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Pope Francis to raise ‘evangelization’ above Catholic doctrine in curial reform: report

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Follow Matthew

April 29, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis is expected to sign a new reform measure that will reorganize the various agencies of the Vatican, creating a new and powerful dicastery of “evangelization” that will take precedence over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which protects the integrity of Catholic doctrine concerning faith and morals, according to the Spanish news service Vida Nueva Digital.

The existence of the measure, which is a proposed apostolic constitution called “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”) was announced by Vida Nueva on April 22, following interviews with cardinals involved in the document’s formulation. A longer, more in depth article on the reorganization plan has been published by Vida Nueva Digital for subscribers only, and the Catholic News Service (CNS) has obtained and quoted an advance copy of the article.

The new document, a draft of which was reportedly approved this month by the pope’s “C9” Council of Cardinal Advisors, reportedly will merge two existing offices or “dicasteries” into a single dicastery devoted to Evangelization. The new dicastery will take precedence over the Congregation of the Doctrine of the faith, which currently occupies the second position in order of priority among the Vatican dicasteries after the Secretariat of State.

If the publication’s summary of the new plan is correct, it would appear to be aimed at carrying forth the vision of Pope Francis of a notion of “evangelization” that devalues the integrity of Catholic doctrine in favor of “accompanying” people who may not accept the Catholic faith, a view that is expressed in Amoris laetitia and other Francis documents.

“The principal novelty [of the reform] lies in the creation of a great dicastery for Evangelization, situated before the historic Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which will unify the work that today is done by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fidei) and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization,” declared Vida Nueva on March 22.

"In this way the order of the dicasteries established by the Apostolic Constitution 'Pastor Bonus' approved by Saint John Paul II in 1988 will be altered, overridden by 'Praedicate Evangelium,'" the publication continues.

“The main point of the new apostolic constitution is that the church’s mission is evangelization. It puts it at the center of the church and of everything the Curia does,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, in his interview with Vida Nueva, according to CNS.

Vida Nueva and CNS also report that according to the new plan, the Vatican’s dicasteries will no longer be seen as having an authority superior to diocesan bishops, and may be led by mere laymen in the future, further advancing Pope Francis’ themes of “synodality” and opposition to what he calls “clericalism.”

In addition, the new organizational scheme reportedly will give more authority to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors by placing it within the structure of the curia.

New constitution is work of scandal-plagued Honduran cardinal

Praedicate Evangelium reportedly has been a work in progress for five years by the Council of Cardinal Advisers, headed by Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who has been under fire since late 2018 for a series of alleged coverups of homosexuality in the Tegucigalpa seminary, as well as facilitating and protecting sexual abuse and malfeasance on the part of his (now former) auxiliary bishop Juan José Pineda. He is also accused of his own massive abuse of archdiocesan funds.

The reform will not merely be cosmetic, but “will promote the change in mentality that has already started,” said Cardinal Gracias, according to CNS.

“The Roman Curia will never be the same anymore,” Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga reportedly added.

The current draft has been sent to the various Vatican dicasteries as well as the leaders of the conferences of bishops worldwide for their comments. If there are no unexpected delays, the final version is scheduled to be signed by Pope Francis on June 29, according to Vida Nueva Digital.

Traditional order and authority of Roman dicasteries increasingly inverted

The new arrangement would further invert the traditional order of the Vatican’s various departments, which for centuries gave the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition, the position of greatest eminence among the dicasteries. Moreover, the Holy Office for most of its history did not have a cardinal prefect, but only a “pro-prefect” because it was directly led by the Pope himself.  Although no dicastery was officially ranked above any other, the Holy Office occupied first place in eminence and influence, exercising both administrative and judicial authority directly under the pope, as the highest court in the Catholic Church.

That arrangement was radically altered in 1967 by Pope Paul VI, whose apostolic constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae placed the Secretariat of State in first position, listing it before the others and assigning it the duty of aiding the pope in coordinating the activities of the other dicasteries and of giving “close assistance to the Supreme Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme office.” It listed the Holy Office, with the new name of the “Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” in second place after the Secretariat of State.

The new reorganized Holy Office was no longer led by the pope himself, but by a cardinal prefect, and the Secretariat of State was led by the pope directly, with a cardinal acting as his secretary. The same arrangement was upheld by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus in 1988. Although the law still stated that no dicastery is juridically ranked above any other, in practice the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith now occupied the second rank in honor and influence.

The new arrangement envisioned by Francis in “Praedicate Evangelium” appears to place the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on an even lower level of priority, below both the Secretariat of State and the new “super-dicastery” of Evangelization. The decline in the congregation’s status has accompanied an increasingly lax attitude in Rome towards the gravity of heresy and other forms of deviance from Catholic doctrine, emphasizing unity and “accompaniment” more than doctrinal truth.

Fr. Thomas Weinandy, a member of the International Theological Commission who was removed from his position as an adviser to the US Conference of Catholic bishops in 2017 following his criticisms of Pope Francis, told LifeSite that there’s “no problem” with making Evangelization as the “primary pastoral work of the Church,” but “if it means that within that Evangelization, the role of doctrine is going to take second place, or placed on a lower level, then that would undercut the whole purpose of evangelization.”

“The good news that is offered is precisely the Mysteries of the Faith -- the Church's doctrinal and moral tradition,” Weinandy continued. “How can one preach the Gospel without telling others of the marvelous mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the saving death and resurrection of Jesus, or the great gift of the Sacraments, etc? Doctrine and the Church's moral teaching is what evangelization is all about.  It is the Good News!”

Without doctrine and moral teaching, “there is no evangelization,” said Weinandy. “What may be proclaimed would simply be empty words that do not bring life -- here on earth and forever in heaven.  It would be contrary to the Church's whole evangelistic tradition -- beginning with the Apostles themselves.”

“What we must remember, which some members of the hierarchy fail to grasp in their ignorance, and maybe in their lack of faith, is that Doctrines are not sterile and lifeless dead letters from a bygone age, but the very life-giving heart of the Church,” said Weinandy. “They are the Spirit-filled truths, the very mysteries revealed by God the Father through his Incarnate Son, that give life, beauty and joy to all who believe.  To denigrate Doctrine is an affront to the Trinity itself and to belittle all faithful Catholics throughout the centuries.  To possess such an arrogant mindset is say in the end that Jesus is not that important.”

“So, yes, let the Church renew and bolster its commitment to preach the Gospel to all, but let us proclaim the Gospel in all of its splendor and truth -- to do less is to offer the world nothing of any eternal value,” Weinandy concluded.

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