Recently Card. Marx and the German Bishops conference flexed their muscles a bit and suggested that they should have oversight of doctrine (rather than Rome) and that they were pretty much not subordinated to Rome.
I have now read an interview which Card. Müller gave to Famille Chrétienne. He said that to delegate certain doctrinal or disciplinary decisions on matrimony or the family “is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea”.
I have to agree. It has been kicked around in the discussion of restructuring the Roman Curia that perhaps doctrinal oversight could be devolved to regional bishops conferences. That is the liberal’s Shangri-la, the progressivist’s Eldorado, the dissenter’s nirvana. It would also be, of course, total disaster.
Were such a thing approved, I believe I might simply withdraw to a cave to finish out my natural span in prayer and penance.
Regional conferences do not constitute some kind of parallel or equal body alongside the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has it’s mandate from and in the name of the Successor of Peter. The Roman Pontiff delegates his own authority to his Congregations in matters that concern them.
In a nutshell, conferences of bishops do not exercise teaching authority as the whole body of bishops does. Individual bishops do (when they are in unity with Roman Pontiff), but conferences don’t. Conferences must submit their doctrinal declarations to the Holy See for a recognitio (approval). But then the doctrinal statement is authoritative not by authority of the conference but because the Holy See has backed it up. Conferences don’t have their own doctrinal authority. They “borrow” it. And, again, individual diocesan bishops are not subjected to the regional conference. They have their own authority in their dioceses by virtue of their belonging to the college of bishops, as successors of the Apostles. Conferences can’t command them to do X or Y. They can agree to follow what the conference as a body decides. In general, that’s what happens: they act in solidarity.