Benedict XVI modifies Pastor Bonus with 2 new motu proprio

Get out your already heavily-amended copies of Pastor bonus, everyone: it is time to amend it yet again. The 1998 Pastoral Constitution of Pope John Paul II laid out in considerable detail the organization of the Roman Curia, specifying precisely the names and composition of each dicastery, enumerating which competencies, or responsibilities, each dicastery was charged with overseeing.

This past month the Holy See announced two new Apostolic Letters, each transferring an important competency from one Vatican dicastery to another:

  • Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio data” Ministrorum institutio modifying the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus and transferring the governance of seminaries from the “Congregation for Catholic Education” to the “Congregation for the Clergy” (16 January 2013)
  • Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio data” Fides per doctrinam modifying the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus and transferring the competence of Catechesis from the “Congregation for Clergy” to the “Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization” (16 January 2013)

Both of these shifts seem pretty straightforward, and I should think will elicit little real controversy. It has been discussed before (certainly in my recent coursework, if nowhere else) that seminaries are not, as their previous docketing would have seemed to indicate, simply one type of school among the many different species of Catholic educational institutions that the Congregation for Catholic Education oversees. Rather, seminaries fill a vital rôle in the formation of clergy, and so it is naturally under the competence of the Congregation for Clergy that they belong.

The second transfer is also unsurprising, and might well be indicative of a continued evolution of the Curia as a whole. In studying Pastor bonus just this past year it seemed that some of the Congregations had a sort of ‘grab bag’ list of competencies: probably for good historical reasons for the most, but still a bit eyebrow-raising at first glance. (It also makes trying to memorize said lists of competencies more than a bit daunting when they are so unintuitive at times.) And I wonder, too, if this move of Catechesis from the Congregation for Clergy to the relatively-new Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization can be read as a sign that the divide in prestige between the older Congregations and the newer Pontifical Councils is beginning to erode. We shall just have to wait and see.

Certainly, though, this move reflects the great importance that the Holy Father is placing on the much-needed efforts to re-awaken the faith of vast populations who, though often Catholic in name or in history, have in recent generations lost much of their fervor and formation. Let us all pray, in this Year of Faith, that the faith of all may be rekindled by the fire of the Holy Spirit.