Professor Douglas Kmiec is a supposedly "Catholic" advisor to presidential candidate Barack Obama. In response he said he doubts the bishop intended to separate himself from the larger church.
Anyone who would assert that the bishop's words are separating or schismatic, simply because he voices disgust with the USCCB, is someone who has no concept whatsoever of how things work in the Roman Catholic Church. Such is the case with many liberal Catholics and most of the mainstream press. They have no concept of how things work because they fail to understand that the USCCB is not an authoritative Catholic body. In fact, it has no authority whatsoever. It cannot pass edicts of it's own accord. It cannot discipline bishops, priest or laity. It has no way or enforcing what it legislates, and in fact, it has no official standing within the Roman Catholic hierarchy at all. The USCCB is largely a coordinating body, which serves the purpose of allowing bishops to work together in consort so there can be consistency with how things are run in Catholic diocese throughout the United States. They operate much like an official legislative body, except every piece of legislation they pass must be approved by the pope before it can go into effect. The pope has been known to reject legislative acts by the USCCB, and has even demanded that they pass certain legislative norms he proposes to them. He's also been known to reject certain legislation, over and over again, until they change it into what he wants. The USCCB has no overriding power to the pope's veto. In effect, the pope is the real power, and the USCCB serves completely at his discretion. He could even dissolve the body if he ever wants to.
The Roman Catholic hierarchy works like this. It's very simple really. First you have the laity, who are supposed to be obedient to their pastors, which are called presbyters or "priests." Laity must also heed the teachings of a deacon, when a deacon has been granted teaching faculties by the bishop. Second, the presbyters and deacons serve the bishop and must be obedient to him. Third, the bishop serves the pope and must be obedient to him. That's it folks. That's the whole authority chain within the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
But you ask; what about archbishops and cardinals? An archbishop is simply a bishop who has been given authority over a fairly large diocese. In rank he is no different than a bishop, except the amount of Catholics under his authority is much larger. He may have other bishops who help him within his diocese, but he is the chief pastor of that diocese. It is customary for bishops in surrounding diocese to follow the lead of archbishops, but they are not obligated to do so. All bishops respond directly to the pope, and are ultimately responsible to the pope alone. A cardinal on the other hand, is merely a bishop who has been given special standing with Rome in the sense that he is close to the pope, can potentially be elected pope, and has the power to elect a pope. Archbishops and cardinals again set the tone for other bishops in other diocese, but they have no direct authority over them. The only bishop who has authority over the other bishops is the Bishop of Rome - the pope.
You will notice the USCCB doesn't fall into this authority structure anywhere. That's because it is not an official authority within the Roman Catholic Church. It is simply a coordinating body the U.S. bishops created to help them work together in consistency. Without the approval of the pope, the USCCB is nothing. Here's the real kicker. Even when the USCCB passes some type of legislation, and the pope actually approves it, an individual bishop is still not obligated to abide by it. He can "opt out" if he wants to, and his actions are perfectly legitimate, so long as he's still obedient to the pope in Rome.
Bishop Martino has successfully expressed a frustration many Catholic Americans have recently felt toward the USCCB. From funding of radical leftist organizations like ACORN (read more here), to it's handling of the 2002 sex-abuse scandal, to failing to adopt the pope's liturgical reforms, to dragging their feet on seemingly every issue of major importance, to watered-down political statements that confuse the pro-life priority of the Vatican; the USCCB is increasingly becoming a "liberal" body that no longer represents authentic Roman Catholicism. In short, Bishop Martino is right, and I really can't blame him for saying "the USCCB doesn't speak for me." The truth is, the USCCB usually doesn't speak for a lot of bishops, priests or laity. As for me, my loyalty lies with Rome - specifically the pope - and whenever forced to choose between the USCCB and Rome on any particular issue, I'll side with Rome every time. That's how it should be with all practicing Catholics. 'The Catholic Knight' applauds Bishop Martino for his pastoral courage. May God bless him...
(Standard Speaker) - Local and national Catholics reacted Tuesday to statements by Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph F. Martino apparently discounting teachings of the national body of bishops during a political forum at a Honesdale Roman Catholic Church this weekend.
Martino arrived unannounced in the midst of a panel discussion on faith issues and the presidential campaign at St. John’s Catholic Church on Sunday. According to people who attended the event, the bishop chastised the group for holding the forum and particularly took issue with the discussion and distribution of excerpts from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ position on voting issues. The document defines abortion and euthanasia, as well as racism, torture and genocide, as among the most important issues for Catholic voters to consider.
“No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese,” he was quoted as saying in the Wayne County Independent, a Honesdale-based newspaper. “The USCCB doesn’t speak for me....
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