Last week, Bishop Marcello Semeraro, secretary of the pope’s C6 Council of Cardinal Advisors announced that the group hoped to present Francis with a final draft of a new Vatican constitution in September.

Praedicate Evangelium, as the new governing document for the Roman curia is to be called, completes the reforming work already begun of combining various smaller Vatican departments into a more streamlined structure.

A recent draft of Praedicate Evangelium obtained by CNA proposes a significant change in the governing structure of the Church, one which represents a consolidation of power in Rome unprecedented in the modern era.

With a single exception, all of the Vatican departments – currently styled as Secretariats, Congregations, or Pontifical Councils, depending on their size and scope – are renamed “dicasteries.” While the reformed Dicastery for the Evangelization is listed first, there is no legal order of precedence or priority attached to it or its work, and all dicasteries are, in the words of the draft text, “juridically equal among themselves.”

The single exception to this new uniform designation is the Secretariat of State, which retains its traditional name and is unquestionably the “first” Vatican department under the new constitution.

Legally, this means that the pope must personally approve every authoritative decision to emerge from a curial department – an historic recentralization of Roman power into the person of the pope.

Closely related to the end of curial departments’ ability to exercise the power of governance is another historic proposed reform: that lay people can serve as the head of any dicastery. 

Canon law defines ordination as a necessary qualification for the exercise of the power of governance. Lay people – according to the Code of Canon Law – can “cooperate” in the exercise, but not exercise it in their own right. Removing the stable exercise of delegated governing authority from all dicasteries is a legal necessity, either as cause or effect, for allowing lay prefects to lead a given department.

Many canonists and curial officials who have seen the draft privately warn it could prove a recipe for administrative gridlock.

“Imagine if the American president said that every binding decision taken by an executive department had to cross his desk and receive his personal approval – it is impossible, there is not time, nothing will get done,” one serving curial archbishop told CNA.

Full story at Catholic News Agency.

A different take, from Crux:

A preliminary outline of Pope Francis’s coming apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia reveals the merger of several more departments and an increased emphasis on the presence of laity as part of a reform hinged on decentralization and synodality and fueled by evangelization.

According to a preliminary outline of the constitution which Crux has obtained, it seems the overall tone of the document will heavily stress the topics of synodality, the need for more lay leaders, including women, and a “healthy decentralization.”

Another priority for the reform appears to be the need to streamline, reducing the number of curial departments and “rationalizing” their functions in order to avoid a repetition of competences and to be more efficient and economize.

According to the outline’s first section, the constitution “is aimed at putting into practice in a more radical way the work of the Curia today, amidst the changes within the Church that are at the heart of this new step in evangelization that we are called to live.”

Full story at Crux.