A translation of an analysis in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, written by Vittorio Messori, a well-known (and sometimes controversial) Italian journalist best known to us perhaps as the interviewer/co-author of The Ratzinger Report.
Messori is adressing a profile of Bertone that the paper had published, noting that it only contained two direct quotes from Bertone, both of which he claims could eaily misunderstood. He clarifies:
The second direct quotation from the incoming Secretary of State was: "(There is need) to turn back from the specificity of local churches to the universality of the Catholic church." And Bertone calls this turning back 'a Copernican revolution'. Again, the bare statement appears incomplete.
Or, at least, to understand it, one must perhaps situate it in the context of what I was told 20 years ago (and repeated several times after) by then Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the CDF, in the book which we co-authored, Rapporto sulla Fede [published in English as The Ratzinger Report].
The future Benedict XVI told me that among the unforeseen and contradictory effects of Vatican-II was the diminution in the importance of bishops, which on the contrary, the Council wished to re-emphasize. In fact, however, the autonomy and the freedom itself of a bishop over his own diocese were caged in and coopted by the establishment of national bishops' conferences. These conferences, Ratzinger pointed out, have no theological basis; they are not part of the Church structure as are parishes, dioceses and the papacy. They are simply institutions, of recent origin, which were created for practical reasons but which have gradually created a weighty structure of their own, becoming in effect "little Vaticans."
Because these conferences are governed by majority rule, with the inevitable compromises, pressure groups and maneuverings in the 'corridors of power' associated with what amounts to 'parliamentary democracy'! This has ended up suffocating the power of the individual bishop, who, from teacher of the Faith and pastor of his flock, has been reduced to membership in commissions and participation in discussions which end up being dominated by organized and powerful lobbies.
From this point of view, if I understood Ratzinger well, a 'revolution' was necessary, which consists simply in returning to Tradition: to the universal Church, as an organic union and agreement of bishops, therefore of responsible autonomous individuals, rather than a federation of 'states' as constituted by the national bishops' conferences.
Not an easy task, Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out, in view of the expected resistance from powerful clerical groups who subscribe to political correctness, namely, elections, referenda, majority rule (to make decisions).
However, such a 'revolution' is considered necessary by Joseph Ratzinger, and therefore, by his faithful collaborator. Who has the advantages of a character that is both cordial and firm, the DNA of a tough Piedmontese and the persuasive tenacity of a Salesian, trained to wield, if necessary, an iron fist in a velvet glove.
I think this is one of the most misunderstood of Ratzinger's views. The charge, superficially made, is that Ratzinger, in diminishing the importance of national bishops' conferences, is all about Rome. Not at all. He's all about the function and historical role of bishops. I really do think that he's right (how generous of me) - there are perhaps necessary functions of a national body of bishops, and part of the development is almost inevitable, considering the ease of modern communications and the mobility of populations. And remember, there is historical precedent for bishops acting in bodies: various types of bodies like Plenary Councils and, reaching further back into history, synods which have performed essential and fascinating roles, including deposing and otherwise disciplining each other.
But the bolded portion of this piece is oh, so true.