4 March 2018

Episcopal Conferences

The motu proprio Apostolos suos of S John Paul II regulates Episcopal Conferences and rightly restricts their dogmatic role.

This is on the doctrinal ground that the Universal Church, gathered round the Bishop pf Rome; and the local, diocesan Church gathered round the Bishop; are the only ecclesial realities which exist iure divino. As Cardinal Mueller has explained more than once, Conferences exist only at a human and utilitarian level.

Bound up with this matter is the theological controversy between Cardinals Ratzinger and Kasper about whether the Universal Church, or the Particular Church, has ontological priority. The papal Magisterium of Benedict XVI made clear that it is the Universal Church that has the ontological priority.

Hitherto, PF has refrained from too overtly dismantling the legacy of his predecessor. He has shown a certain Christian tact, even delicacy. This policy is now manifestly being phased out. Is PF in a hurry? It certainly looks like it.

The recent bulletin from the Vatican Press office, summarising the deliberations of the Council of Cardinals, speaks about an intention to "reread" Apostolos suos.

"REREAD"! One thinks of the controlled abuse of language described in George Orwell's 1984, and exemplified in totalitarian societies. The fact that we can turn to an honest Trotskyite reacting against Stalinism for an analysis of how language is now manipulated within the Catholic Church just about, as the phrase has it, says it all. 

And the purpose of the current careful demolition of the edifice bequeathed by the last two popes, men of intelligence and distinction, looks to me very much like a desire to transform the Catholic Church into a skilfully crafted copy of the Anglican Communion.

Some of us have been there and seen that. We can tell you all about it. It is a very unwholesome place to be. In Blessed John Henry Newman's words, "The vivifying principle of Truth, the shadow of St Peter, the grace of the Redeemer, left it". No wonder Cardinal Burke, at Buckfast last year, spoke so powerfully about Apostasy.

References: I quoted Mueller at length in my piece of 7 December 2017. On 1 December 2017 I dealt with a very dangerous address by Cardinal Parolin. I suspect that the rationale he offered for Episcopal Conferences having a doctrinal status was a first draft of what will be inflicted upon us in the name of PF. Parolin is not, I feel, a man to be trusted with the Catholic Faith.


Ben of the Bayou said...


Was it not a popular phrase around the times of the Snd Vatican Council, "relecture"? Might that earlier technique of rereading share similarities to the one now before us? Could the goal be one and the same, namely, to "discover" new and hitherto unknown possibilities hidden within the text but which fail the Vincent of L. test?

Perhaps the co-incidence is not par hazard, as we say.

Kind regards.

Woody said...

Perhaps jumping ahead a couple of steps, Father, do you have any information of the current ecclesial affiliation of Norman Russell, whose books on patristics and deification I plan to read? Older internet entries say that he was vice provost of the London Oratory and is now an independent scholar. What, one wonders, does the latter mean, exactly?

Woody said...

Ah, never mind, I found what I was looking for, and it is as I suspected. https://www.ssho.ox.ac.uk/about/staff/honorary-research-fellows.html

As a Greek Catholic (Orthodox in communion with Rome) I will happily read him.

Ivanmijeime said...

" 'REREAD'! One thinks of the controlled abuse of language described in George Orwell's 1984, and exemplified in totalitarian societies. The fact that we can turn to an honest Trotskyite reacting against Stalinism for an analysis of how language is now manipulated within the Catholic Church just about, as the phrase has it, says it all."

Regarding this let me quote this sentence from Pope Pius XII:
"The day the Church abandons Her universal tongue will be the day before She returns to the Catecombs."

Simple Simon said...

Father, What do non PF Bishops gain from remaining members of Bishops Conferences dominated by all the Pope's men? Should they all not do the decent and required thing, quit and speak out for the truth? Priests incardinated into a diocese might find it difficult to gain excardination, but surely Bishops are not incarcerated with regard to conferences?

Lepanto said...

A way must be found to permit the western European, American (north and south) bishops to do what they think fit and the bishops in Africa, Eastern Europe etc. to do likewise but only until the latter 'catch up' by means of selective episcopal appointments and the passage of time. It's called 'leading from the front' and the 'progressive' nations' bishops are to be the 'leaders' in this march forward to constructive dialogue with the world (or more accurately, caving in to current secular moral values). God help us all!

Nicolas Bellord said...

a first draft ? Surely the opening salvo was paragraph 3 of Amoris Laetitia:

3. Since “time is greater than space”, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For “cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated,
if it is to be respected and applied”.

John Patrick said...

I guess we'd better go back and "reread" Genesis and keep f\doing it until we realize Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for the reasons we think, but because they wouldn't recycle their used pottery vessels. I can think of a few other passages that need rereading, including many of Paul's Epistles.

If we are truly to become the Anglican Communion only with crappier music, I may have to rethink my decision to swim the Tiber 19 years ago.

the Savage said...

A serious question, Father. Ontologically, I agree that the Universal Church, united around the successor of Peter, must precede the Particular Church, united around the local Bishop. But it seems unnatural and unhistorical to deny any reality to ecclesial existence between the level of the local and universal church. After all, episcopal conferences may have only a recent and utilitarian existence, but there have long been ecclesiastical provinces, with suffragan sees gathered around a metropolitan see, and there is a long tradition of local or regional councils - some historically quite important (Council of Orange, Council of Carthage, various Councils of Toledo, Synod of Whitby, etc.) - which have defined on doctrinal matters later confirmed (or sometimes rejected) by the universal church. The Orthodox Church has its traditional of autocephalous churches - national churches which appoint their own heads, no subject to a higher authority or patriarch. Then there are liturgical rites and uses, often along national lines, which have distinct liturgical practices, but often distinct theological emphases as well. Benedict was obviously quite right to point out that an episcopal conference cannot define doctrine by majority vote, and that the individual bishop is still in charge of doctrine in his own diocese, with right of appeal directly to Rome. But I think there is a danger in the opposite extreme of denying any reality to local or national churches.