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How Pope Francis is changing the shape of the Roman Curia

Andrea Gagliarducci   By Andrea Gagliarducci for CNA

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, offers a Lenten meditation to Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 18, 2022. The meditation was on the Eucharist. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Rome Newsroom, Aug 19, 2022 / 04:50 am (CNA).

The new round of promotions and demotions in the Vatican is the consequence of two decisions recently taken by Pope Francis: Firstly, the publication of the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, which regulates the functions and tasks of the Roman Curia. And secondly, the publication of Traditionis Custodes. This motu proprio restricts the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass after Benedict XVI had liberalized it.

As a result of the reform of the Curia, several priests who served in the Vatican’s dicasteries no longer have a position there. Others are called to leave Rome because they have completed the reform’s five-year mandate, and their role has not been renewed.

On the other hand, the question of Traditionis Custodes is more complex. Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken of the risk of “backwardness” (looking backward, in Italian ‘indietrismo’) and defended his decision to restrict the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) as a “necessity.”

In other words, the pope argued he was restricting the celebration of the ancient liturgy to avoid what he sees as a tendency to go “backward.” This thinking appears to guide his choice of appointments in the Vatican.

In fact, these two criteria are dominating the reshuffle of the Roman Curia.

Now, as we know, after Praedicate Evangelium came into force, Pope Francis did not immediately proceed with naming or appointing the heads of dicasteries.

For example, the Dicastery for Education and Culture is the result of a merger between the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture. The prefect of the Congregation is Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, while the President of the Pontifical Council is Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi. Ravasi will turn 80 on October 18, while Versaldi turned 79 on June 29. Both are well beyond retirement age.

Not only has no successor been formally appointed yet. The responsibilities of the previous heads have not been defined, even if it is logical that Versaldi is the one who, for now, continues to lead the Dicastery.

Moreover, the secretary and undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education have ceased their office. Archbishop Vincenzo Zani is still waiting for a new position, while it seems that the undersecretary, Monsignor Friedrich Bechina, will be sent back to his home diocese.

That the undersecretaries are destined to return to their diocese seems evident from the fate of another undersecretary, Monsignor Matteo Visioli.

Since 2017, Visioli has been Number 3 in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. With the reform, it was thought that Monsignor Visioli would be promoted to Secretary. Instead, the papal reform resulted in the appointment of two secretaries for the disciplinary and doctrinal sections, both taken from the ranks of the Dicastery: Monsignor Joseph Kennedy for the disciplinary section and Monsignor Armando Matteo for the doctrinal section.

On July 6, Monsignor Philippe Curbelié was appointed as undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the announcement, there was no mention of the fact  that he would take the place of Monsignor Visioli. Curbelié, among other things, was an official of the Dicastery of Culture and Education.

Monsignor Visioli has returned to his original diocese of Parma, where he was assigned to the post of the parish priest of Fornovo, a small town. His new post is a first effect of the reform: he does not stay in the Vatican for more than five years, and he returns to the diocese, to whatever post he may be assigned according to rank.

Given that for Visioli, there was insistent talk of promotion to Secretary of the Dicastery, his new position immediately made us think that the problem was not operational but ideological.

According to the generally well-informed traditionalist blog Messa in Latino, Visioli would not have been renewed because he was considered close to Archbishop Giacomo Morandi. In addition, as Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was involved in the official confirmation that blessing homosexual unions was not possible.

Archbishop Morandi was nominated bishop of Reggio Emilia last January, kicking off the profound renewal of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will soon see the appointment of a new prefect.

There is, however, a case of repression that would concern traditionalism. On May 7, Father Tait Cameron Schroeder was appointed office head of the Disciplinary Section of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Schroeder, a priest and canon lawyer from the Diocese of Madison, was already working in the Congregation and had been promoted because he had handled the abuse cases of the English language desk very well. But the promotion never took place, despite being published in the bulletin. This news, too, was first reported by the Latin Mass blog.

According to a CNA source, Cardinal Ladaria called the promoted priest in, apologizing and hinting that the decision came from above — in other words, Pope Francis personally. There was a report that Father Schroeder had occasionally celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass for groups of pilgrims. This had only happened sometimes and never after the publication of the Traditionis Custodes. However, because of this, there seems to have been pressure by the pope for the Monsignor to resign from the post he had just received — which he promptly did.

While waiting for the Curia’s organization chart to be finally completed and for all appointments to be confirmed or not, these episodes help to understand the criteria that may underlie some choices. In the end, when the term is five years, a transfer is effortless, and it can happen even for those officials whose mandate has just been renewed but who have already been in the Curia for more than five years.

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About Andrea Gagliarducci, Catholic News Agency 52 Articles
Andrea Gagliarducci is Vatican analyst for Catholic News Agency.


  1. Should it be, all about Jesus? Is he not the lamb of God and the author and perfecter of our faith?

    Jesus speaks through the generations and He speaks to the soul of man if we are in Him. Let our tongues worship the Lord. Let no folly or division come from our mouths as best we are able.

    James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

    Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

    1 Peter 3:10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;

    James 3:8 But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

    Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

    Proverbs 15:4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

    Proverbs 21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

    Let all men consider the words of the Lord, for the less we stumble, the better servants we become.

    Prayers for Papa.

  2. Ideological transformation of the curia is evident in Gagliarducci’s excellent reporting. CDF Msgr Visioli bounced sent back to small town pastorate because he repudiated same sex relationship blessings, CDF Fr Schroeder because [said finally with confidence rather than the weak knees ‘it seems’] he offered the Trad Latin Mass for pilgrims, although his cease after publication of Custodes wasn’t sufficient for our thoroughly modern pontiff.
    Axing the CDF continues whittling down its function as defender of the doctrine of the faith, reshaping the office into defender of the ideology of His Holiness. Ideology, his supreme during the reign of Franciscus Caesar. Would that he were a Konstantin. Whereas we [and the Church] suffer. And we pray.

    • Or, on today’s ecclesial chess board, what if binary sexual morality and liturgical East are not the apex squares to defend? What if the end game is a broader modus vivendi with Secularism on the one hand, and another broader modus vivendi with natural religion (Islam and Pachamama) on the other?

      That is, established ambiguity: (a) formal doctrinal affirmations, but coupled with pastoral fluidity on moral issues (part of Amoris Laetitia, 2015), and (b) the implied equivalence of supernatural revelation with natural religions (part of the Abu Dhabi Declaration, 2019)? Veritatis Splendor is checkmated (an obsolete term, mate rather than “partner”!). Just as, in the Qur’an, Islam also reduces the innate natural law (the “Law of Moses”) to the first four positive commandments, with nothing very explicit about the absolute prohibitions of the last six.

      The triad of Fraternity (paternity?), Liberty (consequentialism), and Equality (virus-infected synodality)? Not only disinterred Lutheranism, but also disinterred 1789 France? With anti-Catechism Hollerich, from middling Luxembourg, positioned on the game board to provide “synthesis” in 2023? Instead, what would it take, seriously, for the perennial Church of the real (not virtual) Second Vatican Council to evangelize truly in a post/anti-Christian and very centrifugal world—real ressourcement plus aggiornamento? Truth and mercy, both?

      The question for the next conclave…What should it look like—a robust polygon Church which has not surrendered its own center to the “throwaway culture”?

  3. More Machiavellian stratagems by the Peronist, backward-looking bishop of Rome. When a man is fixated on the politics and phony ceremonials of the 1970s, nothing fruitful will result.

  4. …and the beat goes on…power, personnel shuffling, ideological putsches, layer after layer of bureaucracy. Why would any cleric consent to being a bishop?

  5. I note Fr. Morello’s underscoring of the sacking of Msgr. Visioli because he repudiated blessing homosexual “unions.”

    I also note this morning the essay by Fr. Gerald Murray in The Catholic Thing, where he points out the lawlessness of the Pontiff Francis in the ongoing accusations and now class action lawsuit involving Cardinal Oullett, and specifically regarding the Pontiff Francis, how he managed to assign a friendly subordinate of the Cardinal to “investigate” the accusations of a young woman against the Cardinal, and then the “investigation” somehow touched base with the accuser just once, shortly after her complaint was made, and then miraculously proceeded without any further contact with her, or any attempt at interviewing witnesses.

    How “reform-minded” our current Pontiff is…makes a certain impression, yes?

    More theater by the “The-New-Church-with-the-Mind-of-McCarrick.”

    We all wait with great anticipation of the forthcoming “Synod-on-Sodomy,” under the flaccid hand of “Eminence” Hollerich, cattle-rustler for the McCarrick-Doctrine-of-a-More-Scientific-Based-Cult-for-Sodomy-Fornication-ETC.”

    The materialization of “the-spirit-of-V2.”

  6. Indeed very new analytics. I hope firmly that the basics of Catholic teachings and doctrine are not going to be hundred and affected. Always must be kept spirit of:”Ecce quam bonum at quam iucundum,habitarem come fratrem , in unum!”

  7. I find the moderating criteria of this site to be interesting. Your say:

    “In the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published.”

    The physical proof says something else however. If personal attacks and needlessly inflammatory comments “will not be published”, how did the above comments with phrasing like this make it?

    “Ideology, his supreme during the reign of Franciscus Caesar.”

    “Machiavellian stratagems by the Peronist, backward-looking bishop of Rome”

    “We all wait with great anticipation of the forthcoming ‘Synod-on-Sodomy,'”

    Apparently anything that supports the CONservative or whiny traditionalist drivel is acceptable here no matter the degree of derision of the Holy Father involved. This sort of caluminous behaviour is unacceptable among faithful Catholics.

    I remind you of the words of Pope Leo XIII about folks who act in these ways:

    “[I]t is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.

    On this point what must be remembered is that in the government of the Church, except for the essential duties imposed on all Pontiffs by their apostolic office, each of them can adopt the attitude which he judges best according to times and circumstances. Of this he alone is the judge.” [Pope Leo XIII: Epistola Tua §6-7 (circa 1885)]

    Nor would Pope Pius X view such attitudes favourably:

    “Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the cunning statements of those who persistently claim to wish to be with the Church, to love the Church, to fight so that people do not leave Her…But judge them by their works. If they despise the shepherds of the Church and even the Pope, if they attempt all means of evading their authority in order to elude their directives and judgments…, then about which Church do these men mean to speak? Certainly not about that established on the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20).” [Pope Pius X: Allocution (circa May 10, 1909)]

    Nor would Pope Benedict XV:

    “[L]et no private individual, whether in books or in the press, or in public speeches, take upon himself the position of an authoritative teacher in the Church. All know to whom the teaching authority of the Church has been given by God: he, then, possesses a perfect right to speak as he wishes and when he thinks it opportune. The duty of others is to hearken to him reverently when he speaks and to carry out what he says.” [Pope Benedict XV: Ad Beatissimi §22 (circa 1914)]

    I could note similar admonitions from every pope going back 200+ years but what is noted above is sufficient. And a publication that calls itself Catholic which is what it claims would not allow comments with those sorts of defamatory statements to be posted on their articles.

    “[A] spirit of independence, bitter criticism, defiance, and arrogance is far removed from that charity which nourishes and preserves the spirit of fellowship, harmony, and peace in the Church. It completely vitiates dialogue, turning it into argument, disagreement and dissension-a sad state of affairs, but by no means uncommon. St. Paul warned us against this when he said: ‘Let there be no schisms among you.'” [Pope Paul VI: Ecclesiam Suam §115 (circa 1964)]

    • Your post reminds me of two old proverbs:

      1. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

      2. The pot calling the kettle black.

      I appreciate the irony of your post. You are doing the very thing you accuse others of doing. You are the very thing that you are criticizing. You just don’t see it.

    • Well said! I would not have been able to find the quotations not to speak so eloquently so I thank you for doing so. Our Pope deserved the same reverent obedience as all those who came before him even those with whom I did not always agree.

    • Shawn McElhinney:

      Candor in the face of those promoting evil is a demand made on Christian people. The Pontiff Francis and his “relator” for his “Synod” have signaled, via the public statement of that relator, the “Eminence” Hollerich, SJ, their belief in promoting sodomy, which is an outright promotion of evil, and for that they deserve to be confronted and opposed.

      And in the spirit of quoting St. Paul the Apostle (as you have above), it is best that we all take heed that he publicly confronted the first Pontiff Peter, “to his face,” for a mere matter of Church discipline, which is a trivial matter compared to Bishops and Cardinals and Pontiffs, such as Cardinal Hollerich and the Pontiff Francis promoting the embrace of evil.

      So if poor St. Peter deserved to be confronted about minor things, the Pontiff Francis et al have richly invited the confrontation of those who prefer to obey God, rather than mere mortal who masquerade as Bishops while defying God, and “shepherd themselves” while the Church suffers under their utterly corrupt leadership.

      Catholic encyclopedias and history books are stocked with accounts of evil Pontiffs, such as those of the 10th Century “Papal Pornocracy” or the Renaissance frauds like Alexander VI. There’s no avoiding that the men of this pontificate are outright promoting evil.

      Jesus commanded thst we pray for our enemies, and so we should. At the same time, it is worth remembering that we have enemies, and they must be dealt with.

      • Chris. Good response to McElhinny. Here is a letter from the Dominican archives of St Catherine of Siena to Gregory XI, in which she chastises him, questioning his manhood [be a manly man] and that he should resign if he doesn’t reform. To Gregory XI. “Most holy and sweet father, your poor unworthy daughter Catherine in Christ sweet Jesus, commends herself to you in His precious Blood: with desire to see you a manly man, free from any fear or fleshly love toward yourself, or toward any creature related to you in the flesh; since I perceive in the sweet Presence of God that nothing so hinders your holy, good desire and so serves to hinder the honor of God and the exaltation and reform of Holy Church, as this. Therefore, my soul desires with immeasurable love that God by His infinite mercy may take from you all passion and lukewarmness of heart, and re-form you another man, by forming in you anew a burning and ardent desire; for in no other way could you fulfill the will of God and the desire of His servants. Alas, alas, sweetest Babbo mine, pardon my presumption in what I have said to you and am saying; I am constrained by the Sweet Primal Truth to say it. His will, father, is this, and thus demands of you. It demands that you execute justice on the abundance of many iniquities committed by those who are fed and pastured in the garden of Holy Church; declaring that brutes should not be fed with the food of men. Since He has given you authority and you have assumed it, you should use your virtue and power: and if you are not willing to use it, it would be better for you to resign what you have assumed; more honor to God and health to your soul would it be” (Saint Catherine of Siena Translated and edited Vida Dutton Scudder London, New York: J.M. Dent and E.P. Dutton, 1905).

  8. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Day by day Pilgrim Church is becoming a movement forward. Blow, blow, blow till I be, but a breath of the Spirit blowing in me.

  9. In the August 16 issue of Crisis Magazine there is an article by Anne Hendershot about the Vatican’s ending the inquiry into the possibility of sainthood for Fr. Vincent Cappodano. The reason given by some nameless vatican (small v) bureaucrat was – “with ongoing military actions in the world today (think Ukraine) raising someone from the military for veneration may not be appropriate for our Church.”

    Enough is enough. If one is looking for an example of how COMPLETELY out of touch the vatican is with the people it claims to lead, there can be no better example. If one is searching for an example of a back-handed slap in the face to loyal and devout Catholics with a legitimate cause, there can be no better example.

    What to do? Hunker down and ride out the storm, go to the nearest Latin Mass no matter how far away, and PRAY.

  10. Wow I came here after doing a web search for answers after Fr Tait Schroeder just came back to our diocese with a very loud lack of explanation about why he was no longer in Rome doing the work he had obviously been very needed for and doing very well there. The only thing I could think is that Pope Francis decided for whatever reason he didn’t like Fr Tait–I hate that I was right. He’s a highly regarded canonist, has a very good pastoral personality and is not any TLM extremist or rebel so this is absolutely absurd. I can only imagine the department he was working in must be hurting to lose him. This seems so much against the good of the Church? His work had to do with priests who had cases against them for abuse etc, and they were said to have a substantial backlog, there was lots of work to do. People who are really good for that kind of work are not a dime a dozen.

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