Note: This was
written as a Nota Praevia, a preliminary introductory note, to the document,
Lumen Gentium. It was, in defiance of Pope Paul VI's wishes, relegated to
the Appendix of the document in published editions of the Second Vatican
Council's documents. Nonetheless, though it exists in a less important place,
it is still a part of the document. The nota-appendix clearly states that
the Council was a pastoral one and clarifies the notion of collegiality in
order to prevent Modernists from diminishing the power of the Petrine Ministry
while elevating that of the College of Bishops, which Lumen Gentium could
be -- and has been -- interpreted to call for. From a footnote on page 88
of The Great Facade, by Christopher A. Ferrara and Thomas E. Woods,
Jr. which explains the reason for this Nota: "The most famous example [of
the Pope acting decisively to prevent the Second Vatican Council from
promulgating outright errors as Catholic doctrine] is Pope Paul's intervention
forcing the Council to include the Nota Praevia to Lumen Gentium,
which correct's LG's [Lumen Gentium's] erroneous suggestion that when the
Pope exercised his supreme authority he does so only as head of the apostolic
college, wherein the supreme authority resides. Paul was alerted to this
problem by a group of conservative Council Fathers, who finally persuaded
him of LG's destructive potential: 'Pope Paul, realizing finally that he
had been deceived, broke down and wept.' Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into
the Tiber, p. 232."
APPENDIX From the
Acts of the Council
Notificationes' Given by the Secretary General of the Council at the 123rd
General Congregation, November 16, 1964
A question has
arisen regarding the precise theological note which should be attached to
the doctrine that is set forth in the Schema de Ecclesia and is being put
to a vote.
The Theological Commission has given the following response regarding the
Modi that have to do with Chapter III of the de Ecclesia Schema: "As is
self-evident, the Council's text must always be interpreted in accordance
with the general rules that are known to all."
On this occasion the Theological Commission makes reference to its Declaration
of March 6, 1964, the text of which we transcribe here:
"Taking conciliar custom into consideration and also the pastoral purpose
of the present Council, the sacred Council defines as binding on the Church
only those things in matters of faith and morals which it shall openly declare
to be binding. The rest of the things which the sacred Council sets forth,
inasmuch as they are the teaching of the Church's supreme magisterium, ought
to be accepted and embraced by each and every one of Christ's faithful according
to the mind of the sacred Council. The mind of the Council becomes known
either from the matter treated or from its manner of speaking, in accordance
with the norms of theological interpretation."
**The following was published as an appendix to the official Latin version
of the Constitution on the Church.**
A preliminary note of explanation is being given to the Council Fathers from
higher-authority, regarding the Modi bearing on Chapter III of the Schema
de Ecclesia; the doctrine set forth in Chapter III ought to be-explained
and understood in accordance with the meaning and intent of this explanatory
has decided to preface the assessment of the Modi with the following general
1. "College" is not understood in a strictly juridical sense, that is as
a group of equals who entrust their power to their president, but as a stable
group whose structure and authority must be learned from Revelation. For
this reason, in reply to Modus 12 it is expressly said of the Twelve that
the Lord set them up "as a college or stable group." Cf. also Modus 53, c.
For the same reason, the words "Ordo" or "Corpus" are used throughout with
reference to the College of bishops. The parallel between Peter and the rest
of the Apostles on the one hand, and between the Supreme Pontiff and the
bishops on the other hand, does not imply the transmission of the Apostles'
extraordinary power to their successors; nor does it imply, as is obvious,
equality between the head of the College and its members, but only a pro-
portionality between the first relationship (Peter-Apostles) and the second
(Pope-bishops). Thus the Commission decided to write "pari ratione, " not
"eadem ratione," in n. 22. Cf. Modus 57.
2. A person becomes a member of the College by virtue of episcopal consecration
and by hierarchical communion with the head of the College and with its members.
Cf. n. 22, end of 1 1.
In his consecration a person is given an ontological participation in the
sacred functions [lmunera]; this is absolutely clear from Tradition, liturgical
tradition included. The word "functions [munera]" is used deliberately instead
of the word "powers [potestates]," because the latter word could be understood
as a power fully ready to act. But for this power to be fully ready to act,
there must be a further canonical or juridical determination through the
hierarchical authority. This determination of power can consist in the granting
of a particular office or in the allotment of subjects, and it is done according
to the norms approved by the supreme authority. An additional norm of this
sort is required by the very nature of the case, because it involves functions
[munera] which must be exercised by many subjects cooperating in a hierarchical
manner in accordance with Christ's will. It is evident that this "communion"
was applied in the Church's life according to the circumstances of the time,
before it was codified as law.
For this reason it is clearly stated that hierarchical communion with the
head and members of the church is required. Communion is a notion which is
held in high honor in the ancient Church (and also today, especially in the
East). However, it is not understood as some kind of vague disposition, but
as an organic reality which requires a juridical form and is animated by
charity. Hence the Commission, almost unanimously, decided that this wording
should be used: "in hierarchical communion." Cf. Modus 40 and the statements
on canonical mission (n. 24).
The documents of recent Pontiffs regarding the jurisdiction of bishops must
be interpreted in terms of this necessary determination of powers.
3. The College, which does not exist without the head, is said "to exist
also as the subject of supreme and full power in the universal Church." This
must be admitted of necessity so that the fullness of power belonging to
the Roman Pontiff is not called into question. For the College, always and
of necessity, includes its head, because in the college he preserves unhindered
his function as Christ's Vicar and as Pastor of the universal Church. In
other words, it is not a distinction between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops
taken collectively, but a distinction between the Roman Pontiff taken separately
and the Roman Pontiff together with the bishops. Since the Supreme Pontiff
is head of the College, he alone is able to perform certain actions which
are not at all within the competence of the bishops, e.g., convoking the
College and directing it, approving norms of action, etc. Cf. Modus 81. It
is up to the judgment of the Supreme Pontiff, to whose care Christ's whole
flock has been entrusted, to determine, according to the needs of the Church
as they change over the course of centuries, the way in which this care may
best be exercised-whether in a personal or a collegial way. The Roman Pontiff,
taking account of the Church's welfare, proceeds according to his own discretion
in arranging, promoting and approving the exercise of collegial activity.
4. As Supreme Pastor of the Church, the Supreme Pontiff can always exercise
his power at will, as his very office demands. Though it is always in existence,
the College is not as a result permanently engaged in strictly collegial
activity; the Church's Tradition makes this clear. In other words, the College
is not always "fully active [in actu pleno]"; rather, it acts as a college
in the strict sense only from time to time and only with the consent of its
head. The phrase "with the consent of its head" is used to avoid the idea
of dependence on some kind of outsider; the term "consent" suggests rather
communion between the head and the members, and implies the need for an act
which belongs properly to the competence of the head. This is explicitly
affirmed in n. 22, 12, and is explained at the end of that section. The word
"only" takes in all cases. It is evident from this that the norms approved
by the supreme authority must always be observed. Cf. Modus 84.
It is clear throughout that it is a question of the bishops acting in conjunction
with their head, never of the bishops acting independently of the Pope. In
the latter instance, without the action of the head, the bishops are not
able to act as a College: this is clear from the concept of "College." This
hierarchical communion of all the bishops with the Supreme Pontiff is certainly
firmly established in Tradition.
N.B. Without hierarchical communion the ontologico-sacramental function [munus],
which is to be distinguished from the juridico-canonical aspect, cannot be
exercised. However, the Commission has decided that it should not enter into
question of liceity and validity. These questions are left to theologians
to discuss-specifically the question of the power exercised de facto among
the separated Eastern Churches, about which there are various explanations."
+ PERICLE FELICI
Titular Archbishop of Samosata
Secretary General of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council