24 April 2019, The Tablet

A profound and optimistic change


Pope Francis’s plans to reform the way the Vatican works turn out to be a fundamental reversal of priorities. For centuries the senior Vatican department was the Holy Office, later renamed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The promotion of right Catholic doctrine came first, and the spreading of the Gospel message throughout the world was somewhere down the list. The Pope’s proposals for shaking up the Roman Curia, which have apparently reached their final form, place evangelisation – spreading the message – as the first priority, not doctrinal orthodoxy. This could have been predicted from one of the earliest documents of Francis’s papacy, Evangelii Gaudium.

An interesting light is being thrown on two current and overlapping controversies in the Catholic Church. One is a letter written by Pope Emeritus Benedict in which he comments on the crisis of child abuse in the Church. In the 1960s – 1968 to be exact – moral theologians abandoned natural law as their source of moral teaching, he says, and attempted to replace it with something more liberal, and supposedly more Biblical.

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