View From Rome

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28 April 2016 | by Christopher Lamb

 

Situated in a grand, imposing sixteenth-century palace, the office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has long been the most feared of all Vatican departments, particularly by Catholic theologians it has decided to investigate. Under the papacy of Francis, however, the department – originally known as the Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, and later more informally as “The Holy Office” – seems to have lost some of its teeth.

While it was previously a terrier biting on the heels of anyone who might be bold enough to question elements of church teaching it is now looking more like a lost puppy, trying to find its place in the world.

Part of the problem for the CDF is the Pope’s position that, as he put in his recent apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, “not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the Magisterium”. This will have unsettled its prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who has  claimed his role is to “provide the theological structure of a pontificate”, something not part of the job description of his predecessors.  
Francis is certainly keeping his distance from the Congregation. While in recent pontificates the CDF prefect could look forward to regular audiences with the Pope, Müller sees Francis for just 15 minutes every fortnight.





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