The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) (Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei), previously known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, and sometimes simply called the Holy Office is the oldest of the nine congregations of the Roman Curia. Among the most active of these major Curial departments, it oversees Catholic doctrine. The CDF is the modern name for what used to be the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
According to Article 48 of the Apostolic Constitution
on the Roman Curia, Pastor Bonus
, promulgated by Pope John Paul II
on June 28
: "the duty proper to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world: for this reason everything which in any way touches such matter falls within its competence." The punishments are not described, but are taken for granted from the phrase "safeguard the doctrine".
Within the CDF are the International Theological Commission and the Pontifical Biblical Commission. The Prefect of the CDF is ex officio president of both commissions.
On July 21, 1542, Pope Paul III, with the Constitution Licet ab initio, established 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. In reaction to the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition, it was tightly controlled by strict procedural rules under the administration of Francisco Peña, but the Inquisition remained one of the most feared offices in 16th century Europe, and elsewhere in the Catholic world, due especially to its use of torture and execution, including immolation.
This body was renamed the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in 1908 by Pope Saint Pius X. It was changed to Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on December 7, 1965, at the end of the Second Vatican Council. In 1983, with the new code of Canon law, "Sacred" was dropped from the names of Vatican Congregations.
Until 1968, the Pope
himself held the title of prefect but never exercised this office. Instead, he appointed one of the cardinals 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, without further qualification. Therefore, from 1968 onwards, the title of Secretary refers to the second highest ranking officer of the Congregation. There are usually ten other cardinals on the Congregation, as well as a prelate and two assistants.
The work of the Congregation is divided into four sections: the doctrinal office, the disciplinary office, the matrimonial office, and that for priests. The Congregation holds biennial plenary assemblies.
The Congregation has been used as a tool to silence voices of dissent with the church. Among the most known punished priests are Marcial Maciel, Tissa Balasuriya, and Robert Nugent.
On 6 May 2006 Cardinals Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera and Jean-Pierre Cardinal Ricard were named members of the Congregation.
Recent opinions and publications
- Dominus Iesus (2000)
- Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons (2002)
- (24 November 2002), arguably the basis for the comments by Cardinal George Pell and those by Archbishop Barry Hickey in June 2007 in Australia to Catholic politicians on their votes on therapeutic cloning legislation.
- In an April 2007 address to chaplains, Archbishop Amato denounced same-sex marriage and abortion and criticized the Italian media's coverage of them, saying that they are evils "that remain almost invisible" due to media presentation of them as "expression of human progress.
- On September 28, 2007, Gaston Hebert, the diocese administrator (per the July 11 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) stated that 6 Arkansas nuns were excommunicated for heresy (the first in the diocese's 165-year history). They refused to recant the doctrines of the Community of the Lady of All Nations (Army of Mary). The 6 nuns are members of the Good Shepherd Monastery of Our Lady of Charity and Refuge in Hot Springs. Sister Mary Theresa Dionne, 82, one of 6, said they will still live at the convent property, which they own. The sect believe that its 86-year-old founder, Marie Paule Giguere, is the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary.
- On April 5, 2008, as a result of "grave reservations" by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the Mormon practice of posthumous rebaptism, Catholic dioceses throughout the world were directed not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons' Genealogical Society of Utah for microfilming or digitizing.
Heads of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
- Alfredo Ottaviani (November 7, 1959-January 6, 1968) First titled Secretary, as the Pope was always the Prefect, then Pro-Prefect, until appointment as cardinal
- Franjo Šeper (January 8, 1968 - November 25, 1981) (his retirement)
- Joseph Ratzinger (November 25, 1981 - April 2, 2005) (Pope John Paul II's death) - now Pope Benedict XVI
- William Levada (May 13, 2005-Present)
Modern Secretaries of the CDF