Francis’ projected restructuring of the Roman Curia – wow…just…. wow…

I’ve been reading around the topic of Francis’ proposed restructuring of the Roman Curia.  It is, in Latin terms, revolutionary: Res novae.

At the National Catholic Register there is a summarizing piece by Ed Condon.   Within, you read…

The most dramatic reform proposed in the current draft of Praedicate Evangelium is the effective ending of any curial department’s ability to exercise papal governing authority on a stably delegated basis.

The draft text lays down that a curial department “cannot issue laws or general decrees having the force of law, nor can it deviate from the prescriptions of the universal law” except on a case-by-case basis “approved specifically by the Supreme Pontiff.” It further provides that any “important, rare, and extraordinary affairs” cannot be treated by the prefect of the dicastery unless and until he has cleared the matter with the pope and received his approval.

Legally, this means that the pope must personally approve every authoritative decision to emerge from a curial department – an historic recentralization of Roman power into the person of the pope.

Closely related to the end of curial departments’ ability to exercise the power of governance is another historic proposed reform: that lay people can serve as the head of any dicastery.

Think about this for a moment.

Right now, and for centuries, the different entities of the Curia exercised power of governance and some jurisdiction, in the sphere of competence, the tasks to which they are dedicated.  This, to use the term in a rather generic sense to indicate both jurisdiction and potestas regiminis, the shorthand “jurisdiction” has been delegated to dicasteries (entities of the Curia) by the Supreme Pontiff.  However, if this power or jurisdiction is withdrawn, then the individual dicasteries or entities of the Curia essentially then have to propose to the Supreme Pontiff stuff to do and he then does them himself or tells them to on a case by case basis.   In military imagery, the curial entity or “dicastery” is is reduced from being a kind of XO to being a kind of dogsbody or batsman.  In academic parlance, they would be a grad-student TA or a “research assistant in residence” (whatever that is).

Power of governance and jurisdiction were, before the Council and then the 1983 Code, closely bound up with the Holy Orders.  Hence, the top officials of a curial entity such as a Congregation, would have to be not only in orders, but also bishops.   There are practical, psychological reasons as well.

Under this new vision for the Roman Curia, if loosely defined jurisdiction has been effectively withdrawn from the curial entity, for example from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments then anyone can be the figurehead.   If that position doesn’t require the power that is tied in with Holy Orders, then Sr. Randi of the Short-Haired Ministers of Social Action can be the head of the dicastery.  See?

It seems as if this is what is being proposed.   The draft probably won’t be finalized until September.  Then, in October, we will have the extravagant “wag the dog” event, the Pan-Amazonian Synod (cha cha cha) that ought to distract everyone for a while.

This would also mean a massive increase of paperwork for the Roman Pontiff.  This will have to be handled by helpers.   That could happen in one of two ways.  First, perhaps the Pontiff’s household will have to be increased with particular secretaries to handle the specialized papers from each curial dicastery.  Of course they won’t have any jurisdiction either.   See?  But wait!  The working draft also has massively increased the role of the Secretariat of State, whose role was already magnificently increased under Paul VI.   Guess where all the decision making will be done.

At least that’s how I read this.  Keep in mind that the words like “jurisdiction” and “power” and “power of governance” are also technical terms.  And, the concepts behind these terms have been shifting since the Council and the 1983 Code.  It’s murky.   Who can hold offices these days, or who can carry out various tasks seems now, more than ever, to be a matter of the office and task bestowers ecclesiology.   That is to say, frankly, “If I like the person appointed, then I probably won’t complain very much even if I think that it ought to be a bishop or priest in the post, but if I don’t agree with that person’s views, I’m going to be seriousl p.o.d!”   Let’s say that a bishop appoints my friend and highly educated and tradition-loving canonist M, to be a kind of “pastoral life moderatrix” of a parish without a stable pastor. I wouldn’t complain nearly as much at that out-of-the-box non-clerical appointment as if the bishop were to appoint Sr Dyna Moore, a transgendered Daughter of Charity whose prayer life consists of communing with the grass spirits in accord with the Instrumentum Laboris for the upcoming Synod (“walking together”) through the use of crystals and, well, grass, and who keeps switching off the church’s AC in the summer because of Laudato sì.

And here we were worried about “decentralization” of power to regional conferences of bishops.


What a complete mess.


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  1. Kerry says:

    Will he make the trains run on time?

  2. acardnal says:

    I read something about regional bishops’ conferences having the power to establish doctrine, too. If true, I find this troublesome. Any thoughts, Father?

    [That utter disaster was rumored for awhile. This new draft doesn’t rule that out. And, as I understand it, the role of the present CDF would be curtailed.]

  3. APX says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but let’s just say hypothetically speaking, this went through and stuff hit the fan. All of those people in charge of various dicasteries, would lose their position in the event of a sede vacante, and it would be up to the new pope to reinstate them.

    On a more positive note, at least the pope hasn’t dug up the corpse of any past poles and put them on trial and then cast them into the Tiber like that one pope did.

  4. Lurker 59 says:

    It appears that the authority of the Curia is being neutered and gummed up. This would make sense if one were also to divest liturgical and doctrinal authority to the bishops conferences with the Congregations only acting as a veto, but only when expressly approved by the Pope. In such a case, this allows for “experimentation” to occur at the conference level with a facade of recourse to Rome when abuses occur. Every complaint gets stymied in red tape, procedure, and tabling of discussions, allowing the Pope/Sec of State to appear above it all while shaping the discussion through what gets allowed through for actual papal approval and what languishes in committees.

    The purpose of “the boss” needing to personally sign off on anything is to grind normal operations to a halt while fast-tracking the boss’ pet projects and personal. It also creates a culture of sycophants.

  5. Hidden One says:

    This looks like the abolition of the Roman Curia.
    And the triumph of State over Church.

  6. Uxixu says:

    It’s insane, though I’m absolutely convinced part of the problem since the Council has been too much power devolved to the Cardinal Secretary of State (who’s become a sort of ecclesiastical “Prime Minister”). We saw this Bertone and Sodano being a big part of the problem with Benedict XVI (if not with John Paul II), as well as with Villot and Paul VI. They are not an heir of St. Peter but wield way too much influence of his delegated power.

    ANYTHING to strip that power though hopefully it will convince Popes to dispense some authority while retaining themselves atop as they used to be as head of the Holy Office. The other restructuring seems to make no sense.

  7. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I may have vomited a little, or just refluxed…or am losing the Faith altogether in the winds, I am not sure.

  8. samwise says:

    Why does Cruz report the document as ” healthy decentralization”?

    [Why do you think?]

  9. TRW says:

    So, synodality( with predetermined outcomes and rigged synods) is used to legitimize and streamline the process of dismantling doctrines and disciplines. When that proves too slow, the new puppet dicasteries will implement whatever changes are dictated to them from above. So much for collegiality. When any orthodox and competent members of what were once the Sacred Congregations want to voice concerns by bringing up Tradition, scripture or natural law, they will be slapped down for daring to interfere with The Agenda. Instead of the Servant of servants protecting the Deposit of Faith, we have the wilful destruction of anything and everything in sight. The unmitigated hubris involved is astounding. The following has been attributed to Cardinal Ciappi : “In the Third Secret it is foretold, among other things, that the great apostasy in the Church will begin at the top”. Queen of Heaven, pray for us!

  10. matt from az says:

    Am I the only one who finds it odd that the post-Vatican II era sings the mantra “collegiality” yet nearly all movement has been toward monarchical fiat?

  11. Fr. Timothy Ferguson says:

    Cardinal Burke for Secretary of State!

  12. THREEHEARTS says:

    mike hurcum writes,
    FRZ use your friend Fr Huniwicke to give you the gen on how Cardinal Manning influenced
    Vat 1 on the role of the infallibility and the why the pope is considered thru history as the head pf the Catholic church and what his position was seen to be.

  13. ChrisP says:

    Divide and conquer. Simple really. Nebuchadnezzar would be amazed.

  14. JabbaPapa says:

    It seems to me that instead of the purpose of past decades towards a reform of the Curia with a view to rid it of excessive clericalism and return to it a proper focus on the catholic Christian Faith, this proposed reform would achieve the exact opposite both by empowering the Bishops Conferences to the detriment of the Universal Church and by extensively bureaucratising these proposed “new” dicasteries that are already heavily bureaucratised.

    It’s worth keeping in mind BTW that a huge cause of the historic failure to prevent the homoheresy and child abuses et cetera was the toothlessness of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregations for the Clergy and for the Bishops in these matters — the resulting farming out of responsibilities in these things to the national Bishops Conferences except that they lacked the Pontifical Authority proper to the Congregations of the Holy See engendered a legal and authoritative paralysis in these matters, and it would seem to me that this proposal aims to create a new situation where matters would end up being even worse than they were as Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger found them to be when they began their efforts to put an end to these failures.

    And it positively reeks of the political ideology of the so-called “Liberation Theology”, which of course is just one particular manifestation of the Americanist Heresy.

    I can’t help but feel that if implemented as it is suggested, this would be a huge step on a bad pathway towards a serious risk of another Major Schism in the Church … :-( :-( :-(

  15. Clinton R. says:

    The longer this pontificate goes on, the less the Church resembles the Catholic Church founded by Our Lord upon St. Peter. Just absolute madness! It gets harder by the day to refute sedevacantism.

  16. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Clinton R. — Only if you use sedevacantism to explain away not only every “bad pope,” but also every pope with weird or venal or monarchical administrative ideas. I admit that PF tries the patience of God and man, but the popes under the guidance of Marozia et al were up to more administrative shenanigans by far.

    Why can’t people just say, “This is a bad pope, who does a lot of his job poorly, and seems to ignore the Holy Spirit or the Magisterium,” rather than “He’s not the Pope”?

    If I do cruddily in my job or become a petty tyrant, nobody says, “Maureen only appears to be making wages; but really they are invisibly removed from her bank account, and her computer passwords are just imaginary.” Patriarchs and kings were big sinners and incompetents in the days of old, but they were still part of the Covenant and Jesus’ genealogy. Whether Pope Francis be wicked or good, helpful or hurtful, he is the current reigning pope. And we are the current Christian people, and have the right to complain to his face that his job performance stinks, not to be passive-aggressive little whiners.

  17. Benedict Joseph says:

    Don’t cry for me Argentina…

  18. TonyO says:

    And here we were worried about “decentralization” of power to regional conferences of bishops.


    That was my first thought, too. Decentralization, fiddlesticks! This takes all power in Rome out of the dicasteries and puts in in the pope’s hands.

    This is not an accident: there is NO WAY any pope can actually oversee all of the discrete decisions that must be made, so (a) many decisions Rome should make won’t be made in Rome. And therefore (b) the bishops outside of Rome WILL be making them locally and regionally. Nature (and Supernature) abhors a vaccuum, the decisions will be made, one way or another. Since Rome can’t, others will.

    What is appalling is the notion that there is any better ground for it being “conferences of bishops” rather than the Vatican dicasteries, which were (in reality) conferring bishops. There is no fundamental role of authority for conferences of bishops in Church history – the are not part of the essential constitution of the Church. What must happen, if the decisions are being made regionally, is a LOT of fracturing of both discipline and doctrine, and this could not possibly NOT harm the Church’s marks of unity and universality. The notion that rupturing the unified practice of liturgy or doctrine into pluralism of these things being “good” is complete bunk, and could only come from a mind saturated with modernism. It is (as Jabba says above) an example of the Americanist heresy. (Why would anyone think that looking just like failing Protestantism would be good? Who knows, insanity knows no bounds.)

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