jump to navigation

Do national conferences foster unity? February 3, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in General Catholic.
comments closed

Everyone knows that here in the US, we have a national conference of Bishops, the USCCB.  There are similar conferences in Mexico, Canada, Brazil, France…….pretty much in any large and even not so large country.  That these conferences have been controversial at times I think is beyond question

But here’s another question – are these conferences good for Catholic unity?  Here’s what I mean – the USCCB has priorities and agendas.  The Canadian conference has it’s priorities and agendas.  Similarly in France, Britain, Australia…….What if these priorities don’t always line up?  I’m not talking about on a surface level, but on a deep, substantive level.  Could we not see the emergence of ‘national’ Catholic Churches as a result of these conferences?   Could these conferences not begin to have different emphases, different interpretations of ecclesial and/or liturgical issues, and begin to drift, ever so subtly, apart?  Yes, Rome remains supreme and the national conferences are limited, but I think the risk remains. 

National conferences are a relatively recent development in Catholic history.  While there would be conclaves of Bishops in England and France and other countries in the past, they were rare, and had no official structure of bureaucracy – nothing on the scale of what the USCCB and other national conferences now possess.   These conferences have become entities in their own right.   The trouble with bureaucracies, all bureaucracies, no matter how well founded or managed, is that eventually, they all begin to have their own agendas.  The USCCB bureaucracy is showing signs of having grown so large that it is becoming outside the effective control of the Bishops – another potential source of divergence from other conferences and Rome. 

I have to wonder if these national conferences haven’t outlived their original purpose, and if they aren’t becoming entities unto themselves.  I think it would be wise to have a serious discussion within the Church about the reasons for the conferences and whether they are truly of benefit to the Church at large.