The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF; Latin: Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei) is the oldest among the nine congregations of the Roman Curia. It was founded to defend the church from heresy; today, it is the body responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine. Formerly known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition,[a] it is informally known in many Catholic countries as the Holy Office, and between 1908 and 1965 was officially known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office.
Founded by Pope Paul III in 1542, the congregation's sole objective is to "spread sound Catholic doctrine and defend those points of Christian tradition which seem in danger because of new and unacceptable doctrines." Its headquarters are at the Palace of the Holy Office, just outside Vatican City. The congregation employs an advisory board including cardinals, bishops, priests, lay theologians, and canon lawyers. The current Prefect is Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, who was appointed by Pope Francis for a five-year term beginning July 2017.
Pope Francis has planned a reorganization of the Curia that will alter the role of this Congregation. A final draft of his apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia, titled Praedicate Evangelium (“Preach the Gospel”), has been submitted for comment to national bishops’ conferences and a variety of other bodies.
|Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith|
|Latin: Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei|
Coat of arms of the Holy See
|Headquarters||Palace of the Holy Office|
On 21 July 1542, Pope Paul III proclaimed the Apostolic Constitution Licet ab initio, establishing the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, staffed by cardinals and other officials whose task it was "to maintain and defend the integrity of the faith and to examine and proscribe errors and false doctrines." It served as the final court of appeal in trials of heresy and served as an important part of the Counter-Reformation.
This body was renamed the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in 1908 by Pope Pius X. In many Catholic countries, the body is often informally called the Holy Office (e.g., Italian: Sant'Uffizio and Spanish: Santo Oficio).
The congregation's name was changed to Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (SCDF) on 7 December 1965, at the end of the Second Vatican Council. Soon after the 1983 Code of Canon Law came into effect, the adjective "sacred" was dropped from the names of all Curial Congregations,[b] and so the dicastery adopted its current name, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
|1542||Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition is established "to maintain and defend the integrity of the faith and to examine and proscribe errors and false doctrines."|
|1622||Pope Gregory XV writes a letter addressing the issue of priests abusing the confessional to solicit "shameful and dishonorable conduct". The letter is referenced in Sacramentum Poenitentiae (1741).|
|1665||The General Congregation of the Universal Inquisition, in the presence of Pope Alexander VII, reiterates that propositions by confessors to solicit or provoke sex from penitents are "alien and discordant by the Evangelical truth and clearly so by the sixth and seventh doctrines of the Holy Fathers" and are to be "checked, condemned, and prohibited." "The Inquisitors of Heretical Depravity, ..., [should] seek out and proceed against everyone - every priest [...] who has essayed to tempt a penitent."|
|1908||The Inquisition is renamed Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office by Pope Pius X.|
|1965||The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office is renamed Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (SCDF).|
|1985||All dicasteries of the Roman Curia no longer use the adjective "sacred" as part of their title. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith becomes the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).|
|1988||Pope John Paul II reaffirms the authority of the CDF on 28 June: "The proper duty of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world; so it has competence in things that touch this matter in any way."|
|2001||John Paul II issues Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela "by which are promulgated Norms concerning the more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." It, again, reaffirms the CDF's responsibilities, expressing that it was necessary to define more precisely both "the more grave delicts whether against morals or committed in the celebration of the sacraments" for which the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith remains exclusive, and also the special procedural norms "for declaring or imposing canonical sanctions."|
|2014||On 11 November Pope Francis sets up within the CDF a special body to expedite consideration of appeals by priests against laicization or other penalties imposed on them in cases of sexual abuse.|
|2015||Francis establishes an ecclesiastical judicial commission, which will have its own staff and secretary, to try bishops, which will work with other units of the CDF and with the congregation that has oversight over the bishop.|
|2018||Francis appoints three women as consultors to the Congregation, the first in its history.|
|2019||The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei is merged into the Congregation.|
According to the 1988 Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Pastor bonus, article 48, promulgated by John Paul II: "The proper duty of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world; so it has competence in things that touch this matter in any way."
This includes investigations into grave delicts, i.e., acts which the Catholic Church considers as being the most serious crimes: crimes against the Eucharist and against the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance, and crimes against the sixth Commandment ("Thou shall not commit adultery.") committed by a cleric against a person under the age of eighteen. These crimes, in Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela a motu proprio of 2001, come under the competency of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In effect, it is the "promoter of justice" which deals with, among other things, the question of priests accused of paedophilia.[c]
Within the CDF are the International Theological Commission, the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. The Prefect of the CDF is ex officio president of these commissions.
Until 1968, the pope held the title of prefect and appointed a cardinal to preside over the meetings, first as Secretary, then as Pro-Prefect.
Since 1968, the Cardinal head of the dicastery has borne the title of Prefect and the title of Secretary refers to the second highest-ranking officer of the Congregation. As of 2012 the Congregation had a membership of 18 cardinals and a smaller number of non-cardinal bishops, a staff of 38 (clerical and lay) and 26 consultors.
The work of the CDF is divided into four sections: the doctrinal, disciplinary, matrimonial, and clerical offices. The CDF holds biennial plenary assemblies, and issues documents on doctrinal, disciplinary, and sacramental questions that occasionally include notifications concerning books by Catholic theologians (e.g., Hans Küng, Charles Curran, and Leonardo Boff) that it judges contrary to Church doctrine.
The following is a list of recent documents and judgments issued by the CDF. Lengthy CDF documents usually have Latin titles. A short document that briefly states objections to one or more writings by a Catholic theologian is typically called a "notification."
When the Supreme Sacred Congregation for the Roman and Universal Inquisition was first established in 1542, it was composed of several Cardinal Inquisitors styled as "Inquisitors-General", who were formally equal to each other, even if some of them were clearly dominant (e.g. Cardinal Gian Pietro Carafa from 1542, who was elected Pope Paul IV in 1555). Until 1968 the Pope himself presided over the Congregation. However, from 1564 the daily administration of the affairs of the Congregation was entrusted to the Cardinal Secretary.(pp19–26) This model was retained when the Inquisition was formally renamed as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in 1908.
Unless stated otherwise, the secretaryship ended with the officeholder's death.
When Pope Paul VI changed the name of the dicastery on 7 December 1965, he changed the title of the cardinal in charge of the daily administration of the Congregation from Secretary to Pro-Prefect. He continued to reserve the title of Prefect to himself until 1968 when he relinquished his role as head of the Congregation and named a Prefect.
With the December 1965 reorganization of the Holy Office as the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the head of the Congregation was no longer titled Secretary. The dicastery's second-in-command, until then titled assessor, was then given the title of Secretary, as was already the case with the other Roman Congregations. The following Archbishops have held the title of Secretary:
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Angelo Amato, S.D.B. (born 8 June 1938) is an Italian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints between 2008 and 2018. He served as Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2002 to 2008 and became a cardinal in 2010.Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican (abbreviated to ACDF for Archivio Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei), commonly referred to as the Archive of the Inquisition (or more fully the Archive of the Inquisition and Index), contains the Catholic Church's documents dealing with doctrinal and theological issues related to church teaching. It also contains information on political trials that were carried out when the papacy had temporal power over the Papal States.Aspects of Christian meditation
Aspects of Christian meditation was the topic of a 15 October 1989 document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document is titled "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian meditation" and is formally known by its incipit, Orationis formas.The document issues warnings on differences, and potential incompatibilities, between Christian meditation and the styles of meditation used in eastern religions such as Buddhism. The document warns of fundamental errors in combining Christian and non-Christian styles of meditation.
Referring to the constitution Dei verbum the document emphasizes that all Christian prayer and meditation should "proceed to converge on Christ" and be guided by the gift of the Holy Spirit. It reaffirmed that the Church recommends the reading of the Scripture prior to and as a source of Christian prayer and meditation.
Similar warnings were issued in 2003 in A Christian reflection on the New Age which characterized New Age activities as essentially incompatible with Christian teachings and values.Charles Scicluna
Charles Jude Scicluna (born 15 May 1959) is a Canadian-born Maltese prelate of the Catholic Church who has been the Archbishop of Malta since 2015. He held positions in the Roman curia from 1995 to 2012, when he became Auxiliary Bishop of Malta. Both as a curial official and since becoming a bishop he has conducted investigations into sexual abuse by clergy on behalf of the Holy See and led a Vatican board that reviews such cases. He has been called "the Vatican's most respected sex crimes expert". Since November 2018 he has also been Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the curial body responsibile for dealing with clerical sexual abuse cases on minors around the world.De delictis gravioribus
De delictis gravioribus (Latin for "on more serious crimes") was a letter written on 18 May 2001 by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to all the Bishops of the Catholic Church and the other Ordinaries concerned, including those of the Eastern Catholic Churches. The letter was published in the official gazette of the Holy See, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, in 2001.Declaration concerning status of Catholics becoming Freemasons
The Declaration concerning status of Catholics becoming Freemasons is a February 1981 declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Franjo Šeper which restated the Catholic Church's prohibition against Catholics becoming Freemasons.It contains three points of "confirmation and clarification" about "erroneous and tendentious interpretations" of a leaked 1974 private clarification, on interpretation of 1917 Code of Canon Law canon 2335, from the CDF to episcopal conferences:
"canonical discipline remains in full force and has not been modified in any way"
"neither the excommunication nor the other penalties envisaged have been abrogated"
the intention of the 1974 letter was to remind about "the general principles of interpretation of penal laws for the solution of the cases of individual persons which may be submitted to the judgment of ordinaries" and not "to permit Episcopal Conferences to issue public pronouncements by way of a judgment of a general character on the nature of Masonic associations, which would imply a derogation from the aforesaid norms"The confusion arose from a leaked 1974 private clarification written to some episcopal conferences, which was interpreted by some within the Church and within Freemasonry as permitting Catholics to join Masonic lodges so long as the lodge did not directly plot against the church. The letter had become public and had "given rise to erroneous and tendentious interpretations."The 1974 private clarification stated that:
"the Holy See has repeatedly sought information from the bishops about contemporary Masonic activities directed against the Church"
"there will be no new law on this matter," in the period before the 1983 Code of Canon Law is promulgated
"all penal canons must be interpreted strictly"
to reiterate, Catholic clergy, and members of religious institutes or secular institutes are expressly prohibited from Masonic membershipThe 1981 declaration preceded the 1983 Declaration on Masonic Associations issued by the CDF under Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.Declaration on Euthanasia
The Declaration on Euthanasia is the Roman Catholic Church's official document on the topic of euthanasia, a statement that was issued as by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1980.Catholic teaching purports that euthanasia is a "crime against life". The teaching of the Catholic Church on euthanasia rests on several core principles of Catholic ethics, including the sanctity of human life, the dignity of the human person, concomitant human rights, due proportionality in casuistic remedies, the unavoidability of death, and the importance of charity.
In Catholic medical ethics official pronouncements strongly oppose active euthanasia, whether voluntary or not... ...no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action." ....while allowing dying to proceed without medical interventions that would be considered "extraordinary" or "disproportionate." The Declaration on Euthanasia states that:
"When inevitable death is imminent... it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to a sick person in similar cases is not interrupted."
The Declaration concludes that doctors, beyond providing medical skill, must above all provide patients "with the comfort of boundless kindness and heartfelt charity".
Although the Declaration allows people to decline heroic medical treatment when death is imminently inevitable, it unequivocally prohibits the hastening of death and restates Vatican II's condemnation of "crimes against life 'such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful suicide'".Declaration on Masonic Associations
The Declaration on Masonic Associations is a declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith re-iterating the prohibition of Catholics from joining Masonic organizations. Its Latin title is Declaratio de associationibus massonicis. The document states that Catholics who join Masonic organizations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion. It was issued in 1983 by the prefect of the congregation, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005.Dominus Iesus
Dominus Iesus (English: The Lord Jesus) is a declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (known as the "Holy Office"), approved in a Plenary meeting of the Congregation and signed by its then Prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, and of its then Secretary, Archbishop Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, later Cardinal Secretary of State. The declaration was approved by Pope John Paul II and was published on August 6, 2000. It is subtitled "On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church". It is most widely known for its elaboration of the Catholic dogma that the Catholic Church is the sole true Church of Christ.Donum Vitae
Donum Vitae is the "Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation" which was issued on February 22, 1987, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It addresses biomedical issues from the Roman Catholic Church's perspective.
The doctrinal material is not only addressed to all married couples, especially Roman Catholics, but also to pharmacists, doctors, ethicists, theologians, politicians and industrialists, so that they may try and tackle these issues together. Other related documents, such as Humanae Vitae, were also written for a wide variety of individuals and specialists on the matter.
The document specifically indicated that the Church was opposed to in vitro fertilization (IVF). Given that IVF was relatively new at the time, this position provoked lively debate when it was first announced.
In 2008, the instruction Dignitas Personae was released as a supplement to address newer bioethical issues and technologies.Franjo Šeper
Franjo Šeper (2 October 1905, Osijek – 30 December 1981, Rome) was a Croatian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1968–81, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1965.Gerhard Ludwig Müller
Gerhard Ludwig Müller (pronounced [ˈɡeːɐ̯haʁt ˈluːtvɪç ˈmʏlɐ]; born 31 December 1947) is a German cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) from his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 until 2017. He was elevated to the rank of cardinal in 2014.
On 1 July 2017, Pope Francis named Luis Ladaria Ferrer to succeed Müller as Prefect of the CDF.Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Joseph Ratzinger was named by Pope John Paul II on 25 November 1981 Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office and, especially around the sixteenth century, as the Roman Inquisition.
He became both Archbishop of Munich-Freising and a cardinal in 1977. He resigned as archbishop in early 1982, in light of his new duties as Prefect.
While continuing to be Prefect, Ratzinger was promoted within the College of Cardinals to become Cardinal-Bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993, and became the College's vice-dean in 1998 and dean (senior cardinal) in 2002. He was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, becoming Pope Emeritus on his retirement in 2013.Luis Ladaria Ferrer
Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer (born 19 April 1944) is a Spanish Jesuit, theologian and a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. After a thirty-year career teaching theology, he joined the Roman Curia in 2004 as Secretary-General of the International Theological Commission. An archbishop from 2008 until his appointment to the cardinalate in 2018, he became Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 2017.
Pope Francis made him a cardinal on 28 June 2018 and named him the Cardinal-Deacon of Sant'Ignazio Loyola in Campo Marzio.Normae Congregationis
Normae Congregationis (NC) is a 1978 document written by the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (SCDF) concerning guidelines for Catholic bishops in discerning claims to private revelation such as apparitions. It includes the manner of discernment, the criteria for judging good and bad fruits, when church authorities can intervene, what authorities are competent to intervene, and the intervention of the Holy See.Ordinatio sacerdotalis
Ordinatio sacerdotalis (English: Priestly Ordination) is an ecclesiastical letter issued by Pope John Paul II on 22 May 1994 in which he discussed the Catholic Church's position requiring "the reservation of priestly ordination to men alone" and wrote that "the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women". While the document states that it was written so "that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance", it has been contested by some Catholics, as to both the substance and in the authoritative nature of its teaching. Many scholars agree it is not an infallible statement, as it does not define a teaching related to faith or morals. On the contrary, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller argues this prevalent opinion ignores that the document itself specifies that this matter does pertain to faith since it is "a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself", and it is the Pope's prerogative to make such definitions: "It is the province of the Magisterium to decide if a question is dogmatic or disciplinary: in this case, the Church has already decided that this proposition is dogmatic and that, because it is divine law, it cannot be changed or even reviewed"Citing an earlier Vatican document, Inter insigniores, "on the question of the Admission of women to the Ministerial Priesthood", issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in October 1976, Pope John Paul explains the official Roman Catholic understanding that the priesthood is a special role specially set out by Jesus when he chose twelve men out of his group of male and female followers. Pope John Paul notes that Jesus chose the Twelve after a night in prayer (cf. Lk 6:12) and that the Apostles themselves were careful in the choice of their successors. The priesthood is "specifically and intimately associated in the mission of the Incarnate Word himself."The letter concludes with the words:
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of Our ministry of confirming the brethren. We declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.
The phrase "definitively held by all the Church's faithful" pertains to the full assent of faith that is given to the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, one opinion is that Ordinatio sacerdotalis was not issued under the extraordinary papal magisterium as an ex cathedra statement, and so is not considered infallible in itself. Some consider its contents infallible under the ordinary magisterium, saying this doctrine has been held consistently by the Church. In a responsum ad dubium (reply to a doubt) explicitly approved by Pope John Paul II and dated October 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued its opinion that the teaching of Ordinatio sacerdotalis had been "set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium" and accordingly was "to be held definitively, as belonging to the deposit of faith".In 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued another opinion, a Doctrinal Commentary on Ad tuendam fidem, which said that the teaching of Ordinatio sacerdotalis was not taught as being divinely revealed explicitly, although it might someday be so taught in the future, that is to say, it has not been determined whether the doctrine is "to be considered an intrinsic part of revelation or only a logical consequence", yet in either case it is certainly definitive and to be believed infallibly.Palace of the Holy Office
The Palace of the Holy Office (Italian: Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio) is a building in Rome which is an extraterritorial property of Vatican City. It houses the curial Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The palace is situated south of St. Peter's Basilica near the Petriano Entrance to Vatican City. The building lies outside the confines of Vatican City at the south-eastern corner of the city-state. It is one of the properties of the Holy See in Italy regulated by the 1929 Lateran Treaty signed with the Kingdom of Italy. As such, it has extraterritorial status.
The palace was first built after 1514 for Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci, and it was called Palazzo Pucci. Its façade was rebuilt in 1524–25 by the architects Giuliano Leni, Pietro Roselli and even Michelangelo. When Pucci died in 1531, the building was still not fully completed.In 1566–67, the palace was purchased by Pope Pius V for 9000 scudi, and it was converted into the seat of the Holy Office. Renovation works were undertaken by Pirro Ligorio and Giovanni Sallustio Peruzzi. A complete renovation of the building was made by Pietro Guidi between 1921 and 1925.It is where Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) worked as Prefect of the Congregation.Ricardo Blázquez
Ricardo Blázquez Pérez (Spanish pronunciation: [riˈkaɾðo ˈβlaθkeθ ˈpeɾeθ]; born 13 April 1942) is a Spanish prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He has served as Archbishop of Valladolid since 2010.William Levada
William Joseph Levada (born June 15, 1936) is an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. From May 2005 until June 2012, he served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope Benedict XVI; he was the highest ranking American in the Roman Curia. He was previously the Archbishop of Portland (Oregon) from 1986 to 1995, and then Archbishop of San Francisco from 1995 to 2005.
His has received criticism for covering-up sexual abuse by priests in his care while in Portland and in San Francisco.
Levada was elevated to the rank of cardinal in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.