Cardinal Gracias says Curia reform will have ‘Francis effect’

Several things, meetings … I’m participating in the anglophone meeting for the protection of minors that brings together English-speaking bishops from around the world.

Jul 12, 2019

By Inés San Martín
You were in Rome for the meeting of the council of cardinals that advises the Pope, and now you’re back. What brought you to the Eternal City this time?

Gracias: Several things, meetings … I’m participating in the anglophone meeting for the protection of minors that brings together English-speaking bishops from around the world. I also had a meeting at the Secretariat of State to follow up on the February meeting [the summit on sexual abuse.]

The Pope recently issued two motu proprios that are connected to that meeting, which focused on the protection of minors. When will we see the next follow-up to that meeting?
We’ve had a few meetings already, and I hope that by the end of the year we’re going to have formalised our contributions. Some changes in canon law might still follow, and we also want to put more flesh on the Pope’s motu proprio.

There’s one area in the protection of minors that is to make sure that the perpetrators don’t do it again. But there’s also the promotion of good practices to create safe environments, through the training of priests, laity, family — prevention.

And that is something that we need to take care of. There are a lot of challenges still, but a lot is being done.

The new constitution is clearly no longer coming out “before the summer.” What is its new due date?
It was wishful thinking that it would come out in June. The draft is ready, but we asked for feedback from all over the world and the Curia. And there have been a lot of comments that we haven’t been able to see yet. But there’s a group working on it, and tomorrow I will have a Skype conference to follow up. But my hope is that either by September — or December at the latest — the constitution will be made public.

Is it true that there are some sections that are still being written, like the role of the spokesperson or that of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors?
The draft is ready; but some issues have come up, and we’re reviewing them. Like the whole question of how much should these be linked to the Curia or be more independent. For instance, the spokesperson. Is it that they are the spokesman for the pope, or the Curia? Because one is more concrete, the other gives them more access.

What will be some of the new elements of the constitution, Praedicate Evangelium?
One key element is that the Curia has to be at the service of the pope but also the bishops’ conferences. The Curia is appointed by the pope, but it has to help everyone.

It will eventually require changes in canon law, because the Curia has always been at the service of the pope, but now it will be at the service of the pope and other bishops, of the universal Church. This is a major change.

Another major change is that we have given episcopal conferences a central place, even if there’s still some doubts about what their juridical validity is. But they are effective and a present situation in the world, so there’s a section on them.

Synodality and collegiality have also come out, but the principal things are being at the service of the pope and the bishops.

What does it mean that the Curia will be at the service of the bishops’ conferences?
This is Pope Francis’ idea that we want bishops’ conferences to know that the Curia is serving, is accompanying them, helping them. The Curia is doing tremendous work, dioceses wouldn’t work without them. The mentality is changing, but it has to be strengthened by the law. Once upon a time, you could only reach the Curia when you came every five years, now it’s easier, with phones, emails, etc.

And also, preaching the Gospel. It’s the central element of the Church, so the first priority is going to be preaching the Gospel. Then the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and then the social service of the Church, reaching out to those in the peripheries.

We hope that the office of the papal almoner will become a dicastery. The message is to focus on evangelisation, service, charity. These are the “Francis effects” in the Curia.

Some of the proposals of the constitution will require changes in canon law. Will you go through the canon afterwards?

In some cases we will have to, because you can’t have the constitution contradicting canon law.
Shouldn’t that have been done before?

That’s too cumbersome. But the Holy Father can simply say, we’re changing these Codes, and it will have to be done. It’s taking a lot of time, but this will be done. One of the reasons we took a lot of time is because before we began drafting, we met with all the dicasteries. I thought there wouldn’t be so much feedback seeing that we consulted with them before, but it seems people kept thinking about it! --Crux

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