The possible establishment of an international board of bishops to give the popes a better idea of the thoughts of Catholics throughout the world has been discussed here.
The discussion took place (Nov. 9) at a meeting of newsmen and the panel of experts set up to assist them in covering the ecumenical council by the U.S. bishops through the Rome office of the National Catholic Welfare Conference.
Father Edward Heston, C.S.C., procurator general of the Holy Cross Fathers, spoke during a discussion of the possibility of the internationalization of the Roman curia — the Vatican administrative staff. Father Heston said that there have been some suggestions of setting up a permanent organization similar to the council’s Central Preparatory Commission, which was composed of cardinals and bishops from all parts of the world.
Father Heston reported that Pope John XXIII told a bishop, who in turn told him, that the reason that all the bishops of the Central Preparatory Commission had been called to Rome was so that the Pope could learn the thoughts of bishops from abroad. He said the Pontiff was already aware of the opinions of the curia but wanted to know the thoughts of others as well.
Father Heston reported that even curia members have suggested the usefulness of some type of board similar to the Central Preparatory Commission to function on a permanent basis. But at this time, he added, it is premature to speculate on its composition or functioning.
Father Heston also noted that recently there have been a number of articles speculating on a reorganization or an internationalization of the curia. He stated that it is not within the competence of the ecumenical council to reorganize the curia. He said that the curia is “the long arm of the Pope” through which he carries out his government of the Church and that it is up to the Pope to change or reorganize it.
In substance, he went on, this means that the curia is an organ of the pope and not of the Church and that it is up to the Pope to do with it what he thinks is necessary. This does not exclude the possibility that the council Fathers may make some suggestions or recommendations, he said; nor does it exclude the fact that some of the decrees that will be adopted by them will alter some of the curia’s relations with individual dioceses, as for example the possible delegation of the authority now vested in the curia to national or regional conferences of bishops to deal with matters on a local level.
Regarding internationalization of the curia, Father Heston and certain curia officials pointed out that it is being internationalized on the level of its consultors, which is the level of initiation and ideas. It was also argued that there are some drawbacks and obstacles to full internationalization such as language problems, housing and the low salary levels which do not attract many persons outside Italy.
It was also pointed out that most of the congregations of the curia have competitive examinations for openings in their offices. However, the Pope often appoints persons specially recommended because of their training or other qualifications.
One authority noted that it is unfair to hold that decisions of the curia are made as a result of only one person’s point of view. He noted that the work of the congregations is mainly “collegiate,” that it is the result of discussions and debates between all members of the congregation in which everyone has the right to speak and that matters are usually decided by vote.