The Roman Curia is composed of a number of different dicasteries, but by far the two most common types are Congregations, of which there are nine, and Pontifical Councils, of which there are 12.
While Congregations have executive power, Pontifical Councils do not, and remain in the background of their own spheres of influence.
It is widely rumored in Rome that the curial reform will result in fewer Pontifical Councils, and that their competencies will be transferred to the Congregations. This subsumption of the councils into the Congregations should streamline the Roman Curia.
Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the G-8 cardinals, said last week that this consolidation could develop the laity's role in the Church's ranks by creating a 'Congregation for the Laity.'
This possible congregation would enroll the current Pontifical Councils for the Family and for the Laity, as well as the Pontifical Academy for Life, according to Cardinal Rodríguez.
By speaking of a congregation for the laity, Cardinal Rodríguez is seemingly following Pope Francis’ wish to give more space and importance to laypeople within the Church.
In any case, a 'Congregation for the Laity' would submit the laity to the authority of the clergy, since a Congregation is a governmental body.
This is the reason why – the official of a Pontifical Council who asked for anonymity told CNA Oct. 30 – “creating a Congregation would not be the best way to give more space and influence to the laymen of the Church.”
The official maintained that “the ranks of Pontifical Councils are full of laymen, entrusted with important charges, acting as main characters in the life of the Church.”
The official said that Pontifical Councils should instead “think about having more lay members, thus giving the lay people a sort of deliberative power within the Vatican dicasteries.”
Under current law – Pastor Bonus – dicasteries are composed of their presiding cardinal or archbishop, along with other cardinals and bishops, “assisted by a secretary, consulters, senior administrators, and a suitable number of officials … unless they have a different structure in virtue of their specific nature or some special law.”
The apostolic constitution goes on to say that some dicasteries can have “clerics and other faithful” as well, but specifies that “strictly speaking, the members of a congregation are the cardinals and the bishops.”
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.