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August 13, 2006


Tom Harmon

Seems to me like Ratzinger was for the bishop exercising his proper authority in his diocese and taking responsibility for that authority, rather than ceding it to a national bureacracy.


Councils and Synods are ad hoc affairs; this is the big difference.

I think, though, the solution is simply better bishops. Good bishops are not afraid to lead, whatever the bishops conference says or does. Mediocre bishops hide behind the herd.


Yes, and I will be waiting to see if the USCCB is put into its proper perspective. Remember the 2004 controversy over the Worthiness to Receive Communion document, which the bishops said they themselves had not seen because their leadership (i.e., McCarrick) had seen fit to keep it to themselves.

It would also be good to see individual bishops take responsibility for issues such as catechesis and not leave it to a bureaucracy to devise inadequate texts. Moreover, I would like to see individual bishops speak out on immigration, without waiting to see what the loudest tin cans in the USCCB have to say first (e.g., Wenski, Mahony, McCarrick).


Well, whatever the rationale for freeing individual bishops from the tyranny of national conferences, in effect we've seen an emboldened curia, especially under the failing John Paul II. Is it an improvement for bishops to be yes-men for Roman bureaucrats? I don't think so. And while the curia has more pedigree than national conferences, it does not have the same history as institutions such as dioceses, papacy, or parishes. If we were operating on track record as a basis for authority, does your local pastor have the power to veto the curia? I don't think so.

Better bishops would solve part of the problem. But in effect we would still have some portions of the curia dictating policy in dioceses. And whether that's seen as a good thing because of weak bishops or a changing of Vatican policy on particular topics, that's just as much of a hijacking of tradition as a national conference. And it must be said that concerning the latter, bishops more or less freely enter into a certain mutual working relationship with one another for the benefit of the greater church. Otherwise, why do we have traditions of metropolitans and patriarchs? And there is also a favorable side of bishops cooperating by nation and region presented in Christus Dominus.

I'd prefer to see stronger and better bishops, a weaker curia, and a reasonable level of cooperation in the college of bishops. That would be traditional.

Ferde Rombola

I don't think the Pope was suggesting bishops become yes-men for the curia. His complaint seems to be that individual bishops are becoming, or are, subordinate to the bishops' councils.

If they sank the USCCB today, they'd hear no complaint from me.


Seems to me like Ratzinger was for the bishop exercising his proper authority in his diocese and taking responsibility for that authority, rather than ceding it to a national bureacracy.



The thing that worries me about greater autonomy for bishops is recent, and not so recent cases, of bishops turning a blind eye and in some cases even covering up cases of clerical minor abuse on the one side, and rufusing to call to heel priests publicly taking positions and exibiting behavior contrary to Catholic Christian teaching on the other.
Amy just recently posted on a priest in Oregon who was living, more or less openly, in a homosexual relationship. that same priest is a involved in the female "ordination" publicity stunt. A quick search on the net shows that he was previously allowing women to "shadow" him while saying mass. Such behavior is inappropriate for anyone male or female who has not been ordained. That a priest would condone it, and that his bishop would not censur him publically for it says loads about the bishop.
I'm all for bishops exercising their traditional authority, I just want that authority to be informed by the Holy Spirit and not the liberal American fringe.


Funny thing is, I hear from people of a liberal "bent" how we should have a "North American Primate" or something, to govern the Church "so distant from Rome".

Of course, since the communication revolution that started in the 19th century we have had no need for any such institution. In the pas it was necessary for an archbishop, or primate, to be able to function on his own, because Rome was so far away.

I find it amusing that, as the world becomes smaller, liberals try to find old ways of avoiding loyalty with bodies such as the USCCB. Why do we have it? Each bishop can consult with Rome via the internet or telephone in a matter of seconds. Even the mail system only takes a few days! We have, believe it not, come back to the original conditions of the Christian community. We really are one body and there is no escuse for liberals trying to "fragment" us with various governing institutes. Thanks to instant communication, we can all hear from Peter directly, in seconds.

So I hope the USCCB is completely dissolved. It is only a barrier between me and Rome. And it is a wasteful bureaucracy. The sooner it is gone and stops sucking up money from collection plates, the better.

T. Chan

yes, decentralization rather than centralization

Peter Nixon

I must respectfully disagree.

First of all, I am hard pressed to identify a real live example of a bishop being prevented from exercising his responsibilities to "teach, sanctify, and govern" because of a national bishop's conference. The recent sexual abuse crisis made clear how little power the USCCB has over individual bishops. If individual bishops feel hemmed in by the conference, that is their own perception, but it does not correspond to any canonical realities that I am aware of.

Secondly, this quote from then-Crdl. Ratzinger that the bishops' conferences have "no theological basis" is badly misunderstood in the paragraph excerpted above. By "no theological basis," the Cardinal meant that national bishops' conferences do not exist iure divino, as does the office of bishop. By this measure, parishes don't qualify either. But there is no question that episcopal conferences were explicitly mentioned in Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church and the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church(Para 38). They are also mentioned in the Code of Canon Law.

Episcopal conferences became a point of controversy in the wake of the 1985 Extraordinary Synod. In the final report, the bishops had suggested a study of the theological status of the conferences. An instrumentum laboris issued by the Congregation for Bishops in 1988 took a highly restrictive view of the role of the episcopal conferences, arguing that they cannot be properly considered collegial in character and do not therefore have a magisterial role. The instrumentum drew a distinction between the “effective collegiality” exercised by the college as a whole and the “affective collegiality” exercised by the conferences, which are said to be collegial only in an analogous sense.

This position was criticized by a number of theologians, including Avery Dulles, who noted in a 1989 article entitled "Doctrinal Authority of Episcopal Conferences" that CIC Canon 753 clearly implies that under some circumstances, bishops gathered together in conference are “authoritative teachers and masters of the faith.” He conceded, though, that an episcopal conference would not be able to define doctrine in a way that engages the assent of faith (although its teaching could require religious submission of mind). At the same time, Dulles noted that—in the United States at least—the USCCB has never used its authority to define doctrine.

I tend to assume peoples' good faith. But in this case, it is very hard for me to believe that criticism of bishops conferences is not at least partially motivated by a desire to remove a stumbling block to Roman centralism.



Good points. Is there an attempt on B16's part to rewrite the narrative here? Was it bishops conferences that altered the notion of collegiality promoted by VII or was it the centralization of the Vatican under JPII that caused that effect?


Unless the Holy Father accomplishes the sorely-needed purge of bishops, in this country at least, then the good things this policy could bring -- as described above -- are not going to happen.

When I see this announcement on Vatican.va:

Il Santo Padre ha accettato la rinuncia al governo pastorale dell’arcidiocesi metropolitana di Los Angeles (USA), presentata dall’Em.mo Card. Roger Mahony, in conformità al can. 401 § 2 del Codice di Diritto Canonico.

Il Papa ha nominato Arcivescovo Metropolita di Los Angeles (USA) il Rev.do Padre Jay Scott Newman, Parroco nella Parrocchia di "Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" in Greenville, South Carolina (USA) ....

then we'll know things are going in the right direction. Until then, all bets are off.

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