Thu Oct 1, 2009 10:10 am
Officers of the Church have the right to teach on matters both of private and public morality only after wide consultation with the faithful prior to the formulation of the teaching. (C. 212, C. 747, C. 749, C. 752, C. 774.1) Charter of Rights of Catholic in the Church, Right No 2. When the Pope speaks, does he express the faith of the Church, the baptized members of the Catholic Faith? Well, maybe! He also teaches the faithful ("Go forth and teach all nations"). But before teaching, like any good teacher, he needs to know what his people believe and need. Who teaches/informs him? The Vatican has a wide network of informants including first and foremost (but not exclusively) the bishops. Asking the choir if they like to sing gets one answer, but asking the folks in the pews if the singing is good, or if the songs are well-chosen, might get a different answer. If the Pope relies on a wide variety of bishops to teach/inform him, can he be sure that he is getting not only an accurate reading, but also a sense of what and how the issue affects Catholic people? It requires bishops to consult with their people in order to convey solid information to the Pope and be well-informed teachers themselves. The Pope's recent (but most likely temporary) backing away from his retro-liturgical reforms suggests that he just might be listening to the sensus fidelium. "As a teacher, by your pupils you'll be taught", says Anna. (The King and I).
We all tend to associate most with those who agree with us. We enjoy the company of like-minded folks, share thoughts and problems, and seek their advice. This risks reinforcement of our own opinions or simply hearing what we want to hear. Honest "second-opinions" give a better picture of reality. Bishops may consult their pastors who in turn seek the views of diverse and informed folks of the parish. This circle of consultation can broaden the views on any issue.
Even Jesus consulted his followers on many occasions. Do your bishop and pastor consult widely? On the unlikelihood of being asked, would you be willing to be a consultant? The "wide consultation" process includes you, invited/welcomed or not. The insulation of our spiritual teachers results in their insulated teaching. We have a right to well-taught, well-informed teachers and a corresponding responsibility to help make it so. Church professionals know theology and Church law, but they depend on us to stay informed as to what we, the so-called sensus fidelium of the Church, believe and think. A most blatant offense against this Right are some ecclesiastics (maybe even the Pope) who tout their own personal beliefs and interpretations as "the teaching of the Church" on such issues as healthcare and/or liturgical reform. It appears obvious that some may not have "consulted widely" with the faithful. Their teachings should be carefully evaluated as to if it is truly informed or a personal opinion. Personal authoritarianism has limited authenticity and should be ignored as any teacher who claims to teach truth but who lacks responsible study and research on the subject. It goes without saying as a consultant (a right and responsibility of your baptismal heritage), you too must to be well-informed.
All Catholics have the right to a voice in all decisions that affect them, including the choosing of their leaders. (C. 212.3) Charter of Rights of Catholics in the Church, Right No. 5
Consider it a gift to share your honest and thoughtful insights and judgments.