Loiola XXI

Lugar de encuentro abierto a seguidor@s de S. Ignacio de Loyola esperando construir un mundo mejor

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Una posible reforma de la Curia Vaticana. La opinión del jesuita Thomas Reese

Columns • Opinion • Thomas Reese: Signs of the Times

If leaked draft for Curia reform is for real, the Vatican is headed for disaster

Pope Francis talks during an audience with the Roman Curia in the Clementina hall at the Vatican on Dec. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andreas Solaro, Pool)

(RNS) — If there is any truth to the leaks concerning the Vatican’s forthcoming proposal to reform the Curia, it is going to be a disappointment and a disaster.

A draft of the proposal, expected to be published at the end of June, was obtained by a Spanish weekly, Vida Nueva, and as the Vatican has not pushed back on its analysis, the Catholic News Service and other Vatican reporters are taking it seriously.

There are things to like in the Vida Neuva’s report on the proposal, titled “Praedicate evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”). The document stresses that the Curia is in service to the pope and the college of bishops, not just the pope. This is an attempt to stop the Curia from seeing itself as a power between the pope and the bishops.

The Curia’s work as service is a point Pope Francis has made strongly in his talks to its members who work in the Vatican. Francis realizes that this will require a change in thinking, a change in the culture of the Curia. It is good that service is emphasized in “Praedicate evangelium,” but putting it in writing will not make it happen.

Francis’ view of the Curia is also represented when the alleged draft holds up the Curia as an instrument of evangelization. Evangelization is at the heart of what the church is about under Francis.

As beautiful as this sounds, this will not work. To attempt it is foolish. Central offices do not sell products; they manage people in the field, who sell the products. Similarly, the Curia, which is a bureaucracy, is not an instrument of evangelization. It should support others in their work of evangelization.

This wrapping everything under the mantra of evangelization reminds me of the 1980s, when most U.S. dioceses renamed their chanceries “pastoral centers.” The name change did not make them pastoral. They continued to do exactly the same things as before.

The alleged draft creates a new dicastery or office for evangelization by combining the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples and the Council for the New Evangelization. Subordinated to it will be the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith.

In the Catholic Church, when you hear that two entities are going to be merged, half the time what is really happening is that one of them is being closed. This happens with parishes all the time. My guess is that this is what is going on with the Council for the New Evangelization. Perhaps this is also what is happening to the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, which was a doctrinal watchdog under earlier papacies. Is the watchdog being retired?

More importantly, whoever is combining these offices appears not to know what the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples actually does. Its principal job is selecting bishops for Africa and Asia and other so-called mission territories. It has more in common with the Congregation for Bishops than the Council for the New Evangelization and the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith.

The plan described in Vida Nueva also fails to understand contemporary management practices. Many bristle at the idea that the church could learn anything from contemporary multinational corporations, but anyone who has studied the history of the Roman Curia knows that it has borrowed ideas from the secular world, including the Roman Empire, the 14th-century French chancellery, royal courts and absolute monarchs. So why not learn from contemporary international entities?

Let me sketch out an alternative reform plan that attempts to learn from modern corporations.

First, keep and strengthen the Secretariat for Economy (finances). Give it real authority to impose contemporary accounting and business practices on Vatican entities. Disobedience should get people fired. Give it control over all money and investments, including those of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples.

Second, create a human resources office. Under it would be everything involved in the selection, training, continuing education and advancement of anyone in church ministry. This would include the norms for screening candidates, for running seminaries, and for the selection of bishops. Both clerical and lay ministers, including religious, would be included here.

Once personnel and finances are taken care of, the Vatican would need to decide whether it wants to organize the Curia around geographical regions or product lines. The Curia currently is organized both ways and will probably continue to be, but which is emphasized can make a difference.

In an organization based on geography, each continent could have its own office to deal with its countries’ national bishops’ conferences. The continental offices would have the authority to grant exceptions to general laws and to permit experimentation in local churches. This would encourage “subsidiarity and enculturation” — words the church uses to describe decentralization and adaptation to local conditions.

Currently, the church is split up geographically with the Congregation for Oriental Churches responsible for the eastern churches (mostly the Middle East and parts of India and Eastern Europe), the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples handling the mission territories (mostly Africa and Asia), and the rest (Europe and the Americas) overseen by the Congregation for Bishops.

While these offices have great control over the appointment of bishops, they are given little leeway to modify the church’s three product lines for local conditions.

What are the products lines of the church? Word, sacraments and charity.

In the past, the first two were controlled by the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. CDF had final say over anything to do with doctrine, teaching and theologians. It also carefully supervised ecumenical and interreligious dialogues. When it came to the Word, it was supreme.

Divine Worship controlled the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments, including texts, rituals and translations.

These offices allowed little tailoring of worship or teaching to respond to different cultural and religious conditions. Uniformity in products was prized over adaptation to customer preferences.

Charity, the third product line, is spread across a number of offices in the Vatican, including the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide) and the Council Cor Unum. But the Vatican has little control over what was happening in local Catholic charities, which is probably why so much good is being done on the local level.

Finally, what is missing in all this is an office for research and development. Innovation would not be needed if everyone were listening to the church hierarchy with bated breath, if all our Eucharistic celebrations had standing room only and if the poor were having their needs met. If you live in the real world, you know that our 13th-century products are not selling. Time to get creative.

There might also be an office for liaison and dialogue with government officials and leaders of other churches and religions. And with all the problems in the church, there is a need for a department of justice to investigate and prosecute financial and sexual abuses by bishops, priests and others.

Many of my liberal friends think that the way to reform the Curia is by increasing the role of the laity, especially women. But which laity, which women? There are lots of laity, including women, working in conservative chanceries and seminaries across the country. They are sometimes worse than the clerics.

I am not impressed by the reforms described in the leaks. The only hope is that they will throw the Curia into such chaos so that sometime in the future there can be real reform.

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Caritas internacional: asamblea mundial.

El Papa inaugurará la Asamblea General de Caritas Internationalis

(RV).- El encuentro de las organizaciones de Caritas Internationalis de todo el mundo se abrirá el 12 de mayo con la santa misa en la Basílica de San Pedro celebrada por el Papa Francisco. El tema bajo en el cual se reúnen es “Una sola familia humana, cuidando de la creación”. Más de 300 delegados definirán planes para los próximos 4 años, dirigidos a mejorar las vidas de aquellos que viven en la pobreza y la miseria.

El Cardenal Rodríguez Maradiaga, como presidente de Caritas Internatinalis, será el encargado de inaugurar oficialmente el evento el 13 de mayo en el Hotel Domus Mariae Church Palace. Entre los oradores invitados están el Cardenal Peter Turkson, Presidente del Pontificio Consejo Justicia y Paz; el teólogo P. Gustavo Gutiérrez O.P.; el economista Profesor Jeffrey Sachs, el Dr. Jacques Diouf, Enviado Especial para el Sahel y el Cuerno de África; y la Dra. Beverley Haddad de la Universidad de Kwazulu-Natal. Entre los delegados habrá 50 invitados adicionales representando a jóvenes, voluntarios, comunidades de base y activistas contra el hambre.

Se llevarán a cabo elecciones para importantes cargos de liderazgo. Después de ocho años, el Cardenal Rodríguez Maradiaga dejará su cargo como Presidente.  Además los delegados de Caritas asistirán a la EXPO 2015 en Milán para un Día Oficial de Caritas en la EXPO, el 19 de mayo. El evento es parte de la campaña de Caritas “Una sola familia humana, alimentos para todos”, cuyo objetivos es acabar con el hambre para 2025.

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Se está reformando la Curia Vaticana? Comentario de Thomas Reese


Despite rhetoric, Pope Francis treats cardinals like princes

 |  Faith and Justice
 In his pre-Christmas talk to the cardinals and bishops of the Vatican Curia, Pope Francis shocked his audience and the world by his scathing words on the failings of those working in the Vatican. He warned them against 15 separate “diseases” in their work and attitudes.
In this “examination of conscience,” among other sins, he spoke of “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” “existential schizophrenia” and the “terrorism of gossip.”

“They are diseases and temptations which weaken our service to the Lord,” he said.

“The list paints a picture of an institution full of gossip, backstabbing and lack of contact with the reality lived by most Catholics around the world,” Joshua J. McElwee wrote.

The pope argued that these sins were rooted in a feeling of indispensability that often stems from “the pathology of power, from a superiority complex.”

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News stories of this talk naturally connected it with Pope Francis’ plans to reform the Curia, but the speech notwithstanding, little progress has been seen except in the area of financial reform.

After such a speech, one would have expected heads to roll, but they did not. Despite the rhetoric, curial cardinals are still treated like princes.

True, Cardinal Raymond Burke was sidelined to the Knights of Malta from being the head of the Apostolic Signatura, the church’s highest court. But no other curial cardinal was removed from his job in a way that looked like an embarrassing demotion. For example:

  • Cardinal Mauro Piacenza went from being prefect of the Congregation for Clergy to being head of the Apostolic Penitentiary in 2013.
  • Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, was transferred in 2014 to his home archdiocese of Valencia, Spain.

These cardinals can continue to serve the church with their heads held high.

Most turnover of cardinals in the Curia has come about through the natural process of people reaching 75, the age of retirement:

  • Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone retired from the Secretariat of State in 2013.
  • Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro retired as head of the Apostolic Penitentiary in 2013.
  • Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski retired as prefect of the Congregation for Education in 2015.

Possible additional retirements this year include Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio (age 77), head of the Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. His office will probably be merged with another as part of the reform of the Curia.

Likewise, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, head of the Council of Legislative Texts, and Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, are both over 75. The work of Legislative Texts might be given over to the Vatican tribunals. Saints will probably remain unchanged, although prior to 1969, it was part of Divine Worship.

Even when a Vatican office is going to be closed as part of his reform plan, Pope Francis finds another position in the Curia for the cardinal if he is under 75 rather than using it as an excuse to retire him early:

  • Cardinal Robert Sarah went from head of Cor Unum to being prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
  • Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi went from head of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See to prefect of the Congregation for Education.

If the pope continues to follow this pattern, I would not be surprised to see another cardinal from a closing dicastery made prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints when Amato retires.

For example, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko from the Council for the Laity and Gianfranco Ravasi from the Council for Culture may need new jobs if their councils are closed or merged into another dicastery. One of them might even be made prefect of a new Congregation for the Laity.

In short, despite what the pope says, this is pretty gentle treatment for the leaders of a diseased organization. Francis is the kind pastor even with the Curia.

Cardinals Sarah (age 69) and Versaldi (71) are, however, interesting cases. The pope could have found new people for Education and Divine Worship, but then he would have had to eventually make them cardinals under the current rules. Prefects of congregations must be cardinals according to Pastor Bonus, the 1998 apostolic constitution governing the Curia.

By taking cardinals from the bench, Francis avoids increasing the number of curial cardinals in the College of Cardinals. At the time of his election, curial cardinals made up 35 percent of the College of Cardinals. Today, they are only 29 percent. Another 7 percent were (and still are) curial officials who became heads of local churches.

If this downward trend continues, the Curia will have significantly less influence at the next conclave.

While I would prefer to see no curial officials as cardinals, Pope Francis does not see it that way. He believes his closest collaborators should be cardinals.

On the other hand, perhaps his most important reform of the Curia will be to reduce the number of offices that can be headed by cardinals and therefore the percentage of curial cardinals in the college. That in itself would be an achievement worth mentioning in the history books.

One downside of this strategy, however, is that if the pope had appointed younger men to Education and Divine Worship, they would have continued in office for years after he left the scene. Now his successor will most likely appoint their successors. But if his successor is chosen by a conclave with fewer curial cardinals, that may not matter.

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is treesesj@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

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