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The Personal versus the Collective

Wednesday, February 2, 2022 (08:50)

Here is what a friend answered after having read my printed draft:

I think that we must wait until we meet. There’s a contrast illustrated here between the Personal and the Collective. When we meet, we should allow some time to describe our experience of synodality. Its not all good. You refer briefly to the WCC. I have experience of chairing synods. Even for the Chair, synods are somewhat deflating experiences. The Church has tried to pump them up by giving them a budget to argue about. The synodical system tends to attract middle-class activists as lay participants, and to make the Church as a whole more talkative than contemplative.

The first ‘charismatic’ pope I have experienced was John XXIII, and since him, they have all had something of the ‘rock star’ about them, even Benedict. Human beings respond to ‘personal’ leadership in a different way than we do to ‘committee rule’. This us one of the reasons why ‘rule from Brussels’ triggered the UK succession from the EU. God, as Christians know him is personal, a Trinity of relationship. The monarchic style of rule from the Vatican retains this personal motif, even though the tiara was given away and the sedia gestatoria is gathering dust in the crypt. Even powerful symbols like the pope washing the feet of refugees impact our imaginations precisely because of the power that the pope is symbolically laying aside at that moment. What you propose is more impactful for Catholics than for others precisely because it contrasts with what has gone on before. A naked Francis of Assisi would not have had the impact that he did, if he hadn’t had the latest french fashion to strip off. In summary, I think that I’m asking how a Synodical Church can hold the Personal and the Collective together.

My reactions

I just read about the Abandonment of the tiara: Paul VI’s abandonment of use of one of the most striking symbols of the papacy was highly controversial with many Traditionalist Catholics, some of whom continue to campaign for its reinstatement. Certain fringe voices went so far as to brand Paul VI an antipope, arguing that no valid pope would surrender the papal tiara.

I even ignored that something like a tiara had existed.