The Limits of the Competance of Bishops (and of the Authority of the Universal Church)

So the news is in that “That Petition” did receive attention at the recent meeting of the Bishops’ Conference. And we have a formal response, which can be viewed in facsimile on the Catholica Australia website here.

The significant clause is at the very end (as it often is in communications of this nature), namely that “those aspects of Church life that are within our competancy as a Conference of Bishops in the Universal Church” will continue to be discussed at future plenary meetings.

Catholica reports that

Dr Collins said that “from the outset the organisers appreciated that the issues the petition was asking the bishops to discuss were not all necessarily within the competency of the Bishops’ Conference to make decisions about. Nevertheless,” he said, “we believed it might be within the competency of the bishops either collectively or individually to convey their opinions on some of these issues to the authorities in the institutional Church which do have the competency to take the matters further”.

We believe that Dr Collins has missed something here. It is not the Bishops only who are limited in their “competance” to take some of the actions for which the Petition calls, but the Universal Church (what Dr Collins calls “the insitutional Church”) is also limited. It is repeated so often that you think Dr Collins would have it by heart now:

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” Pope John Paul II.


(A penny for your thoughts, Archbishop Wilson…)

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