The Holy See
back up


for bettering the serviceability of Doctrinal Committees,
to Presidents of Episcopal Conferences


By its Instruction issued on the 23rd of February, 1967, this Sacred Congregation, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, asked the Episcopal Conferences or Groups to set up a Doctrinal Committee (Commission) which would exercise vigilante over published writings, promote religious learning, and render assistance to the bishops in passing judgements on books.

Certainly no one can fail to see how important it is, especially in our times, that the bishops, whether individually or in concert, assiduously exercise their office of teaching and of proclaiming the truth. On the other hand, in the discharge of this office, Doctrinal Committees, can be of assistance to the Bishops of the respective territories in various ways. Consequently, by way of further development of the aforesaid Instruction, this Sacred Congregation thinks it timely to make some suggestions, at least, for bettering the serviceability of Doctrinal Committees.

1. In the first place, to be sure, there seems to be need that the Doctrinal Committee act in a positive manner and exercise influence in the exposition and proposition of correct doctrine.

In order to achieve this goal, periodical publications (dailies, weeklies, and other of this kind) can be of very much service, and also various writing of a divulgating nature destined for the people in general, or for young persons in studies, or, finally, for persons of higher learning.

But it is especially helpful, indeed, altogether necessary that scientific theological work as such be expended on proclaiming, elucidating, in-depth understanding, and, finally, safeguarding revealed truth. To be sure, these activities will attain the desired effect if both the individual bishops and the Doctrinal Committee cultivate mutual relations in a spirit of collaboration with theologians, professors of universities and seminaries, and other learned persons by coming together in timely meetings.

2. Part of the assignment of the Doctrinal Committee is also to assist the Bishops in the task of vigilance lest harm be done to correct doctrine in writing, whether theological, or published,
or edited for the people at large.

The Committee can render special assistance to the individual Ordinaries by setting up prior censorship, as prescribed by canon law, in a case where otherwise the Ordinary would not be able to have experts qualified for that work.

3. The Bishops can use the work of the Doctrinal Committee in questions which affect the territory of the Episcopal Conference or Group. However, in order to determine which business is to be sent to this sacred congregation, to be kept in mind is the «principle of subsidiarity» according to the intent of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in such wise, of course, that, as a rule, the Conferences or Groups themselves expedite matters which do not go beyond their territorial limits and which do not, for some other reason, appear to require the special intervention of the Holy See.

4. In order that the benefits of the experience and the studies of each individual Doctrinal Committee may turn out to be more helpful to the Holy See, that is, and to the other Bishops, their Presidents are asked to send to this Sacred Congregation, at least once a year, an annual report of the activity of the committee and of the doctrinal tendencies and to suggest the steps which they think should be taken in due time by the Holy See itself. It need be, this Sacred Congregation will communicate all these matters to other Episcopal Units.

5. It seems very useful that the Doctrinal Committee prepare for the Bishops reserved notes on issues of greater importance and on current opinions.

The Episcopal Conference or Group has the right to entrust also to the Doctrinal Committee other tasks as occasion demands, e.g., the examination of some manuscript on the appellate level when the «imprimatur» has been denied.

Finally, at the same time that I express the ardent desire of the Holy See that what has been se forth here regarding the Doctrinal Committee may happily be converted into action under your prudent and earnest leadership, and that the names of the Chairperson and Members of the Doctrinal Committee be communicated to this Sacred Congregation, if these names have not already been sent, I express my heartiest sentiments to You and remain devotedly Yours in the Lord.

Rome, 10 July 1968.