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.
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:
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.
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.
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 urgency.
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
7. Should the Congresso judge that the study
undertaken was sufficient, it can entrust the case directly to the author's
Ordinary 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 the Congregation.
Ordinary procedure of examination
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 fidei.
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
15. The decisions of the Ordinary
Session are submitted to the consideration of the Supreme Pontiff.
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.
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
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
19. Should the author not send the
written response, as is always requested, the Sessione Ordinaria of the Congregation
takes the appropriate decisions.
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.
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.
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 Dicasteries.
IV. Examination in cases of
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.
24. The Congresso appoints a Commission which is
especially entrusted with promptly determining the erroneous or dangerous
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Archbishop Emeritus of