39 – The court is the plague of the Papacy. The Church is or should go back to being a community of God’s people

Narcissists… without further ado, that is how Francis has labeled several of the former “Heads of the Church” and members of the Roman Curia. We suppose, with all due respect, that after two thousand years of history, the Bishop of Rome does not consider his august person nor that of his immediate collaborators as the only ones free from such a kind description, which at first sight, appears to disdain the work of previous Popes. The fact is that while speaking of the Roman Curia or when meeting with it, Francis never misses an opportunity to point out its defects, as he did in December 2014 (Address to the Roman Curia, Chrismas Greeting) inviting each one of its members to a profound examination of conscience. Conversely, what stands out is the fact that he does not do this with other people and groups, even when they are far from fulfilling the divine precepts, even publically. What, then, is his motivation? A strange dislike for the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy of which he is a part? A hidden desire to change structures which he considers obsolete? Insufficient consideration or knowledge of the primacy of the Church of Rome? We may not affirm any of the above, though we may show a certain perplexity… The Curia, as any other organization constituted by human beings, is evidently subject to errors, defects, and above all, the effects of sin among its members. However, this does not mean that it ceases to play an important role in the Church, among them the “diaconia” of the Petrine ministry.


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Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study


I – Necessity and Importance of the Roman Curia
II – The Roman Curia Expresses the Dignity of Service to the Pope
III – Rome: The Centre of the Holy Church of God

I – Necessity and Importance of the Roman Curia

Sacred Scripture

Everyone should put their gifts at the service of the Church

As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1Pet 4:10)

Generously put to use the gifts received

For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Rom 12:4-8)

Diverse gifts and charisms

Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Cor 12:12:28-30)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The Apostles: origin of the Sacred Hierarchy

From the very beginning, the Lord Jesus ‘called to Himself those whom He wished; and He caused twelve of them to be with Him, and to be sent out preaching’ (Mk 3:13; cf. Matt. 10:1-42). Thus the Apostles were the first budding – forth of the New Israel, and at the same time the beginning of the sacred hierarchy. (Vatican Council II, Decree Ad gentes, no.5, December 1, 1965)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The diversity of duties in the Church and their purpose

The difference of states and duties in the Church regards three things. In the first place it regards the perfection of the Church. For even as in the order of natural things, perfection, which in God is simple and uniform, is not to be found in the created universe except in a multiform and manifold manner, so too, the fullness of grace, which is centered in Christ as head, flows forth to His members in various ways, for the perfecting of the body of the Church. This is the meaning of the Apostle’s words (Eph. 4:11-12): ‘He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors for the perfecting of the saints.’ Secondly, it regards the need of those actions which are necessary in the Church. For a diversity of actions requires a diversity of men appointed to them, in order that all things may be accomplished without delay or confusion; and this is indicated by the Apostle (Rom 12:4,5), ‘As in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office, so we being many are one body in Christ.’ Thirdly, this belongs to the dignity and beauty of the Church, which consist in a certain order; wherefore it is written (3Kings 10:4,5) that ‘when the queen of Saba saw all the wisdom of Solomon … and the apartments of his servants, and the order of his ministers … she had no longer any spirit in her.’ Hence the Apostle says (2Tim 2:20) that ‘in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth.’ (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 183, a. 2)

Innocent III

Venerate all that is of the Church

But ecclesiastical orders and everything which in the holy Roman Church is read or sung as holy, we humbly praise and faithfully venerate. (Denzinger-Hünermann 796. Innocent III, From the letter Eius exemplo to the Archbishop of Terraco, 18 December, 1208)

Pius X

The Church is a society wherein some preside over others

The Scripture teaches us, and the tradition of the Fathers confirms the teaching, that the Church is the mystical body of Christ, ruled by the Pastors and Doctors (Eph 4:2ss) – a society of men containing within its own fold chiefs who have full and perfect powers for ruling, teaching and judging (Mt 28:18-20; 16:18-19; 18:17; Tit 2:15; 2Cor 10:6; 13:10 etc.) It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end.  (Pius X. Encyclical Vehementer nos, February 11, 1906)

Paul VI

The Episcopate should collaborate with the Curia, which in turn helps the Pope

It is superfluous to add that this collaboration of the Episcopate should be of great benefit to the Holy See and to the entire Church; and in a particular way, to the daily work of the Roman Curia, to which We are so grateful for the valuable assistance rendered, and which, just as the bishops in their diocese, We also have the permanent necessity for Our apostolic solicitudes. (Paul VI. Inaugural Speech of the Last Session of the Council, September 14, 1965)

John Paul II

The Hierarchy: a form of service to enable the entire Church to participate in the power of Christ

Vatican Council II has reminded us of the mystery of this power and the fact that the mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King, continues within the Church. All of the people of God participate in this triple mission. Perhaps in the past the Triple Crown was placed upon the head of the Pope in order to express, through this symbol, the plan of the Lord over his Church. In other words, the entire hierarchical order of the Church of Christ, all of its “sacred power” exercised, is nothing other than a form of service, service that has as its sole objective the participation of the entire people of God within the triple mission of Christ, remaining constantly under the power of the Lord, who has his origins not in the powers of this world, but in the heavenly Father, and in the mystery of the cross and resurrection. (John Paul II. Homily at the beginning of the Pontificate, October 22, 1978)

II – The Roman Curia Expresses the Dignity of Service to the Pope

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

Duties for the benefit of the entire Church

In exercising supreme, full, and immediate power in the universal Church, the Roman pontiff makes use of the departments of the Roman Curia which, therefore, perform their duties in his name and with his authority for the good of the churches and in the service of the sacred pastors. (Vatican Council II. Decree Christus Dominus, no. 9, October 28, 1965)

Benedict XVI

Valuable contribution to the Petrine Ministry

 Our community, as you emphasized, Your Eminence, is truly a “working community”, bound by bonds of fraternal love which the Christmas festivities help to reinforce. In this spirit, you did not omit an appropriate mention of the former members of our Curial family who crossed the threshold of time in recent months and have entered into God’s peace. On such an occasion it does our hearts good to feel close to those who shared the service to the Church with us and who now intercede for us at God’s throne. I therefore thank you for your words, Your Eminence, Dean of the College of Cardinals, and I thank everyone present for the contribution that each one makes to the fulfilment of the ministry entrusted to me by the Lord. (Benedict XVI. Address to the Members of the Roman Curia, December 21, 2007)

Appreciated collaboration

This morning, the family of the Roman Curia also comes together, following a fine custom which gives us the joy of meeting and exchanging greetings in this special spiritual milieu. To each of you I offer a cordial greeting, full of gratitude for your valued collaboration with the ministry of the Successor of Peter. (Benedict XVI. Address to the Members of the Roman Curia, December 22, 2008)

Superior service rendered to the successor of Peter

This meeting gives me the opportunity to reaffirm my esteem and respect for your lofty service to the Successor of Peter and to the whole Church, while for you it is an incentive to ever greater commitment in a context that is indeed arduous, but invaluable for the salvation of souls. The principle that the salus animarum is the supreme law in the Church (cf. CIC, can. 1752) must indeed be borne in mind and every day must find in your work the strict respect that it merits. (Benedict XVI. Address for the Inauguration of the Judicial Year of the Roman Rota, January 26, 2013)

John Paul II

Purpose of the Curia: Rendering the mission of the Pope more effective

For the Roman Curia came into existence for this purpose, that the fruitful communion we mentioned might be strengthened and make ever more bountiful progress, rendering more effective the task of pastor of the Church which Christ entrusted to Peter and his successors, a task that has been growing and expanding from day to day. (John Paul II. Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, no. 3, June 28, 1988)

The Curia and its departments are at the service of the Church

In harmony with the Second Vatican Council, this inspiration and intent establish and express the steadfast activity of the renewed Curia, as in these words of the Council: ‘In exercising his supreme, full and immediate authority over the universal Church, the Roman Pontiff employs the various departments of the Roman Curia, which act in his name and by his authority for the good of the Churches and in service of the sacred pastors.’ Consequently, it is evident that the function of the Roman Curia, though not belonging to the essential constitution of the Church willed by God, has nevertheless a truly ecclesial character because it draws its existence and competence from the pastor of the universal Church. For the Curia exists and operates only insofar as it has a relation to the Petrine ministry and is based on it. But just as the ministry of Peter as the “servant of the servants of God” is exercised in relationship with both the whole Church and the bishops of the entire Church, similarly the Roman Curia, as the servant of Peter’s successor, looks only to help the whole Church and its bishops. (John Paul II. Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, no. 7, June 28, 1988)

Diaconia united to the Petrine Ministry

By reason of its diaconia connected with the Petrine ministry, one concludes, on the one hand, that the Roman Curia is closely bound to the bishops of the whole world, and, on the other, that those pastors and their Churches are the first and principal beneficiaries of the work of the dicasteries. This is proved even by the composition of the Curia. For the Roman Curia is composed of nearly all the cardinals who, by definition, belong to the Roman Church, and they closely assist the Supreme Pontiff in governing the universal Church. When important matters are to be dealt with, they are all called together into regular or special consistories. So they come to have a strong awareness of the needs of all of God’s people, and they labor for the good of the whole Church. (John Paul II. Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, no. 9, June 28, 1988)

Exceptional qualities placed at the service of the Church in silence

My profound and sincere gratitude to you all, for the work you perform for the Church and the Apostolic See, work performed with competence, effort, generosity and humility. I know that your service touches upon, not infrequently, and for not a few of you, important questions for the Church and for the Apostolic See; this demands, therefore, substantial doctrinal preparation and rich experience, united with prudence and equilibrium: an ensemble of exceptional qualities which are put at the disposition of the Church in silence and hidden from public sight. But, God sees, and will know how to recompense you. (John Paul II. Allocution on June 28, 1986, no. 1)


Assiduous, prudent and faithful efforts

 Since we have mentioned the motives of happiness, we also cannot fail to mention the consolation we experienced during a visit undertaken in the last few days, to the seat of each one of the Dicastries of the Roman Curia. It has been very pleasing to us to see directly and clearly the invaluable collaboration that is rendered by a numerous group of specialized ecclesiastics, as well as some lay people; for the expediency of questions pertaining to the Government of the Church. This testimony of esteem and benevolence on our part, we believe to be a well deserved reward for assiduous, prudent and faithful efforts, which we have long known by experience. (John XXIII. Address in the Secret Consistory for the Creation of New Cardinals, January 8, 1960)

Necessary and attentive care

 Who is unaware of the necessary and attentive care with which the Roman Curia habitually examines the great and small problems that arise? (John XXIII. Address to Venetian pilgrims, May 8, 1962)

Saint Gregory the Great

Submission to the Curia is a sign of love for the Pope

If, then, the pastoral obligation is a testimony of love, the one who, possessing the necessary qualities, does not feed the flock of the Lord, demonstrates a lack of love for the Supreme Shepherd. It is a sign of even greater love that one, because of a friend, serves also others, and not exclusively his friend. (Saint Gregory the Great. Pastoral Rule, Book 1, Ch. 5)

III – Rome: The Centre of the Holy Church of God

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

The Church of Rome exercises the primacy of love

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High Father, and Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is beloved and enlightened by the will of Him that wills all things which are according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, which also presides in the place of the region of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of obtaining her every desire, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love, is named from Christ, and from the Father, which I also salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father: to those who are united, both according to the flesh and spirit, to every one of His commandments; who are filled inseparably with the grace of God, and are purified from every strange taint, [I wish] abundance of happiness unblameably, in Jesus Christ our God. (Saint Ignatius of Antioch. Epistle to the Romans, Prologue.)

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

Founded and Constituted by Peter and Paul

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 3, no. 2)

Celestine I

The first among the Churches

Since the occasion demands, kindly review the sanctions and cannons, you will find out which, after the Roman Church, is the second church, which the third… (Denzinger-Hünermann, 236. Celestine I, Epistle Manet beatum, March 11, 422)

Gelasius I

Christ himself gave primacy to the Roman Church

The Holy Roman Church has not been preferred to the other churches by reason of synodical decrees, but she has held the primacy by the evangelical voice of the Lord and Savior saying: Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven (Mt 16,18 f.). There is added also the association of the most blessed Paul the Apostle, the vessel of election, who not at a different time, as the heretics say, but at the one time, on one and the same day, while contending for the prize together with Peter was crowned with a glorious death under Caesar Nero in the City of Rome; and equally have they consecrated the above-mentioned Church of Rome to Christ the Lord and have raised it above all other cities in the whole world by their presence and their venerable triumph. Accordingly the see of Peter the Apostle of the Church of Rome is first, having neither spot, nor wrinkle, nor anything of this kind. (Eph 5:27) (Denzinger-Hünermann 350-351. Gelasius I, Decretum Gelasium, [uncertain date])

Nicholas I

Nothing and no one may alter the privileges established by Christ

Furthermore if you have not heard us, it remains for you to be with us of necessity, such as our Lord Jesus Christ has commanded those to be considered, who disdained to hear the Church of God, especially since the privileges of the Roman Church, built on Blessed Peter by the word of Christ, deposited in the Church herself, observed in ancient times and celebrated by the sacred universal Synods, and venerated jointly by the entire Church, can by no means be diminished, by no means infringed upon, by no means changed; for the foundation which God has established, no human effort has the power to destroy and what God has determined, remains firm and strong … Thus the privileges granted to this holy Church by Christ, not given by the Synod, but now only celebrated and venerated… They oblige and impel us to have ‘anxiety for all the churches’ (2Cor 11:28). (Denzinger-Hünermann 640. Nicholas I, Letter Prosueramus quidem, to Emperor Michael, September 28, 865)

Gregory VII

The Roman Church: Mother and Teacher of all the others

All of those who, in the entire world, call themselves Christians, and truly profess the Christian faith, know and believe that Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, is the father of all Christians, and, after Jesus Christ, the primary shepherd; and that the Holy Roman Church is the Mother and Teacher of all the Churches. If you believe this and firmly maintain the faith, I supplicate you, or rather, I command, as your brother and unworthy teacher, that you seek, with the help of Omnipotent God, to aid and assist your Father and your Mother. (Saint Gregory VII. Epistle Pervenit fratres charissimi. Migne PL 148, 710)

Lateran Council IV (Ecumenical XII)

The primacy of power

Renewing the ancient privilege of the patriarchal sees, with the approval of the sacred universal synod, we sanction that after the Roman Church, which by the ordering of the Lord before all others holds the first place of ordinary power as the mother and teacher of all the faithful of Christ, the (Church of) Constantinople holds the first, Alexandria the second, Antioch the third, and Jerusalem the fourth place. (Denzinger-Hünermann 811. Lateran Council IV, November 11-30, 1215)

Council of Lyons II (Ecumenical XIV)

The Church of Rome has the highest and complete supremacy; consequently, it is called to defend the faith more than the others

Also this same holy Roman Church holds the highest and complete primacy and spiritual power over the universal Catholic Church which she truly and humbly recognizes herself to have received with fullness of power from the Lord Himself in Blessed Peter, the chief or head of the Apostles whose successor is the Roman Pontiff. And just as to defend the truth of Faith she is held before all other things, so if any questions shall arise regarding faith they ought to be defined by her judgment. (Denzinger-Hünermann 861. Council of Lyons II, Letter from the Emperor Michael to Pope Gregory, July 6, 1274)


Primacy that must be revered

As a report worthy of faith holds, the sons of the above mentioned rashness and impiety have been driven to this weakness of mind, that they think impiously in opposition to the most renowned and salutary truth of the Christian faith; they contemn the sacraments of the Church which should be venerated, and in an attack of blind fury they who should be crushed by it, press against the glorious primacy of the Roman Church, saying that it ought to be overthrown by all nations. (Denzinger-Hünermann 910. John XXII, Consititution Gloriosam Ecclesiam, January 23, 1308)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Church of Rome, base and foundation of the other Churches

Particular Churches are fully catholic through their communion with one of them, the Church of Rome ‘which presides in charity’ (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom. 1, 1: Apostolic Fathers, II/2, 192; cf. LG 13). ‘For with this church, by reason of its pre-eminence, the whole Church, that is the faithful everywhere, must necessarily be in accord’ (Saint Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 3, 2; Cf. Vatican Council I DS 3057). Indeed, ‘from the incarnate Word’s descent to us, all Christian churches everywhere have held and hold the great Church that is here [at Rome] to be their only basis and foundation since, according to the Savior’s promise, the gates of hell have never prevailed against her’ (St. Maximus the Confessor, Opuscula theo.: PG 91 137-140). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 834)

John Paul II

Look toward Rome

The endowment to be established will be but a small stream flowing into the great river of Christian charity that courses through history. A small but significant stream: because of the Jubilee the world has looked to Rome, the Church ‘which presides in charity’ and has brought its gifts to Peter. Now the charity displayed at the centre of Catholicism will in some way flow back to the world through this sign, which is meant to be an enduring legacy and remembrance of the communion experienced during the Jubilee. (John Paul II. Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, no. 53, January 6, 2001)

He who confirms his brothers in the faith

For, by means of the Synod, the Bishops of the local Churches, scattered throughout the world, bring to Peter the experiences and riches of Christian life in their regions; and, by it, Peter also confirms his brothers in the Faith, and presides truly and efficaciously in universal charity. (John Paul II. Address during the Meeting of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, no. 3, March 21, 1981)

 Benedict XVI

The Church of Rome has a special privilege due to the blood of the Apostles

It is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity. At the beginning of the second century St Ignatius of Antioch attributed a special primacy to the Church which is in Rome, greeting her in his Letter to the Romans as the one which ‘presides in charity’. It is because the Apostles Peter and Paul, together with many other martyrs, poured out their blood in this City, that this special task of service depends on the Community of Rome and on its Bishop. Let us, thus, return to the witness of blood and of charity. The Chair of Peter is therefore the sign of authority, but of Christ’s authority, based on faith and on love. (Benedict XVI. Angelus, February 19, 2012)

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