Founded in 1542 by Pope Paul III with the Constitution "Licet
ab initio," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was originally called
the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition as its duty was to defend
the Church from heresy. It is the oldest of the Curia's nine congregations.
Pope St. Pius X in 1908 changed the name to the Sacred Congregation of the
Holy Office. It received its current name in 1965 with Pope Paul VI. Today,
Article 48 of the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, "Pastor
Bonus", promulgated by the Holy Father John Paul II on June 28, 1988, «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
The congregation is now headed by a Prefect: His Excellency Msgr. Luis F.
Ladaria, S.I.. It has a Secretary, an Assistant (Adjunct) Secretary His
Excellency Msgr. Joseph Augustine Di Noia (Usa), a Secretary, Msgr. Giacomo
Morandi, a Promotor of Justice Rev. Fr. Robert Joseph Geisinger, S.I, and a
staff of 47, according to the "Annuario Pontificio" or "Pontifical Yearbook." It
also has 23 members - cardinals, archbishops and bishops - and 28 consulters.
Given the nature of its task, congregation work is divided into four distinct
sections: the doctrinal office, the disciplinary office, the matrimonial office
and that for priests.
The congregation, says the "Activity of the Holy See," in conformity with its
raison d'être, promotes in a collegial fashion encounters and initiatives to
«spread sound doctrine and defend those points of Christian tradition which seem
in danger because of new and unacceptable doctrines.»
For several years the congregation, together with the Vatican Publishing
House, has been issuing volumes containing the texts of its single documents, as
well as articles relative to its work which appear in the daily edition of "L'Osservatore
Romano". Annually, it holds plenary assemblies.
When bishops are in Rome for their quinquennial "ad limina" visit,
they call on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as they do with
other dicasteries of the Roman Curia, «for an exchange of information and
There is also ample collaboration between the
Pontifical Biblical Commission
and the International Theological Commission.
each of which has as president the Archbishop Prefect of Doctrine of the Faith.
Weekly congregation meetings are held, usually on Wednesday, and are attended by
officials and consultors.
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