Alphonse Borras: we are all together, synodally, shepherds of the Church

Par l'abbé Claude Barthe

Français, italiano

In an article of the Nouvelle Revue théologique, “La sacra protestas, la seule voie pour la participation des laïcs au gouvernement de l’Église ? » (October 2022, pp. 612-628), Alphonse Borras, Canon Law professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, enthusiastic specialist on synodality[1], member of the doctrinal commission of the assembly of the Synod on synodality, suggests bypassing the jurisdiction of the pope and the bishops, a synodal bypass.

The Council, he explains, though conserving under the sacra potestas the two power of order and power of jurisdiction, highlighted the trilogy of the offices of the bishop which are prophetic, priestly and royal. In addition, why not remember, he asks, that the cura animarum, the solicitude for the souls, falls on the whole community? In other words that the munera are everyone’s concern?

Laities are taking part in positions, notes Borras, as chancellors men and women, policy officers men and woman for various missions, not as a participation in the sacred power, that is to say to the jurisdiction, but as a cooperation to “the exercise of this power”[2]. Laities are also being entrusted with non jurisdictional offices instituted or potentially instituted depending on the needs (Canon 145). But we can also, more widely, proceed with “the attribution of charges in the service of the communities or chaplaincies that do not require the intervention of the competent authority for the provision of offices (munera). In other words, some munera attributed and accepted without the intervention of the authority, Church offices self-distributed at the lower echelon.

“Why make things complicated?”, naively asks Borras. The law born of the Council, when one knows to properly understand it, offers the opportunity to present a new face of the Church”, one truly synodal.

[1] see his book : Communion ecclésiale et synodalité, CLD, 2018, where he underlines the essence of democracy in synodality by developing  the following theme: Synodality is a process which edifies the Church by encouraging the participation of the baptized to its mission in the world; it appears then as one of the principles of governance in the Church.

[2] This subtle distinction is from Canon 129: “§1. Those who have received sacred orders are qualified, according to the norm of the prescripts of the law, for the power of governance, which exists in the Church by divine institution and is also called the power of jurisdiction. §2. Lay members of the Christian faithful can cooperate in the exercise of this same power according to the norm of law”