Association of US Catholic Priests: A Call for Reform of the Papal Office

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, representing more than 900 Catholic priests throughout the United States, welcomed the call from San Francisco Archbishop Emeritus John Quinn for reform of the papal office.

In an address March 9 at Stanford University in California, Quinn called for decentralization of Vatican and papal authority in regard to such matters as liturgy and appointments of bishops.

Quinn’s comments struck a similar chord to the concerns of the AUSCP at its inaugural assembly in Tampa in 2012. At that assembly, Benedictine Father Anthony Ruff delivered a keynote address on the new English translation of liturgical texts, describing how regional bishops’ conferences had been overruled by Vatican decisions. Many priests attending the assembly lamented what they saw as an exercise of central power dismissive of the collegial authority of bishops’ conferences.

As the conclave begins, Quinn said, “the eyes of the world are focused on Rome” and the “big question is who will be the next pope.” He said the cardinals are “deeply concerned about scandals in the Church. But they are also concerned about two other things: about papal government and reform.”

Quinn quoted then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who had written in a document, Das neue Volk Gottes (“The New People of God”), about the problem of “excessive Roman centralization.” Ratzinger said bishops “have been complaining about this problem for at least two centuries.”

This excessive centralization is due to the confusion of the Petrine office with the patriarchal function, Quinn said, citing Ratzinger’s document.

“The Petrine function . . . has to do with the unity of faith and communion in the Church” while the patriarchal function “involves administrative functions such as the appointment of bishops and the creation of dioceses.”

The AUSCP issued a statement March 4, calling for prayers for the election of a new pope. The conclave opened March 12.

“We pray for that a mighty wind will blow through the Church as at Pentecost,” said Father David Cooper, chairman of the AUSCP board. “Come, Holy Spirit!”

Click here (at NCR) to read Archbishop Quinn’s talk, Governance in the Legacy of the Second Vatican Council.

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