I am happy to see that the Holy Father has indicated the conditions under which Episcopal Conferences exercise an appropriate teaching authority. The affirmation that Conferences can do so in their own name when there is unanimity among the Bishops or with the recognitio of the Holy See when there is widespread but not unanimous agreement clarifies a situation that has been under discussion for more than a decade. I find it heartening to reflect that, over the years, our own U.S. Conference has been characterized by unanimous or widespread agreement over a range of important issues.
A document of this importance deserves further study, and I wish to assure the Holy Father that we will give it close attention and seek guidance and clarification wherever necessary, especially as we continue the review of our procedures that has been underway for several years.
While I cannot comment on every aspect of this document in one brief statement, I do want to say that I greatly appreciate the confidence placed in Episcopal Conferences shown by the varied but not exhaustive list of issues that are identified as worthwhile to be addressed jointly by the Bishops of a nation. In this, too, I find that our own Conference has been fulfilling the wishes of the Holy See by providing for action on these and many other matters.
We also take to heart the advice that "excessively bureaucratic development of offices and commissions operating between plenary sessions be avoided." Over the years, our Conference has sought to avoid this problem by implementing strict procedures for developing priorities and plans. One result of this has been to require Conference management to operate within limited personnel and budgetary guidelines. I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the management for doing so, while at the same time faithfully addressing the priorities set by the Bishops.
Obviously in a nation of the size and complexity of the United States, not every important issue can be dealt with at two plenary meetings a year. I am grateful for the readiness, willingness, and expertise of our Bishop chairmen, the members of their committees, and our Conference staff in dealing capably with so many requests for action that come from individual Bishops, the regional groupings of Bishops, and from the Holy See.
Lastly, I want to thank the Holy Father for re-affirming the importance to the Church of the entire College of Bishops, which is always to act in union with him as our head and never apart from him. All Bishops in the United States, whether Diocesan, Coadjutor, Auxiliary, or Emeriti stand ready faithfully to serve Christ and his Church together with him.
Most Reverend Anthony M. Pilla
National Conference of Catholic Bishops/
United States Catholic Conference
July 23, 1998