THE BIBLE, CHURCH AUTHORITY, AND CONSCIENCE:
towards a biblical spirituality
In the Catholic Church, bishops swear obedience to the papacy and not to the gospel because the papacy is expected to be the true voice of the gospel; in case of conflict, however, they are likely to side with the papacy. The bishops are not accountable to the faithful but to the papacy; in case of conflict, they are likely to ignore the wishes and needs of their flock and side with the papacy.
As a counter-weight, Vatican II recognized the importance of conscience. Even if not “properly formed” the conscience is, as a matter of fact, the ultimate decision-maker. Vatican II also recognized that there is a hierarchy of truths. In the absence of an officially defined such hierarchy, people make their own choices, thus leading to a de facto pluralism.
Because pluralism tends to weaken a centralized authority, the hierarchy has only two options: greater centralization and control (the prevailing tendency), or an ecclesiology of dialogue and leadership – which is what Pope Francis is promoting (with not much success).
In the context of church pluralism and a weak central authority, biblical spirituality seems an advisable option. When some contentious topics are not answered successfully or avoided by church authorities, biblical spirituality seems a reasonable answer across churches.
1. By divine institution and canon law, the pope "enjoys supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the church." (c. 331). What argument should the church put forward to Catholics who reject papal infallibility?
2. Protestants enjoy pluralism and the freedom of individualism and subjectivism because they have no church authority. Yet most evangelicals, Baptists, Pentecostals, etc. speak the same language due to a unidimensional interpretation of the bible and social pressure to conform to it. If so, what could they do to overcome unidimensionality and conformism?
3. What is the future of a bible al spirituality when only few people read the bible daily or weekly?