This article examines the ecclesiological tension caused by the nature of the Church as a singular and plural entity. As a singular entity, the Church is universal or catholic; in a plural designation, we speak of local or particular churches. The relationship between the universal and the local has generated many debates that have caused paradigm shifts within ecclesiology, from the hierarchical to the communio frameworks, and even synodality. In exploring these debates and their implications for some aspects of the legislative norms, as well as in the light of the contemporary conversations on synodality, the article address the theological question of the representative function of bishops. The evolution of the Synod of Bishops suggests that this long-running debate may be entering a new phase with the synodal processes that Pope Francis is promoting in the Church today.
This paper puts the spotlight on the seminal contribution of Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., (1918–2008) on Church reform. When many post-Conciliar theologians were caught in the binary poles of fidelity to tradition or innovation, Dulles embraced a creative middle ground of both-and, devoting much of his writings to the corporate reform of the Church as an institution. In honouring his legacy, this paper shows how contemporary church reform programmes can avoid the dangers of confrontation or polemics by finding an equilibrium between fidelity to tradition and commitment to innovation, in the way that Dulles did.