Pope Paul VI's reform of the Roman Curia
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of the Catholic Church
Pope Paul VI's reform of the Roman Curia, in response to the altered needs of the Holy See and the Catholic Church as a whole, was achieved principally, but not solely, by his general reorganisation of the Curia with the apostolic constitution Regimini Ecclesiae universae of 15 August 1967.
Paul VI's aim in effecting these changes was to implement the desire expressed by the Second Vatican Council that the departments of the Roman Curia "be reorganized and better adapted to the needs of the times, regions, and rites especially as regards their number, name, competence and peculiar method of procedure, as well as the coordination of work among them."
Implementation of this desire led to numerous alterations in each of the fields that the Council indicated, as indicated in the following examples.
Some departments were suppressed, but the total number was increased, even before Regimini Ecclesiae universae, by the creation of the Council of the Laity, the three Secretariats (that for Christian Unity, that for non-Christians and that for Dialogue with Non-Believers, the last of which has since been fused with the more recently founded Pontifical Council for Culture) and the Central Statistics Office.
New bodies (largely taking over functions previously carried out, sometimes in less coordinated form, by earlier bodies) were founded by the same apostolic constitution. They included two offices to manage and oversee financial affairs, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
The department formerly known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office became on 7 December 1965 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, clearly indicating its field of competence. With Regimini Ecclesiae universae, the Sacred Consistorial Congregation became the Sacred Congregation for Bishops (a less obscure indication of its field of competence), the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Church became the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches (recognizing the existence of several Eastern Catholic Churches, not just one – it was also raised in rank ahead of the Congregation for Bishops), the Sacred Congregation of the Council (i.e., the Council of Trent) became the Congregation for the Clergy (its field of competence), the Sacred Congregation of Religious became the Sacred Congregation for the Religious and Secular Institutes (making explicit its competence for institutes other than religious institutes in the strict sense), the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith became the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (considered to be a better indication of its purpose), and the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities became the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education (reflecting a wider competence than indicated by its previous name).
The altered names of departments indicated in some cases a change of competence.
The pre-existing Sacred Congregation of Rites was divided into two on 8 May1969 in accordance with its two distinct fields of competence. One part became the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, competent to deal with causes of beatification and canonization. The other became the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, which was later united with the existing Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments to form the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The competence of some offices had already been reduced to next to nothing. As a result, the Sacred Ceremonial Congregation and the Apostolic Datary were simply abolished with Regimini Ecclesiae universae. The functions of the Apostolic Chancery, reduced by Pope Pius X in 1908 to little more than signing papal bulls were transferred in 1973 to the Cardinal Secretary of State.
New departments for new fields of competence were established. They have been indicated above under the heading, "Number".
Originally, only cardinals were members of the congregations of the Curia. Pope Paul VI decreed that the members could also be bishops who were not cardinals. With Regimini Ecclesiae universae he laid down also that appointments to membership of congregations and as heads of departments would be for five-year periods only, and that appointment for an additional five-year period would also be possible. As before, the members of a congregation do not intervene in the day-to-day operations of the congregation, which is in the hands of the Prefect and the permanent staff, headed generally by the Secretary and the Undersecretary. Membership normally meet to discuss more general problems and to determine guidelines no more than once a year.
Each congregation is to have consultors, who are appointed for five-year (renewable) periods.
Pope Paul also established that on the death of a pope the posts of heads of departments become vacant, with the exception of those of Cardinal Vicar for Rome, Camerlengo and Major Penitentiary. A new pope is therefore free to name department heads of his own choosing.
Periodical meetings of the heads of departments can be called by the Cardinal Secretary of State with a view to coordinating activities, providing information and gathering suggestions.
Other meetings between officials of more than one departments are also held in accordance with needs. Meetings involving the Congregations for Bishops, for the Clergy, for Religious, and for Catholic Education are to held at fixed times to deal with questions concerning the clergy in general.
- Decree Christus Dominus, 9
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, sixth introductory paragraph
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, eleventh preliminary paragraph
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, eighth preliminary paragraph
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, 3
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, 4
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, 5
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, 8
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, 10
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, ninth preliminary paragraph
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, 18
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, 13-16
- Regimini Ecclesiae universae, 17