THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The problem with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is twofold. The first is that it sends conflicting messages and signals. The second is that it is really not a "governing" body in the Church at all.
Let's deal with the second problem first. The USCCB is a "conference" organised by the bishops of the United States under the terms outlined by Canon Law. Canon Law comes from Rome. So that should tell you something right there. The USCCB itself is subordinate to Canon Law. It cannot make canon law. It cannot change Canon Law. It cannot even define or interpret Canon Law. It's very existence is dependent entirely on Canon Law. As I said, Canon Law comes from Rome. So where is the real authority here? Obviously, it's Rome not the USCCB. That in and of itself should cause every U.S. Catholic to sit up straight. Yes, the USCCB exists, and yes, it does have some control of things, but it is ROME and ONLY IN ROME where the real authority resides. There is another thing every U.S. Catholic should know. Diocesan bishops are not required to follow the regulations of the USCCB. So for example, should a particular diocesan bishop vehemently object to a particular resolution passed by the USCCB, he is not required by Canon Law to implement that regulation in his diocese. He can ignore it. Or he can come out with his own policy that deals with the same issue in a different way. So let's examine the REAL authority structure here. Catholics are to be obedient to their local priests, insofar as that priest is in alignment with the policies of the local bishop. The priests are obedient to the bishop. The bishop is responsive to the metropolitan archbishop and the pope of Rome (including those administrative congregations working for him). That's it! That is the authority structure of the Catholic Church. You'll notice the USCCB is not in that chain. Hmmm.
So what is the USCCB and why does it exist at all? The USCCB is an organisational body that is designed to coordinate general rules of administration between dioceses. In other words, it is designed to help bishops coordinate things together, so that things are not run radically different from one diocese to the next within the United States. That means that U.S. Catholics can reasonably expect things to be run pretty much the same way when moving from one diocese to another within the United States. For example; if you live in the Diocese of Southern Missouri, as I do, and you happen to be visiting the Diocese of Charleston as I frequently do, you know the liturgy will be 100% identical, and none of the prayers or responses will have changed. You also know that whatever Scripture readings you were on last Sunday, will be continued next Sunday seamlessly, regardless of the fact that you are attending two parishes over a thousand miles apart. This is the reason why we have the USCCB, and so long as the USCCB sticks to matters dealing directly with the administration and function of the U.S. Catholic Church, it does a fairly good job -- most of the time. However, when the USCCB ventures out into areas such as third-party charities, or political matters, its message and mission gets a little fuzzy. That leads us to the other problem.
For some strange reason, beyond my ability to comprehend, the USCCB as seen fit to make comment on just about every political issue under the sun, even if it really has nothing to do with Church administration or the function of the U.S. Catholic Church in society. This has the result of sending mixed messages and is confusing to a lot of U.S. Catholics. For example, President Barack Obama, our illustrious emperor in Washington DC, has decided to rewrite U.S. immigration law by executive order. Almost immediately, the USCCB came out with an opinion statement supporting this decision and praising the president for making it. I must ask WHY? Since when is it the role of the USCCB to congratulate the president on a political decision (a tyrannical one at that) that really has nothing to do with Church administration or function???
This is what I'm talking about. The message the USCCB has just sent is not only confusing but contradicting to statements made by the popes...
Venerable John Paul II, on the occasion of this same Day celebrated in 2001, emphasized that "[the universal common good] includes the whole family of peoples, beyond every nationalistic egoism. The right to emigrate must be considered in this context. The Church recognizes this right in every human person, in its dual aspect of the possibility to leave one’s country and the possibility to enter another country to look for better conditions of life" (Message for World Day of Migration 2001, 3; cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, 30; Paul VI, Encyclical Octogesima adveniens, 17). At the same time, States have the right to regulate migration flows and to defend their own frontiers, always guaranteeing the respect due to the dignity of each and every human person. Immigrants, moreover, have the duty to integrate into the host Country, respecting its laws and its national identity. "The challenge is to combine the welcome due to every human being, especially when in need, with a reckoning of what is necessary for both the local inhabitants and the new arrivals to live a dignified and peaceful life" (World Day of Peace 2001, 13).
So the papal message on immigration is a twofold balanced approach. On the one hand, governments should try to be kind and generous to immigrants seeking a new life in their country. On the other hand, governments have a right (indeed a duty) to regulate and limit immigration to preserve and protect a nation's security and indigenous identity. At the same time, immigrants are charged with the responsibility and obligation to fully ASSIMILATE into the culture of the country they are immigrating to. This means everything from learning the language, to honouring the culture and obeying the laws. We don't immigrate to another country in order to turn it into a mini-version of our own country! We don't enclave into regions and try to force the local governments to change their laws and street signs to accommodate us. When you immigrate to another nation, you become the "guest" of that nation, and that means you are to behave as good guests do, trying not to be a burden and work on fitting in. If I were to immigrate to Ireland for example, I would recognise that I'm going to have to change quite a few things about myself. First and foremost, I am going to have to change my attitudes about some things, so as to not offend the people of my host country. Second, I am going to have to learn Irish laws and obey them. Third, I am going to have to learn to respect and appreciate Irish culture. That doesn't mean I'm going to learn how to play a harp and river dance, but it does mean I am going to appreciate these things and be respectful of them. Fourth, though I am Catholic, I would naturally fit in Irish culture that way, but if I were not Catholic, I would not seek to change everyone else to accommodate my religion. Fifth and lastly, but not least, I am going to have to learn some Irish-speak, maybe not the native of Gaelic, but I most certainly will have to learn and understand Irish idioms and figures of speech, as well as how to pronounce and spell various Irish names and phrases. These would be my responsibilities and obligations as an immigrant.From Castel Gandolfo, 27 September 2010
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
The problem the United States is currently having with Latino immigrants, particularly those coming from Mexico in large numbers, is that they rarely ever assimilate into American culture. Instead they enclave and create their own Mex-American culture, that is neither Mexican nor American. In many cases, they have created their own subculture, and this is the fault of the United States government for failing to enforce the immigration laws that were on the books up until Obama recently "erased" them by presidential fiat. Is this what the popes have called for? Hardly. But you would never know that by listening to the USCCB. This is why I'm not entirely convinced the USCCB is accurately representing Catholic teaching on immigration when it makes such comments on political matters. U.S. Catholics generally don't listen to the USCCB any more, and there is good reason why. The organisation is nearly defunct as it is, and continual comments on political matters such as this only makes the matter worse. I look forward to the day when my own nation of Dixie will regain her independence and the Catholic bishops therein can form the Dixie Conference of Catholic Bishops (DCCB). Perhaps then, we can only hope, that bishops of a Southern heritage will have more sense about them as to what a bishop's conference is for and how to run it correctly.