Reform of the Roman Curia is moving too slowly

As Pope Francis approaches the second anniversary of his election as pope, progress on reforming the Vatican Curia is moving too slowly.

Feb 27, 2015

By Thomas Reese
As Pope Francis approaches the second anniversary of his election as pope, progress on reforming the Vatican Curia is moving too slowly. It should be moving faster.

The greatest progress has been made in reforming the finances of the Vatican, which has mainly focused on where the money is — the Vatican bank, the Vatican City State, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples. A new Secretariat for the Economy was also created to supervise Vatican finances.


Reforming Vatican finances is a priority for Pope Francis, who listened to the complaints about financial scandals from the cardinals at the time of his election.

In theory, this is the easiest part of Vatican reform. Financial reform is neither rocket science nor theology; it is simply good management practices developed by businesses, governments, and nonprofits to provide transparency and accountability. It requires clear procedures, training of employees, and proper supervision.

Applying all of this to the Vatican is a challenge, but everyone knows what is required. There may be resistance, but strong, steady leadership can prevail. This does not mean that scandals will end. In the short run, there should be more scandals as the bad actors are caught by the new system.

Reforming the Roman Curia, the part of the Vatican that helps the Pope in his Petrine ministry, is more difficult.

The Roman Curia is made up of the Secretariat of State, nine congregations, 12 councils, three tribunals, and a host of commissions, academies, institutes and other offices. Each of these was created in response to a perceived need or priority of a previous papacy.

Reforming the Roman Curia requires a theological vision for the Petrine ministry, a sense of what the Church needs today, and a practical understanding of how to organize people to implement it.

First, what is the theological vision of the Petrine ministry? Is the Pope an infallible, absolute monarch in whom all wisdom resides, or is he first among equals who acts collegially with the college of bishops?

If it is the former, then all important decisions will be referred to the Pope or to those to whom he has delegated decision- making power in the Curia. Any issue that is in doubt must go up the chain of command.

If it is the latter vision, then the Church needs a system for encouraging discussion and consensus building in the college of bishops. Here, the Curia is in service to the Pope and the college of bishops; curial officials are not decision-makers.

Second, what are the needs of the Church today? Does the Church need more stability or change, unity or pluralism, clearer teaching or better witness? Should it be challenging or accommodating, devotional or prophetic?

Reform of the Roman Curia is difficult because there is no consensus on the Petrine ministry, the needs of the Church today, or the practical issues of management.

Perhaps the first place to start is by asking Vatican officials and local bishops what issues are being decided in Rome that should be decided at the local, national, or regional level. For example, if a priest and his bishop agree that the priest should be laicized, why does his case have to go to Rome? Do liturgical translations have to be micromanaged in Rome?

If this ever gets beyond the discussion stage, it will have a profound impact on the Vatican congregations which have much of the decision-making authority in the Vatican.

Source: NCR

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