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Bishops and The Conference

For far longer than I’ve been a Catholic there has been an to-and-fro of just how Bishops, and in particular Bishops in this country, relate to the Bishops’ Conference – to what extent are they bound by the decisions and documents of the Conference, to what extent does collegiality demand deference, when and how ought they to exercise their own pastoral judgment along side or even in contradiction to that Conference and so on.  One side would suggest that collegiality and modern sensibilities dictate a significant deference to anything agreed upon by the Conference;  the other would suggest a minimalization of the impact of the Conference  in any Diocese, indeed some even call for the disbanding of the USCCB all together.  Pope Benedict’s reflections while still a Cardinal on the fact that Episcopal Conferences have no theological basis have helped to clear the lines of this skirmish some.  Yet, as seemingly always, conflict remains, and it seems seldom entered by those who are ultimately impacted by the issue – the Bishops themselves.

Recently Bishop Robert Vasa, the ordinary of the Diocese of Baker, offered a talk on this very topic and one that was sure not to please everyone on either side.  He simultaneously reminds us of the facts then-Cardinal Ratzinger first offered and yet says they are “nearly essential”.  While I would not be the first to quibble with the use of the word “essential” I cannot help but recognize he has struck the place where truth so often is found – in medio stat virtus.  I heartily recommend reading the entire article – his insights are as invaluable as his honesty is refreshing.

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