Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pope: Bishops' Conference Doesn't Replace Bishop

Again the Pope complained about the bureaucracy of Bishop's Conferences, this time to the Brazilian Bishops, the biggest Conference in the world, imagine Eccleston Square squared! Ever since the Ratzinger Report (1985) the Bishop's Conference has been something the Pope has expressed concern about. It can so easily castrate Bishops and turn them from loving Shepherds and Fathers of the Flock of Christ into lack lustre managers. As a friend at one of the Roman Congregations says, "Episcopal Conferences: they are evil".
[The Bishops Conference] must "avoid placing itself as a parallel or substitute of the ministry of each of the bishops," or "constitute itself as an intermediary between the bishop and the See of Peter."

Benedict XVI said it is important to remember that the advisers and structures of the episcopal conference exist for "the service of the bishops, not to substitute them."

It is a manifestation of the "pastoral solicitude of the bishops," he said, "whose primary concern must be the salvation of souls."

The Holy Father affirmed that the essential mission of every episcopal conference is helping the bishops have greater communication and communion in tasks that affect them all.

"In the faithful exercise of the doctrinal function that corresponds to you, when you come together in your assemblies, dear bishops, you must above all study the most effective means to have the universal magisterium reach opportunely the people entrusted to you," he said.

Bishop's Conferences, though necessary tend to re


Tim said...

Speaking of bishops' conferences - interesting news from America:

canon lawyer said...

There are grave problems with the way the Bishops Conference of England and Wales operates. With regards to the clerical sexual abuse scandals, the Nolan Report of 2001 and the Cumberlege Report of 2005 both strongly advised that particular law be established in England and Wales which would set out procedures to be followed in the event of an accusation, as did the US Bishops in 2002. Instead, the Bishops of England have published some 'ad experimentum' norms in guidelines known the 'directory for the clergy'. By issuing guidelines rather than law the bishops avoid the need to have their deliberations approved by Holy See, as would be needed in a law. In fact it is very difficult to find out what laws have been passed by this Episcopal Conference, you will search in vain on their web site and the place in which law used to be published - 'Briefings' magazine - is no longer published. Compare this to the website of the US Bishops where their legislation is available on their website and there is a 'Department of Canonical Affairs' to ensure transparency in legal affairs. Regrettably the CBCEW appears as something of a dinosaur struggling to adapt to the modern age. It is time for an overhaul.

Wanderwide said...

Although both Catholics and Anglicans recognise the four levels of parish, diocese, province/nation and the Universal Church/Anglican Communion, it is interesting to note that Anglicans tend to stress the parish (with its particular tradition of churchmanship subject to very little diocesan control) and the province/nation (with its General Synod, which is effectively autocephalous, and over which the Abp of Canterbury exercises only a primacy of honour, as primus inter pares).
In the Catholic Church, on the other hand, the essential units are really the diocese and the Universal Church, whereas the parish and the Episcopal Conference are matters of pastoral and administrative convenience.
The Anglican experience shows that it is always perilous for the Church to pander to any sort of nationalism. If national Episcopal Conferences are creating a bureaucracy or fostering mentalities that are impeding the implementation in the dioceses of the polices determined by the Holy See, perhaps they need to be reorganised.
For example, why not have one Episcopal Conference for the whole of the British Isles? The tensions between its constituent parts would make it difficult for it to agree positions at variance with those of the Holy See.
Each of the countries would benefit from a wider pool of talent from which its bishops could be selected - provided, of course, that there were no national quotas. And the appointment of bishops from one country to serve in another might help to break down the magic circles and the unhealthy mindsets that have become established in them.

Daphne Mcleod said...

I rememebr H.E. Cardinal Stickler telling two of us many years ago now that Collegiality was one of the main problems in the Church. According to him it had been quite wrongly interpreted after Vatican II. Perhaps we sould go back to the system before the Council when each bishop was directly responsible for his own diocese and answerable only to Rome. Daphne McLeod.

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