Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/430

This page needs to be proofread.


6 THE CURIA

the cardinals inside the domains assigned to them remained large and decisive (and is still so) , but the Pope alone now surveyed everything and exercised the leadership of the whole Church. Divide et impera.

As years went on, some of the Congregations were assigned dif- ferent tasks and the scope of the activities of others was altered. Some were divided, or consolidated, according as circumstances demanded. The administrative officials finally came to exercise almost completely the rights of the judicial officials. Branches of the service were merged, and there were no end of difficulties in defining where the authority of one began and that of another ceased. The necessary business suffered, order was impaired, and abuses of all kinds set in, Already during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries some Popes had to bear down with a heavy hand on many occasions, but it was Pope Pius X, a man of courageous honesty, who undertook the difficult work of thorough-going reform. His Constitutio Sapienti Consitio, of 1908, gave the Curia a new constitution. Though according to canonists all was still not well and further improvements were needed as early as 1917 (Pope Benedict XV), Roman rumour has it that the reforming Pope was not to blame. There were too many fingers in the pie ... absolutism, too, is a relative thing.

The oldest and foremost of the Congregations is the Holy Office, which has supreme jurisdiction over the faith of the Church. In the Acts of the Apostolic See it is called Suprema Sacra Congregatio 5. Officti, and was founded in 1542. The protection of teaching con- cerning faith and morals is the "sacred duty" from which it derives its name. The far-flung terrain it governs can be most effectively de- scribed with two words dogma and morals. This Congregation is the teaching authority which decides authoritatively all questions concerning opinions and disputes that arise in theological teaching. It resolves doubts in matters of faith and custom, and it sits as a court ot judgment it was once the tribunal of the Inquisition 1 over all heretical acts and all misdemeanours that are suspect of heresy* To it must be referred everything that concerns dogmatic teaching anent the Sacraments. Subject to it also are questions of matrimonial law in so far as they grow out of mixed marriages. Indulgences are under the supervision of the Holy Office, not merely because they have a bearing on dogma but also because sharp watch must be kept to sec


THE