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Saturday, 3 May 2014

Can someone explain why we have Bishops Conferences?

I have been very disturbed lately about the situation of the good Bishop Egan and the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW). It really makes me wonder what their function is.
The situation concerns Catholic politicians who vote for laws contrary to Catholic teaching - in this case, the law of same-sex marriage (SSM).

The case of Bishop Egan was reported in the Daily Telegraph. The bishop publicly said that Catholic politicians who voted for SSM should not present themselves for Holy Communion, as their voting against church teaching is a grave sin, and until they repent and go to confession about voting this way, they must not receive Holy Communion. The church is very clear about this. Anyone in a state of mortal sin cannot receive Holy Communion until they have repented and received absolution. Bishop Egan was only repeating what St John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Cardinal Burke have always taught - which is official church teaching. Bishop Egan is quite right. He is doing what every bishop should do. He is witnessing to the Truths of the Catholic Faith. That is the role of bishops!

Sadly, one of his Catholic politicians took offence at this and complained to the powers in Eccleston Square (where Cardinal Nichols resides). The bishops decided to have a little meeting about this poor politician - as they do. The outcome was relayed by Mgr Marcus Stock. He said that the bishops conference had decided that Catholic politicians who voted for SSM can of course receive Holy Communion. Now quite frankly - this is disturbing and flies in the face of that good bishop Egan. The bishops conference has over ruled one of its bishops. This is dreadful actually. It says no bishop has any authority over his own diocese anymore. This is wrong. The Church is NOT a democracy but the Bishop's Conference has democratised it - very bad.

Of course, publications like The Tablet applauded the decision of the CBCEW. The Tablet calls itself Catholic but it should be stripped of this title. It is no more Catholic than the Anglican Church Times. And yet - dear reader - The Tablet is sold by the shed load in Westminster Cathedral - the most senior Catholic church in England. 

Yes I have written to Cardinal Nichols about this - I never get a response.
I also wrote to Bishop Egan with my support and he replied soon after. He also asked for prayers. 

Sorry folks, but this is a lamentable situation.

Ban the Bishop's conferences and let the bishops have jurisdiction over their own dioceses!

Any comments gratefully received.


  1. Yes it is shameful.
    Thank you for highlighting it.

  2. I quite agree: the Conference is a significant problem, impeding Bishops in their role as spiritual head of their diocese. The collective decisions are frequently far worse than those of individual bishops.

  3. I had similar thoughts a couple of years ago, which (in order) are here ,here ,here, and here.

  4. I think if you want some answers to the general problems of the CBCEW then this is the best place to begin.

    This article highlights what happened at the National Pastoral Congress of 1980. This was the event where Vatican II was effectively misinterpreted in terms of the problems of the UK.

    I would say one thing. All this liberal dissent business if dreadful, but don't let it get under your skin. There are signs of positive change, but it is slow.

    I do not know whether you attend the Latin Mass, but after fighting this nonsense (even in my own parish) this was the only place where I found any peace. At least you know that everyone around you believes in the Magisterium at the Latin Mass, and there are no liberals in sight.

    I hope all is well,


    1. Thank you Tony
      We used to have a Latin Mass every day when Fr Thwaites was alive. Sadly nothing in my deanery and I have asked but nothing happens. My husband is not Catholic so I can't swan off for hours on a Sunday finding an EF mass. I no longer go to my parish on Sunday as I go to an Ordinariate parish where the priest is completely orthodox

  5. Totally agree, I could never fathom the reason for the Bishops conference as you say Catholicism is not a democracy. It seems to be the face of the "church of nice" where feelings must never be hurt.

  6. The idea of a 'Bishops' Conference' per se is not a bad one (and Cardinal Nichols doesn't literally reside in Eccleston Square!). However, the combination of what Damian Thompson and others call 'the Magic Circle' (referring to the ideological strait-jacket of the 'spirit of Vatican II' generation) and the distinctly unsubtle PR machine that our Bishops' Conference wheels out, is peculiarly depressing. Thank God this does not reflect the attitudes of ordinary Catholics, who are surprisingly good at 'filtering out the dross'. If only by resolutely reciting the Rosary through it all...

  7. The contrast between this, and the closing down of 'Protect the Pope', is the sort of thing which makes some people wonder about what is going on. It may be unfair to link them, but that is what people do, and there seems little sign that heterodoxy is frowned upon. Joe Shaw has had some good comments to make here. Excellent blog, by the way.

  8. There were always meetings of the Hierarchy, but every bishop returned to his diocese and was the bishop there and not just as one member of The Group. Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue lamented - after many years serving as a member - the deleterious effects of the Bishops' Conferences, I think in his book Fit for Mission (maybe another). He said that decisions were made at the lowest common denominator and bishops were obliged to follow the collegial decision. Didn't Vatican II invent Collegiality and isn't it one of its undefined "dogmas" ?


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