Fr. Christian explained that there is a “a hierarchy of documents,” and also a hierarchy of bodies within the Roman Curia. Inside of the Curia, “congregations” are more significant than “pontifical councils,” which means that “in terms of pastoral authority the Secretariat of State is top and in terms of doctrinal authority the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is top.”
Another factor, he said, to take into consideration when assessing the significance of a “Vatican document” is whether it has been “reviewed by the Holy Father himself,” and also the number of Vatican departments involved in its creation.
He lamented that “unfortunately, the Church herself hasn’t actually explained that hierarchy very well.” Thus, he believes, it can be confusing for Catholics to understand what significance to give to different publications emanating from bodies within the Vatican.
As for this week’s document from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Fr. Christian has only read some of it but his initial analysis is that while it is appropriate for Vatican departments to speak out as part of the Church’s “social mission” they also have to be wary of straying beyond the limits of their competence.
“Is it the Church’s place to decry systems that seem to infringe on the dignity of peoples or to applaud those areas which seem to promote human dignity? Yes,” he said firmly.
“But is it the Church’s role to hypothesis concrete solutions to these things? Normally we would say ‘no.’ That’s what makes me a little nervous about a document which it seems may be promoting something rather more concrete than usual.”
Sunday, October 30, 2011
A Friar Comments on the New Document From the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace