The travails of the C9

Pope Francis’s “kitchen cabinet” of nine ranking prelates met again last week. It is tough to say what, precisely, was the news in the briefing that followed the 24th round of the “C9” cardinal advisers’ reunion ­– if, indeed, there was any at all.

Greg Burke, the chief spokesman for the Vatican, briefed journalists in the press office of the Holy See, telling them that the C9 was at work on a draft of a new apostolic constitution for the Roman Curia, and was going over it with a view to its presentation to the Holy Father. We already knew that. He also said the actual drafting process will require “a little [more] time yet” ­– which is about as surprising as a story about a dog-bitten postman.

Five years is a long time to spend on the drafting of any document, especially one that is little more than a glorified organisational chart. To put it in perspective: the committee that drafted the existing law, Pastor Bonus, was done with its work in two years. It is also true that there was broad consultation on what eventually went into Pastor Bonus over several years before and after the drafting, which took place between 1983 and 1985.

One reason the drafting is taking so long is that the consultation is taking place as the C9 – the drafting committee – goes about its work. If this was meant to streamline the process, it may come in under time with respect to earlier iterations of reform, but its success in that regard nevertheless has not been spectacular.

Another reason is that Pope Francis has high expectations of the C9 and its work, which is only part ­– and not the first part – of his vision for reform. In his remarks to the Roman Curia at Christmas 2016, Pope Francis placed the whole reform in the key of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. “Here,” said Pope Francis, “I spontaneously think of the ancient adage that describes the process of the Spiritual Exercises in the Ignatian method: deformata reformare, reformata conformare, conformata confirmare et confirmata transformare.” To reform that which is deformed; to conform that which is reformed; to confirm that which is conformed; to transform that which is confirmed. That is a tall order.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection