I have said several time that I don't understand what Bishops' Conferences are for, what they add to the life of the Church. If you read the Bishops' Engagements column in this week's Catholic Herald, you'll start to get an idea what the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) is for: it's to allow Bishops to get away from their diocesan work and have meetings.
This week Archbishops Nichols and Smith, and Bishop McMahon (Nottingham) will attend a meeting of the Standing Committee. This might be what Bishop Conry is doing on Monday as well.
On Thursday, Archbishop Kelly and Bishops Arnold, Hollis, Kenney, Lang, Lynch and Burns will spend the day at a meeting of the International Committee of the CBCEW.
Now, leaving aside that the CBCEW has a Department of International Affairs which appears to employ four people, apart from the one employed by its subsidiary agency, the National Justice and Peace Network (which "encourages work for justice and peace throughout the Church by promoting liaison and communication between Diocesan Justice and Peace groups" - in other words, somebody is paid to persuade diocesan J&P groups talk to each other), Catholics in England and Wales are losing ten Bishop-days' worth of pastoral care from the episcopate so that the Bishops can talk to each other, seven about a subject that only with immense difficulty might be described as any of their business. I pointed out here that the International Department alone cost £188,074 in 2008. And why: so that the Bishops, behaving like very expensive third-rate lobbyists, can convince themselves that they are players on the world stage.
We gave the CBCEW £1,743,040 in 2008: let's stop encouraging them.