In light of the USCCB’s recent criticism of Representative Paul Ryan’s new budget plan, it’s important to remind the faithful that the conference, like all episcopal conferences, has no authority whatsoever over doctrinal matters. It is an administrative body designed to help individual bishops care for their flocks. As I’ve written before, Archbishop Pilarczyk once likened the USCCB to “a league of independent grocers.” When it does good work, e.g., defending religious liberty from Obama’s healthcare machinations, it deserves our praise. When it deviates into taking decisions over matters where faithful Catholics may disagree, e.g., prescribing the proper level of federal taxation and spending, it deserves our polite consideration and nothing more.

Rep. Paul Ryan has dismissed the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recent criticism of the House budget plan, of which he was the chief architect.

“These are not all the Catholic bishops, and we just respectfully disagree,” he said.

Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, responded that “bishops who chair USCCB committees are elected by their fellow bishops to represent all of the US bishops on key issues at the national level.”

“The letters on the budget were written by bishops serving in this capacity,” Clemmer added.

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