A combatting Curia,
in the spirit of Vatican II
If we consider the whole of the history of the post-Council, we see an alternance, as experienced in democracies, between periods of refocus (under John Paul II and Benedict XVI), and liberal supremacy (during Paul VI for most of the episcopates and today, all the way to Rome). In regards to the present pontificate, it could be described as enlightened despotism, imposing in a manner paradoxically centralist, a “synodality” – that is to say the most liberal interpretation possible of Vatican II – to the ecclesiastic institution.
Thus, we see today an acceleration of the process. Francis knows that time is running out and those who share his views intend to make it last passed the next conclave. We can list the various actions taken to this end, taking place at a good pace, and which might have been completed by others at the time when these lines are published.
The people in charge of the moral of marriage had all been replaced (the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life entrusted to Kevin Farrell; the dismissal of Mgr Melina, President of the John Paul II Institute; the nomination of Mgr Paglia as President of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Grand Chancellor of the John Paul II Institute). Last, was announced the nomination next September of Mgr Philippe Bordeyne, 61 years old, as head of the John Paull II Institute, until now rector of the Catholic Institute in Paris, the most fervent supporter of Amoris Lætitia.
The Archpriest of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Cardinal Comastri, a classical man, having reached the age of 80, after having endured the humiliation of seeing his administration of the Basilica placed under the scrutiny of a visitor, has been replaced on February 20 last by Cardinal Mauro Gambettti, 55 years old, one of the most progressive Franciscans. This new appointment was followed on March 12 by a drastic liturgical measure: Mgr Peña, Substitute of the Secretariat of State, has decided that individual celebrations of the mass were from now on banned from the Vatican Basilica, which will now only allow concelebrations, regardless of Canon law (#902).
On February 20, was accepted the resignation of the very Ratzinguerian Cardinal Sarah from his position as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Before the nomination of his successor, the management of his congregation was under a three-day canonical visitation (the visitor was Mgr Claudio Maniago, Bishop of Castellaneta and President of the Liturgical Commission of the Italian Bishops’ Conference), as it was the case also for Cardinal Comastri.
In concrete terms, it seems that this rules out Maniago as successor of Cardinal Sarah. The goal of the visitation was to evaluate the conciliar shortfalls of a congregation which was for a long time a Ratzinguerian stronghold (Prefect Medina, Arinze, Cañizares, Sarah) and which is to be again the driving force of the liturgy of Vatican II.
Mgr Vittorio Francesco Viola, 55 years old, a Franciscan like Gambetti, Bishop of Tortona, who sees himself in the step of Annibale Bugnini, the grand master of the liturgical reform, and who even devoutly wears Bugnini’s episcopal ring, could replace Cardinal Sarah. Unless the present Secretary, Arthur Roche, English prelate of 71 years old, he too a staunch enthusiast of Bugnini, becomes Prefect and Vittorio Viola is, then, appointed as Secretary.
This “normalization” of the Curia will also continue with nominations at the head of other congregations: for Bishops, in order to replace Cardinal Ouellet (76 years old), and for the Clergy, to appoint a prelate on the same line as the very influential Cardinal Stella (80 years old next August).
Cardinal Blase Joseph Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, 71 years old, could take charge of the Congregation for Bishops and especially look after the renewal of the American episcopate, unless Mgr Robert Francis Prevost, Augustinian, 65 years old, born in the United States, Bishop of Chiclayo in Peru is appointed, and Cupich is then assigned to the Clergy next August. There were also words, not long ago, of Cardinal Angelo de Donatis, Vicar of the pope for the diocese of Rome.
Would we soon see published the apostolic constitution for the reform of the Curia, Prædicate Evangelium, now in the making for the past ten years? Spectacular decisions without much effects are to be expected (the Dicastery for Evangelization, led by Cardinal Tagle, taking rank ahead of the offices of the Curia, before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). The controlling role of the Congregation for Divine Worship in the liturgical renewal is to be highlighted. But there will also be small changes with strong conciliar consequences, like the probable suppression of the office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which inherited the competence of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, the small world of Ecclesia Dei being thus reduced to “common law”.
In short, a combatting Curia, in the spirit of Vatican II, is being set up, only to govern a Church that is worn out.
 See Thibaud Collin, Divorcés remariés, Ce qui change avec François (Salvator, 2017).