If the U.S. bishops decide at their November meeting in Baltimore to reduce diocesan assessments for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, it could also lead to some U.S. dioceses giving less to support the Holy See in coming years.
"It's possible, but it doesn't necessarily follow," said Bishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Duluth, Minn., USCCB treasurer.
The bishops, meeting Nov. 13-16, are slated to vote on a proposal that would reduce their assessments for funding USCCB activities by 16 percent in 2008 – from a current yearly total of $11.9 million to $10 million. The reduced funding proposal is part of a larger plan for significant cutbacks in USCCB committees, staff and operations.
But since 1992, according to the Canon Law Society of America's "New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law," U.S. bishops have been asked to make annual diocesan contributions to the Holy See that match the amount they are assessed to fund the bishops' conference.
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Contributions to the Vatican "are an obligation under canon law. A reduced contribution to the episcopal conference does not mean automatically a decrease in contributions to the Holy See," Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka, former Archbishop of Detroit and retired head of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, said.
Bishop Schnurr agreed. He said the lower assessment could influence decisions bishops make about what they contribute to the Holy See, but the two matters are separate and it would be a mistake to assume that a 16 percent drop in assessments for the conference will lead to a 16 percent drop in Canon 1271 contributions to the Holy See.
The equal payment proposal "was a benchmark. It was a guideline. But it was never mandatory," he said. "The dioceses are free to reach that benchmark, exceed that benchmark or fall short of that benchmark," he added. Catholic Online