A Synergy of the One and the Many:
Governance in the Eastern Catholic Patriarchal Churches
by Chorbishop John D. Faris
The general principle is that all of the ordained bishops of the patriarchal church are to be convoked to the synod of bishops. There are some exceptions: bishops in the service of the universal church (in the Roman curia or the diplomatic corps) and bishops serving in another church sui iuris are not to be convoked to the synod of bishops. A bishop who is unqualified for mental or physical reasons, apostate, or schismatic (cf. c. 953 §1), who has been deposed (c. 1433) or who is punished with major excommunication (c. 1434) is not be convoked to the synod of bishops.
While all of the ordained bishops have the right to be convoked to the synod of bishops, they do not always enjoy the same voting rights. The deliberative vote of bishops who are not eparchial bishops exercising authority inside the territory of the patriarchal church can be restricted except in the case of the election of the patriarch, bishops or candidates for office (cc. 102 §2 and 150 §1). Such a provision is reasonable since it would not be appropriate for the eparchial bishops to be voting on a matter to which they themselves would not be subject. It should be noted that all of the bishops of the synod would be competent to vote on the particular law restricting the deliberative votes of certain bishops.
In virtue of particular law (or lacking a provision in particular law, the consent of the permanent synod) the patriarch can invite others, especially hierarchs who are not bishops and experts, to give their opinions to the bishops gathered in synod (c. 102 §3).
The legislative role of the synod of bishops is crucial in the preservation and fostering of the rites of the patriarchal and major archiepiscopal churches. Vatican II solemnly declared that the churches of the East “have the right and duty to govern themselves according to their own special disciplines. For these are guaranteed by ancient tradition, and seem to be better suited to the customs of their faithful and the good of their souls.” (OE n. 5)
The Code of Canons makes numerous references to matters that are relegated to particular law. However, the legislative authority of the synod of bishops is not restricted to those matters expressly mentioned in the common law. It is important to note that the body of particular law in force at the time of the promulgation of the Code of Canons remains in force provided it is not contrary to the provisions of the new legislation, or the matter has been completely re-ordered by the new common code (c. 6). The mandate given to the synod of bishops by the common law is quite broad: the synod can enact any laws not contrary to the laws of the supreme authority of the church.
The Code of Canons provides that, "laws are established by promulgation" (c. 1488). Arrangements for the promulgation of a law illustrate the intertwining of patriarchal and synodal roles. The synod enacts the legislation (c. 110 §1) that is promulgated by the patriarch (c. 112 §2) according to a procedure (i.e., manner, time and publication) established by the synod (c. 111 §1).