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The Norms for doctrinal investigation*


1. Books, other publications or conferences, the contents of which fall within the competence of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, are sent to the staff meeting (Congressum), which is made up of the Superiors and Officials and which meets every Saturday. If the opinion under examination is clearly and certainly erroneous and, if at the same time, it is expected that its diffusion could lead, or is already leading to, real harm of the faithful, the staff meeting can decide that the extraordinary procedure be adopted. That is, that the case be brought at once to the attention of the Ordinary or Ordinaries concerned and the author be asked through his own Ordinary to correct the error. Once the answer of the Ordinary or Ordinaries has been received, the Ordinary Congregation will adopt suitable measures in accordance with the following articles 16, 17, and 18.

2. Likewise, the staff meeting decides whether certain publications or conferences should be more closely examined according to the ordinary procedure. If it decides to do so, the staff meeting will elect two experts to prepare studies and a Relator “pro auctore” (in defense of the author). The staff meeting will also establish if it is necessary to advise immediately the Ordinary or Ordinaries concerned, or if this is to be done only after the examination has been completed.

3. Those in charge of the preparation of the study are to examine the authentic text of the Author to determine if it conforms with Revelation and the Magisterium of the Church. They also are to express a judgment on the doctrine contained therein, suggesting possible actions.

4. The Cardinal Prefect, the Secretary, and in their absence, the Under-Secretary, can entrust the study, in case of urgency, to some of the Consultors, but at the same time the staff meeting always designates an expert from outside the congregation (ex commissione speciali).

5. The study or studies are to be printed, together with an Office Report, in which all useful details are to be given for judging the proposed case and indicating precedents. Lastly, the documents which are suitable for providing a thorough examination, particularly in the theological context of the matter treated, are printed.

6. The Report, together with the study mentioned above, will be given to the Relator “pro auctore,” who has the right to examine all the documents concerning the case in the possession of the Congregation. The task of the Relator “pro auctore” is to show in a spirit of truth the positive aspects of the Author’s doctrine and his merits, to cooperate in the genuineinterpretation of the thought of the Author in the overall theological context and to express a judgment regarding the influence of the Author’s opinions.

7. The Report itself, together with the study and other documents, are distributed to the Consultors at least a week before it is discussed by the Consulta.

8. The discussion in the Consulta begins with the exposition of the Relator “pro auctore.” After him, each Consultor expresses, either orally or in writing, his own opinion of the content of the text under study. The Relator “pro auctore” can then speak in answer to observations or ask for possible clarifications. When the Consultors formulate their opinions, the Relator leaves the room. Finally, at the end of the discussion, the opinions are read out and approved by the Consultors themselves.

9. The entire Report, together with the opinions of the Consultors and the “pro auctore” Report and the summary of the discussion, is then distributed to the Ordinary Congregation of the Cardinals at least a week before it is to be discussed by the Cardinal Members of this same Congregation. The seven Bishop-Members who live outside Rome can take part with full rights in the Congregation.

10. The Cardinal Prefect presides over the Ordinary Congregation, presents the matter and expresses his opinion; the others follow in order (of seniority). Opinions are then collected in writing by the Under-Secretary to be read and approved at the end of the discussion.

11. The Cardinal Prefect or the Secretary, at the weekly Audience which one of them will have with the Holy Father, will submit these decisions for his approval.

12. If during the examination, no erroneous or dangerous opinions are noted in relation to Article 2, the Ordinary is notified, if he has previously been informed of the examination. If, on the contrary, false opinions are noted, the Author’s Ordinary or the Ordinaries concerned are notified.

13. The Author is informed of the opinions regarded as erroneous or dangerous so that he may submit his answer in writing within a full month. After this, if a discussion is considered necessary, the Author will be asked to attend a personal meeting with representatives of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

14. The representatives must draw up and sign a report in writing, which must be at least a summary of the discussion. The Author will sign it also.

15. Both the written answer of the author as well as the summary of the discussion, if any, will be presented to the Ordinary Congregation for a decision. If, however, either from the written answer of the Author, or from the discussion, new doctrinal elements should arise which demand further study, this written answer or the summary of the discussion are to first be submitted once again to the Consulta.

16. Should the Author not send his answer and not appear at the discussion after he has been invited to do so, the Ordinary Congregation will make the suitable decisions.

17. The Ordinary Congregation also decides if and how the result of the examination is to be published.

18. The decisions of the Ordinary Congregation are to be submitted for the approval of the Supreme Pontiff and are to be communicated later to the Author’s Ordinary.

The Supreme Pontiff Paul VI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Prefect of the Sacred Congregation on January 8, 1973, has ratified and confirmed these Norms and has ordered their publication.

Given in Rome, January 15, 1971.

Franjo Cardinal Šeper

Abp. Paul Philippe

* AAS 63 (1971), 234-236.