Open topic: Bishop Vasa talks about the limits of the USCCB

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.



  • Rob Henson

    this blog refers frequently to the autonomoy of bishops. i am in interested in that trend. i will have to do some further reading to see how you handle a bishop exercising his autonomy when it runs counter to your perception of proper Church governance.

    • Slats

      Rob, the latter has happened! If a bishop behaves foolishly, laxly, or even quasi-heretically in his own pastoral governance of his flock, my experience has been that Thomas calls him out on it, and that would be my take as well. However, the recent experience of good Catholics in this country is a higher standard of Church governance by several individual bishops in stark contrast to the collective USCCB, which has consistently been milquetoast and Democrat (unions and the little guy, good; the righteousness of abortion and same-sex marriage as the new natural law, nothing less than satanic) and slow to uphold the truth. The USCCB will slowly improve as the number of truly Catholic bishops in the U.S. increases, but Church teaching remains – the national bishops’ conferences have no real authority as opposed to the Holy See and the local bishop, and, according to apostolic tradition, there are no bases in Church tradition for them to have such authority.

      Those who would snidely uphold the USCCB as “good” vis-a-vis a local ordinary like Bp. Vasa or Bp. Bruskewitz are generally the same folks who howled with outrage at Card. George’s righteous (if realpolitik in procedure) maneuvers to get the new Missal translation approved. So the one time the USCCB does something right – defending the faithful sheep from the chichanery of the wolves of heretical sensibility (as opposed to formal heresy – not asserting that) toward the faith and liturgy – these folks yak and complain. Convert them, O Lord.

  • TimL

    Hi Tom,
    at the risk of sounding rude – this blog is so slow and clunky now.
    I really enjoy reading your posts but my computer bogs down like it never did when you were just American Papist.
    Catholic Vote Action’s site causes my computer to slow to hault. Making it close to impossible to navigate through old posts.

    • Thomas Peters

      Tim – sorry to hear about your performance issues. It may be easier for you to read AmP via email?

      • GBlax

        I agree TimL. I also would like to be able to peruse the titles of the latest items without having to choose a particular topic.

      • TimL

        I’ll give that a try.
        Again, I very much enjoy reading your articles.
        I don’t know what exactly is the issue with Catholic Vote Action. But even as I’m typing this the browser becomes unresponsive.

        Lastnight I wanted to find an article you posted on Phillip Jenkins-navigating through the various pages took me close to 45 minutes just to find the article I was looking for.

  • Bob G.

    Thank God for Bishop Vasa. We should pray that more of our Bishops realize their true role.

  • Fr. William J Kuchinsky

    Thank you for this post. Haven’t read the entire talk yet but am sure it is FULLY Catholic – delightfully Apostolic!
    Right now we’re in that “cycle” of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours regarding “Shepherds”: their responsibilities, how they’ll be judged, etc. St. Augustine expounds on the words of the Prophet regarding good (and evil) Shepherds: at this time of year the finger is pointed at us Priests and Bishops in particular by the Office of Readings.
    May our prayers of the LOH bring us to repentance and help all of us in Holy Orders to become more and more Shepherds after Our Blessed Lord’s own Heart.
    God Bless Bishop Vasa. God help our Bishops to guide their flocks through these difficult and dangerous times.



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