afraid of episcopal conferences with authority to teach and legislate, since they feel that Rome has always been more open and more generous in teaching and outlook.
What these Catholics do not take into account is the transformation affected in the bishops through episcopal conferences conscious of their collegiality.
One can easily foresee our bishops meeting together, one of them reading a draft proposed to the conference, the others listening and then criticising the proposal. then appointing a committee to consult with theologians and rewrite the draft, and finally, after all the bishops have clearly understood the issue at stake with its implications, making a binding decision which will include the good ideas of each and every one.
In this way Catholic bishops will get used to dialogue and discussion as the normal preparation for the exercise of legislative uthority.
But not only are some Catholics afraid of episcopal conferences with jurisdiction. there are also bishops who are afraid of it. Speaking to bishops from various countries, one has the imprmion that some bishops fear that such episcopal conferences will take away some of their local independence.
Why should they be bound by the majority decision of the national hierarchy? They know their own diocese hest.
It is, of course, true that the powers of an episcopal conference will have to be clearly circumscribed. But when this is done, it will become clear that many matters where the bishops today are bound by a legislation made in Roman Offices where national conditions arc not well known, will then be made by a body in which these bishops have a voice.
It is therefore no loss of independence to be a member of an episcopal conference with jurisdiction.
It seems to me that, without such conferences which are able to legislate and teach the whole process of decentralisation which is beginning at the Council could be dangerous: it could lead to arbitrary episcopal independence. divergence of practice from diocese to diocese. the neglect of the renewal in many parts of the world. and the complete control of a diocese by the local ordinary with no protection against the inevitable partiality of a one-man government.
The bishops will not want it said of them that they urged for collegiality and decentralization in Rome in order to have less collegiality and less sharing of responsibility at the local level.
If collegiality is the name of a divine gift to the Church, then it must he exercised not only at the highest level, but the whole life of the Church must become more collegial. There must be the sharing of responsibility and the contribution of the many to the decisions of the few.
There must be flexibility and dialogue to permit all the good ideas which the Spirit is producing in the people and their clergy to emerge to the top and make their contribution to the formulation of authoritative episcopal decisions, to which all are bound to The
apparently abstract notion of collegiality is, in reality, a most practical matter. "Teamwork" would not be a bad English translation of it.
For when we speak of teamwork, we suggest that each member of the group feels responsible for the whole effort, that there is sharing of responsibility, confidence in the other members. a willingness to make personal sacrifices, and an obedience to the ;crept r,wwithhotu.exheericuisge scahuisghatutuhporibtyy the same spirit and looking at problems as a fellow member of the group.
There will be moments. in such a team. when the common concern demands the submission of the members to the commands of their leader, but normally. in the daily exercise of their tasks, the memhers act freely, inspired by the Spirit of the team, conscious of their responsibility for the whole. and sensitive to the direction and insights of their leader. Collegiality means that our bishops form a team?
Could the diocese also be a