Pope Transfers Responsibility for Catechesis, Seminaries
Two new papal directives have reassigned oversight of these areas to different Vatican offices.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has written two new directives modifying the departments in the Roman Curia that are responsible for catechesis and the formation of priests throughout the Church.
The Pope gave the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization the task of “caring for ... the relevant instrument of evangelization that the Catechism of the Catholic Church, along with catechetical teaching in all its diverse forms, represents for the Church, in order to bring about a more organic and effective pastoral outreach.”
“This new pontifical council will be able to provide the local Churches and the diocesan bishops an appropriate service in this area,” he wrote Jan. 16 in the motu proprio letter Fides per Doctrinam (Faith by doctrine).
A motu proprio is a letter issued by the Pope “on his own initiative,” which typically makes minor changes to canon law. The two motu proprios, signed Jan. 16, but released Jan. 25, modify Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus, which reformed the Roman Curia.
Formerly, the Congregation for the Clergy had been responsible for catechesis. Pope Benedict chose to transfer that responsibility to the New Evangelization Council because the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent magisterium “have connected the Catechism ever more closely to the process of evangelization,” he wrote in Fides per Doctrinam.
“The Catechism, therefore, represents a significant step in the daily life of the Church, announcing and communicating the word of God in a living and effective manner, so that it might reach all and that believers might be trained and educated in Christ to build his body, which is the Church.”
He wrote that “faith needs to be supported by doctrine that is capable of illuminating the minds and hearts of believers.” There is currently a “dramatic crisis of faith” that “requires an awareness that is able to respond to the high expectations that arise in the hearts of believers when facing the new questions that challenge the world and the Church.”
This, therefore, intimately links catechesis and the New Evangelization. “Understanding faith ... always requires that its content be expressed in a new language, one capable of presenting the living hope of believers to those inquiring into its purpose,” wrote Pope Benedict.
He said that, since Vatican II, catechesis has traveled a “long path,” though it has been one “not without errors, even grave ones, both in method and in content.”
Pope Benedict referred to the publication of the Catechism and the apostolic exhortations Evangelii Nuntiandi and Catechesi Tradendae of Paul VI and John Paul II as high points in the last 50 years of catechesis.
In giving his reasons for his decision, the Pope cited the Church’s “particular task” to “keep alive the effective proclamation of Christ, through the exposition of the doctrine, which must [promote] faith in the mystery of the Incarnation.”
The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization was established in 2010 and identifies and promotes ways of accomplishing the New Evangelization. One of its tasks has been to “promote the use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an essential and complete formulation of the content of the faith for the people of our time.”
The Pope’s second motu proprio, signed Jan. 16 and released Jan. 25, is Ministrorum Institutio (Ministers’ Formation). This document transfers responsibility for priestly formation and major seminaries from the Congregation for Catholic Education to the Congregation for the Clergy.
“I find it opportune,” wrote Pope Benedict, to give responsibility to the Congregation for the Clergy for “everything regarding the formation, the life and the ministry of priests and deacons.”
This includes the “pastoral care for vocations and the selection of candidates for holy orders, including their personal, spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral formation in seminaries and in special centers for permanent deacon, and also their permanent formation, including living conditions and procedures for exercising their ministry and their welfare and social assistance.”
Pope Benedict’s move reflects his and his predecessor’s view that there is a close and intrinsic link between formation for the priesthood and ongoing formation following ordination.
The Congregation for Catholic Education will now be responsible for “the ordering of academic studies in philosophy and theology.”
The Holy Father had previously announced his intention to make these changes. At the conclusion of October’s Synod on the New Evangelization, he stated his plan to reform the Curia’s competences for catechesis and seminaries.
Both motu proprios will go into effect 15 days after there promulgation in the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.