On August 27, 2022, a consistory was held in the Vatican for the creation of 21 cardinals. This consistory preceded a meeting of the 200 cardinals present in Rome held August 29-30 with the purpose of endorsing the apostolic constitution Prædicate evangelium, reforming the Roman curia.
Meanwhile, on Sunday the 28th, Francis went to the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemagio in L'Aquila in Abruzzo, to the tomb of Pope St. Celestine V (1210-1296), where he did not show any intention of resigning like his illustrious predecessor. Even before the two-day meeting on the reform of the Roman curia, several Vaticanists had spoken of “cardinals being used to distract attention” and a “confiscated synodality.”
So Giuseppe Nardi on the katholisches.info site on August 22 stated: “What is certain is that the reflection in which the cardinals will engage will not be a free and open exchange, clear and honest, with parrhesia [freedom of speech], as Francis likes to say, but on the contrary: none of the cardinals will be able to intervene or even ask questions.”
Indeed, the cardinals received a detailed introductory report from Msgr. Marco Mellino, secretary of the Council of Cardinals [ex-C9], on the Roman Curia as reformed by the apostolic constitution Prædicate evangelium, and the prelate warned them that there would be no speeches, planned interventions, or reports.
The Roman Vaticanist specified: “Those who thought – and this applies of course in the first place to the cardinals directly concerned – that the consistory would be an opportunity to ask Francis for clarifications on the reform of the curia, which came into force on June 5, or even to make remarks about it, had to set aside those expectations.”
On Monday Vatican of the same day, August 22, Andrea Gagliarducci wrote: “Pope Francis has not convened a Consistory to allow cardinals to engage in discussions since 2015. In 2015, there was talk of reform of the Curia, and there were open discussions and lectures.”
“Now, none of this seems expected. If on the one hand the linguistic groups seem to allow ample freedom of speech, the rapporteurs of the groups will then sum up conclusions by selectively choosing what they want from the discussion, effectively directing the debate.”
About these rapporteurs, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, on his return from Rome, ingenuously confided to the Swiss agency cath.ch on September 1st : “The minutes of the assemblies were a little fast since a rapporteur had only 4 minutes to reconstruct what was said.”
This is what Andrea Gagliarducci foresaw: “There is no discussion because the reform of the Curia is already done, and the cardinals are called to take note of it and receive the guidelines for applying the reform, both Vatican and in the episcopal Curia around the world. In short, Pope Francis does not want to take risks, and is carrying out the reforms without opening any internal debate.”
The reform of the curia cannot be discussed because it is the indisputable application of the Council
In addition to the pope's fear of an internal dispute, one can wonder if another reason did not prohibit any discussion on the reform of the Curia. In the minds of its authors, this reform is the application of the Second Vatican Council which cannot be called into question, because it launched what they consider to be an irreversible movement.
“Without knowing the Second Vatican Council, it is impossible to understand the logic of this reform,” said Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, during a conference at the Vatican on May 5, 2022. The coordinator of the Council of Cardinals presented his book entitled Prædicate Evangelium, una nueva curia para un tempo nuevo, (A new curia for a new time).
On this occasion, Fr. Fernando Prado, a Spanish Claretian religious and co-author of the book, explained that this reform reflected the dimension of a “Church that walks and serves,” in a dynamic of “permanent reform which is not a rupture with the past [sic].”
In less hushed and contradictory language, therefore more bold and logical, Fr. Nicolas Betticher, Swiss canonist, declared to cath.ch, on April 3, 2022, that Prædicate evangelium was an “explosive document,” even calling for a Vatican Council III.
The judicial vicar of the inter-diocesan jurisdiction of Switzerland affirmed that with the new apostolic constitution “all the dicasteries continue to work for the pope, who bears the final responsibility and makes all the important decisions. At first glance, there is not much new.”
“Except that if lay people, men and women, actually become heads of departments [for which the reform provides] and thus form part of the “pontifical council,” one could imagine that they will have an important influence within the Curia. This is where I see the explosive nature of this document.”
And to specify: “Suppose that the pope creates a “council of ministers.’ This is made up of all the heads of dicasteries. In this council would sit cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, and laity, women and men. A new dynamic can emerge from this diversity.”
“Men and women, ordained or not, talk together and advise the pope. From this dynamic could arise a conviction according to which a separation of powers could be established. That is, a bishop would no longer embody the executive, legislative, and judicial powers at the same time, but would, for example, entrust the executive or the judiciary to a woman.”
A Vatican Council III could lead to a real separation of powers. Because a council is needed to separate the munera, the three ministries: munus docendi (teaching), munus regendi (government) and munus sanctificandi (priestly ministry). – See on this subject Cardinal Robert Sarah’s criticism (link below).