It’s one of those things only acute Vatican-watchers notice, but Francis’ demotion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office for ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy that Joseph Ratzinger ran with an iron fist under John Paul II, is a big departure from the recent past:
There is no question that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was supreme under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. No one would have questioned its supremacy when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was prefect. But the supreme congregation doesn’t look so supreme anymore. It has been publicly criticized by a curial cardinal from Brazil, by the president of the German bishops’ conference, and by two cardinals who are members of the Council of Cardinals, appointed by the pope to advise him on reforming the Vatican. Even Pope Francis told Latin American religious not to worry about the congregation.
Actually, what Francis said was the following:
“The [CDF] will make mistakes, they will make a blunder, this will pass! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine [of the Faith] will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing. … But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward.”
Translation: live the faith, don’t ideologize it.