Opposition Grows to Power for Bishops’ Conferences

The might be a good time, that is, the day after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops elected new leaders, to reflect on some of the deliberations during Vatican II regarding bishops’ conferences.

Vatican II: 50 years ago today

66th General Congregation
November 13, 1963

With the council speech of Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York, which opposed giving juridical powers to national conferences of bishops, all four U.S. cardinals present in Rome had spoken on the issue.

Earlier James Francis Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles had also opposed the idea, Joseph Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis favored it, and Albert Cardinal Meyer of Chicago favored it within certain limits. Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston is not in Rome.

Cardinal Spellman was high in his praise of the usefulness of national episcopal conferences but expressed his belief that it would not be advisable to give them authority to issue decisions which would be juridically binding on all individual bishops. He spoke as the council continued discussion of the schema on bishops and diocesan government. He said:

“Each bishop must remain free in his diocese, even though he be morally…

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