22 December 2015

Apostolos suos and Episcopal Conferences

The Ecclesiology of the Catholic Church sees only two institutions as definitive by Divine Institution: the Universal Church, in communion with the Roman Church; and the local Particular Church, in communion with its Bishop. These are in fact, theologically if not geographically, the same thing; the Universal Church is manifested and made present in the Particular Church. The phrase 'local Church' does not mean a quasi-National 'church', such as "the English Church", which is an aggregation of dioceses. That phrase itself is common, useful, but imprecise slang. There is the Universal Church and there is the Diocese of Portsmouth.

Groupings of Particular Churches, as Vatican II taught, may for practical and prudential reasons be highly valuable or of venerable antiquity, such as the Patriarchates. But they are not by Divine Law essential. See Communionis notio AAS 85 (1992).

This is why our Holy Mother the Church has been circumspect with regard to Episcopal Conferences. In Apostolos suos she allowed Conferences to have a doctrinal competence, but only if (1) the vote is unanimous (in which case the teaching is the teaching of each individual bishop) or (2) where the vote is not unanimous but is confirmed by the Holy See (in which case the teaching is that of the Universal Church). She is apprehensive about the weakening of the Magisterium of the Bishop in his own Particular Church (i.e. diocese), and the influence of bureaucracies.

The duty of a local bishop is to ask himself whether a particular idea is in accordance with what has been handed down to him by his predecessors in his See and coheres with the Magisterium of the Church. It is not to ask "Is this a brilliant idea of an amazingly fantastic theologian?", or "Is this roughly in line with what my colleagues bishops X, Y, and Z thought last time we had a chat about it?", or "Can I really go against this when the the Episcopal Conference's ABCDEF Commission has considered it long and hard and come to a definite conclusion expressed in a big Document impressively supported by innumerable footnotes?"

There is a real risk that "autonomy and doctrinal Competence for Episcopal Conferences" may be the next major error to assault the whole State of Christ's Church Militant here in Earth. It is the very self-same principle which has corrupted and destroyed the Anglican Communion. It is a Diabolical threat with which those of us with 'Anglican Previous' lived and suffered for decades. Believe me, we know all about it. This is a problem which matters. It is most clearly a strategy elaborated at the very depths of the Lowerarchy.

Here are some recent remarks, very revealing, from a German bishop, Bishop Voderholzer of Regensburg, who seems to have his head screwed on the right way. He speaks of a document of the German Episcopal Conference which
"was released in the name of the Conference of Bishops, of which I am a member, without my having seen its contents, much less having approved it". He goes on to speak of his having "accepted the torch of belief and pastoral responsibility from his forerunners, including S Wolfgang." (In other words, not from Cardinal Marx or the Episcopal Conference. A Bishop and his diocese are not a department of a National Organisation.)

Exactly. S Irenaeus would have shaken Bishop V warmly by the hand.

Provincial Autonomy (the crisp title by which all this unpleasant stuff is known among Anglicans) is perfectly designed to become a forum within which innovating and unscrupulous bullies will be endowed with the procedural and personal mechanisms to subjugate an orthodox Bishop. And this is not just a problem about bullies: do not underestimate the danger that good and orthodox men might be worn down by a sense that they have a duty of solidarity with their episcopal colleagues. In English English, we call this "clubbing somebody". I am not sure whether this means 'hitting them with a big stick' or 'making them feel warm and comfortable members of a cosy club whose consensus they dread to break'. The practical consequences are much the same.

An earlier post touching upon Conferences is repeated immediately under this one.


viterbo said...

Love of universal as particular, or particular as universal? Protestants are experts.

roberts said...

Those who push for this kind of thing. Those who adopt it. Even those in the Vatican, whoever they might be, who promulgate it are no longer teaching the Catholic Faith.
The Good Lord permitted the Anglican Communion to exist precisely to show Catholics certain errors in the Faith - including this whole autonomous diocesan doctrine nonsense.

"For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
To think: the Great Deception of the Evil One hasn't even got underway in full earnestness yet - and look at the confusion that's already ruined the faith in whole swathes of the Church...

I have long been mystified by this verse in that apocalyptic passage from Matthew 24:
"Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."
But I understand better now. The corpse is where the body of Christ, His Church, has become sclerotic, necrotic and dead. Over that corpse, the vultures do gather. Sometimes in episcopal robes.

William Tighe said...

"S Irenaeus would have shaken Bishop V warmly by the hand."

So would St. John Fisher. This episode recalls to my mind another of ca. 1530 or 31 when a document petitioning the papacy to grant Henry VIII the annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon which he was seeking was produced bearing the seals of all the English bishops at the time, in response to which the future martyr and saint, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, indignantly denied that he had himself sealed the petition or had authorised anyone to do so on his behalf, and went on to repudiate the notion that the king's and queen's marriage wain any way invalid or defective. Bishop Voderholzer is keeping good episcopal company, which is more than can be said for all but four or five of his colleagues.

Highland Cathedral said...

The Church in Germany recently approved the employment of people in situations which the universal church does not approve of. Three German Bishops said, "Not in my diocese!" They were the bishops of Eichstaett, Passau and Regensburg.

Victor said...

It might be a matter of coincidence - but Passau and Regensburg encompass exactly the region where Good Pope Benedict XVI was born and raised, and where he worked as a professor. Eichstaett - well that's just good luck. Their Bishop Gregor Maria is the former benedictine abbot of Plankstetten. Three hoorays for Bavaria!

Thomas said...

"I am not sure whether this means 'hitting them with a big stick' or 'making them feel warm and comfortable members of a cosy club whose consensus they dread to break'."

It's usually a matter of trying out the latter to test how biddable the victim is, but if they show signs of resistance then it's time to bring out the former! It's the way of the World (the capitalization is deliberate). Sadly it also seems to become the way of the Church sometimes, or at least those parts that become infected with the World's thinking.

Matthew Roth said...

I don’t think it is. Although his home diocese is not free from trouble, Cardinal Müller was previously bishop of Regensburg, so I think Benedict took interest in the appointment.

There is a post on the NLM blog about the bishop of Eichstaett.

Rose Marie said...

How delicious to see Cardinal Marx getting a taste of his own. As President of the German Bishops' Conference, he declared that they need not wait for authoritative word on the matter of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried. "We are not a subsidiary of Rome." Now the good bishop of Regensburg has rightly declared that he is not a subsidiary of the German Bishops' Conference.

GOR said...

Indeed Father, you and the other members of the Ordinariate in Britain are uniquely
placed to attest to the inherent dangers of ‘Provincial Autonomy’ as evidenced in the
CofE. Those of us on the outside viewed it as a recipe for doctrinal confusion, disunity
and, ultimately, disaster. But you had to live through it and somehow ‘keep your heads’.

Thank God you did! Now you can bear witness to the diabolical nature of the initiative
and perhaps enlighten those Catholic hierarchs who fail to see it, before it is too late.

geneticallycatholic said...

Another wonderful Bavarian was Karl Adam (preVatican II), a theologian who wrote The Spirit of Catholicism. Make that four hoorays for Bavaria!!!!

Mike Hurcum said...

It used to be this way. When the Pope teaches the Magisterium or on faith or morals he is infallible. When the Bishops teach what the Pope teaches they are infallible. When the priests teach what the bishops teach then they are infallible and when the Laity teach what the priests teach they are infallible. A bit simple minded I agree but in the St JP2 catechism it seems the bishops who wrote it can even declare what the Pope teaches if he does not agree with them He is wrong. They have put the cart before the horse,

Boko Fittleworth said...

Evangelii Gaudium 32 proposes an ecclesiology of episcopal conferences other than that of Apostolos Suos. And then cites AS as support!