Reforms initiated by Pope Francis seen as far-reaching, with no way back

While many Catholics are frustrated with the apparent lack of implementation of Pope Francis’ promised reforms, substantial reforms have in fact already begun to be put in place step by step and will be hard to undo, writes Robert Mickens in La Croix International (June 28). A “systematic deconstruction of the Roman Curia’s longstanding function as the universal Church’s central (i.e., centralizing) bureaucracy” has been undertaken, while more authority is being entrusted to bishops and national or regional bishops’ conferences. The curia is meant to become an institution serving the pope and the bishops. But Pope Francis is aware that such changes will take time. Thus he is doing his best to ensure that the initiated reforms cannot be reversed.

While it is true that the Council of Cardinals in charge of preparing a draft for a new apostolic constitution that would reform the church’s central offices has not yet completed its work, Mickens reports that well-informed observers expect that draft to be ready by 2020, while some still believe that an earlier delivery might be possible. A version of the draft is already being circulated to all dicasteries as well as to episcopal conferences. Some indications about deep changes have already been provided, explains Nicolas Senèze in an article published on the same day in La Croix International. For instance, women should be able in the future to take up the highest positions in the curia. “The sacrament of holy orders will no longer be required for positions of responsibility, only baptism,” said Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Secretary of the Council of Cardinals, on June 27. The reform of the curia—something that had been desired by the cardinals who elected Pope Francis—has been used by the pope to set into motion more wide-ranging reforms impacting the entire Catholic Church. According to Mickens, the Eurocentric model is to be abandoned, along with the idea of Christendom that is now seen as belonging to the past. This means looking for new ways to proclaim the Gospel in new environments. This transformation is rooted in the vision of the Second Vatican Council (19621965) for bringing the church into the modern world.