DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUN     September 17, 1999     vol. 10, no. 177


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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
part one

        The Sacred Congregations in the Roman Curia are the governing agencies of the Church. There are currently nine congregations (down from twelve). This weekend we are going to begin our short treatise on the Sacred Congregations, focusing on three each day: Monday we will feature the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Tuesday we will feature the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Congregaton for Catholic Education. This weekend we feature the first three: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Clergy briefly identifying each.
  • Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith

       This congregation safeguards the doctrine of faith and morals, examining doctrinal questions, writings and theological opinions, providing a forum for those under scrutiny to defend their views. This congregation, under the stewardship of one of the most well-known prelates besides the Pope himself - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect - examines matters pertaining to the Petrine Privilege also called the "Privilege of Faith" in regards marriage cases as well as preserving the dignity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation including the Seal of Confession. Two commissions are attached to this congregation, which is responsible for the Pontifical Biblical Commission of which Cardinal Ratzinger is President and the International Theological Commission as well which is an advisory board composed of no more than 30 theologians who answer to Cardinal Ratzinger.

        This Sacred Congregation began during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III as the Holy Office of the Inquisition to combat heresy. In his Apostolic Constitution Licet Pope Paul III made it a permanent congregation of cardinals with supreme and universal competence over all issues concerning heresy and those suspected of being heretics. The name was changed early in this century by Pope Saint Pius X to the Congregation of the Holy Office and Pope Paul VI, in his Motu Proprio Integrage Servandae reorganized this congregation giving it its present title in an effort to get away from the negative concept of only dealing with heresy. Since then, especially during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II the emphasis has been on promotion of orthodox doctrine, faithfully implemented by Cardinal Ratzinger since his appointment as Prefect in 1981.

  • Congregation for Bishops

       This congregation is headed by Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, O.P. of Brazil who was appointed Prefect by John Paul II on June 25, 1988 during the Consistory where he also was welcomed into the cardinalate. The Congregation for Bishops has jurisdiction over the the functions of bishops of the world and the sees they serve. Attached to this congregation are the Pontifical Commission for Latin America established on April 19, 1958 by Pope Pius XII and restructured by John Paul II in 1988 and headed by Cardinal Bernardin Gantin of Benin, Africa, and the central coordinating office for Military Vicars which our present Pope created on February 2, 1985, and an office for coordinating the bishops scheduled visits to Rome, called ad limina visits, mandatory for all bishops as of June 29, 1988.

        The origins of this congregation date back to Pope Sixtus V on January 22, 1588 when, in his Apostolic Constitution Immensa he formed it as part of the Roman Curia as the Consistorial Congregation. Pope St. Pius X extended the congregation's powers on June 20, 1908 as did Pius XII on August 1, 1952 with his Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia. Its duties were reorganized by Pope Paul VI on August 1, 1967 and given its current title. On June 28, 1988 John Paul II redefined its responsibilities adding ad limina visits at that time.

  • Congregation for the Clergy

        This congregation deals with the life, discipline, rights and duties of the clergy universally. It oversees the preaching of the Word, catechetics, norms for religious education for both children and adults in dioceses and parishes. It also governs the preservation and administration of the temporal goods of the Church. The Prefect since February 21, 1998 has been Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia. Attached to his congregation is the International Council for Catechetics which Paul VI created in 1973 and the Institute "Sacrum Ministerum" established through John Paul II's Apotolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis in 1992 for the permanent formation of the clergy.

        This Curia office began as the Congregation of the Cardinals Interpreters of the Council of Trent through the Apostolic Constitution Alias Nos by Pope Pius IV on August 2, 1564. The title was changed by Pope Gregory XIII and further revised by Pope Sixtus V as the Congregation of the Council which it remained until renamed it present title by Paul VI on August 15, 1967 and further redefined by John Paul II on June 28, 1988 with the added responsibilities of the attached commissions.

      Monday: the Roman Curia: Sacred Congregations - part two

September 17-19, 1999       volume 10, no. 177


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