For anyone even vaguely interested in the reform of the Roman Curia and what the central administration of the Catholic Church will look like in the future, the analysis below by vaticanista Sandro Magister of L’Espresso magazine is a must read.

The thousands of employees of the offices of the Roman Curia, the tribunals and other organizations linked to the Holy See for years have been avidly following all mention and analysis of the reform of the Curia and its forthcoming constitution, said to be titled “Praedicate Evangelium” (Preach the Gospel), that will replace St. John Paul’s 1988 constitution “Pastor Bonus,” (The Good Shepherd). They have kept their ears to the ground from the very first mention of a reform in the early months of Francis’ papacy.

I still had my show, “Joan Knows” at Vatican Radio when word first came out of a reform and I watched as, over the months and then years, morale among employees sank to an indescribable low. As changes were slowly made in some offices, people wondered on a Monday if they would still have a job on Friday. The Pope asked that people not be fired in the reform but, whether he knows it or not, people were moved around. Staff trained in a specific area with specific skills – such as the multi-lingual, multi-talented people at Vatican Radio – often found themselves transferred to an office for whose work they had no particular skills.

In any case, criticism of the proposed new curial organization has poured in ever since drafts were leaked in various languages. The constitution is now in the hands of Episcopal conferences throughout the world, superiors of religious orders and many others who are being asked to evaluate the document and suggest changes, additions, and/or deletions. (CNA photo)

One of the strongest criticisms so far seems directed to the fact that far greater prominence will be given to the office of evangelization than to the current Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office that safeguards the millennia-old teaching of the Catholic Church. The Secretariat of State will assume increased importance as well.**

I firmly believe that prominence should go to doctrine for the sole reasons that this is the “product” of evangelizers. You have to have sound doctrine first. You don’t open a restaurant without food. You might have an amazing chef and an unparalleled serving staff but they have no value without the food. As a missionary, an evangelizer, the food you bring to people is doctrine, food for the soul.

As I have with other critiques of the draft of the Roman Curia constitution, I found this analysis to be very interesting. Be sure to click on the links that Sandro provides.

By Sandro Magister

Last July 8 Pope Francis previewed another fragment of what will be the future Vatican curia, once its new configuration definitively goes into effect.

He appointed six nuns, all superiors general of their respective orders, among the members of the congregation for religious, breaking with the practice that did not allow women to be part of the curial congregations, until now made up only of bishops and cardinals, or at the most of male superiors general.

Properly speaking, Francis had already made an initial rift in 2014, when he appointed as a member of the congregation “De Propaganda Fide” Sister Irma Luzia Premoli, superior general of the Comboni missionaries. But what was an exception then is now becoming the rule, and it is to be expected that other similar appointments of women will follow in droves.

The cardinals of the “C9” who assist the pope in the governance of the universal Church – in reality now reduced to six – toiled for years over this reform of the curia, to arrive at last in recent months at the composition of a draft that has been shown to a certain number of churchmen at various levels.

Rewritten on the basis of ongoing consultations, the new constitution – which now has the temporary title of “Praedicate Evangelium” – will reportedly “be by September or at the latest before the end of the year in the hands of the pope, who will then take his time for the final approval.”

But to go by the comments published after the draft started making the rounds, it must be radically revised in order to satisfy the critiques that have torn it to shreds. On both the right and the left of ecclesiastical affiliation, practically no one has appreciated the structure of the reform. Suffice it to say that after reading it the Jesuit Thomas Reese, former editor of the magazine of the New York Jesuits “America” and a prominent representative of progressive Catholicism, judged it as “a disaster.” (click to read)

If one wishes to say briefly what are the main new developments in the draft, it is good to start from the general index, which in effect highlights innovations with respect to the previous arrangement of the Vatican curia.

In the draft, what were previously the congregations and – on a lower level – the pontifical councils are equated under the same title of “dicasteries.” And while until now each of them had to be headed “by the cardinal prefect or by an archbishop president,” the draft speaks only of “prefects” without specifying if they should be cardinals or archbishops, and on the contrary establishes that they could also be laymen, as in fact has already happened in the newly created dicastery for communication, which has as its prefect Paolo Ruffini.

Only for the secretariat of state does the draft establish that the head is to be a cardinal, as also for the new council for the economy, the coordinator of which – who is currently German cardinal Reinhard Marx – also takes on the duty of cardinal “camerlengo” between one pontificate and the next.

It is the secretariat of state, in effect, that is the dominant element of the new curia. But already in the general index of the drafts one can also note another substantial change: the downgrading of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith from the top spot among the congregations to the second place on the list of the new dicasteries.

So here is the general index, outlined according to the various chapters of the draft.


** the real big development in the new curia sketched out in the draft is the preponderant role assigned to the secretariat of state, with a centralization in it of powers that has no equal in the past.

And this, in effect, is the development most in the crosshairs of the critiques. Exemplary among these is that of Ed Condon on Catholic News Agency July 2:> Analysis: New Vatican constitution to centralize power in state secretariat

But the critiques are not limited to the canonical aspect alone. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, interviewed by Edward Pentin for the National Catholic Register of July 5, also disputed them on the theological level: “They’re converting the institution of the Curia into simply a bureaucracy, into only functionalism and not an ecclesiastical institute.”