One of the things I have been saying all along is one aim during the present pontificate is the reduction of the number of Cardinal Prefects and Presidents (and therefore Archbishop Secretaries) in dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
Put several dicasteries together – bammo – fewer cardinals slots open. This will have the simultaneous effect of concentrating power in hands of fewer department heads – easier to control their … world views – and of weakening the power of the Curia globally.
Now I read something from the once-solid, now shakier Andrea Tornielli, an interview with Oscar Card. Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras but who spends nearly all his time in Rome these days. He is part of a small group of cardinals – the Gang of Eight (Nine with the Secretary of State) – appointed by Pope Francis to look at matters of Curial Reform, which we grant is a big job.
And what about the restructuring of the dicasteries? Can you confirm that two new bodies are being created in order to merge the functions of the various pontifical councils being merged into these?
“The two bodies dedicated to the laity and charity are certain. [That would absorb a several dicasteries.] Te Pope has already presented them to the heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Of course soem observations have been made, that was the point of the consultations. There are certain details that need to be fine tuned. But as far as the general setup is concerned, I think they can be considered work in progress.”
Will the two bodies in charge of laity and charity – which should merge together laity, family, migrants, pastoral care for healthcare workers, Cor Unum and Justice and Peace – be congregations?
“Yes, that is the aim. They will be two congregations. [NB] But they will not be the arithmetical sum of what already exists. Primarily because as congregations they will have a different legal status from that of the pontifical councils. It is also not necessary for there to be a cardinal or a bishop heading every dicastery: there could be a married couple in charge of family affairs, for example and for migrants there could be a nun who has specific experience in this area, a member of the Scalabrinian missionaries for instance.”
What is the aim of Curia reform?
“The aim is to rationalise and simplify things. There are approximately thirty different dicasteries at the moment, including secretariats, councils and congregations. How can a leader regularly bring together all of his ministers ? In the past, meetings took place once or twice a year. How can an institution go on like this? Meetings and consultations need to be more frequent. Then we will be able to say that simplification fosters collegiality. And this is important.” [Keep in mind that before Paul VI there were many fewer dicasteries.]
Will the Secretariat of State also undergo reform?
“Yes, it is currently being studied. The Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, will be presenting a plan for this at the next meeting.”
Can anything be said about this?
“No, it is still too early, we have to wait and see. I think one of the points that will be discussed will be the redistribution of internal tasks. But let’s wait and see.”
Will judicial structures undergo reform too? [There are three major tribunals, the Apostolic Signatura (with a cardinal), the Rota, the Apostolic Penitentiary (with a cardinal)]
“This has not yet been discussed. I personally think the idea of merging bodies relating to justice could have a positive outcome. We will discuss this if we have time at the next meeting. I think it would be a good idea to have one single ministry of Justice in the Church that includes the Apostolic Signatura, the dicastery for the interpretation of legislative texts [with a cardinal] and the Apostolic Signatura [ummm… didn’t he just mention the Signatura a second ago? Maybe he meant the Rota?]. With one single head.” [3 cardinals reduced to 1]
Will there be fewer cardinals serving in the Holy See’s offices when Curia reform comes into force?
“Of course, that is the idea. [!!] The Curia must no longer be perceived as a papal court or as the Church’s centralised super-government. It needs to be an energetic structure, there to serve the papal ministry.” [not the “Petrine Ministry”]
See what’s going on? This might be a good idea. The Church seemed to run pretty well for a long time on fewer departments. Then the Curia was restructured and massively expanded. Has that helped? Really? On the other hand, much depends on what else is being done during a pontificate. So, it is way to early to tell. One thing I do know, moves like this are surely to cause, in the short term, paralysis.