The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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Dom Prosper Gueranger on the Papacy

Canisius | 02 May, 2006 12:37

Today's Gueranger entry gives me the opportunity to post a note that I have meant to get up for a long time. In VIII,150 we can see Dom Gueranger's theory of the papacy at work:

Authority is derived from the one supreme Head; thence it flows to the bishops; and these delegate it to the lower ranks of the clergy.

And again, a few lines down,

Peter will ever institute the bishops; the bishops will ever delegate a portion of their own authority to the priests who have the charge of souls.

I wish I had blogged on this earlier, because there are other texts clearer than the ones we have today on the key point: Dom Gueranger is of the opinion that the bishop's authority comes from the pope.

The Second Vatican Council agrees for the most part with this opinion, but lays the emphasis elsewhere:

This power, which [Bishops] personally exercise in Christ's name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. ...The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs, for they exercise an authority that is proper to them, and are quite correctly called "prelates," heads of the people whom they govern. (Lumen Gentium 27)

It's a small point, really. The sense in which one can say that the bishop's authority is "derived" from the pope's authority is that they cannot use their authority outside of union with the pope. But the power the bishop has is "proper," i.e., his own, and "immediate", i.e., does not flow to him through someone else besides Christ. Bottom line: you don't want to see the bishops as vicars of the pope, the way that priests are vicars of their bishop.


Comment Icon The Jurisdiction of Bishops

Louis | 02/05/2006, 23:23

I'm not sure the text from Lumen Gentium should be understood in such a way as to say that the power of the bishop flows to him directly from Christ, at least, not if you mean by that that there is no one intermediate, such as the Pope. I guess I don't see why their authority cannot both be proper and immediate, and also come to them through the Pope.

I think the text should be understood in such a way as to keep it consistent with what the Church has always taught on the matter. I give two quotes on the matter here, I could give dozens more, but I'll refrain for lack of space.

"What We have thus far said of the Universal Church must be understood also of the individual Christian communities, whether Oriental or Latin, which go to make up the one Catholic Church. For they, too, are ruled by Jesus Christ through the voice of their respective Bishops. Consequently, Bishops must be considered as the more illustrious members of the Universal Church, for they are united by a very special bond to the divine Head of the whole Body and so are rightly called "principal parts of the members of the Lord"; [62] moreover, as far as his own diocese is concerned, each one as a true Shepherd feeds the flock entrusted to him and rules it in the name of Christ. [63] Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent, but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying the ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff. "
--Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis

"If, then, any shall say that the Roman Pontiff has the office merely of inspection or direction, and not full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals, but also in those which relate to the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the world; or assert that he possesses merely the principal part, and not all the fulness of this supreme power; or that that power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate, both over each and all the churches, and over each and all the pastors and the faithful: let him be anathema"

--Vatican I

Firstly, you may want to look up the reference from Mystici Corporis, because it is in the context of speaking about those who try and divide the jurisdiction of Christ from the jurisdiction of his Vicar, and as it were, create two heads of the Church.

About this last quote from Vatican I, doesn't it seem that unless all jurisdiction in the church is derived from the Roman Pontiff, that you would have to say that he merely possesses the principal part, and not the whole?

Finally, wasn't part of the cause of the breakoff of the Greek Orthdox, the claim that their jurisdiction was not derived from the Pope, which was condemned by the church?

Comment Icon I'm OK, you're OK

Peter_Canisius | 03/05/2006, 01:13

Louis, I don't think we're disagreeing here. At least, I hope not, because that might mean that I'm wrong.

There's an idea we want to avoid and an idea we want to espouse. What we want to avoid is the idea that the local bishop is merely the pope's assistant, his representative on the spot, as is true of priests with regard to their bishop. On that point I think I can say that LG is clear.

What we want to espouse is that each bishop receives his authority by way of apostolic succession. He can't exercise that authority apart from union with Peter, and he is subject to Peter's authority, but these statements do not amount to saying that he received his authority from the pope.

How far off-base am I?

Comment Icon Papal Authority

Louis | 04/05/2006, 20:19

Sorry... I'm just not clear what exactly it is you want to hold. I'm fine with saying that the local bishop is not under the pope in the same way that a priest is under a bishop, but this is not to say that the bishop's authority is not derived from the pope.

I'm assuming you are speaking about the power of jurisdiction in a bishop, and not the power of orders, since as far as the power of orders goes, this applies to some extent to ordinary priests as well.

Perhaps something that should make it even clearer that the proper authority of a bishop comes from the pope is this: When a bishop who has been nominated receives the papal letters recognizing him, he immediately is entitled to the full jurisdiction of the bishop over the diocese in which he is. He is required to be ordained a bishop within three months, but he can exercise his power at will even before that time.

Comment Icon Today's set-up

Peter_Canisius | 05/05/2006, 03:08

Since the Pope has universal authority and can speak into law whatever he wishes, one thing he can speak into law is that bishops have to be approved by him. That's the situation under current law, and that strengthens the impression that the Bishop's authority is nothing more than a share in the Pope's authority.

But the law was not always that way, especially in the days before efficient communication was possible. Way back at the beginning, the 11 bishops aside from Peter did not have authority because he gave them authority, and the folks they appointed to succeed them did not apply to Peter for authority, and so on. Of course, if at some point they explicitly decided to break with Peter--well, bad news for their legitimate authority.

That intermediate stage you speak of, where a man is given episcopal jurisdiction before receiving orders, is a clear case in which his authority is simply a share in the pope's authority. In that case it's not that he has authority so long as the Pope is behind him, but he has authority ONLY BECAUSE the Pope is behind him and for no other reason. This can only be called "episcopal authority" in a qualified sense.

This discussion might be clarified if I could pull out some of those older Gueranger texts where his position is stated in a more extreme way, but I just don't have time at the moment to poke back through the past volumes.

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