Friday, October 04, 2013

LOCAL BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE

The Catholic Church – without the least claim of supremacy or the assumption of superiority – is now more than two thousand years old and counting. She is but one church yet universal in existence and having members from all races, colors, and tongues. After a long and tedious expert study on the matter of management – funded by a well-known industrial entity based in North America – the finding was conclusive that the Catholic Church is the best structured entity as well as the best managed institution in the world. This was the finding. Such was the conclusion.

This phenomenon should neither be a source of pride, much less a reason for contentment and presumption – especially among the member of the Church Hierarchy from the local, to the regional, up to the universal levels. Reason: "Ecclesia simper reformanda est" i.e., the Church should be undergoing a continuous renewal in order to give a proper tribute to her founder and to extend a better ministerial service to the people – Catholics, non-Catholics, anti-Catholics, all included.

On the occasion of the recent rather prolonged and inquisitive interview of Pope Francis, as expected, he was asked about the Church he is precisely in tenure of her universal leadership. The following is among other things he said: “The dicasteries of the Roman Curia are at the service of the pope and bishops… In some cases however, they are not functioning well... I think cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome.” (America, The National Catholic Review, September 30, 2013)

What are the "dicasteries"? The territorial center of the Catholic Church is known as the ‘’Vatican’’ – where the Pope has his residence – which is also a State. She has a total of fifty two (52) Offices. Among these are nine (9) Congregations, twelve (12) Councils and ten (10) Commissions. These are usually called “dicasteries” – one of which is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. What are those "cases"? The cases have relevance to orthodoxy, which are basically about authoritative and accept doctrinal matters and practices in the Church. What is a "local bishops’ conference"? This is the conference of bishops in a given nation, with their respective Constitution and by-laws. A concrete example is the "Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines" commonly known and called as “CBCP”.

The novel thinking of Pope Francis is that instead of sending to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican for their resolutions, all questions, issues and doubts about local doctrinal matters and practices, these could be left instead to the competence of the likewise local Bishops’ Conference to decide on. This would be a real and interesting novelty in the Universal Church. And this demonstrates the expanded and creative thinking of Pope Francis!