DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     September 16, 1999     vol. 10, no. 176


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      Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.

      It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.

    Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.


Sacred Congregations

    The Roman Curia is the organization of various bodies to which the Pope has delegated the exercise of his jurisdiction. Almost all the heads of the bodies in the Roman Curia are cardinals. The Roman Curia is the papal court; it is the core of the government of the Church. The Holy Father possesses complete and absolute power over the government of the Church; but it is not possible for him to exercise his authority personally and directly over every detail in the world-wide Church. It is akin to Congress or Parliament.

    This network of the Church's central administrative agencies, also called dicasteries serves the Vatican and local churches stemming from the full authority granted by the Sovereign Pontiff. The Curia came about from the advisory assemblies or synods of the clergy who had assisted the Popes in Church affairs during the first millennium into the first century of the second. It originally was called the Apostolic Chancery which was established in the fourth century in order to disseminate documents to the clergy and, in turn, to the people. The various offices were not truly defined until the Council of Trent.

    In 1963, soon after he was elected the 262nd successor of Peter, Pope Paul VI ordered a four-year study to revamp the Curia. The results were published in his Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae published on August 18, 1967 and took full effect the following March. Twenty years later, Pope John Paul II issued his Apostolic Constition Pastor Bonus released during his Consistory of June 28, 1988 in which he modified many of the curial offices, expanding, condensing some and changing the names and duties of many.

An Overview of the Roman Curia

    In his final reform, which the Holy Father made effective March 1, 1989 there were:

  • The Secretariat of State:
    • First Section and Second Section

  • The Sacred Congregations:
    • Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith
      • Pontifical Commision for Biblical Commission*
      • International Theological Commission*
    • Congregation for Bishops
      • Pontifical Commission for Latin America**
      • Congregation for the Clergy
      • Congregation for the Oriental Churches
      • Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
      • Congregation for the Causes of Saints
      • Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
      • Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
      • Congregation for Catholic Education

    • Tribunals:
      • Apostolic Penitentiary
      • Apostolic Signatura
      • Roman Rota

    • Pontifical Councils:
      • Pontifical Council for the Laity
      • Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
          Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews***
      • Pontifical Council for the Family
      • Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
      • Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"
      • Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants
      • Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers
      • Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts
      • Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
      • Pontifical Council for Culture
      • Pontifical Council for Social Communications

    • Offices:
      • Apostolic Chamber
      • Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
      • Administration of the Patrimony of hte Apostolic See

    • Other Curia Agencies:
      • Prefecture of the Papal Household
      • Office for Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff
      • Vatican Press Office
      • Vatican Information Service
      • Central Statistics Office

    • Commissions and Committees:
      • Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church:
      • Pontifical Commision for Sacred Archeology
      • Pontifical Commision for Biblical Commission*
      • Pontifical Commission for Latin America**
      • Pontifical Commission for the Revision and Emendation of the Vulgate
      • Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei"
      • International Theological Commission*
      • Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews***
      • Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims****
      • Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses
      • Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences
      • Committee for the Grand Jubilee of the Holy Year 2000
      • Vatican II Archives
      • Disciplinary Commission of the Roman Curia
      • Fabric of St. Peter
      • Office of Papal Charities
      • Council of Cardinals for Study of Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See
      • Commission for the Protection of the Historical and Artistic Monuments of the Holy See
      • Institute for Works of Religion
      • Labor Office of the Apostolic See

The Secretariat of State

    The Secretariat of State office is the right hand of the Sovereign Pontiff, providing assistance in the care of the universal Church. This most vital of bodies is composed of two sections, the First Section for General Affairs which assists the Vicar of Christ in carrying out the daily business of the Holy See. Cardinal Angelo Sodano is in charge of preparing drafts of all documents as the Pope deigns and is also responsible for coordinating the Roman Curial day-to-day operations, consulting with the various Prefects and Presidents. He supervises the Vatican Press Office and L'Osservatore Romano, the Central Statistics Office and the accounts of the Church recorded in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Annuario Pontificio. He is the one who issues the encyclicals, Apostolic Exhortations, Letters and Constitutions and few can get to the Pope without going through this office.

    The Second Section of the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Sodano also oversees but regular day-to-day duties are given over more to the Secretary for Relations with States who presently is Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, a very important office in these times of global impact. He answers directly to Cardinal Sodano who, when push comes to shove, takes full responsibility for governing the Vatican Diplomatic division. Lately Archbishop Tauran has been on the move so much from Kosovo to Africa to Asia to the Holy Land to Indonesia that Cardinal Sodano has been working overtime in relations with civil governments, especially at this time with the grave situation in East Timor and Rwanda. Attached to the Second Section is a Council of Cardinals and Bishops which act as an advisory board.

    The Secretariat of State was first created in its primitive form after the Council of Trent. In the 1793 Pope Pius VI reorganized it as the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs and Paul VI restructured it as the Pontifical Council for Public Affairs of the Church in 1967. John Paul II set it apart from all other offices by giving it singular status above the rest.

      Friday: the Roman Curia: Sacred Congregations

September 16, 1999       volume 10, no. 176


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