Of “schism” and the abolition of the USCCB

A couple of reading assignments for this morning.

Check out Ross Douthat on the Left’s “schism” hysteria.  HERE

Also, at Crisis there is a piece which suggests the abolition of the USCCB.  HERE

This passage summed up a lot of what I think about bishops:

Generating activity is the bread and butter of any bureaucracy. The further the bishops drift away from their spiritual goals towards worldly affairs, the more control these staffers can exercise.

The professional mode is hard to resist. The USCCB’s biannual meetings in posh hotel venues (with bare-bones Masses that demonstrate the priorities of the participants) display the vacuity of the proceedings, with no man daring to break ranks over the decisions—which run the gamut of banal to destructive—of others.

At their last convocation in Baltimore, in the wake of revelations of episcopal cover-ups, one bishop stood up to offer a timorous semblance of rebuke to his confreres when one of their endless statements proved too much for him. “No mention of Jesus,” he half-whispered. Resorting to mild sarcasm—the room seemed to get uncomfortable—he weakly offered his opinion that “it might be a good idea.”

The ghost of Bernardin haunts us to this day.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. WmHesch says:

    Let’s stop attacking the USCCB for holding their meetings at “posh hotels”… from a practical standpoint, these are the only hotels that have the conference facilities for such events. Having them live and work in the same building also makes sense from a security standpoint… you can’t expect them to meet at a Days Inn (which doesn’t have such facilities) or at a Catholic university (which would involve them moving en masse between buildings)

  2. Kevin says:

    When only 30% of Catholics believe in the Real Presence….seems to me the priorities of the USCCB over the past 50+ years have not been in the right place.

  3. Philmont237 says:

    I actually think that it took Bishop Baker of Birmingham, Alabama great courage to mention that Jesus had not been mentioned. It’s hard for a bishop from a less-prestigious diocese (not even an archdiocese) to stand up for Christ even a little bit during these meetings like His Excellency, Bishop Baker, did.

  4. Any organization that gives bishops an excuse not to bish needs to take its rightful place on the ash heap of history.

  5. Lurker 59 says:

    Is it not fascinating how during the Middle Ages, the bishops of the Church tended to function as feudal lords and now during the modern period they function as middle management who occasionally gather for regional meetings where there is much blathering and harrumphing but little action as they hold no real power?

    The USCCB should be eliminated for many reasons but largely because it hamstrings bishops from fulfilling their mandate to teach as the apparatus of the organization ties the bishops up in bueurocracy and guidelines instead of functioning as a tool to support the initiatives of each individual bishop. You can see this in local parishes as well, where the staffers and functionaries are largely running the show rather than those that are supposed to be in charge.

    It is a real problem.


    In terms of schism, I must respectively disagree with Mr. Douthat’s article. Pope Francis’ “ambiguity”, which it is not ambiguity but rather Peorinism, doesn’t keep everyone inside of a big tent but rather, by eschewing his responsibility to hand on decisively the Deposit of Faith, it invites the formation of factions and the growth of fissures, which the Peorinist uses to further his own agenda. You also windup with everyone mad at you and groups trying to manipulate you to their ends.

  6. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

    Surely your attitude toward the USCCB is one reason your prediction continues to come true, year after year, that you’re not going to be made a Monsignor in the new year?

  7. Since the first operative purpose for any bureaucracy is to perpetuate its existence, either through coercion or money (frequently in the same breath…CCHD/etc as an example), the second purpose is to isolate members from the effects of its decisions…the Conference is a case study in what happens when an unneeded organization has to justify its own existence.

    I’d prefer to see Fr. Z listed on the next terna to take over a major See such as Chicago, NY, DC, or LA, and skip the Monsignor bit. THAT would be something to see as the good Father assumed the chair to the sounds of the Imperial March from Star Wars…;)

  8. Hidden One says:

    The quality of a bishop’s conference depends wholly on the quality of the people in it, principally the quality of the bishops.

    The bishops of the USA do, in fact, collectively have more power to affect the activities of the episcopal conference than do the non-bishop staff members.

    I think that most complaints about the USCCB are really complaints about the American episcopate, even when those making them are not conscious of this.

  9. LeeGilbert says:

    We just finished reading the biography and then the autobiography of St. Anthony Mary Claret. In a way it is both scary and heartbreaking, because he demonstrated what is possible for a bishop, and there is no one comparable in our time that I know of.

    For example, on a pastoral visit to Madrid where he felt that all the convents were disorderly, he had a priest go before him to get the nuns at the next convent assembled so that he could walk right in, deliver the sermon and immediately go on to the next convent. He refused all along to make use of his privilege, which all bishops have, of entering the cloister to visit with the nuns, since he did not want to waste his time in idle chatter. When he arrived at the next town, he would be given a box of printed materials which he had written and which he had ordered printed up, and he would pass these out or have them passed out as he went from place to place. He was endlessly preaching at convents, at seminaries, in missions, to pious associations, in churches. To bed at ten, up at three or earlier if he could not sleep, then praying, writing . . .incessant, unending apostolic labor. It makes one think that our Lord was not being hyperbolic he commanded us to love Him with our whole heart, and our whole mind and with all our strength, for surely this exemplary bishop did exactly that.

    If only our Lord would have mercy on us and raise up men like that to be our bishops!

  10. JTH says:

    Are bishops required to adhere to USCCB standards, positions on various topics, donations from diocese coffers, etc.?

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    Good points by Lurker59. Characterizing Francis’ pontificate as “ambiguous” is a fundamental error by Douthat.

    Speaking of error, the USCCB should disband and the bishops should return to being bishops. Solid proposal by Leila Marie Lawler.

  12. Semper Gumby says:

    It was probably Fr. Neuhaus who said, “The USCCB is the Democrat Party at prayer.”

    Kevin: Good point.

  13. sendero says:

    WmHesch; A catholic conference with priests and laity meet in a Holiday Inn combined conference rooms in Ohio annually. Why do bishops deserve differently? Are they not against the second amendment? Are they not advocates for welcoming the unwelcomed. Posh-ness and phyiscal security are not pre-conditions to meet to discuss matters of faith, yet they are pre-conditions for the elite of the hierarchy to show up.

  14. hwriggles4 says:

    When articles like this come to mind, I am reminded of Mother Angelica who started a radio station with $200, a garage, and a prayer. I believe that the USCCB had a multi million dollar budget for communications. Who was more effective in evangelization and catechesis?

    What was that line … keep us between your gas bill and electric bill.

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If the USCCB wanted to have a beautiful Mass at a nearby church, I’m sure they could manage.

    If the USCCB wanted to set up a beautiful setting for a ballroom/conference room Mass, I’m sure they could also manage. Heck, they could reuse the same portable decorations every year.

    The conclusion is that the majority don’t care enough to send the very best, and their USCCB subordinates don’t, either.

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Suburbanbanshee, hwriggles4, sendero: Good points.

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