68 Jurist 350 (2008)
Ecclesia Sui Iuris and the Local Church: An Investigation in Terminology

handle is hein.journals/juristcu68 and id is 358 raw text is: THE JURIST 68 (2008) 350-360

ECCLESIA SUI IURIS AND THE LOCAL CHURCH:
AN INVESTIGATION IN TERMINOLOGY
VERENA FELDHANS*
1. Introduction
This study' deals with the problem of an inconsistent terminology in
the documents of the Second Vatican Council and its consequences in the
years afterward. The council did not elaborate a complete ecclesiological
description of the Church but initiated a new paradigm for conceiving ec-
clesial structures. It stood at the threshold between the past and the fu-
ture. The council fathers presented a vision of Church without providing
a fully developed, concrete plan to realize that vision. The author will
look especially at the notions of ecclesia sui iuris and local church.
These concepts show how difficult it is to distill adequately the ideas and
intentions of the council fathers into a clear map for the future.
In discussing the notions of ecclesia sui iuris and local church, one
encounters a delicate problem, namely, which of the two is the appropri-
ate and theologically correct designation in relation to the Catholic
Church. Does the Church consist of two poles,2 the one pole being the
local church around its bishop and the other pole the universal Church
guided by the college of bishops and the bishop of Rome? Or, between
these two poles, is there to be perceived another level with its own theo-
logical foundation, the church sui iuris? The following investigation will
first touch on the council's terminology for local church, for the mo-
ment using the English term, as there is more than one Latin expression
for this reality. After that, the author will consider Vatican II's assessment
of the theological and ecclesiological value of what today are more tech-
* Faculty of Theology, University of Erfurt, Germany.
The author thanks especially Professor Dr. John Huels as well as Professor Dr.
Thomas Green for correcting this paper.
2 For the problem of how to envision the structure of the Church see Ton Van Eijk,
The Structure of the Church: Dyadic or Triadic? in Of All Times and of All Places.
Protestants and Catholics on the Church Local and Universal, ed. Leo Koffeman and
Henk Witte (Zoetermeer: Meinema, 2001) 143-169 and Jan Jacobs, Beyond Polarity. On
the Relation Between Locality and Universality in the Roman Catholic Church, in ibid.,
49-68.

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