TO LIGHT A FIRE! No.41-080303
The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are more organized, often with burdensome structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have NO THEOLOGICAL BASIS; they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function.
The new Code of Canon Law… prescribes the extent of the authority of (such) conferences, which cannot validly act “in the name of all the bishops unless each and every bishop has given his consent, (except if) it concerns cases in which the common law prescribes it or a special mandate of the Apostolic See…. determines it” (CIC, Canon 455, 4 and 1). Thus no episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission; its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops.
…… It happens that with some bishops there is a certain lack of a sense of individual responsibility, and the delegation of his inalienable powers as shepherd and teacher to the structures of the local conference leads to letting what should remain very personal, lapse into anonymity…. It happens then that the search for agreement between the different tendencies and the effort at mediation often yield flattened documents in which decisive positions (where they might be necessary) are weakened…. Well, the really powerful documents against National Socialism (Hitler’s Nazism) were those that came from individual courageous bishops. The documents of the (German Bishops) Conference, on the contrary, were often rather wan and too weak with respect to what the tragedy called for.
Besides, it is obvious that truth cannot be created through ballots. A statement is either true or false. Truth can only be found, not created. Contrary to a widespread conception, the classic procedure of ecumenical councils did not deviate from this fundamental rule. At these councils only statements that were accepted with a moral unanimity could become binding. This does NOT at all mean that these unanimously accepted conclusions, at least, could produce truth. If anything, the unanimity of such a large number of bishops…. is a sign that they are speaking, NOT of what they have themselves “invented”, but only of what they have “found”…
If one is clear on this point, there is not further need to demonstrate why an episcopal conference, which moreover represents a much more limited circle than a council, CANNOT
Thus, in many episcopal conferences, the group spirit and perhaps even the wish for a quiet, peaceful life or conformism lead the majority to accept the positions of active minorities bent upon pursuing clear goals….
….. It seems very nice always to decide together. This way however, entails the risk of losing the “scandal” and the “folly” of the Gospel, that “salt” and that “leaven” that today are more indispensable than ever for a Christian (above all when he is a bishop, hence invested with precise responsibility for the faithful) in the face of the gravity of the crisis.
(End of Quotation with emphasis added)
Truth to tell I have intuitively agreed 100% with the substance of the above quoted statements even before I discovered their provenance a few weeks ago. And so before I reveal the “AUTHORITY” behind those statements, let me first independently explain why the particular case of those 50 some bishops who supposedly unanimously approved the latest CBCP Pastoral Statement entitled “Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity”, is a clear example of what that “AUTHORITY” referred to as the risks entailed when episcopal conferences issue statements that may lead to the loss of the Gospel’s indispensable salt and leaven for us Christians.
Thus the latest CBCP statement purportedly issued in the midst of “restlessness and confusion” whereby we are faced in their own words, with a “crisis of truth and the pervading cancer of corruption”, has actually led to even more “restlessness and confusion”; PLUS some corruption in the intellectual probity of those obviously pro-GMA partisans who would summarily reject any public citizens’ appeal for a gracious voluntary resignation by GMA, but would instead publicly thus scandalously seek the quick ouster of their own CBCP President for the latter’s contrary views about GMA.
The bare fact still remains however, that the main conclusion and recommendations of those fifty bishops are logically and MORALLY inconsistent with their own past and present officially stated factual premises!
For it is a fact that our people’s “restlessness and confusion” adverted to and admitted by the bishops themselves not just now but for the last three (3) years, were vis-à-vis the widespread and persistent accusations of “a crisis of truth and the pervading cancer of corruption” swirling around and centered on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her immediate family, Cabinet officers, military/police and political allies. In other words, these specific allegations and persistent accusations of lying, cheating, stealing and killing have always been directed against PGMA et al, and NOT against Philippine society as a whole, even if we as a victim people have also been in a real sense contributory and thus a significant part of the problem.
And so, the 50 bishops’ statement specifically and clearly adverted to “questions about the moral ascendancy of the present government”, which is headed by GMA and none other.
And yet, despite NOT having clearly resolved the personal culpability nor accountability of GMA vis-à-vis those accusations for such high crimes and betrayal of public trust by her and the government she heads, these bishops have already in fact given their vote of moral confidence to the accused PGMA et al, by selecting “the President” as the only explicitly named official “to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found”.
In fact, the ground-zero areas of corruption that have been explicitly mentioned in the bishops’ six recommendations and conclusions were practically all encompassing to include a) the “social and political ladder”; b) all branches of government (thus including the judiciary and the Supreme Court); c) appropriate investigating bodies particularly the Senate and the Ombudsman; and d) the media. Therefore these bishops must have found GMA the very principal accused herself, and NOT ANY of her accusers, to have the greatest moral ascendancy and credibility in “combating corruption” itself.
In retrospect, it must have been highly providential when for several days some 24 years ago, starting on 15 August 1984 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope John Paul the Great’s then Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave an in-depth interview on fundamental Church matters to the eminent writer and journalist Vittorio Messori. And a particular topic they tackled was that on “Bishops Conferences” such as the present CBCP.
Thus the exclusive author and authority behind the opening statements of this piece, quoted and presented in italics, is nobody else but Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger now Pope Benedict XVI! Those particular quoted sections are on pages 58 to 62 (“the problem of episcopal conferences”) of the Ratzinger Report, an exclusive interview with Vittorio Messori on the state of the Church as published by the Ignatius Press of San Francisco.