There is a clarification that has to be made here. Anyone can point out to something that that they believe needs to be fixed or changed. It’s very legitimate to do so. In Archbishop Burke’s case, it’s more legitmate, because he is an American and this is an American news service.
That being said, we the faithful, have to understand that there are rules that govern the involvement of officials in the Vatican into local affairs. They may only become involved in those affairs that are directly under their jurisdiction. CNS is not under the jurisdiction of the Signatura. Therefore, the Archbishop’s comments are respected and probably listened to by his confreres, but they are not taken as a mandate, because he has no jurisdiction to make mandates in this area.
Sometimes we, the faithful, have to be careful not to let our enthusiasm get the best of us. We hear of a Vatican Official taking a position on something and those who are on the same side will rejoice, believing that the individual speaking has the authority to change things, which he does not.
On the other hand, those who are on the other side of the issue and disagree, scream that the individual is interfering, which is not the case either.
Unless an issue falls under the jurisdiction of the Sacred Congregation of a particular prelate, that prelate speaks for himself. He doesn’t even speak for his Congregation. He can’t. That’s not allowed.
We have to take the archbishop’s words as they are meant. They are his concerns. We can share them or not. But we should not suppose or assume that they carry the weight of authority. They only carry such weight if he is given that authority. Otherwise, the authority that they carry are those of words spoken by a wise man who has a genuine concern.
The reason that I say this is because it’s very important to avoid any feelings or thoughts that may suggest a breach of unity between the bishops of the Church. There can be disunity in opinions. But there can never be disunity in function. The national conference of bishops of any nation has a function and the different deparments, offices, congregations and other agencies of the Roman Curia have their functions. Together they make up the governing body of the Church in union with the Holy Father.
Let us always strive to seek unity and see complimentarity is mission and service among the bishops of the Church, rather than conflict or power struggles. God protect us from such conflicts and power struggles. The Gospel of Life is not about bishops trying to control other bishops. It is about bishops doing the work of the apostles and exressing their concern for the common good, not for the purpose of putting someone else in their place or interfering. Both points of view are wrong. The Curia does not exist to control, nor does it exist to interfere. It is a service to the larger universal Church. At the same time, every bishop in the curia, has the right to speak his mind as long as the topic is not forbidden by the Holy Father.
But speaking their mind from Rome, does not make it law or binding, unless it is within the right of the individual to exercise that level of authority. Let us not do the Church harm by celebrating what we perceive as a gavel coming down on those whom we disagree with or by sounding the alarm of abuse of power when we disagree. Neither is true. The Church does not use authority to crush or to interfere, but to unite into one body committed to the Gospel of Life. Let us always look for the signs of life and unity and rejoice in them.
Br. JR, OSF