AskDefine | Define collegiality

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  1. power and authority that is shared among peers, especially the sharing of collegiate power among Roman Catholic bishops.


power and authority that is shared among peers

Extensive Definition

Collegiality is the relationship between colleagues.

Definition of collegiality

Colleagues are those explicitly united in a common purpose and respecting each other's abilities to work toward that purpose. A colleague is an associate in a profession or in a civil or ecclesiastical office.
Thus, the word collegiality can connote respect for another's commitment to the common purpose and ability to work toward it. In a narrower sense, members of the faculty of a university or college are each other's colleagues; very often the word is taken to mean that. Sometimes colleague is taken to mean a fellow member of the same profession. The word college is sometimes construed broadly to mean a group of colleagues united in a common purpose, and used in proper names, such as Electoral College, College of Cardinals, College of Pontiffs.
Sociologists of organizations use the word collegiality in a technical sense, to create a contrast with the concept of bureaucracy. Classical authors such as Max Weber consider collegiality as an organizational device used by autocrats to prevent experts and professionals from challenging monocratic and sometimes arbitrary powers. More recently, authors such as Eliot Freidson (USA), Malcolm Waters (Australia) and Emmanuel Lazega (France) have shown that collegiality can now be understood as a full fledged organizational form. This is especially useful to account for coordination in knowledge intensive organizations in which interdependent members jointly perform non routine tasks -an increasingly frequent form of coordination in knowledge economies. A specific social discipline comes attached to this organizational form, a discipline described in terms of niche seeking, status competition, lateral control, and power among peers in corporate law partnerships, in dioceses, in scientific laboratories, etc. This view of collegiality is obviously very different from the ideology of collegiality stressing mainly trust and sharing in the collegium.

Roman collegiality

In the Roman Republic, collegiality was the practice of having at least two people, and always an even number, in each magistrate position of the Roman Senate. Reasons were to divide power and responsibilities among several people, both to prevent the rise of another king and to ensure more productive magistrates. Examples of Roman collegiality include the two consuls and censors; six praetors; eight quaestors; four aediles; ten tribunes and decemviri, etc.
There were several notable exceptions: the prestigious, but largely ceremonial (and lacking imperium) positions of pontifex maximus and princeps senatus held one person each; the extraordinary magistrates of Dictator and Magister Equitum were also one person each; and there were three triumviri.

Collegiality in the Catholic Church

Collegiality also refers to the doctrine held in the Catholic Church that the bishops of the world, collectively considered (the College of Bishops) share the responsibility for the governance and pastoral care of the Church with the Pope. This doctrine was explicitly taught by the Second Vatican Council, though it is grounded in earlier teaching. One of the major changes of the Second Vatican Council was to encourage episcopal conferences (bishops' conferences).
Proponents emphasise that the doctrine does not attempt to diminish the role of the Pope.

Criticism of collegiality in the Catholic Church

Traditionalist critics claim that it is contrary to what they perceive to be the Catholic belief that only the Pope has authority over other bishops. Critics felt bishops' conferences could potentially destroy the independence of each bishop (by de facto forcing individual bishops to go along with a majority vote of a conference), as well as undermine the authority of the Pope (by a conference, synod, or council claiming to have some authority over the Pope).
Other Catholics claim that the Roman Curia has failed to sufficiently involve the bishops in the care of the Church.


  • Egan, Philip. (2004). Authority in the Roman Catholic Church: Theory and Practice. New Blackfriars 85(996), 251-252.
  • Gallagher, Clarence. (2004). Collegiality in the East and the West in the First millennium. A Study Based on the Canonical Collections. The Jurist, 2004, 64(1), 64-81.
  • Lorenzen, Michael. (2006). Collegiality and the Academic Library. E-JASL: The Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship 7, no. 2 (Summer 2006).
  • Wilde, Mellissa. (2005). How Culture Mattered at Vatican II: Collegiality Trumps Authority in the Council’s Social Movement Organizations. American Sociological Review, 69(4), 576-602.
collegiality in German: Kollege
collegiality in Dutch: Collegialiteit
collegiality in Norwegian: Kollegialitet (romersk)
collegiality in Swedish: Kollegialitet
collegiality in Chinese: 共治
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