What is the position of the pope within the college of bishops?
(We need to consider) the interplay that takes place between those who possess the Word (that is, the whole church) and those who within that community have a special power to proclaim it and authenticate it (that is, the episcopate). (2)
2. "Episcopate" throughout this study means the episcopal college in the sense that it is described and explained in Chapter Three of Lumen gentium.
The college is an organic social body, which has for its head the pope, and for its other members the bishops. Unless the body is whole, that is, the head and the other members are working together, there is no college.
This should not be taken as if the church were divided into two separate groups. All have received the Word, but some among them were given the sacramental mandate to speak it with authority and, should dissensions arise in the community, to determine its true meaning with unfailing fidelity.
About this interplay many questions are raised today. In particular, people want to know more concerning the role and extent of the teaching power in the church, and their obligations in responding to its voice.
Conciliarism is false because it assumes that a body without its head can be a living body. On the other hand, a head that would try to operate independently of the other members, could harm the body in many ways.
The body is held together by communio among all the members. The church is at its healthiest when there is a steady and vigorous exchange among all the members.
There has been a great deal of discussion at the Council and immediately after about the position of the pope. Some held that he had two offices: he was the Vicar of Christ (strictly personal) and the head of the college (collegial). This meant that if something went wrong with the college presided over by him (e.g., at a council), he could (as it were ) step outside of it and correct it as Vicar of Christ. The so called Nota praevia undoubtedly reflects this view. Others held that the pope had one office: he was the head of the college.
The first opinion appears highly artificial and unnecessarily complicated (a theory must not postulate more than what is necessary to explain the facts); the second one is much more in harmony with the organic nature of the church. There is no need to assume that the pope must step outside of a council to correct its course, should it ever be necessary; he can do it just as well, or better, from the inside, as its head. See Granfield, The Limits of the Papacy, pp. 77-106.
There are also problems with the title Vicar of Christ; the Council applied it to every diocesan bishop. A more traditional title for the pope is Vicar of Peter; see Tillard, [he Bishop of Rome, pp. 92-100.
All questions about this authority converge directly on some fundamental concepts, such as magisterium, which can be exercised either in a solemn or in an ordinary manner, and which can be either infallible or non-infallible.
From: The Church: Learning and Teaching, by Ladislas Örsy, Michael Glazier 1987, chapter 1. Read the whole chapter here.
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