Pope Francis has signed a new document that appears to complete the economic reforms of the Holy See. It directly concerns the patrimony of the Apostolic See, but it has a very broad and fundamental scope, since it covers the status of all the goods of the Holy See, whatever they may be.
The title of the motu proprio is in Italian “Il diritto native,” which can be translated by “ordinary right,” but also by “innate right” or even “natural right.”
The Church, and the Holy See, possesses an innate right, “independent of the civil power” says the text, to hold and acquire temporal goods: this flows moreover from its divine constitution as a perfect society. The Apostolic See uses its goods “for the proper ends of the Church,” and, adds the Pope, “with the independence necessary for the accomplishment of her mission”.
Then comes the important passage: “The universal destination of the goods of the Holy See confers on them an ecclesiastical public nature.” This is the essential point. It is then developed: “The entities of the Holy See acquire them and use them, not for themselves, like a private owner, but, in the name and under the authority of the Roman Pontiff, for the pursuit of their institutional ends, which are also public, and therefore for the common good and at the service of the universal Church.”
All the entities of the Holy See receive only the administration and management of these goods, which is obvious, but the obvious sometimes needs to be recalled. The following only clarifies the central principle: it concerns all goods, furnishings, buildings, liquid assets, and titles – present and future – of all entities attached to the Holy See.
The entities receive these goods, which are part of an indivisible heritage, as public administrators, and they must use them prudently, according to the skills and purposes of each. It is specified ultimately, that the structure set up by the previous reforms, in particular the role of the Council for the Economy, remains untouched.
As explained by cath.ch, this motu proprio, by extending the heritage of the Holy See to all entities, integrates certain structures hitherto not concerned because of their autonomy: the Pontifical Lateran and Urbanian universities, as well as the three chapters of the Roman basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Walls.
This motu proprio seems to end the economic reforms of the Holy See by centralizing the management of its heritage. The entities remain responsible for the administration of the assets entrusted to them, under the direction and supervision of the Economic Council.
Even if we can argue about centralization and find that it may seem excessive, we must admit that the trial currently taking place in the Vatican seems to justify this policy, at least under current circumstances.