Don't look for laity in top Roman Curia positions under reform plans

Don't look for laity in top Roman Curia positions under reform plans

“Downsizing expectations.”

That’s the title I’d give Father Federico Lombardi’s briefing today on the College of Cardinals’ meeting to discuss Roman Curia reform.

For one thing, the cardinals were told it could take years to complete the reforms. An explicit comparison was made to Pope John Paul II’s modifications to the Roman Curia, which took 10 years to design and implement, with multiple stages of consultation and approval.

I’m not sure Pope Francis has 10 years to dedicate to this project.

The cardinals were also offered a vague outline of a proposal to combine six or seven pontifical councils into two new congregations, which are more important Curial agencies. The hypothesis, which has been floating around a while, would foresee a Congregation for Laity, Family and Life, and a Congregation for Charity, Justice and Peace.

The latter congregation, Father Lombardi said, may have a special sector for environmental issues and “human ecology,” which are the focus of an encyclical that Pope Francis is expected to publish this year.

But the Vatican spokesman illustrated the limits of change when he said it was “unthinkable” for any Vatican congregation – even one for laity – to be headed by a lay person. Because of the level of responsibility involved, that position will no doubt continue to be filled by a cardinal, he said.

That tells me that whatever the pope’s advisors have in mind, Curia reform is not going to touch the fundamental clerical framework of decision-making in the Vatican.

Nor is there serious discussion of adding a “moderator” office to the Roman Curia, a position responsible for coordinating the various activities of the Vatican’s many agencies. The role of moderator will probably be implicit in the role of the Secretariat of State, which would be no change at all.

In this morning’s discussions, it appears that even relatively modest proposals like rolling some councils into congregations met with objections. Some said congregations had a traditional function in church governance, while councils did not.

There were different points of view, as well, on whether term limits for Curia officials made sense. Some favored distinct terms, and others thought experience sometimes argued for open-ended terms.

The cardinals only began to explore the concepts of collegiality and synodality, which the pope wants to strengthen in the way the Roman Curia functions. Those issues probably offer material for many years of further discussion.

It seems to me that it may take some forceful leadership moves by Pope Francis to advance this reform movement beyond the “endless study” stage.

5 comments (Add your own)

1. Michael Skiendzielewski wrote:
Transparency ? Ethics ? Accountability ?

The more we talk about and demand such virtues, the less we see of them.

Thu, February 12, 2015 @ 8:37 AM

2. profling wrote:
Why so many dicasteries? Can't we just have a simpler, more evangelical Catholicism?

Thu, February 12, 2015 @ 8:54 AM

3. Sambuco wrote:
It seems the problem is that there was lots of general grumbling about the curia, but no specific complaints. Sure, the Vatican bank had to be fixed. And Cardinal Pell's management of all accounting functions were necessary first steps. But Benedict had already kicked off much of that anyway. The only other complaint seems to be that too many decisions were centralized in the Vatican, rather than being left to the dioceses. And a vague sense that the Vatican should be of more service to the dioceses. But the truth is that we always need a proper balance between decentralizing and not letting the locals go crazy, doing whatever they want. Drawing the proper balance through thousands of individual questions is going to take a lot of time. In the end, the call for reform of the curia was never very focused, and now they are having trouble finding out what it is they are to reform.

Furthermore, I am sure once the Pope got there and sat and talked to the curial officials, he found out their side of the story, and they had good arguments for what they were doing. He probably found out they were not all evil bureucrats, but men struggling to do their best, being hit from various sides. He realized that some were mere climbers, but probably not many, and often the best climbers are best at hiding it. So the most he oculd do is, at Christmas, warn all of them to try to get their spiritual house in order.

Thu, February 12, 2015 @ 10:54 AM

4. Yaya wrote:
"I’m not sure Pope Francis has 10 years to dedicate to this project."

I agree. I also sense that perhaps much of what's being discussed, dissected, opined on, well, it may never see the light of day since I get the impression, folks are not gonna budge.

"It seems to me that it may take some forceful leadership moves by Pope Francis to advance this reform movement beyond the “endless study” stage"

Maybe, but Papa Francis is getting on in years and he may continue to try and try and try only to be met by more meetings, more reviews, and more objections.

Regardless, my prayers are with him and all of his collaborators.

May God's will be done.

Thu, February 12, 2015 @ 2:58 PM

5. emmett coyne wrote:
"Popes come, popes go; the curia remounts."

There is no need for a reform of the curia, rather its removal altogether.

It is a bureaucracy held over from the Constantinian church.

It is a political animal, not spiritual.

No major religion has need for such an animal.

Hinduism, world's oldest, makes RCC an infant, continues unabated without a curia.

Fri, February 13, 2015 @ 7:50 AM

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