Leo Xlll wasn’t afraid

The “problem” the Catholic Church is facing today has been with us for a long time.

In the early Chuch there were only Christians and disciples claiming Christ as their master. By the third century the bishop was still chosen by the people. Pope Leo the Great (440-461 CE) insisted that.”the one who is going to rule over all, be elected by all.” Sadly as the Catholic Church increasingly aped the Roman Empire, a monarchical papacy developed.

The pope who ushered in the  20th century Leo Xlll(1876-1903) recognized the danger and was secure enough “to appoint bishops who disagreed with me.” At the outbreak of World War ll,  Achille Ratti. Pius Xl (1922-1939)  told Alexander Carter, the future and much loved bishop of North Bay, to go back to Canada and raise up lay people to take their historical role back because “the Roman Catholic Church has become a monstrosity, its head was very large but its body is shrunken; the head is way out of proportion to its body.”

Twenty years later under Pope John XXlll an ecumenical Council (1962-65) reclaimed this idea and a new root metaphor, the church as the People of God, a discipleship of equals grasped and energized the people. Baptism not holy orders was the central sacrament. The Spirit was given not to a tiny clerical and celibate elite but to all the baptized.

It was the greatest change in thinking in the history of the Church and it created a powerful backlash and a restorationist papacy under Popes John Paul ll and the present pope Benedict XVi.

The results as we now see have been disastrous, a failure of nerve to continue the much needed reform.

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