CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
Art. 1. The
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has the function of promoting and
safeguarding doctrine on faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.
In accomplishing this purpose, it renders a service to the truth, by
protecting the right of the People of God to receive the Gospel message in its
purity and entirety. Therefore, in order that faith and morals not be harmed
by errors however disseminated, it also has the duty of examining writings and
opinions which appear contrary to correct faith or dangerous.
Art. 2. This
fundamental pastoral responsibility concerns all the pastors of the Church,
who have the duty and the right to exercise vigilance, whether individually or
gathered in particular Councils or Episcopal Conferences, in order that the
faith and morals of the members of the faithful entrusted to their care not
suffer harm. To this end, they can
also be served by Doctrinal Commissions, institutionalized consultative bodies
which assist Episcopal Conferences and individual Bishops in their solicitude
for the doctrine of the faith.
The principle remains, however, that the Holy See can always intervene and, as
a rule, does so when the influence of a publication exceeds the boundaries of
an individual Episcopal Conference, or when the danger to the faith is
particularly grave. In such cases, the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith uses the following procedures:
I. Preliminary examination
Art. 3. The indicated writings or teachings, in
whatever way they are disseminated, are given attention by the competent
Office, which submits them to the examination of the Congresso [the weekly meeting of the Superiors and Officials of the
Congregation]. After a
preliminary evaluation of the gravity of the question, the Congresso decides whether or not to undertake a study by the Office.
II. Office study
Art. 4. Once the authenticity of the writing has been
verified, it is carefully examined with the collaboration of one or more
Consultors or other experts in the particular area.
Art. 5. The outcome of this examination is then
presented to the Congresso, which
decides whether this is sufficient for an intervention with the local
authorities, or whether the examination needs to proceed further by one of two
established procedures: ordinary examination or examination in cases of
Art. 6. The
criteria for this decision are the potential errors which have been noted,
taking into consideration their prominence, seriousness, dissemination,
influence and the danger of harm to the faithful.
Art. 7. Should
the Congresso judge that the study
undertaken was sufficient, it can entrust the case directly to the author's
and, through him, bring the doctrinal problems presented in the text to the
author's attention. In such a
case, the Ordinary is invited to deepen the study of the question and ask the
author to provide the needed clarifications for submission to the judgment of
III. Ordinary procedure of
Art. 8. An
ordinary examination is used when a writing appears to contain grave doctrinal
error, the identification of which requires attentive discernment, and the
possible negative influence on the faithful does not seem to involve
particular urgency. The
examination is structured in two phases: an internal phase of preliminary
investigation undertaken within the Congregation and an external phase
involving the presentation of objections to the author and subsequent dialogue.
Art. 9. The
Congresso designates two or more
experts who examine the text in question, give their opinions, and evaluate
whether it is in conformity with the doctrine of the Church.
Art. 10. The
same Congresso appoints a relator
pro auctore, who has the task of illustrating, in a spirit of truth, the
positive aspects of the teaching and the merits of the author, of cooperating
in the authentic interpretation of his thought within the overall theological
context, and of expressing a judgment regarding the influence of the author's
opinions. For this purpose, the relator
pro auctore has the right to examine all the acts relative to the case.
Art. 11. The
Office Report, which contains all the information relevant to the examination
of the case (including the antecedent elements), the opinions of the experts
and the presentation of the relator pro
auctore, is distributed to those who will take part in the Consulta.
Art. 12. The
experts who had submitted opinions on the text can also be invited to
participate in the Consulta in
addition to the Consultors themselves, the relator
pro auctore and the author's Ordinary (who cannot be substituted by
another and is bound to secrecy).
The discussion begins with an exposition by the relator pro auctore, who makes a comprehensive presentation of the
case. After him, the author's
Ordinary, the experts, and the Consultors each express their own opinion,
orally and in writing, on the content of the text under examination. The relator pro auctore and the experts may respond to the observations
and offer clarifications.
Art. 13. When
the discussion has finished, the Consultors alone remain in the room for the
general vote on the outcome of the examination, aimed at determining whether
doctrinal errors or dangerous opinions have been found in the text, and
specifically identifying these in light of the different categories of
truth-propositions found in the Professio
Art. 14. The
entire file, including the minutes of the discussion, the general vote and the
opinions of the Consultors, is submitted to the examination of the Sessione
Ordinaria of the Congregation, which decides whether to present objections
to the author, and if so, on which points.
Art. 15. The
decisions of the Ordinary Session are submitted to the consideration of the
Art. 16. If,
in the prior phase, it was decided to proceed to a presentation of objections,
the author's Ordinary or other concerned Ordinaries, as well as the competent
Dicasteries of the Holy See, are informed.
Art. 17. The
list of erroneous or dangerous propositions at issue, together with an
explanatory argumentation and the documentation (reticito nomine) necessary for the defence, are communicated through
the Ordinary to the author and his advisor, whom the author has the right to
nominate, with the approval of his Ordinary, to assist him.
The author must present a written response within three canonical
months. It is appropriate that,
together with the author's written response, the Ordinary also forward his own
opinion to the Congregation.
Art. 18. The
possibility is also foreseen of a personal meeting between the author,
assisted by his advisor (who takes an active part in the discussion) and
delegates of the Congregation. In
this eventuality, the Congregation's delegates, who are appointed by the Congresso, are to keep minutes of the meeting, the text of which is
to be signed by them, by the author and by his advisor.
Art. 19. Should
the author not send the written response, as is always requested, the Sessione
Ordinaria of the Congregation takes the appropriate decisions.
Art. 20. The
Congresso examines the written
response of the author as well as the minutes of any meeting that has taken
place. If this examination
reveals truly new doctrinal elements requiring further evaluation, it is then
decided whether the question should again be presented to the Consulta,
which may be expanded to include additional experts, among these the author's
advisor, appointed in accordance with art. 17.
Otherwise, the written response of the author and the minutes of any
meeting are submitted directly to the judgment of the Ordinary Session.
Art. 21. If
the Sessione Ordinaria decides that
the question has been resolved positively and that the response is sufficient,
the process does not go further. Should
this not be the case, adequate measures are then taken, also for the good of
the faithful. Moreover, the Sessione
Ordinaria decides whether and in what way the results of the examination
are to be made public.
Art. 22. The
decisions of the Sessione Ordinaria
are submitted for the approval of the Supreme Pontiff and then communicated to
the author's Ordinary, to the Episcopal Conference and to concerned
IV. Examination in cases of urgency
Art. 23. An
urgent examination is employed when the writing is clearly and certainly
erroneous and, at the same time, its dissemination could cause or already has
caused grave harm to the faithful. In
this case, the Ordinary or the concerned Ordinaries are immediately informed
together with the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See.
Art. 24. The
Congresso appoints a Commission
which is especially entrusted with promptly determining the erroneous or
Art. 25. The
propositions identified by the Commission, together with the relative
documentation, are submitted to the Sessione
Ordinaria, which will give priority to the examination of the question.
Art. 26. If
the Sessione Ordinaria judges that
the above-mentioned propositions are in fact erroneous and dangerous, after
the approval of the Holy Father, they are transmitted to the author, through
his Ordinary, with the request that they be corrected within two canonical
Art. 27. If
the Ordinary, having heard the author, believes it is necessary to ask him
also for a written explanation, this text must be forwarded to the
Congregation together with the opinion of the Ordinary. Such an explanation is
then presented to the Sessione Ordinaria
for the appropriate decisions.
V. Disciplinary measures
Art. 28. If
the author has not corrected the indicated errors in a satisfactory way and
with adequate publicity, and the Sessione
Ordinaria has concluded that he has committed the offense of heresy,
apostasy or schism,
the Congregation proceeds to declare the latae
sententiae penalties incurred;
against such a declaration no recourse is admitted.
Art. 29. If
the Sessione Ordinaria ascertains
the existence of doctrinal errors which do not involve latae sententiae penalties,
the Congregation proceeds according to the norm of law, whether universal
or proper to the Congregation.
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul
II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on May 30,
1997, confirmed these Regulations, adopted in the Sessione Ordinaria of this Congregation, approving at the same time in
forma specifica articles 28-29, contrariis
quibuslibet non ostantibus, and ordered their publication.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, June 29, 1997, the Solemnity of the Blessed Apostles
Peter and Paul.
Joseph Card. Ratzinger
+ Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B.
Cf. Ap. Const. Pastor bonus, art. 48: AAS 80 (1988) 873.
Cf. Ibid., art 51, 2° and Regolamento
proprio della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede, art. 4b.
Cf. CIC, can. 823 §§ 1-2; CCEO, can. 652 § 2.
Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter
on Doctrinal commissionis, November 23, 1990, n. 3.
Cf. Ap. Const. Pastor bonus, art. 48: AAS 80 (1988) 873.
Cf. Regolamento proprio della
Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede, art. 74.
Cf. Ibid., art. 66 § 2.
Cf. CIC, cann. 134 §§ 1 and 2; 295 § 1; CCEO, can. 984 §§ 1-3.
Cf. nn. 8-15.
Cf. nn. 16-22.
Cf. Ap. Const. Pastor bonus, art. 12: AAS 80 (1988) 855.
Cf. AAS 81 (1989) 104ff.
Cf. Regolamento proprio della
Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede, art. 16 § 2 and art. 77.
Cf. CIC, can. 751.
Cf. CIC, can. 1364 § 1; CCEO, cann. 1436 § 1 and 1437.
Cf. CIC, can, 752; CCEO, can. 599.
Cf. CIC, can. 1371 n. 1; CCEO, can. 1436 § 2.
Cf. Ap. Const. Pastor bonus, art. 52: AAS 80 (1988) 874.