News Analysis

The Big Story: Speculation mounts over Vatican constitution

'It's logical': Cardinal Maradiaga (Right)

What happened?

More details have emerged about possible changes to the Vatican’s constitution. The Spanish magazine Vida Nueva published details of a draft text of the document, which is titled Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel). The draft will be reviewed by bishops’ conferences and Vatican officials, and will change before it is released on June 29. The most significant potential change is the creation of new departments, including a “super-dicastery” for evangelisation.

What Papal advisors are saying

Two members of the Pope’s advisory council of cardinals have explained the thinking behind the new document – and have effectively confirmed that there is a plan to relegate the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to below the new “super-dicastery”.

Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the council’s co-ordinator, told Vida Nueva that Pope Francis wanted to stress that the Church is “missionary”. “For this reason, it’s logical that we put in the first place the dicastery for Evangelisation and not the one for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay said that putting “mission” at the heart of the Vatican’s structure “won’t only be a cosmetic change” but will be “the impetus for a change of mentality that is already underway”.

What commentators are saying

Fr Thomas Weinandy, the US bishops’ former doctrine chief, told the National Catholic Register that the document could be unhelpfully ambiguous. While evangelisation should be given due importance, it would be damaging if this meant Church doctrines were not emphasised. The theologian George Weigel told the Register that “evangelisation requires evangelisers who are committed to the full symphony of Catholic truth”.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Gerhard Müller raised a concern about the document’s understanding of the Church’s hierarchy. The constitution aims to put the Curia at the service of the world’s bishops, not just the Pope. Cardinal Müller told the Register that bishops have “their own curia” but the Pope has the highest responsibility for upholding the truth.