The editors of the  National Catholic Reporter  tell us what kind of pope the Church needs, in an editorial titled Time for courage from those who have most to lose . They declare:

The best thing the new pope could do is to reclaim the Petrine ministry for what it is: Let him be the bishop of Rome, the first among equals. Our pick for new pope would be the man who embraces the Vatican II call for collegiality and acts on it.

“Vatican II! Vatican II!” is the progressive Catholic’s eternal cry, which I discussed in these pages before. Now what does Vatican II actually say about the pope and the bishops? This, from  Lumen Gentium , the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:
[T]he college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.

The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church, and made him shepherd of the whole flock; it is evident, however, that the power of binding and loosing, which was given to Peter, was granted also to the college of apostles, joined with their head.

This college, insofar as it is composed of many, expresses the variety and universality of the People of God, but insofar as it is assembled under one head, it expresses the unity of the flock of Christ. In it, the bishops, faithfully recognizing the primacy and pre-eminence of their head, exercise their own authority for the good of their own faithful, and indeed of the whole Church, the Holy Spirit supporting its organic structure and harmony with moderation.


Not what the phrase “first among equals” usually means and definitely not, we can be sure, what NCR ‘s editors mean by it. A collegial relation, yes, but not a collegiality within a million miles of kind of the reticent, deferential, detached, stay-at-home papacy the editors want and in support of which they invoke a Council that said nothing, nothing at all , of the sort.
My thanks to my friend William Tighe for the link to Fr. Z’s vexed comments on the editorial, which gave me the idea for the comparison.

Articles by David Mills

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