Catholic Scholars’ Declaration on Authority in the Church

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On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) we call on all other members of the People of God to assess the situation in our church.

Many of the key insights of Vatican II have not at all, or only partially, been implemented. This has been due to resistance in some quarters, but also to a measure of ambiguity that remained unresolved in certain Council documents.

A principal source of present-day stagnation lies in misunderstanding and abuse affecting the exercise of authority in our Church. Specifically, the following issues require urgent redress:

The role of the papacy needs to be clearly re-defined in line with Christ’s intentions. As supreme pastor, unifier and prime witness to faith, the pope contributes substantially to the health of the universal church. However, his authority may never obscure, diminish or suppress the authentic authority directly given by Christ to all members of the people of God.

Bishops are vicars of Christ, not vicars of the pope. They carry immediate responsibility for people in their dioceses, and joint responsibility, with other bishops and the pope, for the world-wide community of faith.

The central synod of bishops should assume a more decisive role in planning and guiding the maintenance and growth of faith within our complex world. To execute its task, the synod of bishops needs to be given appropriate structures.

The Second Vatican Council prescribed collegiality and co-responsibility on all levels. This has not been realised. Priestly senates and pastoral councils, as envisaged by the Council, should involve the faithful more directly in decision making concerning the formulation of doctrine, the running of the pastoral ministry and evangelization in secular society.

The abuse of choosing for leadership offices in the church only candidates of a particular mindset, should be eradicated. Instead, new norms should be laid down and supervised to ensure that elections to such offices are conducted in a fair, transparent and, to the extent possible, democratic fashion.

The Roman curia requires a more radical reform, in line with the instructions and vision of Vatican II. The curia should be retained for its useful administrative and executive roles.

The congregation for the doctrine of the faith should be assisted by international commissions of experts who have been independently chosen for their professional competence.

These are by no means all the changes that may be required. We also realise that the implementation of such structural revisions will need to be worked out in detail according to the possibilities and limitations of present and future circumstances. However, we stress that the seven reforms outlined above are urgent and their implementation should be started immediately.

The exercise of authority in our church should emulate the standards of openness, accountability and democracy achieved in modern society. Leadership should be seen to be honest and credible; inspired by humility and service; breathing concern for people rather than preoccupation with rules and discipline; radiating a Christ who makes us free; and listening to Christ’s Spirit who speaks and acts through each and every person.

8 December 2015

Names of the 216 Scholars who signed the Declaration

click on each name to see the person’s credentials

Dr Kochurani Abraham _Prof Mario I. Aguilar Prof Xavier Alegre
Prof M Amaladoss Prof Francis Ambrosio Prof Subhash Anand
Prof María P. Aquino Prof Edmund Arens _Prof Simón Arnold
Prof Ann Marie Bahr Prof Juan Barreto Dom Marcelo Barros
Prof Tadeusz Bartoś Prof Ardyth Bass Prof Gregory Baum
Prof Tina Beattie Prof Michel Beaudin Prof Peter Beisheim
Prof Eugene C. Bianchi Prof Leonardo Boff Dr Sharon Bong
Prof Kari Børresen Prof Raymond Breton Prof J Brosseder
_Prof Hugo Cáceres Prof Deirdre Carabine Dr Yves Carrier
Bishop P Casaldáliga Prof José M. Castillo Dr P Chakkalakal
prof Ricardo Chica Prof John J Collins Dr John N Collins
Dr Paul Collins Dr Mary Condren Dr L B Confalonieri
Prof Michael Cook Prof Kathleen Coyle Prof M Czajkowski
Prof James Dallen Prof Gabriel Daly Dr M. Daly-Denton
Prof Charles DeCelles Dr David DeCosse Prof M Delaporte
Prof Paul Dinter Dr Donal Dorr Prof John Downey
Dr Thomas Doyle Dr Anneke Driessen Antonio Duato
Prof John Esposito Dr Annette Esser Prof Juan A. Estrada
Prof R. van Eyden Prof Seán Fagan Prof José I. G. Faus
Dr Teresa Forcades Dr Benjamin Forcano Prof Manuel Fraijó
Prof Seán Freyne Prof Jojo Fung Dr Astrid Gajiwala
Prof Joaquín García Prof G Gispert-Sauch Prof Conor Gearty
Prof F. Gonsalves Prof Mary Grey Prof Gerald Grudzen
Prof Christine Gudorf Bishop Tom Gumbleton Prof Hermann Häring
Prof W. Harrington Prof G. Hasenhüttl Prof John F Haught
Prof Karin Heller Bishop H Hermes OSB Dr F Himkelammert
Prof Linda Hogan Prof Toine vd Hoogen Prof Hornsby-Smith
Prof W Hryniewicz Prof Dr G J Hughes Lord Hylton
Dr Joseph Ishiwaki Prof Jan Jans Prof Martin Jäggle
Prof G. Jaron Lewis Prof Marie R. Joyce Prof Erik Jurgens
Prof Manuela Kalsky Prof Leo Karrer Prof Othmar Keel
Bar. Helena Kennedy Dr G Kerber-Mas Prof Ursula King
Prof W. Kirchschläger _Prof Paul Knitter Dr James Kottoor
Dr Ad Krijnen Dr Richard Kropf Prof Gerhard Kruip
Prof Hans Küng Prof K.J. Kuschel Prof L Laeyendecker
Prof Paul Lakeland Prof Julia Lamm Prof Bernhard Lang
Dr André Lascaris Prof Michael Lawler Prof Michel Lejeune
Dr Roger Lenaers Dr Bernard Linares Dr Eleazar López
Prof Gerard Loughlin Prof K. Maas Weigert Prof Gary Macy
Prof Vito Mancuso Drs Vincent Manning Prof Gerard Mannion
Prof Joseph Martos Dr Judith Martin Prof Juan Masiá
Prof Joseph Mattam Prof Mary McAleese Siobhain McDonagh MP
Prof Michael McKale Prof Charles McMahon Dr A Méndez-Montoya
Prof Norbert Mette Prof Dietmar Mieth Prof Paul Misner
Prof Alan Mitchell Prof Carlo Molari Prof Albert Moliner
Bishop William Morris Dr Theresia Münch Conc. Raúl Nava
Prof Inácio Neutzling Prof Grácio das Neves Prof Joseph A. Ngala
Prof Peter Nissen Prof Stanislaw Obirek Prof Joseph O’Leary
Prof T. O’Loughlin Prof Francis Oakley Prof A. Padovano
Prof Luis A Panchi Prof J Pathrapankal Prof Jesús Peláez
Prof R Penaskovic Prof Peter C Phan Prof Xabier Pikaza
Prof Pat Pinsent Prof Margarita Pintos Prof Kim E. Power
Bishop Pat Power Prof G Prüller-Jag. Prof A T Queiruga
Prof F Pastor Ramos Prof J Gil i Ribas Bishop Geoff Robinson
_Dr José A Robles Prof Susan Roll Dr Raúl Rosales
Sr Dr Pat Rumsey Prof Rosem. Ruether Prof Todd Salzman
Sr Christine Schenk Prof S. Schneiders Prof Sch. Straumann
Prof Sch. Fiorenza Prof Joseph Selling Prof E dela Serna
Prof Thomas Shannon Prof Thomas Sheehan Dr Fernando Silva
Prof John Sheveland Dr Piotr Sobotka Prof Geraldine Smyth
Prof Denise Starkey Prof David Stronck Prof John Sullivan
Prof Jung Mo Sung Prof Luiz C. Susin Prof Ingrid H. Shafer
Prof Leonard Swidler Prof Juan José Tamayo Prof Faustino Teixeira
Prof Samuel Thomas Prof M S Thompson Prof J. M. Thompson
Prof Ingrid H. Shafer Prof Teresa Toldy Prof Luiza Tomita
Prof David Torevell Dr John Trumpbour Prof Lilith Usog
Bishop Raúl Vera Lect. José Vico Prof Marciano Vidal
Prof José Maria Vigil Dr Evaristo Villar Prof Javier Vitoria
Prof Marie-Th. Wacker Dr Michael Walsh Prof Andrew Weigert
Dr Michael Winter Prof Jozef Wissink Prof Werner Wolbert
Prof Lode L Wostyn Dr Aloys Wijngaards Dr John Wijngaards
Prof Martín Velasco Prof Adela Yarbro C. Prof H.-G. Ziebertz
Prof A Gil de Zúñiga
Prof Hans kungGallery of Scholars Prof Maria Pillar AquinoScholars by country Other signatoriesOthers who signed Pope FrancisResponse by Pope Francis