Catholics and Politics: The Dynamic Tension between Faith and Power

By Kristin E. Heyer; Mark J. Rozell et al. | Go to book overview

12
REFORMING THE VATICAN
The Tradition of Best Practices

THOMAS J. REESE

TOO OFTEN, when anyone proposes the reform of church structures, the reformer is attacked for borrowing from the secular political field, as if this were intrinsically a bad thing. Such attacks are theologically unsound and historically ignorant.

This chapter makes three arguments: (1) the organization of the Vatican through history is not divinely inspired but is the result of the Vatican's adoption of practices from the secular political world; (2) the governance of the church is more centralized today than at any time in its history; and (3) to make the church more collégial, the Vatican must once again adopt the “best practices” of the secular political world.

This chapter is admittedly sketchy. To deal with the first point, the organizational development of the Vatican through history, would require a series of books, not one chapter. Likewise, describing the role of the pope in the church over almost two thousand years would take volumes. One could also go on and on when proposing reform. As a result, this chapter must be seen as the beginning of a conversation, not a definitive answer.


HISTORY OF THE ROMAN CURIA

When St. Peter, the first pope, arrived in Rome, he did not immediately appoint cardinals and set up the congregations and the other offices that exist in the Vatican today. He apparently had only a secretary to help him with his correspondence. In early centuries, the bishop of Rome had helpers much like those of any other bishop: priests for house churches, deacons for material assistance and catechumens, and notaries or

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