"Justin" just posted this comment, it is interesting because I am told a few years ago a leading liberal Jesuit theologian suggested, in private and possibly in his cups, the same thing. It is Ultramontanism gone mad, the Spirit of Vatican One ad absurdum:
Can someone tell me, in this day and age, with the internet and communication so quick and evident, what is the point of having multiple dioceses and the local Church?It is contrary to the very nature of the Church as Jesus Christ founded it. It springs from an idea of Bishops as being delegates of the Pope rather than successors of the Apostles in their own right. Christ founded a Church on twelve Apostles not one.
I can understand the necessity of it back when communications were difficult and it was important for one person, on the ground, to hold fast to the deposit of faith, and have immediate and personal authority - a local ordinary.
But given the speed at which things can be communicated now, and the ease of access to information of the faithful - as the media keep telling us we are a 'global' church (universal is the more accurate word but I digress).
What is to stop the suppression of every single Latin diocese except Rome, and bring us all into one big mega-Diocese of Rome. The current ordinaries can become titular bishops of Arundel, etc. and act as Vicars General to a particular "area" within the mega-Diocese of Rome with no personal authority but carrying out the orders of the Roman Pontiff. If we truly believe in Papal Infallibility, that surely should not be a problem?
I said recently that one of the important things that Pope Benedict did was to restore the title of "Bishop of Rome" certainly as first amongst equals, which follows from his being successor of the Apostle Peter but nevertheless it is important he identifies himself as a bishop amongst many rather than the singular Pope.
However as Justin says the world in which the Church exists has changed, technology means most Catholics can find out the Pope's shoe size more easily than what their own bishop teaches on the Incarnation. Indeed most Catholics would identify themselves not so much with their own diocese, which Lumen Gentium describes as, "the Church in much fullness", or their province or their national episcopal conference. For good or ill this is where we would diverge from the Orthodox. For Catholics their identity is stretched between their parish and Rome.
The diocesan identity for most Catholics is minimal. For most, even priests, the relationship with their diocese is really of an administrative, functional nature. As Vatican I is known as the Council of the Pope, Vatican II is known as the Council of Bishops, a great deal of Lumen Gentium is spent defining the Bishops role, it speaks of collegiality and subsidiarity, its presumption is that bishops are in a deep and profound communion with the Church, and are faithful bearers of the Tradition. The fact that both subsidiarity and collegiality are still minimal is for some a reflection of the failure either of the implementation of Vatican II or the impossible optimism of the Council.
An Orthodox correspondent reminded me that in Orthodoxy the Metropolitan has a duty of oversight over bishops in his Province and Metropolitans are answerable to the structures which govern national Churches and in theory the Patriarch has oversight of National Churches. In the Catholic Church there is no structure between the diocese and Rome. The lack of accountability and oversight (management structure?) for bishops has lead to rogue, even heretical bishops. One can ask whether the lack of accountability has lead to child abuse crisis. I am not sure that Orthodoxy is entirely without problems, certainly one would be the eirenical relationship with the Church and state.
One of the main issues many suggest Benedict's successor needs to address are the problems within the Curia, since Vatican II the Church's management structure has become larger and larger, and more and more under strain. It is worth comparing the administration of the Vatican and the Phanar.