5 December 2017

Cardinal Parolin on Episcopal Conferences

In his recent paper read to the Catholic University of America, Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State, urged upon us a policy first suggested by PF in Evangelii gaudium: the increasing of the competences of Episcopal Conferences. He appeared to be unaware of the reasons for Apostolos suos of S John Paul II; but he did acknowledge the existence of that document. He proceded to tell us that it should "be understood not as a final destination, but as the basis for a renewed reflection".

This hermeneutical principle seems to me subversive of the whole structure of Catholic doctrine. Consider "[Christ] rose on the third day according to the Scriptures". Well, you can if you like call this a basis for a renewed reflection ... our Faith is always something upon which we should reflect further. But our reflection should always preserve the whole content of the original doctrine, so that the new reflection is eodem sensu eademque sententia.

Parolin then went on to claim that Conferences are "really episcopal" because "they have their reason for being not in a sociological principle of collaboration, but in the implementation of the ministry conferred upon each bishop with episcopal consecration". Thus an attempt is being made to give episcopal conferences a basis, a toe-hold, in the Church's Tradition and Dogma.

Whoever drafted this section for his Eminence seems to be ignorant of, or to have ignored, the Magisterium of the last three decades. 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. But, to be precise, 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) a vote is unanimous (in which case the teaching is the teaching of each individual bishop) or (2) where a 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. his 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?"

I have throughout this pontificate been afraid 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 remarks, very revealing, made a couple of years ago by 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. And not even from PF. A Bishop and his diocese are not a department of a National Organisation, nor is a bishop Romani pontificis vicarius.

S Irenaeus, with his clear exposition of the handing down of the Faith from bishop to bishop in each Church, would have shaken Bishop Voderholzer 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 do not underestimate the danger that good and orthodox men may 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 of each are much the same.

The apparent policy of reversing the teaching elegantly and concisely expressed by Wojtyla and Ratzinger is another major threat to the integrity of the Catholic Faith. 


Randolph Crane said...

Why don't we just abolish those unlucky Conferences? They have done more harm than good, and it is no secret that not the bishops decide, but secretaries and lobbyists within the Conferences.

Also, it would be much more traditional to re-establish the very old system of Church Provinces with an Archbishop as its head, and Primates of national states as the honorary heads. Of course, the Provinces still exist, but they have no virtual meaning. Conferences are undermining the significance of the episcopal ministry, the universal ecclesiology, the authority of the bishops, and the natural division of the Church into provinces and dioceses.

Capt. Morgan said...

To my limited mind this is just another attempt to circumvent the Magesterium to enact the liberal changes desired by some without the bloodshed of actually promoting heresy from Rome. It boggles the mind. Thank you Father, and a Blessed Advent to you.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

The 19th century Calvinist Cassanda was right when he made this observation about conservatives:

“It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights, will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity, and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it he salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious, for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always—when about to enter a protest—very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent rĂ´le of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.”


The liberals always are in the vanguard of these heretical movements and they are always well organised and prepared to ceaselessly pursue their agenda until it is realised (consider the campaign for altar girls) despite repeated defeats (Pope Saint John Paul II refused their requests repeatedly before finally surrendering).

Hiding in virtual anonymity behind the fog of an episcopal conference warring against Tradition is a way Bishops can attain unto favor and perks as they fail to discharge their duty to Teach, Rule, and Sanctify.

How should this problem be handled, when the mere idea is a scandal?
O, for a righteous Pope and Bell, Book, and Candle.

Deacon Augustine said...

As Parolin and PF are such keen advocates of the autonomy of episcopal conferences, I assume they must be equally avid supporters of autonomy in the relations between states and hence rabid Brexiteers.

I look forward to the English bishops falling into line and encouraging Theresa May to go for the rock-hard, cliff-edge Brexit solution.

OTOH as the phenomenon of "clubbing" is already an established feature of the CBCEW, I am sure that their lordships won't raise a collective peep about any subject that is important to the point of actually being relevant to the state of the world and Church today.

Andrew Malton said...

"How should this problem be handled, when the mere idea is a scandal? O! For a Righteous Pope, and a Bell and a Book and a Candle!" Is it here, first, that I have read this very quotable couplet?

KaeseEs said...

"This hermeneutical principle seems to me subversive of the whole structure of Catholic doctrine. Consider "[Christ] rose on the third day according to the Scriptures". Well, you can if you like call this a basis for a renewed reflection ... our Faith is always something upon which we should reflect further. But our reflection should always preserve the whole content of the original doctrine, so that the new reflection is eodem sensu eademque sententia."

Father, I respectfully submit that they have already made a great deal of scripture 'not [a] final destination, but [the] basis for a renewed reflection'. Consider Mark 10:2-12, and the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke. If those in certain circles would ignore the very words of our Savior, is it any surprise they would ignore the words of his vicar?

Anonymous said...

When the bishops of Tudor England gave their corporate assent to Henry VIII's hijacking of the church in England, only St. John Fisher dissented. They tried to 'club' him into line by forging his signature on their collective capitulation to the adulterous king. When he exposed the lie and spoke publicly against their betrayal, he was soon 'clubbed' out of things in the more brutal sense. But which of them exercised the true episcopal charism and ministry: the 'national conference' of careerist politicians or the individual apostle who stood alone as a martyr for truth and tradition, communion with Rome, and the integrity of Christ's Church?

Unknown said...

Where could one go about getting a copy of the Life of Fynes-Clinton? I cannot seem to find it even on AbeBooks, usually my last resort.

William Tighe said...

"They tried to 'club' him into line by forging his signature on their collective capitulation to the adulterous king."

No, they did not. This is to confuse the "submission of the clergy" of May 1532, which Fisher rejected (along with John Clerk, bishop of Bath & Wells, who, however, submitted when faced with arrest and prosecution a year later) with a petition to the Pope in 1530 to grant the king the annulment he sought. It was on that petition that Fisher's "hand and seal" had been forged, and which he disavowed and repudiated.