Anytime a local bishop denies Communion to a politician because of his stand on abortion, the decision can have "national ramifications," Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh said in a statement exploring ways the U.S. bishops could reach a more united approach to such decisions.
"There must be some way in which the bishops can establish a process, mechanism or procedure" for appropriate national consistency, he said.
He proposed two possible ways for the bishops’ conference to find "a practical pastoral manner to express the collegial spirit that is to be the hallmark of episcopal pastoral ministry."
"One such approach would be an actual mechanism of the conference to facilitate some consensus and unified pastoral practice," he said. "Another approach, which would be less formal but perhaps more effective, would be the commitment on the part of all the bishops to discuss beforehand, through some conference structure, decisions that will impact all of the bishops and the church as a whole."
He said a formal mechanism of review by the conference before barring a politician from Communion would require either a two-thirds vote of the bishops and a mandate from the Vatican or a completely unanimous decision by the bishops.
The less formal approach would require all bishops to agree not to make such decisions without prior consultation through procedures agreed by the conference. "The advantage of the second option is found in its ability both to recognize the responsibility of the individual bishop within his diocese and also to provide a context for the communal exercise of that episcopal responsibility," Bishop Wuerl wrote.
Now, I suppose one could interpret this in one of two ways: 1)It’s an attempt to provide support to an individual bishop, avoiding the appearance that his action is reflective only of his own views, or 2)it’s an attempt to bog down the process and discourage a bishop from acting.
I have no idea which…or any other outcome…is intended.