'Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith'
©Catholic Online 2005
Founded in 1542 by Pope Paul III with the Constitution "Licet ab initio," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was originally called the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition as its duty was to defend the Church from heresy. It is the oldest of the Curia's nine congregations.
The only curial organism which is older is the Secretariat of State, whose forerunner, the Apostolic Secretariat, was created by Innocent VIII on December 31, 1487, with the Constitution "Non debet reprehensibile."
Pope St. Pius X in 1908 changed the name to the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. It received its current name in 1965 with Pope Paul VI. Today, according to Article 48 of the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, "Pastor Bonus", promulgated by the Holy Father John Paul II on June 28, 1988, «the duty proper to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world: for this reason everything which in any way touches such matter falls within its competence.»
The congregation was headed by Prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. It has a secretary, His Excellency Mgr. Angelo Amato, S.D.B., an under-secretary, P. Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P., a Promotor of Justice Mgr. Charles Scicluna, and a staff of 33, according to the 2002 "Annuario Pontificio" or "Pontifical Yearbook." It also has 25 members - cardinals, archbishops and bishops - and 28 consulters. Given the nature of its task, congregation work is divided into four distinct sections: the doctrinal office, the disciplinary office, the matrimonial office and that for priests.
The congregation, says the "Activity of the Holy See," in conformity with its raison d'etre, promotes in a collegial fashion encounters and initiatives to «spread sound doctrine and defend those points of Christian tradition which seem in danger because of new and unacceptable doctrines.»
For several years the congregation, together with the Vatican Publishing House, has been issuing volumes containing the texts of its single documents, as well as articles relative to its work which appear in the daily edition of "L'Osservatore Romano". Annually, it holds plenary assemblies.
When bishops are in Rome for their quinquennial "ad limina" visit, they call on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as they do with other dicasteries of the Roman Curia, «for an exchange of information and reciprocal concerns.»
There is also ample collaboration between the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Commission. each of which has as president the cardinal prefect of Doctrine of the Faith. Weekly congregation meetings are held, usually on Wednesday, and are attended by officials and consultors.
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