Of late, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops has been very vocal in its support of the latest version of immigration reform moving through Congress. It is making a particular push this month, even urging pastors to speak to the issue from pulpits.

But are the Catholic faithful in America required to heed the bishops’ call and get behind the legislation?

No–and many believe the leadership of the USCCB, which doesn’t necessarily represent the views of every American bishop, has exceeded its teaching authority–its mandatum docendi–in supporting a specific piece of legislation, regardless of news reports to the contrary.

It appears that a Vatican document supports this contention.
According to Blessed Pope John Paul II’s “Apostolus Suos,” subtitled “On the Theological and Juridical Nature of Episcopal Conferences:”
23. The very nature of the teaching office of Bishops requires that, when they exercise it jointly through the Episcopal Conference, this be done in the plenary assembly. Smaller bodies-the permanent council, a commission or other offices-do not have the authority to carry out acts of authentic magisterium either in their own name or in the name of the Conference, and not even as a task assigned to them by the Conference.