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News Briefs

Pope Francis decrees better control of Vatican funds and foundations

December 6, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

CNA Newsroom, Dec 6, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis issued a decree on Tuesday aimed at improving the financial accountability of funds, foundations, and other legal entities inside the Vatican.

In the future, these entities — also known as juridical persons — will be controlled by the bodies such as the Secretariat for the Economy and not just supervised by their respective institutions.

The motu proprio is complemented by a law covering entities in the Vatican City State. Both were published Dec. 6 and come into force on Dec. 8.

Pope Francis noted in his apostolic letter that foundations and other affected entities “are instrumental in the realization of the ends proper to the curial institutions at the service of the ministry of the Successor of Peter.”

It was therefore necessary, he added, “that they be subject not only to the supervision of the curial institutions from which they depend, but also to the control and surveillance of the economic bodies of the Roman Curia.”

Already existing instrumental juridical persons will have to comply with the provisions of the motu proprio within three months.

The scope of the law is limited, according to Vatican News: It does not extend to “curial institutions and offices of the Roman Curia, institutions connected with the Holy See, the Governorate of Vatican City State, and entities professionally engaged in activities of a financial nature.”

The news follows the announcement on Nov. 30 that Pope Francis has appointed Maximino Caballero Ledo, 62, to lead the Secretariat for the Economy following the resignation of Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero. The Spanish layman has been secretary general, the second-ranking position, in the economy office since August 2020.

Pope Francis established the Secretariat for Economy in 2014 as part of his financial reform of the Vatican. It oversees the financial aspects of both the Roman Curia and the Vatican City State administration, including a review of financial reports.


The Dispatch

Are Pope Francis’ changes to canon law true decentralization?

February 16, 2022 Catholic News Agency 10
St. Peter’s Dome. / dade72 via Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2022 / 06:30 am (CNA).

In his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis expressed his desire to see a “healthy decentralization” in the Catholic Church. He used the term again in his latest amendments to the canon law of both the Latin and Eastern Churches, issued on Tuesday.

The changes were contained in the motu proprio Assegnare alcune competenze (“Assigning some competencies”). A motu proprio is a document issued by the pope “on his own impulse” and not at the request of an office of the Roman Curia. It is through this means that the pope is seeking to achieve decentralization. (There are currently 49 documents listed in the section of the Vatican website dedicated to Pope Francis’ motu proprios.)

In practice, the pope has imposed decentralization by centralizing decisions upon himself, without involving the Roman Curia — not even making use of the advice of local bishops, who are the chief recipients of the measures.

Formally, consultation takes place through the Council of Cardinals, established by Pope Francis at the beginning of the pontificate precisely to help him in the governance of the Church and to outline a general reform of the Curia.

Yet the pope has made almost all decisions outside the Council of Cardinals and not as part of the work of the council itself. The apostolic constitution reforming the Curia has still not been published after years of discussion. But Pope Francis indicated that it had been finalized in an interview last September.

The pope’s recent changes to canon law are more decisive than the Curia reform. Following recent custom, the title of the latest motu proprio is in Italian, not Latin, and it aims to transfer some powers of the Apostolic See to bishops.

This transfer is signaled by replacing the word “approval” with “confirmation” in specific sections of the Code of Canon Law. Bishops now can approve the publication of catechisms, the creation of a seminary in their territory, and guidelines for priestly formation, which can be adapted to the pastoral needs of each region. These decisions now only need confirmation from the Apostolic See.

Furthermore, the pope allows priests to be incardinated in a particular Church or religious institute and a “public clerical association” recognized by the Holy See. The exclaustration of religious men and women — the possibility of allowing a religious to live outside their institute for serious reasons — has been extended from three to five years.

Bishop Marco Mellino, secretary of the Council of Cardinals, told Vatican News that there was a substantial difference between “approval” and “confirmation” by the Holy See.

“Approval is the provision by which a higher authority (in this case, the Holy See), having examined the legitimacy and appropriateness of an act of lower authority, allows its execution,” he said.

“On the other hand, confirmation is the simple ratification of the higher authority, which gives the provision of the lower authority greater authority.”

“From this, it is clear that approval, compared to confirmation, involves a greater commitment and involvement of the higher authority. Therefore, it is clear that moving from requesting approval to requesting confirmation is not just a terminological change, but a substantial one, which moves precisely in the direction of decentralization.”

In 2017, Pope Francis published the motu proprio Magnum principium, which established that translations of liturgical texts approved by national episcopal conferences should no longer be subject to revision by the Apostolic See, which would in future only confirm them.

At the time, Cardinal Robert Sarah, then prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, drew up a note on the subject, which interpreted the new legislation in a restrictive sense, underlining that this “did not in any way modify the responsibility of the Holy See, nor its competences concerning liturgical translations.”

But recognition and confirmation, Pope Francis replied in a letter, could not be put on the same level, and indeed Magnum principium “no longer maintains that translations must conform in all points to the norms of Liturgiam authenticam [the 2001 document establishing criteria for translations] as it was done in the past.”

The pope added that episcopal conferences could now judge the goodness and consistency of translations from Latin, albeit in dialogue with the Holy See. Previously, it was the dicastery that judged fidelity to Latin and proposed any necessary corrections.

This interpretative note from Pope Francis must also be applied to the latest motu proprio, although some questions remain open.

Much will depend on how the Vatican decides to apply its faculty of confirmation: whether it will choose simply to confirm decisions or, instead, enter more directly into the questions, offering various observations.

At the same time, bishops’ conferences will lose the guarantee of communion in decisions with the Apostolic See. They are more autonomous in some choices but always subject to confirmation from the Holy See. They are empowered but somehow under guardianship.

By favoring decentralization, Pope Francis wants to overcome the impasses that he experienced as a bishop in Argentina, also overcoming the perception that Rome is too restrictive and does not appreciate the sensitivities of local Churches.

On the other hand, a centralized law guarantees justice, balance, and harmoniousness. The risk of losing this harmony is always around the corner.

This point also arose when Pope Francis changed the procedures for matrimonial nullity. Even then, he had somehow forced the bishops to take up their responsibilities.

A year after the promulgation of the documents Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus and Mitis et misericors Iesus, the pope gave a speech to the Roman Rota in which he stressed that the streamlined nullity process could not be entrusted to an interdiocesan court because this would distort “the figure of the bishop, father, head, and judge of his faithful,” making him “a mere signer of the sentence.”

This decision created difficulties for bishops in areas where interdiocesan courts largely functioned well, as in Italy. It was, therefore, no coincidence that Pope Francis, with yet another motu proprio, established a pontifical commission last November to ensure that the changes were applied in Italy.

The commission was established directly in the Roman Rota court, indicating that Pope Francis takes decisions that favor the autonomy of local Churches. But paradoxically, he does so by centralizing everything in his hands.

This is the modus operandi with which Pope Francis aims to unhinge an existing system to create a new one. The key to understanding this modus operandi is the phrase “good, soft violence” that he used to describe reforms in an address to members of the Vatican’s communication department in 2017.

At the end of this process, the bishops will be more autonomous, but also more alone. Without a harmonizing guide, there is a risk that each particular Church will adapt decisions to its own territory and create new doctrinal guidelines.

Who guarantees, in the end, that there will not be a repeat of the “Dutch Catechism” episode? In 1966, the bishops of the Netherlands authorized the publication of “A New Catechism: Catholic Faith for Adults.” The text was so controversial that Pope Paul VI asked a commission of cardinals to examine its presentation of Catholic teaching. Later, Pope John Paul II called a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops to discuss the issues raised by the episode.

And who guarantees now that the controversial texts produced by the “Synodal Way” in Germany will not be included in the training of priests by local episcopal conferences?

These questions remain open.

If the Holy See approaches the process of “confirmation” in harsh terms, then nothing will have changed. If it takes a more relaxed approach, there is the risk that there will be radical differences between particular Churches. The Catholic Church might then resemble a federation of bishops’ conferences, with similar powers and substantial differences — no longer unity in diversity, but rather variety reconciled by joint administrative management.

How the new rules are applied will show us whether this is the future that awaits the Church.


No Picture
News Briefs

Traditional Latin Mass devotees grapple with Pope Francis’ restrictions on the liturgy they love

August 10, 2021 Catholic News Agency 9
Maureen McKinley milks one of her family’s goats in their backyard with help from three of her children, Madeline (behind), Fiona and Augustine on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. McKinley and her family own two goats, chickens, a rabbit, and a dog. / Jake Kelly

Denver Newsroom, Aug 10, 2021 / 16:32 pm (CNA).

With five children ages 10 and under to care for, and a pair of goats, a rabbit, chickens and a dog to tend to, Maureen and Matt McKinley rely on a structured routine to keep their busy lives on track.

Chores, nap times, scheduled story hours – they’re all important staples of their day. But the center of the McKinleys’ routine, what focuses their family life and strengthens their Catholic faith, they say, is the Traditional Latin Mass. 

Its beauty, reverence, and timelessness connect them to a rich liturgical legacy that dates back centuries.

“This is the Mass that made so many saints throughout time,” observes Maureen, 36, a parishioner at Mater Misericordiæ Catholic Church in Phoenix.

“You know what Mass St. Alphonsus Ligouri, St. Therese, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Augustine were attending? The Traditional Latin Mass,” Maureen says.

“We could have a conversation about it, and we would have all experienced the exact same thing,” she says. “That’s exciting.”

Recent developments in the Catholic Church, however, have curbed some of that excitement. On July 16, Pope Francis released a motu proprio titled Traditiones custodis, or “Guardians of the Tradition”, that has cast doubt on the future of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) – and deeply upset and confused many of its devotees.

Pope Francis’ directive rescinds the freedom Pope Benedict XVI granted to priests 14 years ago to say Masses using the Roman Missal of 1962, the form of liturgy prior to Vatican II, without first seeking their bishop’s approval. Under the new rules, bishops now have the “exclusive competence” to decide where, when, and whether the TLM can be said in their dioceses.

In a letter accompanying the motu proprio, Pope Francis maintains that the faculties granted to priests by his predecessor have been “exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”

Using the word “unity” a total of 15 times in the accompanying letter, the pope suggests that attending the TLM is anything but unifying, going so far as to correlate a strong personal preference for such masses with a rejection of Vatican II.

Weeks later, many admirers of the “extraordinary” form of the Roman rite – the McKinleys among them – are still struggling to wrap their minds and hearts around the pope’s order, and the pointed tone he used to deliver it. 

Maureen McKinley says she had never considered herself a “traditionalist Catholic” before. Instead, she says she and her husband have just “always moved toward the most reverent way to worship and the best way to teach our children.”

“It didn’t feel like I became a particular type of Catholic by going to Mater Misericordiæ. But since the motu proprio came out, I feel like I have been categorized, like I was something different, something other than the rest of the Church,” she says.

“It feels like our Holy Father doesn’t understand this whole group of people who love our Lord so much.” 

McKinley isn’t alone in feeling this way. Sadness, anger, frustration, and disbelief are some common themes in conversations among those who regularly attend the TLM.

They want to understand and support the Holy Father, but they also see the restriction as unnecessary, especially when plenty of other more pressing issues in the Church abound.

Eric Matthews, another Mater Misericordiæ parishioner, views the new restrictions as an “attack on devout Catholic culture,” citing the beauty that exists across the rites recognized within the Church. There are seven rites recognized in the Catholic Church: Latin, Byzantine, Alexandrian or Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, and Chaldean. 

“It’s the same Mass,” says Matthews, 39, who first discovered the TLM about eight years ago. “It’s just different languages, different cultures, but the people that you have there are there for the right reasons.”

Eric and Geneva Matthews with their four children. / Narissa Lowicki
Eric and Geneva Matthews with their four children. / Narissa Lowicki

Different paths to the TLM

The pope’s motu proprio directly affects a tiny fraction of U.S. Catholics – perhaps as few as 150,000, or less than 1 percent of some 21 million regular Mass-goers, according to some estimates. According to one crowd-sourced database, only about 700 venues – compared to over 16,700 parishes nationwide – offer the TLM.

Also, since the motu proprio’s release July 16, only a handful of bishops have stopped the TLM in their dioceses. Of those bishops who have made public responses, most are allowing the Masses to continue as before – in some cases because they see no evidence of disunity, and in others because they need more time to study the issue.

But for those who feel drawn to the TLM – for differing reasons that have nothing to do with a rejection of Vatican II – it feels as if the ground has shifted under their feet.

Maureen McKinley wants her children to understand the importance of hard work, of which they have no shortage when it comes to their urban farm. After morning prayer, Maureen milks the family’s goats with the help of the children. Madeline (age 10) feeds the bunny; Augustine (7) exercises the dog; John (6) checks for eggs from the chickens; and Michael (4) helps anyone he chooses. 

With a noisy clatter in the kitchen, the McKinleys eat breakfast, tidy up their rooms, and begin their daily activities. They break at 11 a.m. to head to daily Mass at Mater Misericordiæ, an apostolate of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), where they first attended two years ago. 

Matt, 34, wanted to know how the early Christians worshipped.

“The funny thing about converts is they’re always wanting more,” says Maureen, who was, at first, a little resistant to the idea of attending the TLM because she didn’t know Latin. “Worship was a big part of his conversion.” 

Maureen agreed to follow her husband’s lead, and they continued to attend the TLM. What kept them coming back week after week was the reverence for the Eucharist.

“Matt had a really hard time watching so many people receive communion in the hand at the other parish,” says Maureen. “He says he didn’t want our kids to think that that was the standard. That’s the exception to the rule, not the rule.”

Reverence in worship also drew Elizabeth Sisk to the TLM. A 28-year-old post-anesthesia care unit nurse, she attends both the Novus Ordo, the Mass promulgated by St. Paul VI in 1969, and the extraordinary form in Raleigh, North Carolina, where her parish, the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, offers the TLM on the first Sunday of the month. 

Sisk has noticed recently that more people in her area — especially young people who are converts to Catholicism — are attending both forms of the Mass. While the Novus Ordo is what brought many of them, herself included, to the faith, she feels that the extraordinary form invites them to go deeper.

“We want to do something radical with our lives,” Sisk says. “To be Catholic right now as a young person is a really radical decision. I think the people who choose to be Catholic right now, we’re all in. We don’t want ‘watered-down’ Catholicism.”

Elizabeth Sisk stands in front of Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Elizabeth Sisk stands in front of Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh, North Carolina.

With the lack of Christian values in the world today, Sisk desires “something greater,” which she says she can tell is happening in the TLM.

Many TLM parishes saw an increase in attendance during the pandemic, as they were often the only churches open while many others shut their doors or held Masses outside. This struck some as controversial, if not disobedient to the local government. For others, it was a saving grace to have access to the sacraments.

The priests at Erin Hanson’s parish obtained permission from the local bishop to celebrate Mass all day, every day, with 10 parishioners at a time during the height of the COVID pandemic.

“We were being told by the world that church is not necessary,” says Hanson, a 39-year-old mother of three. “Our priest says, ‘No, that’s a lie. Our church is essential. Our salvation is essential. The sacraments are essential.’”

Andy Stevens, 52, came into the Church through the TLM, much to the surprise of his wife, Emma, who had been a practicing Catholic for many years. Andy was “very adamantly not going to become Catholic,” but was happy to help Emma with their children at Mass. It wasn’t until they attended a TLM that Andy began to think differently about the Church.

“He believed that you die and then there is nothing, and he never really spoke to me about becoming a Catholic,” says Emma, 48, who was pregnant with their seventh child at the time.

Andy noticed an intense focus among the worshippers, which he recognized as a “real presence of God” that he didn’t see anywhere else. After the birth of their 7th child, he joined the Church.

All 12 of the Stevens’ children prefer the TLM to the Novus Ordo.

Emma and Andy Stevens with their 12 children in Oxford, England.
Emma and Andy Stevens with their 12 children in Oxford, England.

“It’s a Mass of the ages,” says their eldest son, Ryan, 27. “I can feel the veil between heaven and earth palpably thinner.” 

A native of Chicago, Adriel Gonzalez, 33, remembers attending the TLM as a child, which he did not particularly like. It was “very long, very boring,” and the people who went to the TLM were “very stiff and they could come off as judgmental” towards his family, he says.

Gonzalez, who also attended Mass in Spanish with his family, didn’t understand the differences among rites, since Chicago was a sort of “salad bowl, ethnically,” he says, and Mass was celebrated in many languages and forms. 

He took a step back from faith for some time, he says, noting that he had a “respectability issue” with the Christianity he grew up with. He watched as some of his friends were either thoughtless in the way they practiced their faith, or were “on fire,” but lacked intentionality. When he did come back to the faith, it was through learning about the Church’s intellectual tradition.

He spent time in monasteries and Eastern Catholic parishes with the Divine Liturgy because there was “something so obviously ancient about it.” He decided to stay within the Roman rite with a preference for a reverent Novus Ordo. 

When he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, Gonzalez committed to his neighborhood parish, which had a strong contingent of people who loved tradition in general. The parish instituted a TLM in the fall of 2020, when they started having Mass indoors again after the pandemic. 

Hallie and Adriel Gonzalez.
Hallie and Adriel Gonzalez.

“If I’m at a Latin Mass, I’m more likely to get a sense that this is a time-honored practice, something that has been honed over the millennia,” he says. “There is clearly a love affair going on here with the Lord that requires this much more elaborate song and dance.”

For Eric Matthews, the TLM feels a little like time travel. 

“It could be medieval times, it could be the enlightenment period, it could be the early 1900s, and the experience is going to be so similar,” he says.

“I just feel like that’s that universal timeframe – not just the universal Church in 2021 – but the universal Church in almost any time period. We’re the only church that can claim that.”

What happens now?

The motu proprio caught Adriel Gonzalez’ attention. He sought clarity about whether his participation in the extraordinary form was, in fact, part of a divisive movement, or simply an expression of his faith.

If it was a movement, he wanted no part of it, he says.

“As far as I can tell, the Church considers the extraordinary form and the ordinary form equal and valid,” says Gonzalez. “Ideally, there should be no true difference between going to one or the other, outside of just preference. It shouldn’t constitute a completely different reality within Catholicism.”

With this understanding, Gonzalez says he resonated with some of the reasoning set forth in the motu proprio because it articulated that the celebration of the TLM was never intended to be a movement away from the Novus Ordo or Vatican II. Gonzalez also emphasized that the extraordinary form was never supposed to be a “superior” way of celebrating the Mass. 

Gonzalez believes the Lord allowed the growth in the TLM “to help us to recover a love for liturgy, and to ask questions about what worship and liturgy looks like.” He would have preferred if what was good was kept and encouraged, and what was potentially dangerous “coaxed out and called out.” 

Mater Misericordæ Catholic Church in Phoenix, Arizona. / Viet Truong
Mater Misericordæ Catholic Church in Phoenix, Arizona. / Viet Truong

Erin Hanson, of Mater Misericordiæ, agrees. 

“If [Pope Francis] does believe there is division between Novus Ordo and traditional Catholics, I don’t think he did anything to try to fix that division,” she says. 

Hanson would like to know who the bishops are that Pope Francis consulted in making this decision, sharing that she doesn’t feel that there is any of the transparency needed for such a major document. If there are divisions, she says, she would like the opportunity to work on them in a different way. 

“This isn’t going to be any less divisive if he causes a possible schism,” Hanson says.

According to the motu proprio and the accompanying letter, the TLM is not to be celebrated in diocesan churches or in new churches constructed for the purpose of the TLM, nor should new groups be established by the bishops. Left out of their parish churches, some are worried their only option to attend Mass will be in a recreation center or hotel ballroom. 

Eric Matthews hopes that everyone is able to experience the extraordinary form at least once in their life so they can know that this is not about division.

“I can’t imagine someone going to the Latin Mass and saying, ‘This is creating disunity,’” he says. “There’s nothing to be afraid of with the Latin Mass. You’re just going to be surrounding yourself with people that really take it to heart.”

Maureen McKinley was home sick when her husband Matt found out about the motu proprio. He had taken the kids to a neighborhood park, where he ran into some friends who also attend Mater Misericordiæ. They asked if he had heard the news. 

“I felt disgust at a document that pretends to say so much while actually saying so little and disregards the Church’s very long and rich tradition of careful legal documents,” Matt McKinley says.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix stated that the TLM may continue at Mater Misericordiæ, as well as in chapels, oratories, mission churches, non-parochial churches, and at seven other parishes in the diocese. Participation in the TLM and all of the activities of the parish are so important to the McKinleys that they are willing to move to another state or city should further restrictions be implemented. 

For now, their family’s routine continues the same as before.

At the end of their day, the McKinleys pray a family rosary in front of their home altar, which has a Bible at the center, and an icon of Christ and a statue of the Virgin Mary. They eat dinner together, milk the goat again, and take care of their evening animal chores. After night prayer, the kids head off to bed, blessing themselves with holy water from the fonts mounted on the wall before they enter their bedroom. 

“The life of the Church springs from this Mass,” Maureen says. “That’s why we’re here—not because the Latin Mass is archaic, but that it’s actually just so alive.”

Editor’s note: Several of the people interviewed here also shared their stories with the CNA Newsroom podcast, and their voices appear on Episode 107: Extraordinary Times for the Extraordinary Form. Click here to listen to the episode.