Paul appear as the two missioned ones par excellence of the Lord Jesus in order to establish His abode with us; and all through the course of history they will be inseparable, although their two missions are very different.

In marking this difference, -- which is a difference of complementarity, not at all of opposition, as certain Protestant authors would like it, -- one cannot forget that Paul, integrated by full right, through God and His Christ, in the body of the apostles, contributed by his martyrdom to found the Church of Rome, so that, as many have liked to proclaim, it is Paul at the same time as Peter that the Pope, bishop of the Church of Rome, succeeds. Such a fundamental parity in the apostolic and episcopal ministry being well recognized, the difference between the historic missions remains in my eyes striking. Peter is in the Church of the earth the supreme authority, the rock on which is constructed this immense temple of life, the Leader charged with governing until the last day; Paul is in the Church of the earth the holy liberty of the intelligence scrutinizing under the motion of the Spirit of Christ and causing to radiate the truth of the faith, instructing in this truth those who seek it, and urging them until the last day to deepen it.

Peter and Paul both cause the flock of Jesus to advance, each in his own manner, -- Peter, together with his brothers in the episcopate,{3} constituting the Magisterium and the directing organ of the life of the mystical Body here on earth; Paul, together with those who follow him (without being invested for all that with any magisterial authority, even though they may be masters in theology) in the work of wisdom to be expanded unceasingly, being the ferment of the intellectual research and of the progress of the mystical Body through the ages.

And there is still a third to be a missioned one par excellence of the Lord Jesus, and to serve and to cause to advance the Church of the earth, in his own fashion, which is entirely hidden in God. He perpetuates himself, not, like Peter, by the succession of the holders of his powers; but, like Paul, by the line of the sons of his spirit. He is John, the adoptive son of Mary and the solitary of Patmos, the apostle of love and of contemplation, together with his friends who, as he, at the very heart of the mystical Body, support everything, compensate for everything, renew everything, in the intimacy of the union of love with the unique Beloved, and in the coredemptive participation in the sufferings of the Agony and of the Cross which continue in them.

2. The Gospel teaches us further that Christ not only commanded the apostles to preach from the housetops, and not only made Peter the first among them, in order to establish the meaning of the revealed Word and to assure the transmission of the latter, in order to govern the Church and in order to preside in her over the whole jurisdictional order. He also instituted the sacramental order on which His Church will live, by instituting, at the Last Supper, the Sacrament par excellence, which is indissolubly linked with the sacrifice of the Cross, -- rendered present among us, every day and over the whole surface of the earth, by the Sacrifice of the Mass. The Eucharist is the center of the whole sacramental order, the supreme raison d'être of the other Sacraments, and very especially of that of Holy Orders.

And it is Christ Who, before rising above all the heavens, said to His apostles: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."{4} This is no longer a baptism of penance, as was that of John the Baptist; it is the baptism of life and of resurrection.

3. Thus the Church was instituted by her divine Leader while He lived among us, before she began her own existence when having left the earth He sent upon the apostles the tongues of fire of Pentecost, and before consequently, under His heavenly direction, and "receiving harmonic consistency and cohesion from Him who is the head, Christ," she began to build herself, in the fashion of every living organism, "growing and building herself up in love,"{5} in a vital progress which will continue until the day of the Second Coming.

And when the Incarnate Word was present here on earth, and traversed the roads of Judea with the little flock of His apostles and sent before Him the seventy-two disciples,{6} and announced to the people the coming of the kingdom of God, -- the new times of the effusion of supreme grace and of the remission of sins, -- it is the prophetic sketch of the Church which appeared already on the earth, and of which the most beautiful of human stories offers us the picture.

Christic Grace in the Age of Christ Come

1. Before the Incarnation all the graces received from God by men since the Fall, -- beginning with Adam and Eve repentent, -- were given to them by virtue of the merits of the Redeemer to come; they were Christic graces, ocean of love which during millennia spread over all the peoples of the earth; then, by a special title, over the chosen people.

But since the day of the Incarnation{7} these Christic graces have been the graces of Christ come. Let us say that the grace of Christ come is grace in the state of superabounding maturity: in what sense? In this sense that it is not only, -- that which is essential to grace as such, -- sanctifying grace deputing man to eternal life, but "architectonic" grace, I mean by that deputing the man sanctified by it to be a part of a multitudinous Body which will endure eternally and which is the mystical Body of Christ, the Church of Christ, His plenitude and His bride.

That one is a living member of this multitudinous Body, of the Una, Sancta, Catholica, who has received validly{8} Baptism and is sufficiently faithful to baptismal grace for it to bear in him its fruits of faith, of love and of union with God. He finds himself thus animated from above or "informed" himself, in his individual measure, and as part of the entire Body, by the soul of this immense and complex organism, which is made up of all the individually received sanctifying graces. Applied to the Church, the Aristotelian definition of the soul remains indeed always valid: first form or entelechy of an organized body having life potentially. Just as the soul informs matter in order to constitute with it a living organism, so also the grace of Christ in its plenitude, -- the soul of the Church, -- informs, in order to construct with them a single organized body equipped with all its joints and articulations, the human multitude gathered together in the unity, not only of a same Baptism, but first and above all of the profession of the true faith.

It is clear that this analogy must not be pushed too far, for the Church is not, as is each one of us, an individual substance, but a human collectivity endowed with a supernatural personality. Whereas the soul of a living organism is in its entirety in the whole and in each part, the soul of the Church is, as such, only in the whole, and is in each individual member only in the measure of the grace itself which he has personally received.

2. On the other hand, divine grace does not vivify only the visible members of the Church; it vivifies also, in the entire world, an incalculable number of men who are members of other spiritual families, -- religious or areligious, -- and who sincerely seek God, even without knowing it themselves: they belong invisibly to the visible Church.

But the grace received by each one of them is one of the constituent parts of the soul of the Church. By this very fact, they find themselves without suspecting it ordered to the immense and complex body of the Church. I shall deal with this question in Chapter X.

The Royal Priesthood of the People of God

1. It is to the age of Christ come, and to Christic grace in its state of superabounding maturity, it is to the Church of Christ, which took shape on the earth since at Pentecost He sent His Spirit upon His apostles, that relates the passage of the first epistle of St. Peter to which, in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the second Council of the Vatican has particularly called the attention of Christians: "You, however, are 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works' of the One who called you from darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were no people, but now you are God's people."{9} St. Peter, as the Council has explained, has here in view all of the believing people in whom the sacrifice of the Cross bears fruit.

Thus the royal priesthood of which St. Peter speaks is common to the clergy and to the laymen, to all the "living" members of the Church. This common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood "differ from one another in essence and not only in degree."{10} They "are nonetheless interrelated. Each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest by the sacred power he enjoys, molds and rules the priestly people. Acting in the person of Christ, he brings about the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. For their part, the faithful join in the offering of the Eucharist by virtue of their royal priesthood. They likewise exercise that priesthood by receiving the sacraments, by prayer and thanksgiving, by the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity."{11}

As Père Labourdette writes, "participating in the capital grace of Christ, acquired for the redeemed by the sacerdotal act of the Cross which is the great victory of the messianic King, Christian grace, in the whole of the Church and in each of her subjects, is a grace at once sacerdotal and royal: gens sancta, populus acquisitionis, regale sacerdotium . . . . Every Christian, in this sense is a 'priest,' priest and king, like his leader: man or woman, having preceded Christ since Adam or having historically followed Him, every redeemed one has, by very reason of his grace, this priesthood." He possesses it "by the same title and to the same degree as grace," this priesthood is inscribed in Christian grace. In Heaven, where the 'royal priesthood' will be in full bloom in the people of God and in all its members, the worship of praise and of thanksgiving will no longer be either a means of grace, or a symbol of a consummation still to come, but an expression of inner glory; nor will the sacramental sacrifice be celebrated any more, nor will the sacramental priesthood have to exercise itself, nor will the faithful have to participate in it. That the Christian is priest and king, -- this will verify itself then as much for the elect who have never had either the baptismal or the sacerdotal character, as for the others. This 'royal priesthood' will remain for eternity as fruit of the sacrifice of the Cross."{12}

2. The great idea of the royal priesthood of the people of God is but one with that of the vocation of every Christian to sanctity. It is all the more urgent to recall it as it has been for a long time largely forgotten. Further it is necessary not to understand it wrongly, or to imagine that one is following the spirit of the Council in trying, in the name of the royal priesthood of the people of God, to make pass a desacralizing detergent over the proper characteristics of the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood, which is the priesthood in the first sense of the word.

It is in essence, the Council has said, that the ministerial priesthood exercised by the priest and the royal priesthood common to all the faithful differ from one another.

Each one has to exercise the royal priesthood by his life, his prayer (orate semper, Jesus said), his love of God and of neighbor, his participation in the Sacraments, and his perseverance in tending, in spite of his weaknesses, to the perfection of charity; if he is in the lay and secular state, it is necessary for him to pass through the turmoils and the temptations of the world as a lame man supported by the angels, and with a confidence and a hope all the more firm.

The ministerial priesthood is that by virtue of which certain men, consecrated, by the Sacrament of Holy Orders, to the service of God and of the Church, have for their proper mission to celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice, to distribute the Sacraments and to instruct the Christian people, to assist the sick and the dying, to aid and console the afflicted, to intercede for all, and to devote themselves completely, above all things, to bearing witness to the Truth which is Christ, and to the realities of the hereafter.

It is appropriate and normal, and especially required by the present age, that while remaining himself, the priest join freely in the common life of men, break the network of conventional customs which isolated him, take part in the social and cultural activities of his time. In the measure in which certain ones feel themselves called to it (and have the necessary time at their disposal), nothing is opposed to his earning his living by the work of his hands, which however is not his proper and primarily necessary work. For his job is the service of souls, a work as useful to men as -- and more useful than -- other works; and Jesus said, in sending His disciples before Him, that he deserves his recompense like the others: dignus est operarius mercede sua (Luke 10, 7). St. Paul was a tentmaker; one must believe that this trade left him much time to travel.

But by very virtue of his ordination the priest belongs to the sacred, to the kingdom of God, he is a man of God; the City which he serves above all is the Church; and by this title he is not 'like everybody else'; if he wished to be like everybody (without realizing that as a matter of fact he would be then a masquerader), he would lose all his force, and that "efficacy" so much and so futilely sought these days. What men expect of him is precisely to not be "like everybody . . . ."

The Hierarchical Ministry

The Church is a great living being whose invisible Leader is Christ, "seated at the right hand of the Father," and whose visible organization on the earth has in a Sacrament, therefore in the author of grace, the principle of its hierarchy.

1. Some words on the laity. -- In the earthly city, and according as it is engaged in the affairs of the world, the innumerable people of which the Church is made, the laity, is a free people only if the temporal authorities who in the diverse nations of the globe have the charge of directing it give themselves for a goal (that which is normal de jure, but de facto rather rare) to assure the liberties of the citizens. This same people is, in the Church, and according as it is engaged in the things of eternal life, a free people, because the end divinely assigned to the spiritual authority which has the charge of directing it has in itself (except through its agents when they go astray) nothing to do with domination. It is at the service of souls in order to aid them to free themselves from the old servitudes of sin, and to live with the liberty of the sons of God. The spiritual authority in question is nothing other than a participation in the authority of Him Who came to deliver us by His Blood. And the men in whom it resides can certainly abuse it (they have not failed to do so in the course of history, and the Church has severely paid for it, although she herself was innocent of their errors), but their master will be more severe with them than with the others when He will settle their accounts; and they know it.

Laymen are so to speak the flesh and the blood of the body of the Church. At Baptism they were cleansed of the sin of Adam and made participants in the divine life; the three theological virtues were grafted into their soul, together with grace; at Confirmation they received the seal of the Holy Spirit; they are the flock of Jesus, and through the Sacrament of Matrimony they are commissioned to perpetuate it. The bread which nourishes them while they travel here on earth is the Body of the Lord. And like the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance and that of Anointing of the Sick are the pledges of the help of God for them as for their priests. Together with the latter they are called to constitute the chosen race, the holy nation, the royal priesthood, the people of God, to live by His truth, to do His work in history. The work by which the Church bears fruit and progresses on the earth is the common work of the layman and of the priest.

2. The priesthood. -- I have just mentioned six Sacraments; it is by the seventh, the Sacrament of Holy Orders, that is constituted that which in the body of the Church is so to speak the nervous system; it is from the Sacrament of Holy Orders that the hierarchical organization of the Church proceeds.

This organization came into being from the apostolic age. It is to the Twelve that the institution of the diaconate goes back, when the seven were chosen in order to wait on tables.{13} The apostles imposed their hands on the first of their successors.

For the Church, a century is as a year for the human being. Her infancy lasted three or four centuries. In the course of this first growth there progressively took shape and consistency in her the two great functions of which the episcopal consecration confers the responsibility -- those which concern the Sacraments and those which concern the magisterium and the jurisdiction.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders includes essentially three different degrees: the diaconate, the simple priesthood, and the episcopate. The episcopate is the plenitude of the priesthood. By this title, the bishop has full authority in his diocese or local church; but because the universal Church is the mystical Body of Christ, Body perfectly one, the very unity of the Church and her common good require that the questions which in themselves concern the Whole depend by right on the authority of the one who is the head here on earth of the Church in her universality. It is Christ Himself Who instituted this primacy of Peter, and it is from Christ Himself that it comes to the Pope.{14}

For the Sovereign Pontificate there is no special sacramental ordination, the Pope is Pope by the sole fact that he is elected bishop of Rome and placed on the see of Peter. He is Peter, as Paul VI said in his address to the ecumenical Council, at Geneva, on June 10, 1969. The Pope has also many other titles: supreme pontiff of the universal Church, patriarch of the West, primate of Italy, archbishop and metropolitan of the Roman province, sovereign of Vatican City. Those who complain about them show only that they have no historical sense.

Of the infallibility of the Pope, I have already spoken above (Chapter VII).

The Church of the earth is in time and accomplishes her growth in time. When it is a question of her it is very important to have some understanding of history. Many things which astonish us and sometimes shock us today had their necessity, of the wholly human order moreover, at the time of the diverse historical periods which she has traversed. Such is the case for example with the temporal power of the Popes, which had enormous drawbacks (the pontifical armies, the battles they engaged in . . . ), but which in actual fact was required for the independence of the Church, in a Christendom whose kings and emperors had themselves anointed but were generally only anxious to submit everything to their power, even the Bride of Christ. And that there exists still, however small and however unarmed it may be, a Vatican State, -- this remains clearly necessary. The Pope, in reality, cannot be the citizen of any nation, with the particular obligations implied by that toward this nation; and the supranationality which he enjoys as humble sovereign of a tiny territory is the sign and the guarantee of the absolute independence of the leader here on earth of the universal Church vis-à-vis those masked monsters in perpetual conflict which the sovereign States are.

One can remark, likewise, that the interventions of the great ones of this world (beginning with Constantine), of their ambitions and of their coteries, in the affairs of the priesthood were terribly frequent in that Christendom of long ago which the spectacle of the present world inclines us to idealize too much. However deplorable nevertheless and odious they may have been in themselves, they were the ransom, permitted by the Master of history, of a good first required by the exigencies of time, and which consisted in the spiritual unity of civilization; and, on the whole, the assistance of Christ enabled His Church to traverse all this human sludge not without grave losses undoubtedly, but in progressing always in her own development and in the accomplishment of her mission.

3. The designation of persons. -- What matters above all in authority in the Church is the graces and the spiritual powers conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and by the charisma linked with the mission of Vicar of Christ. The mode of designation or of choice of those who are invested with an authority whose source is in Heaven is in itself secondary, and it has varied with time. In the primitive Church it seems that the very first bishops themselves designated their successors. After that, it was either by popular acclamation, as for St. Ambrose, or by the choice of the episcopal chapter, that the new bishops were designated. At present, among the Catholics of oriental rites, it is by the Synod, around the Patriarch, that this designation is made, before being ratified by the Holy See. The rule which entrusts to the Pope the care of their nomination established itself quickly enough in the Latin Church, and there are certainly great advantages to having the one who has charge of the universal Church designate himself the pastors of the local churches.

What appears questionable is that this designation, at least in the countries in which the Holy See is diplomatically represented, be generally made at the suggestion of the Apostolic Nuncios: for these have sometimes seemed inclined to appreciate above all diplomatic prudence and to fear too vigorous temperaments and too exacting intellects, -- all of which gave a chance to mediocrity, and did not prepare particularly firm and vigorous episcopates for eventual times of crisis. It seems certainly desirable that the nuncio be consulted, but also and above all the bishops of whom the new designee will be the colleague, and the diverse personages familiar with the ecclesiastical world but not being necessarily a part of the hierarchy, in the judgment of whom, for one reason or another, the Sovereign Pontiff expects to find some useful indication. In my humble opinion, such a consultation should remain wholly private, and be all the more extensive as it would be more free and less juridically fixed.

With regard to the Pope, it is by the College of Cardinals (of whom Paul VI has greatly increased the number) that he has been elected for centuries, and I think that the suggestions made here or there in order to abolish this mode of election do not take into account the central point to be considered. The College of Cardinals is composed of those whom the predecessors of the new Pope to be elected have chosen from all the countries of the earth in order to be their brothers and to collaborate in their universal mission, and who have been elevated to the cardinalate in the Church of Rome as a representation in her of the universality of the Church. This college has thus of the things of the Church an incomparable experience; and it seems to be better able than anyone else to appraise the persons among whom to choose the supreme leader of the latter.

I have already noted that if this college elects the Pope in electing the bishop of Rome, it is neither from it nor from the universal Church that the Pope holds his powers; he holds them from Christ Himself. I note further that one imagines sometimes that it is a rule that the Cardinals elect to the Sovereign Pontificate a Cardinal like them. This is a gross error. Any Christian is papabilis, any man professing the Catholic faith can be elected bishop of Rome, whether he be a priest or a layman; in this last case (which was -- so much the worse for the reputation of laymen -- that of Alexander VI, that famous Borgia) he receives the episcopal consecration immediately after his election.


1. With regard to the diverse powers in play in the government of the Church, those of the episcopal college, or of the episcopal body considered in its ensemble, have been well elucidated by the second Council of the Vatican. I cannot do better than to summarize here the statement of decisive clarity which Cardinal Journet has given to us on this subject.{15}

Insofar as they were, except for Paul and Barnabas, the companions of the Savior in His earthly life, and, all, His "envoys" (apostoloi) in order to lay the first foundations of His Church and to cause her to arise here on earth, in other words as regards the advent of the Church in time, the apostles were invested with an intransmissible authority in which they were all equal, each had received the entire grace of the apostolate, and Peter was only primus inter pares. But insofar as they exercised the transmissible function of feeding the flock of Christ, and insofar as Jesus designated one of them, unlike the others, as universal pastor, they were unequal in the powers relating to this function, and bequeathed by them to their successors in order to govern the Church, in other words as regards the conservation of the latter and her permanence in duration: in this respect it is Peter who holds, -- and until the end of the world, -- the highest authority.

"A single one of them, says the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (III, 22) is constituted pastor of all the sheep and of their lambs (John 21, 15-17). A single one of them receives the keys of the Kingdom and is established as rock, that is to say as ultimate visible base upon which the Church will not cease to rest (Matt. 16, 18). A single one of them will, 'in turn,' have special mission to strengthen his brothers (Luke 22, 32)."

Supreme authority exists thus either in the Roman pontiff alone (seorsim), or in the Roman pontiff joined (simul cum) with the bishops collectively taken, in other words with the episcopal college. "The Pope is subject of the supreme and full power over the universal Church. The episcopal college, in union with the Roman pontiff, its leader, and never without this leader, is also subject of the supreme and full power over the universal Church."

"When one asks the reason for which the Savior has willed this double subject, this double exercise, personal and collegial, of a single supreme power, the answer will be, it seems, that such a disposition is required by reason of the tension existing in the Church between on the one hand her unity and on the other hand her catholicity. The personal exercise seems charged to safeguard, not certainly exclusively, but at least principally, the unity of the universal Church; whereas the collegial exercise seems charged to safeguard, not certainly exclusively, but principally, the catholicity, that is to say the insertion into each of the clans of the world, -- and according to modalities which in some way become connatural to them, -- of the single and indivisible Church who is the Bride."

2. The collegiality in question here is that of the episcopate of the whole earth. It is the entire episcopal college or body which, in union with the Pope, its leader, has supreme and full authority over the universal Church. In bringing to light thus the relation between the Pope and collegiality, and the supreme power likewise possessed either by the Pope alone or by the episcopal college united with the Pope, it is therefore the relation between the Pope and the Council, object of so many theological battles in the past, which the second Council of the Vatican has definitively elucidated.

It is clear however that the principle thus disengaged by Vatican II, that of a closer cooperation between the Pope and the bishops, goes further in application than these "extraordinary" occasions that are the Councils; it must also apply, albeit, as it is indeed the case, in an altogether different manner, in the ordinary course of the government of the Church. One thinks here, on the one hand, of the episcopal conferences in which the bishops of a given country come to an agreement on the suggestions which they desire to submit to the See of Peter, on the other hand of the episcopal Synods in which do likewise, -- chosen some by the bishops of their countries, others by the Pope, -- representatives of the international episcopal body, but it is equally clear that, outside of the case of the Council, in which the Pope and the episcopate of the entire world exercise together the supreme power, the Pope, as long as he does not convoke a Council, alone exercises this power, without the cooperation of the episcopate with him, however close it may be as with the Synod evoking questions relative to the universal Church, being able to run the risk of compromising or shackling in any way his liberty of action. This means that the role of the representative organs to which I have just alluded must of necessity remain a consultative role,{16} except, naturally, when it is a question of decisions to be reached concerning only an ensemble of local Churches, and of processes of government which the bishops, by virtue of their ordinary power, and in the ordinary subordination to the Pastorate of the Pope, institute on the plane of their particular Churches.

A Few Indiscreet Questions

1. On a change of vocabulary and a change of clothing appearances. -- It is a question here of things entirely secondary, but which, like all external signs, have however their influence, and not wrongly, on the mental reflexes of the human being.

With regard to the name which one gives to the persons who in one degree or another hold spiritual authority, it seems desirable that the simplification which began after the Council be extended as far as possible. It is good that all that which seems to elevate the servants of Christ above other men be eliminated, that one call now "Cardinal" those who were till now "Your Eminence," and that one dispense with the "Excellencies." It is not so long ago that a bishop was "Your Grace." They prefer now for themselves the name of "Father." It would be good also that there be eliminated the expressions in which words belonging to the order of the sacred are employed in a merely honorific sense which offends the ear. Why say "the Sacred College" when one could say "the College of Cardinals," and the "Holy See" when one could say (as Paul VI often does) "the Apostolic See"? Why call the Pope "the Holy Father" or "His Holiness" when one could call him for example (which would simply be conformable with reality) "Revered Father of all" or "Revered Vicar of Christ"? (In the Eastern Churches, the term in use goes still further, -- is not the Patriarch "His Beatitude"?)

With regard to clothing appearances, it is otherwise that the question presents itself, for here one cannot forget that the disappearance of every distinctive sign, be it only, at least when it is possible, a small cross pinned on one's sweater or on one's jacket, would itself be the sign of a serious cultural lowering.

2. If it is a question after this of worship, in the Roman basilicas in particular, I understand well that the astonishing hotchpotch inherited from the Renaissance has begun to leave forever the solemn processions and the great ceremonies. Gone already are the long trains of the Cardinals, as also the trainbearers who held up the end of them. (Did they not suggest to us, in order to rejoice our eyes, both a high transitory dignity and the queue of importunate favor-seekers which every dignitary drags after him?) Gone also, or about to go, are the "tied" trains which the canons of St. Peter's held in rolls under their arms, and the pompons of their cinctures and of their birettas, and their furred gowns of ermine and the silver buckles of their shoes, and their purple mantillas over their rochets (which themselves will finally indeed seem too pretty with their lace ruffles). I confess that I miss the very wise drollery of all of this, which during a long time, thanks to the pleasure of the eyes, was able to maintain with regard to the pomp of religion, in the good people of Rome and in that of the pilgrims to the Eternal City, the sense of respect together with that of joviality.

Today it is the ritual of science, with the enormous enchantment of its machines and the pompous accoutrements of its cosmonauts, which has passed under the sway of the Punch and Judy show. But who notices it? We no longer respect much at all, and at the same stroke joviality as well as gaiety have left us.

One would like that the joyful picturesqueness to which I have alluded be replaced by new appearances, more simple undoubtedly, but also pleasing to the sight. It is a question of imagination; and it is a pity that Churchmen have today so little taste for this faculty which the Cartesians foolishly scorned, but of which philosophy and the human sciences recognize better and better the value and the dignity. And there are still great painters whose assistance one could ask. Beauty is one of the attributes of the Church, platitude is her enemy. Such remarks do not concern only the Roman ceremonies; they are true, analogicailly, in all latitudes, and for village churches as for cathedrals.

3. I have just spoken of that which relates to the eye. What to say of the poor ear, and of the miserable hymns which chase from our churches the spirit of prayer and produce nostalgia for Gregorian chant? I understand that young people are looking in the direction of jazz, which unfortunately has nothing to do with recollection. But one can find (as Father Andre Gouzes does) a precious source of inspiration in the Byzantine treasury; and there are admirable Negro spirituals, which could aid us, with the help of good musicians, in finding hymns truly appropriate.

4. The labors of the episcopate. -- Let us pass on to still more indiscreet questions. The first one relates to the labors which the conditions of the epoch cause to weigh upon the bishops. These complain rightly that as a result doubtlessly of the demographic growth, but above all of the congresses, of the commissions, of the reports to be read and to be drafted, and of the enormous administrative task which is incumbent upon them, a crushing work load prevents them from giving the necessary time to their mission. Would it not be possible for them to shift the responsibility of a multitude of things onto delegates and auxiliaries more numerous than those which they have at their disposal at the present time?

The establishment of the episcopal commissions has certainly been a necessary progress and one that is consistent with the spirit of collegiality. One can nevertheless ask oneself what is their principal end: would it not be that the bishops of a region or of a country may have the occasion to meet periodically, to better know each other personally and to exchange their views? How much preferable to assemblies of a more or less juridical character, and burdened with a program elaborated beforehand, would not doubtlessly be mere reunions of mutual information in which one would talk around the dinner table or while taking walks together? At the end of the week secretaries could summarize in memorandums what was said that was most notable in these free conversations. But the idea of a work to be done would be entirely left aside. Is it not a well-known dictum that if one wants a work to be poorly done one should give it to a committee to do?

Finally, is not the essential point that the episcopal commissions, in whatever way one conceives them, remain merely consultative with regard to each bishop as the episcopal synod with regard to the Pope, and be clearly recognized as not being able to dispense their members from exercising each for his own account the power of decision? A bishop is by divine mandate the pastor of his diocese; it belongs to him alone to make, upon his responsibility before God, the decisions concerning the souls who are entrusted to him. If he became in a manner, not de jure, certainly, but de facto, the executive agent of a committee, is it not his very mission of successor of the apostles and the evangelical prescription itself which would find themselves injured?

5. In the months during which this book is being written the urgent problem which the bishops have to face is, if I am not wrong, that of their relations with their priests; a problem of first importance, clearly. But this is a family affair which will doubtless resolve itself quickly enough, in spite of defections to tell the truth scarcely regrettable when they indicate in certain clerics the absence of a true vocation.

What is terribly serious is the crisis of faith which is rife in the Christian world, and the need of an authentic doctrinal renewal, in other words one which causes the intellectual treasure of the Church to grow and does not destroy it. Too many theologians apply themselves today to throwing it to the four winds; blessed be the others. Let us recall here that the bishops are not solely pastors, or rather that this mission itself requires them to be also doctors of the faith. It is normal that they surround themselves with experts in theology, but it is normal also that they not put too much trust in them. Experts are useful and necessary informants; they are not worth much as counselors; they are not worth anything at all if they claim to present themselves as doctors.

6. Theological pluralism. -- These words, of which one makes today such frequent use, give rise to a strange confusion which it is very important to clear up.

If it is a question of the magisterial authority exercised by her, the Church has charge of matters of faith, and can impose on the adhesion of minds only that which is of faith. But theology, while being rooted in faith, is in itself an affair of reason, not of faith; it is therefore evident that the Church cannot impose any theological doctrine. Hence a de facto pluralism which is inevitable as to the exercise by the Church of her magisterial authority.

While being able to turn out very badly through the fault of theologians whom the noises of the world stupefy and who obey the philosophies of the day, this pluralism has moreover its proper utility, up to a certain limit at least:{17} for in fact we are not in the presence of finished doctrines (it is the property of a doctrine founded in truth to progress endlessly), nor of philosophical and theological doctrines in the pure state; even a doctrine entirely founded in truth is, like the others, taught by men subject to the common limitations and to the common weaknesses: they can become encrusted more or less in their teaching, fail in the essential tasks of research, neglect or ignore many of the truths with which the progress of time enriches thought; and on the other hand we know also that in the most badly founded doctrines there is always some badly seen or distorted aspect of the real which asks to be rightly seen and put in place, or some captive truth which asks to be liberated.

Thus therefore, by the very fact that she has charge only of that which is of faith, the Church cannot impose on the adhesion of the mind any theological doctrine. All that she can do in this regard is to recommend a theological doctrine which has shown its mettle. And she has not failed in such a care for human truth (for she loves the intelligence, and has need of it). She has even gone as far as possible in this direction, by making her Common Doctor a master-thinker chosen among all.

7. But from this de facto pluralism, concerning that which in the exercise of her magisterial authority the Church imposes on minds, to a de jure pluralism, concerning that which the intelligence requires by its very object and for its very work, there is an abyss, which fickle minds cross moreover briskly. They declare to us then that a plurality as large as possible of theological doctrines and of theological hypotheses is as necessary to the Christian intelligence as a plurality of courses in a good meal: tastes differ, do they not? What is it that the minds in question really think, -- it is difficult to say, for they think little. Supposing in them a coherent thought, it appears that for them what God has revealed to men is a divine Unknowable to which the faith of the charcoal-seller adheres in order that the latter may conduct his business in a more consoling manner, but to which our intelligence is so disproportionate that it can attain to absolutely nothing of it or receive absolutely nothing of it except deceptive images, and with which it can occupy itself only in order to render it acceptable to the taste and to the mentality of men, in adapting it according to the diverse recipes which at such or such an epoch flatter most their palate. In short there is no theological truth, -- nor, of course, any philosophical truth either, -- nor any truth at all, because history teaches us that truth is a myth inherited from the Greeks. Who therefore has said: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"? To hold theological pluralism to be necessary de jure is a sin against the mind, innocently committed by persons who do not know that which they say.

8. Laymen and the temporal work which belongs to them. -- It is one of the great accomplishments of the Council to have decidedly awakened the Christian conscience to what is required of it in the temporal order. Contempt of the world is an old commonplace of which the saints understand the true meaning, but of which for too long a time and in too many people an unworthy resignation to evil and an unworthy indifference to the witness which the Christian must render here on earth to justice and to the Gospel have made the worst profit.

We should thank God that such a grave omission has become henceforth impossible, and that the Church has clearly recalled to us our duties. But human stupidity is always present; and the kneeling before the world of which many Churchmen afford us at this moment the spectacle is no better than the spittles formerly cast upon it by zealots of the same stamp.

Those Churchmen who bend the knee before the world, fabricate for it a religion made to measure, and believe themselves dedicated to the social progress and to the happiness of man here on earth know moreover very badly the world; and the command optimism displayed by them with regard to the future of a civilization which in fact, and for the moment, finds itself in full decadence is nourished by as many illusions as by holy desires.

9. The evangelical witness to be rendered and the task of Christian inspiration to be effected in the temporal order are the affair of the laymen. And this task will be well done only if being themselves true Christians, enlightened by serious theological, philosophical and historical knowledges, and possessing in social and political matters a tested competence, it is they who, grouped according to their affinities, take the initiative of it and conduct it at their risks and perils. That priests can join with them is evident. Let us mistrust however organizations created and directed to this end by members of the clergy anxious to exercise in this manner their renewed apostolate. In regimenting laymen and employing their activities for certainly generous ends but also in order to compensate the frustrations of clerics become finally men of their time and temporal leaders, they seem good above all to engender a new form of clericalism as llttle desirable as the old one.

The work through which our civilization has a chance to right itself, and the temporal city a chance to proceed to the radical changes, of an order at once structural and moral, through which it would pass beyond both capitalist materialism and communist totalitarianism (rendered more formidable, and more similar, by technocracy), it is Christian laymen, in cooperation with their friends of the other spiritual families, who alone can strive to accomplish it, -- but laymen as such and acting under their own responsibility.

The priesthood is dedicated to another work, more necessary still, and for which it has promises which will not fail.

{1} Cf. Andre Feuillet, "La personnalité de Jesus entrevue à partir de sa soumission au rite de repentance du Précurseur," Revue Biblique, LXXVII, 1970.

{2} "It is entirely fitting, therefore, that one of those who was of our company while the Lord Jesus moved among us, from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us, should be named as witness with us to his resurrection.

"At that they nominated two, Joseph (called Barsabbas, also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed: 'O Lord, you read the hearts of men. Make known to us which of these two you choose for this apostolic ministry, replacing Judas, who deserted the cause and went the way he was destined to go.' They then drew lots between the two men. The choice fell to Matthias, who was added to the eleven Apostles." Acts 1, 2 1-26.

{3} Cf. pp. 84-86.

{4} Cf. Matt. 28, 19.

{5} Cf. Ephes. 4, 15-16.

{6} Cf. Luke 10, 1-20.

{7} Or rather, in a universal sense encompassing the whole sequence of time during which the Church will continue to develop, -- since the completion of the sacred trajectory Passion-Resurrection-Ascension-Pentecost.

The graces received by men since the Incarnation were graces of Christ come in this sense that He was there, and that they passed through His humanity, through "a word, a glance, a touch of Him" (Journet, op. cit., t. III, p. 576). But it is since Pentecost that they have been graces of Christ come in this sense that His passage among us had fully ended, and that after having accomplished on the Cross His redemptive mission, and after His Resurrection and His Ascension, He had sent the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles in order to build His Church.

It is in this second sense that in the preceding chapters I have employed the expression "of Christ come."

{8} In other words, by someone, priest or layman, and even if he not be a member of the Church, who desires "to do that which the Church wishes" in giving this Sacrament. It is however a wise custom to rebaptize conditionally, -- si non es baptizatus, -- those who have been baptized by someone of whom one is not sure that he has desired "to do that which the Church wishes."

In order for an adult to enter into participation in the life of God and to be a living member of the Una, Sancta, Catholica, he must receive validly and fruitfully Baptism (or be fruitfully regenerated by its substitute, "Baptism of desire"). When a child receives validly (even in a dissident religious family) Baptism, which is always the Baptism of the Church of Jesus, he is ipso facto incorporated sacramentaliter et mentaliter in the Una, Sancta, Catholica, in the Church of whom Peter is the leader here on earth.

{9} I Peter 2, 9-10. -- It is a question here, the Council says, of "that new and perfect covenant which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that more luminous revelation which was to be given through God's very Word made flesh." "Christ instituted this new covenant, that is to say, the new testament, in His blood (cf. I Cor. 11:25), by calling together a people made of Jew and Gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit."

"The heritage of this people are the dignity and freedom of the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in His temple. Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us (cf. John 13:34). Its goal is the kingdom of God, which has been begun by God Himself on earth, and which is to be further extended until it is brought to perfection by Him at the end of time. Then Christ our life (cf. Col. 3:4), will appear. . . .

"The baptized," the Council says further, "by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated into a spiritual house and a holy priesthood. Thus through all those works befitting Christian men they can offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvellous light (cf. I Peter, 2:4-10)." Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Ch. 2, Sections 9 and 10.

{10} Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Ch. 2, Sect. 10.

{11} Ibid.

{12} Michel Labourdette, Le sacerdoce et la Mission Ouvrière, Paris, éd. Bonne Presse, 1959, p. 54.

{13} Acts 6, 1-6.

{14} I speak of the primacy of Peter and of his successors, which remains immutably. As to the mode according to which it is exercised, who will be astonished that it varies with the ages, and that one sees for it forms altogether different at the time of Peter himself, at the time of Gregory VII, and at the present time?

{15} "La Collégialité," Nova et Vetera, July-September, 1969.

{16} An interview concerning the present difficulties of the episcopate which Cardinal Suenens granted to Henri Fesquet (cf. Le Monde, May 12, 1970), and which is not lacking in a certain ambiguity, permits me to state once more that consultative organs are often itched by the temptation to become organs of government, or to take themselves to be such. It is important to remark on this subject that the bishops, as I have said in the text, are free to decide, in the episcopal conferences, that which they desire on the plane of the local churches, (I add that private meetings, between themselves -- and with their priests -- aiding each to form a personal opinion on the points which preoccupy them, are also very advantageous); but that, as soon as it is a question of the universal Church, the Pope is always free not to submit, if he judges that this would be inopportune, such or such question either to an ecumenical Council (the words "in union with the leader of the Church" imply that he possesses this liberty), or, with greater reason, to an episcopal Synod.

Nothing requires in any case, as Henri Fesquet supposes, "an extension of the notion of collegiality and a deepening of the theology of the local Churches." And let us hope that the new theology of which one is thinking is not a theology for which a dialogue is "free" only if the higher authority to which one is speaking is not free to refuse it on any point; a theology which would hold that the episcopal synods are organs of government, and that it belongs to the local Churches to exercise by their delegates the supreme power in the Church with the Pope, so that the latter (this is the grand idea) is only a mere primus inter pares: all theses which, if they were, not furtively insinuated into public opinion, but expressly submitted to an ecumenical Council, would not fail to incur a condemnation.

{17} It is a duty of the magisterium to point out to the faithful that which in such or such a doctrine is in itself absolutely incompatible with the faith. In doing this, it limits doubtless in a measure (feeble measure if it does not take any sanctions against the authors) the liberty of research, but it aids also, and greatly, the liberty and the progress of theological research: for to point out some theme incompatible with the faith to persons dedicated to an intellectual discipline whose object is to elucidate the data of faith, is to let them see that it would be absurd to employ this doctrinal theme in their research, -- which is so much gained for the latter (the absurd is certainly unhealthy for research, its liberty of invention, and its progress). This remark is valid also, for analogous reasons, with regard to Christian philosophy (insofar precisely as it is Christian).

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