Each bishop is, in his or her diocese, a Vicar of Christ, not a Vicar of the Pope. A bishop has “the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for his or her subjects, to pass judgment on them and to regulate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate. See note 1 below. Also, for the good of the Church, the old tradition of the local community electing their own bishop should be re-introduced.A Bishops’ Conference is established when the bishops of a particular region or country come together to work out policies and strategies for the Church in their area. They should enjoy a high degree of autonomy. Their decisions should be affirmed and respected by the Pope and by other Bishops Conferences, provided those decisions do not cause harm to the universal Church. See note 2 below.
The national Bishops Conferences should elect delegates to the general assemblies of the Central Synod of Bishops. Considering the importance of the Synod, delegates should serve for a number of years to ensure continuity in the Church’s policy making.
AUTHORITY IN THEIR OWN RIGHT?
At present bishops do not enjoy authority in their own right as Vicars of Christ. First of all, every bishop is currently appointed by the Curia which selects its own candidates. Secondly, in even the smallest things a bishop depends on rules and regulations emanating from Rome. Thirdly, if a bishop protests, he is simply deposed without any form of due process.
The Curia keeps a stifling hold on local bishops conferences. Even local policies are dictated by Rome. Recent examples are the way Rome – originally – instructed bishops conferences not to refer cases of child abuse by priests to the police, and the way Rome imposed its own translation of liturgical texts on all the English-speaking bishops conferences.
Australian Bishop William
Morris, who publicly questioned the Church’s rejection of married priests
and women priests, tells of his summary dismissal. His story illustrates how the inherent rights of bishops are trampled upon.
NOTE 1. ” Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant. This power, which they personally exercise in Christ’s name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate.
The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs, for bishops exercise an authority that is proper to them, and are quite correctly called “prelates,” heads of the people whom they govern. Their power, therefore, is not destroyed by the supreme and universal power, but on the contrary it is affirmed, strengthened and vindicated by it, since the Holy Spirit unfailingly preserves the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church.” Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium § 27.
NOTE 2. “An episcopal conference is, as it were, a council in which the bishops of a given nation or territory jointly exercise their pastoral office to promote the greater good which the Church offers mankind, especially through the forms and methods of the apostolate fittingly adapted to the circumstances of the age.” Vatican Council II, Christus Dominus § 38,1.