One of my commenters on the “At the end of the day…” thread wrote…

If the bishop is the final word on governance in his diocese, then he can openly defy the Pope in matters of governance. Which is false. This discussion is sounding like an apologia for dissident ecclesiastics like Archbishop Hunthausen. The last authority in the diocese, yes. The last authority in the Universal Church, no.

No. If the bishop is the final word in his diocese, he is the final word in his diocese, not in the universal Church. How you get a defense of Hunthausen out of that is beyond me. The final authority in the universal Church is, as you say, the Holy Father. But the Holy Father (at least this one) obviously does not conceive of his role in the same way that Hildebrand or Innocent III did. And that’s the problem again for those who want him to kick ecclesial ass. He disagrees and refuses–not neglects, refuses–to do so.

So again, we are faced with the fact that, judging from the Pope’s actions, the local bishop is to be confirmed in his ordinary role as the final word in his diocese. That’s a hard saying and people are still grappling with it. But it looks like this is the reiterated teaching of Vatican II, now being confirmed by the Pope in his actions. As I’ve said all along, it appears to me that the Pope is trusting in the grace of the office to penetrate the thick skulls and hard hearts of some of our bishops. Dunno if it will work. But it appears that this is what the Pope is banking on. That, and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. As JPII has made clear, the Church of Mary precedes and makes possible the Church of Peter. We don’t take that seriously. But JPII does and we won’t understand his actions if we don’t come to realize he really believes this and is acting accordingly.


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