The Vatican's watchdog on faith

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Cardinal Jospeh Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

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The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith keeps an eye on almost everything coming out of the Vatican, reports the Catholic News Service, in an article republished in The Record.

Although it has fewer than 50 employees, including ushers and receptionists, whatever any Vatican office does or says having to do with faith and morals is a matter that falls under the congregation’s gaze.

As the heir of the Holy Office of the Inquisition - and housed in a building still known as the Palace of the Holy Office - the congregation often is portrayed as an agency almost exclusively dedicated to seeking out errant theologians and condemning their writings.

The congregation does review books that Bishops’ conferences bring to its attention, especially if the book presents itself as explaining Catholic morals or doctrine and is widely used in schools of theology or seminaries.

But since Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005 and US Cardinal William J Levada was appointed to succeed him as the congregation’s prefect, the office has issued only one formal public criticism of written works: a notification about two books by a liberation theologian, Jesuit Fr Jon Sobrino.

More and more, the congregation’s pronouncements involve the application of Catholic moral teaching to questions concerning the very beginning and very end of human life. Biotechnology, the use of human embryos, politics and abortion, euthanasia and the care of the dying all have been topics of recent documents.

In early May, the Vatican published two documents signed by Cardinal Levada that demonstrate just how widespread the congregation’s reach is.

An instruction released on 13 May called on Bishops and pastors to respond generously to Catholics who want to attend Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly known as the Tridentine rite.

And a circular letter released on 16 May ordered every Bishops’ conference in the world to prepare guidelines for dealing with accusations of clerical sexual abuse and for ensuring the protection of children.

Formally, the instruction on the Mass came from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which oversees the pastoral care of Catholics who have a special devotion to the older liturgy.

FULL STORY Vatican watchdog reaches out (The Record)