Secretariat v. CDF

Secretariat v. CDF

John Allen reports what some people were speculating: that the dust-up regarding the Legionaries of Christ is part of a battle between the two most powerful dicasteries in the Vatican: the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The LC claim that the “Holy See” called them to to tell them that there was no canonical process underway. Did the call come out of the blue or did someone at the LC initiate it? I find it hard to believe that the “Holy See” just felt like calling them. And who is the “Holy See”? Was it Pope Benedict? Cardinal Sodano of the Secretariat? Msgr. Scicluna of the CDF? Jay Dunlap, spokesman for the LC in the US, sent out a press release to everyone and anyone saying: “We believe the Holy See is speaking with a unified voice on this issue.” Really? How so? It doesn’t seem like it. After all, if it were we’d either be seeing an official statement from the Vatican press office or a high-ranking official speaking on the record. Instead, we have this assurance being relayed through the LC, a Vatican press office spokesman replying to a reporter’s question an ambiguous statement, and a “no comment” from the CDF.

But what about this supposed turf war at the Vatican?

In fact, however, the communication came from the Secretariat of State, the department that handles papal diplomacy and acts as a coordinator for the work of other Vatican agencies. It came in the form of a fax, which was unsigned but bore a seal from the Secretariat of State indicating official status. Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, is a longtime supporter of Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ.

What this means is that the statement did not come from the Vatican agency that ultimately has responsibility for deciding Maciel’s fate. Officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have refused to make any comment on the recent news reports, but a senior Vatican official told NCR May 25 that the congregation has made “no statement” on the Maciel case, even to the Secretariat of State.

The official stressed this does not mean that there eventually will be a canonical case against Maciel, merely that the agency charged with making that decision has not yet communicated its intentions. Given the preeminence of the Secretariat of State within the Vatican, at a minimum these recent developments suggest there are grave doubts within the Holy See about proceeding.

Allen makes a good point about the wording of Fr. Benedettini’s statement, that a canonical process “is not foreseen,” does not rule out the possibility and that the Vatican often says “it is not foreseen” about things that eventually happen.

Allen also points out that there is a close relationship between Sodano and the Legion and apparently that is where the communication to the LC originated. What does all this mean? It means that there is a lot of controversy in Rome over this issue, that this isn’t simply being swept under the rug, but that it is causing turmoil.

It doesn’t mean that there definitely will be a canonical process or that an investigation will take place. It doesn’t even mean that there is any truth to the allegations against Maciel. In fact, that’s almost becoming a secondary consideration here, after the remarkable manueverings among all parties here.

If the Legion wanted to put a stopper on all this, the way they and their Vatican allies have been handling this has guaranteed that they won’t. It’s only drawn more attention to it.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli