Reflecting the Mind of the
Vatican Since 1850

Episcopal Collegiality and Synodality
In his writings and speeches Pope Francis makes clear his desire for synodality. He has attempted to model it with the synods on the Amazon and the Family. In this article, after a cursory review of the meaning of collegiality and the long history of synodality, I want to suggest that we need a collective imagination as the basis on which to proceed. We currently lack what Charles Taylor has called a “social imaginary.”

Among the many initiatives which were closely debated during the Second Vatican Council, that involving episcopal collegiality received a high level of focus. The distinguished Church historian, John O’Malley, wrote “The lightning-rod issue at the council was episcopal collegiality. No other section of any other document was more contested or received more minute scrutiny than chapter 3 of Lumen Gentium. Even after the council overwhelmingly approved that chapter, the issue did not die but returned at the last moment in the famous Nota praevia attached to the decree by ‘a higher authority.’ The fierce and unrelenting opposition to collegiality from a small but powerful minority at the council […] indicates that something important was at stake, something more than an updating or a development.”

What exactly is episcopal collegiality? Why was the issue so contentious? Why did it come up at all?
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