Feb 15, 2014

Pope Francis to CDF: Defend — Don’t Domesticate – Doctrine

Online Edition:
February 2014
Vol. XIX, No. 10

Pope Francis to CDF: Defend — Don’t "Domesticate" — Doctrine

Fidelity to Church doctrine, collegiality, and collaboration with local bishops and churches are essential tasks of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Pope Francis stressed in his January 31 address to CDF members. The CDF was concluding its plenary session on the relation between the Catholic faith and the Sacrament of Matrimony.

The pope also cautioned against the temptation to “domesticate” Church teachings to conform to the “spirit of the world.”  At the close of his address, he raised the possibility of linking the newly created Commission for the Protection of Minors to the CDF.  The commission, suggested by the Council of Cardinals, was approved by Pope Francis on December 5, 2013.

Following is the complete address to the CDF (unofficial English translation of Italian original on the Vatican website.)

— Editor


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I meet with you at the end of the work of your plenary session. I greet you all cordially and I thank Archbishop [Gerhard] Müller for his words.

The tasks of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are linked to the mission of the Successor of Peter, to confirm the brethren in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32). In this connection, your role of “promoting and protecting the doctrine of the faith and the customs in the whole Catholic world” (Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, 48) is a true service offered to the Magisterium of the pope and of the entire Church. For this reason, the dicastery is committed to ensuring that these criteria always prevail in the words of faith and practices of the Church. When the faith shines in its original simplicity and purity, the ecclesial experience also becomes a place wherein the life of God emerges with all its charm, and it bears fruit. Faith in Jesus Christ, in fact, opens hearts wide to God; it opens the spaces of human existence to the Truth, the Good, and the Beautiful that come from Him.

Since the early times of the Church the temptation has existed to understand doctrine in an ideological sense, or to reduce it to an ensemble of abstract and crystalized theories (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 39-42). In reality, doctrine has the sole purpose of serving the life of the People of God, and it seeks to assure our faith of a sure foundation. Great, in fact, is the temptation to appropriate to ourselves the gifts of salvation that come from God, to domesticate them — perhaps even with good intentions — to the views and the spirit of the world. And this is a temptation that is repeated continually.

To protect the integrity of the faith is a very delicate task that has been entrusted to you, always in collaboration with the local pastors and the doctrinal commissions of the episcopal conferences. This serves to safeguard the right of all the People of God to receive the deposit of the faith in its purity and its totality. Your work seeks also to have always present the needs of a constructive dialogue, respectful and patient with the authors. If truth exacts fidelity, the latter grows always in charity and in fraternal help for those called to mature and clarify their convictions.

In regard, then, to the method of your work, I know that your dicastery is distinguished for the practices of collegiality and dialogue. The Church in fact is the place of communion and, at every level, we are all called to cultivate and promote communion, each one in the responsibility that the Lord has assigned to him. I am certain that the more that collegiality is an effective feature of our work, the more the light of our faith will shine before the world (cf. Mt 5:16).

In all your service, you can always have a profound sense of joy — the joy of the faith — which has its inexhaustible source in the Lord Jesus. The grace of being His disciples — of participating in the evangelizing mission of the Church — fills us with holy joy.

In the plenary session that has just ended you considered the relation between the faith and the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is a reflection of great importance. It is in the wake of the invitation that Benedict XVI had already formulated about the need to ask oneself more in depth about the relation between personal faith and the celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony, above all in a changing cultural context (cf. Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 26, 2013).

On this occasion, I would like to thank you for your commitment in addressing the delicate problems of the gravest crimes — in particular, cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergymen. Think of the good of the children and of young people, who must always be protected and supported in the Christian community in their human and spiritual growth. In this connection, the possibility is being studied of linking to your dicastery the Commission for the Protection of Minors, which I instituted and which I hope will be exemplary for all those who intend to promote the good of children.

Dear brothers and sisters, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I trust in yours for me and for my ministry. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you.





The Editors