Vatican City, May 8, 2019 / 16:35 pm
In the coming months, Pope Francis is expected to approve a final draft of a new governing constitution for the Roman Curia. Evangelium praedicate, as it is expected to be called, will mark the culmination of six years of reforming efforts led by the pope’s Council of Cardinals.
As the document gets closer to publication, some members of Roman Curia have expressed concern about the document’s current draft form, especially as it relates to the possibility of more senior roles for lay men and women.
The constitution is expected to continue the work of combining smaller “pontifical councils” with the larger, better known, “congregations” of the Vatican Curia. The stated aim of such reforms is to provide a more efficient bureaucracy, better suited to serving the pope and dioceses around the world.
Commentary has focused on a supposedly revised order of seniority among the combined curial departments, with some media outlets predicting a relegation of status for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in favor of Propaganda Fide.
The ecclesiological problems with that forecast are well known; Francis has himself insisted that “all dicasteries report directly to the pope” and that reform must proceed “on the basis of the principle that all dicasteries are juridically equal.”
And sources familiar with the draft text have noted that, while departmental seniority may be a red herring, the exercise of authority within departments is a more significant issue. Specifically, curial officials say, members of the C6 (formerly the C9) have been considering how lay men and women might assume senior leadership roles in the consolidated curial departments.
That possibility is already unfolding. Last year, a reconstituted Dicastery for Communications became the first curial department to have a layman as prefect. Francis has also appointed two women to serve as undersecretaries at the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. Laity also fill senior positions at the Secretariat for the Economy.
At this point in curial organization, according to sources familiar with the reforming efforts, some members of the C6 are pushing for the appointment of lay Catholics to positions traditionally held by cardinals.
While allowing laity to occupy more senior Vatican offices has been a much-discussed ambition in curial reform, it has generated concern among many officials.