Is It Time to Abolish the USCCB?

Crisis Magazine | 9/16/2019 | Leila Marie Lawler
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“If I must speak the truth, I feel disposed to shun every conference of Bishops: for never saw I Synod brought to a happy issue, and remedying, and not rather aggravating, existing evils…”

— St. Gregory of Nazianzus, 382 A.D.

Heedless - St - Gregory - Warning—or - Openness

Heedless of St. Gregory’s warning—or perhaps unaccountably ready to entertain openness to “existing evils”—Vatican II and Pope Paul VI called for national conferences of bishops.

The charitable association that had been the bishops’ conference (called the National Catholic War Council) in the United States early in the 20th century became, in the Sixties, a force for social and religious change under the suave and ambitious leadership of then-Bishop Joseph Bernardin. The conference ultimately became known as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bernardin - Rule - Veneer - Consultation - Collegiality

Bernardin cloaked his autocratic rule beneath a veneer of consultation and collegiality. In the most urgent doctrinal crisis of his era, he ensured that bishops would refrain from taking disciplinary action against those who dissented from Humanae Vitae’s teaching against birth control. He was also the architect of the Alinsky-inspired Campaign for Human Development, a centerpiece of the USCCB, which funds activism directly contrary to the moral law—abortion, LGBT politics, contraception, feminism, et al.

Bernardin’s reign was characterized by what George Weigel aptly calls “the sting of authoritarian Catholic liberalism in the 1970s and 1980s.” Those faithful who sought recourse for abuses of doctrine and liturgy through the usual channels of authority never really understood how little hope they had. The body of bishops in their conference was pitted against them. As Weigel writes in First Things:

Bishops - Dissent - Standards - Discipline - Approach

Bishops who condoned “faithful dissent” were unlikely to be vigorous in enforcing catechetical standards or liturgical discipline. Their approach to problems of clerical indiscipline and malfeasance also helped shape the ecclesiastical culture in which bishops turned to psychology rather than moral and sacramental theology in dealing with...
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