The term collegiality came into vogue about the time of the Second Vatican Council. Found in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church it was used to describe the Church's mode of life, especially governance: "Together with its head, the Roman Pontiff, and never without this head, the episcopal order is the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church" (Lumen gentium 22). Conciliar documents regularly interchanged the term collegium (college), with the related terms ordo (order), corpus (body), and fraternitas (brotherhood). The meaning of the term was warmly debated, and in order to safeguard against misunderstanding the Council offered societas stabilis as a synonym (Lumen gentium 19).
Doctrinal History. In the 4th and 5th centuries collegium was a common term, designating the apostolic community, as well as the community of bishop-presbyter (priest) and of the bishops among themselves. During the 14th–19th centuries, even among those decidedly dedicated to papal primacy, the concept of the collegial character of the episcopacy played a prominent role.
However, from the 12th century on a distinction between ordo and jurisdictio intensified to the point of becoming a separation. This was complicated by an undue emphasis on the cultic (and priestly) dimension of both the Church and its ordained minister or office (equated terminologically with priest), as well as a decidedly individualistic approach to priesthood and Eucharist. The ordained minister (priest, bishop) was related to the corpus verum (the Eucharistic Body of Christ) on the basis of ordination by the Sacrament of Holy Orders, to the corpus mysticum (the ecclesial Body of Christ) on the basis of appointment by (episcopal or papal) jurisdiction (cf. de Lubac). Scholastic theology declined to acknowledge that episcopal ordination belongs to the Sacrament of Holy Orders and attributed it solely to papal jurisdictional empowerment. Consequently the episcopal college came to be regarded as merely the jurisdictional creation of the papacy.
The Teaching Restored. Lumen gentium in the final draft emphatically restored the ancient understanding of collegiality as the juridical as well as moral communion of the bishops among themselves and in union with the pope, for the shepherding of the universal Church. Thus the paragraph from Chapter III of the Constitution, quoted at the beginning of this article, also states "one is constituted a member of the episcopal body by virtue of sacramental consecration and by hierachical communion with the head and members of the body" (Lumen gentium 22). At the time of the Council Joseph Ratzinger emphasized that "conciliarity is something that belongs to the essence of the Church; however it has worked historically, the conciliar principle lies at the heart of the Church and ever presses from within towards realization" (Ratzinger 180).
When the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church was published, a prefatory note was appended, reportedly at the direction of Pope Paul VI, by way of explanation of the terms in Chapter III. The purpose of the Nota explicativa, drafted by the Theological Commission, was to set forth in more technical language how certain points in the text are to be understood. It clarifies the meaning of the term "college," the manner by which one becomes a member, the significance of "hierarchical communion," and the relation of the collegial authority of the bishops and the primacy of the Pope (W. Abbot, Documents of Vatican II, p. 98). The Nota, although a part of the acta of the Council, does not belong to the official text of the Constitution.
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