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Collins told to revise his views

NCR Staff

Australian Sacred Heart Fr. Paul Collins faces new Vatican demands that he revise his views on papal primacy, the unique saving role of Christianity and the ordination of women.

The No. 2 official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church’s doctrinal watchdog agency, has instructed Collins’ religious superior to “invite” him to write an article that “would constitute a positive statement of his complete adherence to the authentic magisterium of the church” on these points.

The April 10 letter from Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the congregation, also asks that the article “be sent here for review prior to publication.”

The congregation launched an investigation in 1998 of Collins’ book Papal Power, published in 1997. At the time the congregation outlined seven problems with the book, which argued that a synodal model of church governance is actually more traditional within Catholicism than a papal monarchy.

Because the new Bertone letter mentions only three of the seven contested points, Collins is claiming vindication on the other four -- which concerned church tradition, the ordinary magisterium, the relationship of a council to the pope and the reception of church teaching by the people. “Obviously they were satisfied with my explanations,” Collins said.

Collins said in a statement to the press that he will not respond further to the congregation until “they take a more open and transparent approach. ... The secretive processes of the congregation are alien to those of us who come from a democratic culture,” he said.

In his April 10 letter, Bertone attacked Collins’ argument in Papal Power that the doctrine of infallibility lacked “moral unanimity” at the First Vatican Council in 1870. “Above all, the Second Vatican Council confirmed the validity of the First Vatican Council in general, and the doctrine on the primacy of the pope in particular,” Bertone wrote.

Apropos Collins’ view on intercommunion with other Christian churches, Bertone wrote, “It must be acknowledged that the Catholic church alone offers the fullness of the means of salvation.”

On the ordination of women, Bertone wrote, “the Roman pontiff has confirmed that this teaching belongs to the deposit of faith, since, being founded on the written word of God and constantly preserved and applied in the tradition of the church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium.”

Collins said he does not deny the doctrine of papal primacy, claiming he has an “almost sacramental” view of the papacy.

With respect to Bertone’s comments on salvation outside the church, Collins said, “It is as though contemporary ecumenism had never existed. The congregation’s view takes us back to the old fortress mentality when Catholics thought that the other churches, including the Orthodox, were quite inadequate for full Christian living. ... [But] Christians discover God in the fullest sense in their own churches. Any other view flies in the face of fact and is essentially insulting.”

Collins argued that it is “far too early” for any definitive decision on the ordination of women.

National Catholic Reporter, July 16, 1999