7th December. St. Ambrose

The Catholic Church has never claimed to be a democracy. However in the times of St.Ambrose, the 4th century, things were a bit more fluid. The clergy and laity of Milan were at odds, with clergy and laity on both sides of the argument between Arianism and orthodox Catholicism. This could come to blows; perhaps I should just say that both sides were passionate about the debate. Ambrose was the civil administrator and was called in to sort the matter out. (The church has needed civil intervention in the past it seems to sort its problems out.) Not only did he achieve this but was called on by the people to be their Bishop, which he became; ordination to the priesthood came after. The Swiss Church has, by ancient rite, a certain amount of autonomy which other dioceses do not have. The Vatican sends three names to them and asks the Canons of the Cathedral to choose one. Recently the Diocese of Chur (Zurich and surrounding areas) were sent three names but the Canons considered them all to be too moderate, or progressive, or whatever term you wish to use, so the Vatican has to start again. Pope Francis recently said that he wants the Church to have a more synodal approach to governance, more invested in local assemblies of the Bishops, and perhaps further down too. This seems to have been the desire of the Second Vatican Council. However, whatever you may think of this, and it would fulfil the aim of subsidiarity (taking decisions as close to the grass-roots as possible), this freedom will come with difficulties and responsibilities. The question will always be, ‘How do you maintain unity in this case?’ The necessary release of power has to come from prayer that this is the correct path, and then trust that God will guide, watch over, and hold together, a more loosely constituted organisation, which would, I think, be a tough ask from some in governance now. We always have a fear of change.

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