Speaking to the St. Thomas More Society of Philadelphia last spring, Fr. Neuhaus said, "When it is not necessary for the bishops to speak on a particular subject, it is necessary that they not speak on that subject." As with everything Fr. Neuhaus says, there is a lot of truth in that.
One might as well say there's a lot of truth in saying, "When it is not necessary for Fr. Neuhaus to speak on a particular subject, it is necessary that he not speak on that subject."
And actually, there is a lot of truth in the advice to refrain from idle speech, which is good advice for each of us.
But I find it highly inconsistent for a man best known for editing an opinion journal to hold the opinion that others should hold their opinions to themselves. So much so, I suspect he'd hold a different opinion if only the bishops did, too.
Yes, I get the distinction between Church doctrine and personal judgment. But that distinction does not entail the right to categorically ignore the non-doctrinal statements of either your own bishop or the national bishops in a group. (In his post, Miller writes that a Church authority's "empirical claim about the state of the world... need only be respected and considered in forming one's conscience;" that respect and consideration seems often to consist in nothing more than saying, "That claim need only be respected and considered.")
There are those who advocate for a position very much like this:
Each sentence pronounced by one or more bishops is either doctrinal or it is not.
Whether a sentence is doctrinal can be determined by an explicit deductive proof.
In the absence of an explicit deductive proof, the sentence is non-doctrinal.
A non-doctrinal statement by one or more bishops can be completely ignored by Catholics. (Some, not entirely in jest, add that every non-doctrinal statement by one or more bishops ought to be ignored.)
This position is no more Catholic than the old "Every word that falls from Sister's lips is Church dogma" popular with ex-Catholics and journalists. If you think it's maybe a little more Catholic, in that it seeks to correct the absolutism of the older position, note that what it actually does is invert the bishop-flock relationship. The bishop is no longer teacher, but student, submitting papers to be graded by the faithful.
One of my hobbyhorses is the distinction between being taught by someone and agreeing with him. A week or two ago, I read a comment on another blog that at a more innocent time would have dumbfounded me, to the effect that, "A bishop who does A, B, and C is a bishop I could follow." As though doing what you're told is leading!