Benedictís papacy: the way itís shaping up
Vatican appointmentsRobert Mickens
- 17 September 2011
In just six years, Benedict XVI has shaped the Church through his appointments of key clergy to high office in Rome. The Slavic slant of his Polish predecessor has gone although, as this Tablet analysis reveals, Benedict has not replaced it with a German tendency – but the usual Italian one
The Catholic Church, at least at the universal level, is being led overwhelmingly by Western Europeans (and North Americans) who are “Roman” in their theological and ecclesiological outlook and training, rather than people from the developing world where the Church is growing. That’s the clearest characteristic of the Roman Curia to emerge from a close analysis by The Tablet of the appointments that Pope Benedict XVI has made in six years in office.
The Bavarian Pope has given more than 76 per cent of the Vatican’s highest-ranking positions to people from the “Old Continent” and another 10.2 per cent to men from North America. Even though Latin America is home to roughly half of all the world’s Catholics, the Pope has offered only 5.1 per cent of the top Curia jobs (five posts) to people from that part of the world. That’s the same as the quota for Africans. Meanwhile, he has invited only three Asians to work in Rome.
More significantly, nearly 90 per cent of Pope Benedict’s appointees undertook theological studies in Rome and only one of them has never studied in Europe or North America.
The Tablet’s analysis examines the appointments of those who lead some 50 high-level offices of the Roman Curia – the administrative apparatus of the Holy See and the governing body of the entire Church – or those closely connected to it. These include the Secretariat of State, congregations (the most powerful departments with jurisdiction for issues such as doctrine, worship and bishops’ appointments), pontifical councils (mostly middle-sized agencies with pastoral concerns) and Synod office, as well as tribunals, economic and administrative offices of Vatican City State, the Vatican Library, several pontifical commissions, the four major papal basilicas, two equestrian orders “led” traditionally by cardinals and the three main pontifical academies (science, social science and life think tanks).
The study focused only on the office “superiors” – that is, the top three or four administrative levels ranging from president or prefect down to undersecretary. Out of a possible 127 managerial posts, the current Pope has filled approximately 99 during his time in office, or 80 per cent of the total since becoming Bishop of Rome in April 2005. Most notably, his hand-picked team comprise the entire top officials at the Secretariat of State, an office led by Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB, his most trusted aide.
The 84-year-old Pope has also named new prefects for all but one of the nine congregations, and new presidents for all but one of the 12 pontifical councils. The only exceptions are at the Congregation for Catholic Education, where Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski has been at the helm since 1999, and at the Pontifical Council for the Laity, led by 66-year-old Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko since 2003. These two Polish cardinals and the Croatian secretary general of the Synod of Bishops (since 2004), Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, are the only significant “office heads” remaining from the pontificate of John Paul II.
Some 47 Italians have been appointed to administrative positions under Benedict XVI. With only a few exceptions there are Italian “superiors” in almost every office that was part of the study. They figure especially heavily in the several administrative departments of Vatican City State. Many of these offices in the study are probably unknown and not terribly significant to many Catholics.
More essential, especially to bishops and other diocesan officials, are the policies and decisions that come from the Secretariat of State, the nine congregations, the 12 pontifical councils and the three tribunals. In this smaller constellation of bureaux, half of the 22 men that Pope Benedict has appointed to the top position are from Italy, four are from other parts of Europe, three from North America, and two each from Africa and Asia. The Pope has also appointed some 22 people to the number-two slot in these dicasteries; 15 of them are Europeans (five from Italy), two each from North America, Africa and Asia, and one from Latin America.
If John Paul II was accused of creating a Polish or Slavic “mafia” during his long reign, the same native bias cannot be said of Benedict XVI. The German Pope has not appointed one person from his native country to a top Curia job. And he has named only one German-speaker to such a post – Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
But the limited efforts to broaden the make-up of the Roman Curia, whose “internationalisation” was an expressed desire of the Fathers at the Second Vatican Council, is only part of the picture. Just as important as having a geographical representation of the local Churches in Rome, there is also a need for administrative, cultural, pastoral and theological experience and competence.
The fact that Pope Benedict has chosen most of his officials from among those who have a Roman pedigree assures a loyalty to a long-standing theological and governing system. But it also tends to reinforce insularity and block out other currents of legitimate ecclesiological thinking. Obviously, people such as Professor Hans Küng are proof that someone can be “Roman-trained” and still be critical of the Roman system. However, one would be hard-pressed to find many Curia officials who are openly “anti-Roman Romans”.
Personal loyalty is important, too. Like most leaders, Pope Benedict has been careful to select people he believes he can trust, such as the appointment – against the advice of many who feared he lacked the necessary expertise in diplomatic affairs – of Cardinal Bertone as Secretary of State. He is just one of several key Curia figures that have the distinction of working directly for the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was prefect (1981-2005) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
Others include the current CDF prefect (Cardinal William Levada of the United States), the head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (Italian Cardinal Angelo Amato SDB), the secretary at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (US Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP), the president and undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers (Polish Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski and Italian-born Fr Augusto Chendi) and the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation (Colombian Archbishop José Octavio Ruiz Arenas).
Pope Benedict has chosen other top Vatican officials from among those who were members or consultors of the CDF or who were on one of the several commissions he once headed. Among these are the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares), the secretary at the Congregation for Catholic Education (French Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès OP) and the head of the New Evangelisation office (Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella). Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet PSS, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, was a co-worker on the international theological journal, Communio, which the former Cardinal Ratzinger co-founded.
One notable trend is Pope Benedict’s selection of men with experience of the Church beyond Rome – as diocesan bishops – to head several offices, including the Secretariat of State. The prefects of four of the nine congregations are former diocesan ordinaries – Cardinals Ouellet, Levada and Cañizares, together with Brazilian Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, the prefect of the Congegation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The presidents of five of the 12 pontifical councils also once headed dioceses – along with Cardinal Koch and Archbishop Zimowski are Italian Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, head of that for the Family, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of that for Justice and Peace, and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of Cor Unum, promoting human and Christian development. The prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, US Cardinal Raymond Burke, is to be included in this list, as well as Indian Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, secretary of the Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, Archbishop Bruguès and Archbishop Ruiz Arenas.
One of the main goals Pope Benedict has put forward in his pontificate is the revitalisation of Catholic education. But he has yet to shape fully the direction of the congregation that deals with this vital concern. His only top appointment there has been 67-year-old Archbishop Bruguès. Polish Cardinal-prefect Grocholewski is only 71 and has been in Rome since the 1960s. So far the Pope has resisted every temptation to move him, or indeed his compatriot Cardinal Rylko, although the Pope has a trusted aide in the Council for the Laity – his 64-year-old former private secretary, German-born Josef Clemens, who was made bishop-secretary of that dicastery in 2003.
Since becoming Pope, Benedict XVI has created two new high-level departments – the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation mentioned above and a European Union-mandate “financial authority” to ensure that all Vatican offices comply with international financial standards, especially those concerning money-laundering regulations.
Another objective the German Pope has pursued during his six years in office is to offer a definitive interpretation of the Second Vatican Council. One of the major themes to emerge from the council, which many theologians believe has not been sufficiently developed and implemented, is episcopal collegiality. In this light it will be very telling to see what the Pope decides to do with the Synod of Bishops and who he appoints as secretary general. It may be among the impending appointments that will continue to show where Benedict XVI seeks to lead the Church.