"primary responsibility to feed ... the flock of their particular Church" (N.b. In canon law 'particular Church' means 'diocese')The Pope went on to tell the Brazilian bishops that an episcopal conference:
"must avoid becoming a parallel reality or substituting the ministry of each individual bishop; in other words, it must not change his relationship with his particular Church and with the college of bishops, nor become the intermediary between the bishop and the See of Peter.These latest words by Pope Benedict on episcopal conferences reflect his teaching as cardinal:
When you come together in your meetings, in the faithful exercise of your doctrinal function, you must study above all the most effective and appropriate means to present the universal Magisterium to the people entrusted to your care. ... You must also consider emerging questions, in order then to guide people's consciences to find adequate solutions to the new problems posed by social and cultural transformations".
"[Some of today's problems] require the joint action of bishops: the promotion and protection of faith and morals ... relations with civil authorities, the defence of human life from conception to natural end, the sanctity of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, the right of parents to educate their children [...]
"[T]he counsellors and structures of the episcopal conference exist to serve the bishops, not to replace them."
"[T]he episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated ... No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission: its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops." (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "The Ratzinger Report", 1992)It is therefore clear that individual bishops in England and Wales are in no way bound to agree with, let alone follow, the policies and actions of the Catholic Education Service (CES), an organ of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales. Indeed, apart from their prerogatives as individual bishops, they are already duty-bound to reject the policies and actions of the CES, because those policies and actions are squarely contrary to Catholic teaching and papally-approved practice on the very points Pope Benedict listed:
- "the most effective and appropriate means to present the universal Magisterium"
- "guid[ing] people's consciences to find adequate solutions to the new problems posed by social and cultural transformations"
- "the promotion and protection of faith and morals"
- "relations with civil authorities"
- "the defence of human life from conception to natural end"
- "the sanctity of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman"
- "the right of parents to educate their children"
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