Last week, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, caused a furor when he publicly repudiated the National Review Board appointed by the US bishops’ conference over its call for him to be “fraternally corrected” for failing to cooperate with them. Some characterized his tone as childish and unhelpful even as they admitted he made a point. Others said he was off-base in his characterization of the canonical status of the review board. In either case, it is difficult to discern his real case against the board from his brief statement.
That’s why I’m grateful to have been reminded of a May 2004 interview with Bruskewitz on this very topic in Catholic World Report, which I have now posted online.
A few notes: The introduction to the interview refers to Apostolis Suos, a motu proprio by Pope John Paul II on the role of bishops’ conferences which said that “Bishops, whether individually or united in conference, cannot autonomously limit their own sacred power in favor of the episcopal conference, and even less can they do so in favor of one of its parts, whether the permanent council or a commission or the president.” The document also quotes Canon 455 which stipulates that an episcopal conference “can make general decrees only in cases where the universal law has so prescribed, or by special mandate of the Apostolic See…” In this case, however, the Vatican—i.e. the Apostolic See—has given a special mandate but only of the Essential Norms, not the Charter. Some critics say that this is distinction is not valid, but Bruskewitz maintains that there is a very important difference.
Do read the whole thing.