The Ratzinger Report, published in English in 1985, is a book-length interview with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger conducted by Italian journalist Vittorio Messori.

Cardinal Ratzinger says that bishops are “authentic teachers” of the Christian doctrine who enjoy “ordinary, autonomous and immediate authority in the dioceses entrusted to them” of which they are the “principle and foundation of unity.” United in the episcopal college with their head, the Pope, “they act in the person of Christ” in order to govern the universal Church.

Vatican II “wanted specifically to strengthen the role and responsibility of bishops,” Ratzinger said; however, the council documents are not put into practice correctly. “The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organized, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis; they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function.”

“No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission; its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops.”

The interviewer asks, why does the Prefect insist on this point?

“Because it is a matter of safeguarding the very nature of the Catholic Church, which is based on an episcopal structure and not on a kind of federation of national churches. The national level is not an ecclesial dimension.”

Episcopal conferences can hide “personal lapses” by bishops, Ratzinger notes.

He recalls an episcopal conference held in his country of Germany during the 1930s. “Well, the really powerful documents against National Socialism were those that came from individual courageous bishops. The documents of the conference, on the contrary, were often rather wan and too weak with respect to what the tragedy called for.” (pp. 59-61)

Facebook Comments