CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE
In 1542, Paul III instituted a commission of six Cardinals with the task of
watching over matters of faith (Papal bull Licet ab initio, July 21,
1542). This Commission, known as the Sacred Roman and Universal Inquisition,
was initially a tribunal exclusively for cases of heresy and schism.
Paul IV, beginning in 1555, significantly enlarged its area of activity by
giving it also the responsibility for judging moral questions of various types.
In 1571, Pius V created the Congregation for the Reform of the Index of
Forbidden Books. This task, originally entrusted to the Inquisition, was
exercised by this new Dicastery for more than three centuries, until its
suppression in 1917.
As part of the reform of the Roman Curia carried out by Sixtus V (Papal bull
Immensa aeterni Dei, January 22, 1588), the responsibilities of the
Inquisition were extended to everything relating directly or indirectly to faith
Pius X reorganized the Congregation, changing its name to the Sacred
Congregation of the Holy Office (Apostolic Constitution Sapienti consilio,
June 29, 1908).
Later, Benedict XV, suppressing the Sacred Congregation of the Index, assigned
its duties again to the Holy Office, which at the same time was relieved of its
responsibility for indulgences (Motu proprio Alloquentes, March 25,
In 1965, Paul VI undertook a new reform of the Congregation. The name was
changed to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and its
methods used for doctrinal examination were updated: over the punitive tendency
of condemnation, the positive disposition of correcting from the errors,
together with protection, preservation and promotion of the faith, prevailed
(Motu proprio Integrae servandae, December 7, 1965). On this occasion,
the Index of Prohibited Books was also abrogated.
John Paul II, with the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus on June 28,
1988, reorganized the entire Roman Curia and the function, responsibilities and
norms governing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were also further
specified. Its competence is “to promote and defend the doctrine of the faith
and its traditions in all of the Catholic world” (art. 48). Following that
reform, the new Agendi ratio in doctrinarum examine was approved on June
In the matters that require it, the Congregation proceeds also as a Tribunal:
“judging the offenses against the faith and the more serious ones both in
behavior or in the celebration of the sacraments” (art. 52). With the Moto
proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela of April 30, 2001, John Paul II
promulgated new procedural norms regarding some grave offenses of exclusive
competence of the Congregation. An updated version of these norms was
promulgated by Benedict XVI on May 21, 2010.
Organization and Responsibilities
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is constituted by a College of
Members (Cardinals and Bishops), at the head of which is the Prefect. The
Prefect is assisted by the Secretary, the Undersecretary and also the Promotor
of Justice. The Congregation’s staff is composed of Officials who, under the
coordination of the Heads of the respective Offices, attend to various questions
to be followed on the basis of their competence and requirements of the
Congregation. The Congregation consists of three Offices:
The Doctrinal Office takes care of the matters that relate to the
promotion of the doctrine of the faith and morals.
The Discipline Office handles the offenses against the faith as well as
the grave offenses committed against morals and in the celebration of the
sacraments. It attends also to the examination of other problems connected with
the discipline of the faith.
The Marriage Office deals with what concerns the privilegium
fidei. It involves itself in the instances of the dissolution of the
marriage in favorem fidei and of other aspects of the matrimonial bond
connected to the validity of the sacrament.
For its studies, the Congregation is assisted by a group of Consultors. The
meetings of the Consultors generally are held weekly. The matters treated and
the opinions of the Consultors therefore are discussed by the College of the
Members of the Congregation for a deliberate vote. Their decisions are
eventually subjected to the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, in a special
At the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are constituted also the
Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Commission,
which, under the presidency of the Prefect, work according to the proper norms.
Connected firmly to the Congregation is also the Pontifical Commission
Ecclesia Dei, that has its own configuration and of which the Prefect is the
President. The Congregation also has its Historical Archives, following
their own Norms, to which only qualified scholars are given access.
Current Composition of Superiors
Prefect: Card. Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.I.
Secretary: His Excellency Giacomo Morandi.
Adjunct Secretary: His Excellency Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P.
Adjunct Secretary: His Excellency Charles Jude Scicluna
Under-Secretary: Reverend Matteo Visioli.
Promotor of Justice: Father Robert Joseph Geisinger, S.I.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio
00120 Città del Vaticano