Is this the face of collegiality?

Via Protect the Pope comes news that an apparatchik of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has written to Catholic peers and MPs to assure them that there are no plans to do anything that might in anyway show support for Bishop Egan of Portsmouth’s re-affirmation of consistent Church teaching, expressed in Canon 915, that those who persist in manifestly grave sin must be denied Holy Communion. Politicians who ignore Church teaching and use their parliamentary office to push through legislation contrary to Church teaching fall under this canon. As Bishop Egan made clear, denial of Communion is not only an act of justice, but of mercy, that being denied the highest privilege of a Catholic they might come to their senses and repent.

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Now if Greg Pope, the Head of Parliamentary Relations at the Bishops’ Conference, has actually written with the knowledge and approval of the Conference, then the Conference has hung one of its own out to dry. Is this how collegiality is to be practised – subverting one of their own who has enough courage to stand up to politicians’ time-serving and reiterate solemn Church teaching? If so, there is no better argument against the novel doctrine of collegiality. Far better to go back to the situation of the previous 1900-odd years, and let a bishop shepherd his diocese without hindrance, subject only to the Sovereign Pontiff and the occasional Council. Then the bishop could concern himself with toeing the Universal Church’s line rather than that of a conference all too often desperate to appease the secular establishment.

Perhaps that is the greatest weakness of bishops’ conferences: that they foster national churches with an identity too distinct from that of the Universal Church. History is replete with examples of how such nationalized Churches have acquiesced to the demands of their local governments and sold out the teachings of the Church. The Orthodox churches today are fitting reminders of the inherent weakness of nationalized churches. An even better example is the Anglican communion, founded on the craven submission of English bishops to the murderous and adulterous desires of Henry VIII. Do we want to go that route?!

Under Henry VIII there was a least one bishop who stood for the right, St John Fisher. He, too, was abandoned by his episcopal brethren, and eventually lost his life.  If Mr Pope (the bitter irony of that name!) has indeed acted for the Bishops’ Conference, then it appears we might have another John Fisher today, though we pray that Bishop Egan will not lose his life for it.

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Of course Mr Pope has a vested interest: in his previous role as a Labour Member of Parliament, he voted consistently against Church teaching in matters such as abortion, adoption and contraception. Yet he has been able to hold two jobs for the bishops’ conference. What teaching does this give the faithful I wonder?

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20 thoughts on “Is this the face of collegiality?

  1. revivepress says:

    Not really an open question…..inevitable after Lumen Gentium

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  2. Adam says:

    Quite telling that Germany, where all the great modern heresies and bad practises have come from (well okay, most of them), is also the place where the first bishops conference was established (1871/2)

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  3. mancunius says:

    This seems to me a most shocking announcement. Conor Burns MP, who lives within the Diocese of Portsmouth, and who had voted for homosexual marriage, is currently in conflict with Bishop Egan who has threatened to refuse him Communion. So the Bishop’s Conference is cravenly siding with a rebellious legislator against one of its own bishops.
    I hope Bishop Egan will remain firm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Hugh says:

      We can be quietly confident that Bishop Egan will remain firm. He will have a supporter or two among the bishops, and some may be emboldened by seeing a brother bishop making a stand. Now, if we were to have 3 or 4 bishops coming out making such a stand things could get very interesting, and inspiring!

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  4. The major problems with collegiality as I see them are that it disempowers a bishop in his own Diocese by all-but forcing individual bishops to go with the flow for the sake of presenting a united front; it gives a false sense of a Church in any one nation of being “the Church”, and it allows Conferences of Bishops to make statements not entirely consistent with one another or with Rome. I’m sure we could add more, but this is enough to be going on with!
    Re the Greg Pope statement: Collaboration with the laity is a good thing if it empowers the laity in their proper vocation of sanctifying the world while facilitating the shepherds being shepherds. Too often it strays close to (if not becoming) a case of laity forcing the hand of the clergy. It should not get to the point where the sheep are directing the shepherds, which in fact destroys the role of the shepherd.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Indeed! It seems a basic phenomenon that local bonds of allegiance are often stronger than distant ones. So if a bishop is confronted with conforming to his fellow local bishops over and against conforming with the Pope, then the forces working for local conformity will have the stronger effect. This is reversed of course when one is a pariah in the local order; then the more distant bonds gain strength. Thus when Catholics were an embattled minority in countries like the US or Australia, the links with Rome were all the stronger. I am simplifying things of course.

      The problem with Mr Pope and the Catholic parliamentarians voting contrary to their faith is that they are most certainly not sanctifying the world, but desanctifying it – and themselves. The danger in any sort of governing role is that the demands on one’s integrity are the greater. From those to whom much has been entrusted, much will be demanded. With power comes responsibility, and fitting in with the secular world is going to be a thin defence on Judgment Day.

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  5. Phil says:

    You seem to have forgotten a couple of important points: (i) MPs are appointed to represent the interests of their constituents, not those of the Catholic Church, and (ii) the church would lose its charitable status if it persisted in this sort of political bullying.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      I guess it is a matter of perspective.

      Yes, MPs are supposedly elected to represent their constituents. So what? If a majority of an MP’s constituents wanted to legalize paedophilia, should s/he vote accordingly? MPs represent their constituents but they are not their stooges nor their puppets. Being elected to public office does not mean MPs must surrender their private, personal integrity nor that they leave their morals at home and submit themselves unquestioningly to the cause of those who shout the loudest.

      But let’s not kid ourselves. The majority of MPs serve their constituents’ interests only when they coincide with their own interests. Most MPs represent their parties first, and answer first to the whips.

      Moreover, if a Catholic finds s/he cannot serve as a MP without contradicting his/her faith then s/he should get out of Parliament. Or even better, take the demands of public office and religious faith seriously and make a stand for what is right no matter the cost to his/her electoral prospects. Alas, not many will ever do that. There are very few willing martyrs in any parliament.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Apparently that is not the case as verified by my MP when I lobbied him on the SSM legislation. We live in a “Liberal Democracy” not a “Representative Democracy” and hence there is absolutely no obligation for an MP to represent the interests or opinions of their constituents at all. If the constituents don’t like it they can boot him out at the next General Election.

      I notice you have been posting these misdirections on a number of blogs, Phil, but however many times you do it, you are still in error.

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      • Phil says:

        An MP can represent his or her constituents without agreeing to their every demand. This is necessarily the case; surely you can understand that?

        You’re mistaken about the other blogs, by the way. The last time I commented on this issue was right here, over a year ago.

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      • Fr Hugh says:

        Of course they can. But you have missed the point.

        But let’s run with yours. The question arises as to how they judge which constituent demands to support. Is it by reference to party policy? If so, then it only supports my point that MPs serve their party first, not their constituents.

        Or is it by private judgement/conscience? If so, then you can hardly object to Christian MPs voting according to the religious beliefs they hold in good conscience! If the constituents don’t like it they can get their revenge at the next election.

        You cannot have it both ways Phil.

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  6. mancunius says:

    “The majority of MPs serve their constituents’ interests only when they coincide with their own interests.”
    That is absolutely bang on, Father. The legislation for gay marriage was carried through by ignoring public opinion, not by consulting it. No manifesto, no pre-election (or even post-election) announcement. One dubious and ambiguously-worded left-wing mass poll with a sample of 1000 was used by opportunistic politicians secretly enforcing a party whip to upturn the accepted basis of marriage in this and every other European country.
    Mr Burns and the rest should hang their heads in shame – not merely for being bad Catholics, but for flouting parliamentary democracy to force through their personal agendas.

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  7. One small correction on the statement: “Yet he has been able to hold two jobs for the bishops’ conference.” That should be the present tense. According to the CBCEW website he currently holds two jobs at the same time: Deputy Director of the CES AND Head of Parliamentary Relations. Why is our money being wasted on the salaries of this person of doubtful Catholicity?

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  8. mancunius says:

    The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar has some very trenchant remarks about misunderstandings ensuing in the wake of Lumen Gentium, concerning the Communio Hierarchica and ‘national structures’, in his little book “Prüfet alles – das Gute behalten” 1986):-
    ‘Nationalism erects barriers in the world as well as in the Church, dividing nations, cultures and races…Viewed from such a perspective [of 'national bishop's conferences' - he mentions Germany in particular] one cannot help but conclude that the Catholic Church consists of the sum total of national churches, and hence is not supranational but international.’ [My italics]
    ‘This nationalism seems to be on the increase, and should not be confused with the conciliar term “local churches”.’
    Von Balthasar also refers to ‘the distortion of the Council’s concept “people” into “democracy”: that would result in the loss of ecclesiastical obedience, which has christological roots…as a result, any pastoral guidance in the Catholic sense becomes impossible, for its end is no longer the “body” and “bride” of Christ, but a church-people [Kirchenvolk] which feels and acts in democratic fashion.’

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  9. mancunius says:

    PS – sorry, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice italics should have stopped short of the [My italics] rubric :-)

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