|Governance of the Catholic Church of the Americas
Catholic tradition. The ministerial priesthood of ordination consists of three
degrees of orders: episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate.
Scripturally, the role of the bishop is to sanctify, teach and govern. “Whoever
aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. … Bishops must manage
their households well,…for if they do not know how to manage their
households, how can they take care of God’s church?” [1 Tim. 3:1-5] “For a
bishop, as manager on God’s behalf, …” [Titus 1:7] “A bishop must have a firm
grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, in order to
be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict
it.” [Titus 1:9]
Though the bishop is ultimately responsible for the governance of the Church,
s/he does so in collaboration with priests and deacons. These priests and
deacons, in turn, develop lay boards from their parishes/ministries. It is through
these lay boards that the voice of the laity is heard and adhered to via the
pastors/administrators. It is the responsibility of these clergy persons to, in turn,
communicate with the bishops the needs and concerns of the faithful.
At the beginning of the Catholic Church of the Americas, the voice of the people was heard through use of a questionnaire form called the Vox Populi.
Though this system is still available, there are fewer national matters that need input, therefore, the Vox Populi has not been used for several years. It is,
however, still very much available to the bishops if clergy and laity input is needed on a national level. The purpose of the Vox Populi is to directly advise
the bishops as to what the clergy and people have to say. No decision has ever been made in the several years of existence of the CCA without first
approaching the people of God through means such as the Vox Populi. It is the responsibility of the clergy to distribute and discuss these matters with the
faithful and to return issues of the Vox Populi in a timely fashion. Each clergy is to submit one Vox Populi representing himself/herself and one
representing the parish or ministry. It is further noted, that each Vox Populi asks whether there are other issues of concern of the people of God that need
to be addressed at this time.
In this collaboration model, the bishop, the priest, the deacon, and the laity all listen to
“us-them” scenario. Such a model also evidences the statement of Martin Buber who
said “The truth is not so much in human beings as between them.”
Various groups can meet on a regular basis to discuss matters of our Mission
statement and goals as a Church. These groups are advisory in nature. Votes cast
the consensus process. Such votes are not legislative but consultative. “By
insolence the heedless make strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.”
Results of any committee, council, etc. go to the next level. That is, a parish council
report would be submitted to the pastor. A diocesan committee report would go to the
Diocesan Bishop, etc. Results of such reports are ultimately to be passed on to the
national level for further feedback and consensus-seeking.
Our governing style is unique and not a duplicate of that of the Roman Catholic Church.
The role of the National Synod is to give input on the Church Mission. To date, this role has been carried out through the Vox Populi. The creation of
such a board is future-oriented when it will be difficult to seek consensus from all through vehicles such as the Vox Populi.
When the Synod of Bishops gathers with the Church at Large (national synod), the bishop listens to the church speak in regards to the Mission, Gospel
Message, sacramental needs, and shortcomings we, as church, may have. It is not a legislative body; rather the Synod of Bishops takes the input
received and works to make sure the church is truly an instrument of the Gospel message to all people.
Our governance style, therefore, preserves the scriptural mandates and includes a strong component of input, collaboration and consensus from all
members of the church – clergy and laity. It is never the will of one person that is maintained but the voice of all is heard and listened to with the belief that
this style of governance affirms the fact that the Holy Spirit guides the Church through each of us.