Pope Francis reassigned the second ranking official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Monday, the first in an expected series of moves that would overhaul the leadership of the Church’s doctrinal office.
The Holy See announced Jan. 10 that Archbishop Giacomo Morandi had been appointed by the pope to lead the Italian Diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, replacing Bishop Massimo Camisasca, who turned 75 in November.
While the appointment of a relatively unknown Vatican official to a small Italian diocese is unlikely to generate headlines, sources close to Morandi’s old department told The Pillar that it was the first in a series of personnel moves which have been expected since the end of last year.
“Ever since he went to see the pope in December, it has been understood [in the office] that he is leaving,” one senior Vatican source close to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told The Pillar Monday morning.
While rumors had been in the air for weeks, news of Morandi’s pending reassignment began to leak out on some Italian blogs over the weekend. Some have credited the move to the archbishop’s supposed opposition to Traditionis custodes, Francis’ motu proprio restricting the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
Morandi was received in audience by the pope on Dec. 18, the same day that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued responses to various questions about the motu proprio’s implementation. Those responses generated considerable controversy, and raised questions about their legal force.
Some traditionalists blogs have speculated that the timing of Morandi’s papal meeting is tied to opposition to the CDW responses and led to his departure. But several sources close to the CDF told The Pillar that the timing of his audience was not linked to the release of the CDW responsa, and followed audiences granted to his superior, Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the CDF, and his his likely successor as secretary, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, in the weeks previous.
One source described Morandi’s appointment as a way of “making room” at the CDF for Scicluna, the current Archbishop of Malta, to return full-time to the department as secretary. The archbishop has been serving as adjunct-secretary of the department since 2018.
The same source predicted an announcement of Scicluna’s return before the congregation’s bi-annual plenary session, which begins next week.
Two senior curial sources who have worked with Morandi told The Pillar that speculationMorandi had challenged the pope over Traditionis custodes — or asked for an audience to push back on the Dec. 18 responsa from the CDW — was unfounded.
“He is not the sort of person who makes himself a career martyr,” one source said, “he says what he thinks, but when he is asked.”
“[Morandi] isn’t known for picking fights,” a second source said, “the idea that he would go see the pope to protest what another department is doing is nonsensical.”
“His weakness, if you call it that, is that he isn’t a careerist at all. He won’t say black is white to please a superior, and he has never been interested in promotion. That is not a common quality everywhere in Rome.”
As secretary at the doctrinal office, Morandi was widely credited as the motivating force behind a CDF document last year which restated that the Church does not have the power to give liturgical blessing to unions of persons of the same sex.
That response was signed by Ladaria with the personal authorization of Pope Francis but, two sources told The Pillar that Morandi had been crucial in ensuring the matter was addressed, in response to repeated calls by several German bishops for same-sex liturgical blessings.
“It was something that had to be done,” one Vatican source said. “The political thing to do would be to keep away from it, but it was on his desk and he made sure it was done.”
Morandi’s likely replacement, Scicluna, has a reputation for being an accomplished canon lawyer and personally dedicated to the pope.
Scicluna worked at the CDF for a decade as promoter of justice, the department’s canonical prosecutor, before in 2012 he was made a bishop in his home country of Malta. He was later appointed as a bishop-member of the CDF by Benedict XVI and has been involved in some of the highest profile investigations of sexual abuse in the Church in the last 20 years, including the Church’s probe into Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ in 2005.
Since Scicluna was made a bishop in Malta in 2012, popes have continued to call on his expertise as an investigator and prosecutor on an ad hoc basis, including in the case of Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Edinburgh-St. Andrews in 2014. In 2018, he led an investigation into the entire Chilean episcopate.
Both sources close to the CDF told The Pillar that a return to his old department as secretary would likely set up his eventual succession to lead the department. The current CDF prefect, Cardinal Ladaria, will turn 78 in April and complete his five-year term of office in July.
In addition to Scicluna, the congregation has a second adjunct-secretary, Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, also known to be personally close to Pope Francis. Although Di Noia is already resident in Rome and works at the congregation full-time, he is also 78 — past the normal curial retirement age.