Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Nota Praevia to Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council

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 note.

Preliminary Note of Explanation

The Commission has decided to preface the assessment of the Modi with the following general observations.

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

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