MY thesis is straightforward: a synodal Church to which Pope Francis has summoned all believers and a monarchic episcopate are incompatible! But terms have to be defined — or at least explained.

When peace came upon the Church through Constantine's edict that ended a period of brutal persecution, the Church could attend to organizing itself — and it took for its model, quite understandably, the organization of the Roman Empire that was, in many ways, both its guardian and its patron. In fact, it is known that the Council of Nicea that dealt with the Arian controversy was convoked not by the pope — who still had to emerge as the undisputed head of the Church — but by the emperor. But because of the imperial structure along which the Church organized itself, the pope did eventually assume a position mirroring that of the emperor. So it was, for a long time, until the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the papal court and the manners of court were those of any earthly potentate. It was no less true of bishops. They considered themselves and were styled as monarchs over their own dioceses. This is still reflected in the Code of Canon Law, which makes the pope the ultimate repository of legislative, executive and judicial power for the universal church and the bishop the titulary of the same concentration of power for his diocese.

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