Last Thursday evening I was privileged to spend some time with Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, OR at InsideCatholic’s annual partnership dinner here in Washington, DC. In his talk, Bishop Vasa examined the role of the USCCB, and was frank about its limitations.
One of the main points I took away from his talk was that American Catholics have forgotten that the USCCB has no power on its own. We are overlooking the fact that the only authority in each and every diocese is that diocese’s bishop (besides the pope himself). While it is important for the bishops of the United States to have a “united front” as a moral voice in our nation, the USCCB violates its supporting role when it overrides the autonomy of individual bishops.
Bishop Vasa’s talk includes all the necessary nuances, as well as a wealth of teaching gleaned from the Magisterium and early Apostolic times, therefore I would consider his published remarks to be required reading for anyone who is attempting to understand the unique role of individual bishops and the proper place of the USCCB in the life of the Church in America.
Millions of Americans across the country are taking these times as an opportunity to educate themselves about our nation’s founding, and about the unique character of America’s resulting political system. It’s my prayer that American Catholics will take Bishop Vasa’s speech as an opportunity to rediscover the fundamental governing office of the Church at the local level – the bishop, as successor to the apostles in union with the pope, the successor of Peter.