Deciding which matters arrive on the papal desk to receive the pope's time, attention, and approval - and which do not - would, under the new constitution, effectively determine which areas of Church governance Rome chooses to control. Here again, the singular status of the Secretariat of State is underlined.
Unlike a "dicastery," which can be headed by a lay person, Praedicate Evangelium provides that the Secretariat of State must be led by a cardinal, currently Cardinal Pietro Parolin. This department is placed in charge of coordinating the work of the dicasteries and, through meetings with the heads of those departments, "making decisions that will be proposed to the Supreme Pontiff."
The Secretariat of State's section for general affairs is also given charge of drafting governing legal documents, including apostolic constitutions, letters of decree, and apostolic letters, and of processing those acts which have been presented for personal papal approval.
"The [new constitution's] preamble says a lot about collegiality and subsidiarity," one long-serving curial official told CNA, "but this is just the total centralization of power in the office of the Secretary of State."
"Nothing can be done without the pope's approval, and nothing gets to the pope except through [Cardinal Parolin] – it's the creation of a vice-regency."
Praedicate Evangelium's blueprint for the new curia places considerable emphasis on regular meetings among the heads of dicasteries and the need for "collegiality, transparency and concerted action."
One archbishop, currently serving in a senior curial role said that while these were "noble principles," the result could be "inefficiency by design."
"It is an essentially Soviet model. Lots of meetings, lots of discussion, but in the end the Secretary [of State] decides what will happen."
Asked about the difficulty in securing papal approval for every authoritative decision, the archbishop told CNA "that is the design."
"The pope cannot decide everything, that is why we have a curia to begin with. This pope above all hates meetings and this was understood [by the drafting committee]. It creates a filter, what it is decided he should approve he can approve, what is not, he will simply not receive."
Curial officials familiar with the drafting process told CNA that the apparent centralization of admirative power in the Secretariat of State was deliberately counterbalanced with new, expanded recognition of national bishops' conferences.
(Story continues below)
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.
In the section describing the reformed Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Praedicate Evangelium refers to the "primary responsibility" of bishops and bishops' conferences for the particular Churches and makes specific reference to the "genuine doctrinal authority" enjoyed by them.
On measures related to "protecting the faith," the reformed CDF is to work in close cooperation with local bishops' conferences, "above all [on] the issue of authorization for teaching in the Church, where the Dicastery will apply the principle of subsidiarity."
One senior official told CNA that "This idea of episcopal conferences having genuine doctrinal authority is very dangerous. We have seen so much confusion just on Communion for the divorced and remarried, now we say what? The Germans can decide what they like with a vote and that is genuine teaching authority?"
One archbishop given sight of the draft told CNA that the plan amounted to "a blueprint for federalism."
"If you want to see one authentic teaching in Germany and another in Poland, this is how you achieve it."
The document is still in the process of revision. Pope Francis met with the C6 in June to discuss the comments and suggestions received on the draft text, after it was circulated among the presidents of national bishops' conferences, dicasteries of the Roman Curia, Synods of the Eastern Churches, conferences of major superiors, and select pontifical universities.