New Vatican Constitution Unveiled
Pope Benedict xvi shocked the world when he became the first pope to resign since the Middle Ages. After the pope’s butler leaked confidential documents to the press, exposing power struggles within the Vatican bureaucracy, Benedict decided he was too frail to implement the reforms necessary to fix the Roman Curia. So Pope Francis was elected with a mandate to reform the Vatican.
Francis got to work and appointed a panel of cardinals to advise him on how to reorganize the Roman Curia (the administration that governs the Vatican). Now the pope and these cardinals have finished their constitution. Titled Praedicate Evangelium, this new constitution was published in Italian on March 19 and went into force on June 5. But the official English translation (Preach the Gospel) was not published until June 29. It reveals the most radical shakeup of the Roman Curia in a generation.
Most of the news coverage about the Vatican constitution revolves around the pope’s decision to allow lay Catholics (including women) to lead curial departments and around his decision to incorporate a clergy abuse commission into church government. But these developments are far from the most significant reforms implemented in Praedicate Evangelium. The most significant reforms restructure all Curia activities under one simple mission: support the pope in his bid to convert all nations.
The preamble of the constitution says: “[Preaching the gospel] is the task that the Lord Jesus entrusted His disciples. This mandate constitutes ‘the primary service that the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity in the modern world.’ To this end, she has been called to proclaim the gospel of the Son of God, Christ the Lord, that thereby awaken in all peoples the hearing of the faith.”
With this mission statement established, the rest of the document is a blueprint of the hierarchical structure of the Roman Catholic Church. Regarding the curia, the document explains: “The Roman Curia is at the service of the pope, who, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. … The Roman Curia is not set between the pope and the bishops, but is at the service of both ….”
In the centuries since Pope Paul iii established the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an idea has cropped up that the pope is the head of a curia that leads the church. Praedicate Evangelium reestablishes the fact that each diocese is led by a bishop who reports directly to the pope. The curial offices do not lead the church and only exist to assist both the pope and these bishops with certain tasks. The pope’s much-touted decision to let lay Catholics lead curial departments is meant to emphasize the fact that the Roman Curia does not wield ecclesiastical authority.
After emphasizing that the pope is the head of the church, Praedicate Evangelium establishes a powerful secretary of state to oversee the temporal management of Vatican City. It also gives top billing to a new Dicastery for Evangelization. This dicastery merges the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which coordinated Catholic missionary activities, with the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, which is tasked with reversing the secularization of Western countries. The Dicastery for Evangelization supersedes all other departments, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is responsible for defending doctrine.
Some Catholics fear prioritizing evangelization above doctrine will liberalize the church, but Francis condemns their rigidity. In comments published on June 14, Francis told a gathering of Jesuit editors that “Restorationism has come to gag the [Second Vatican Council],” before adding that he knew priests for whom the 16th century Council of Trent was more memorable than the Second Vatican Council.
Yet Francis may be more restorationist than the restorationists. For the past 500 years, the Vatican has been mostly run by bureaucrats intent on defending Catholic dogma from Protestantism and secularism at all costs. But the sixth-century Pope Gregory the Great wrote a letter advising Augustine of Canterbury to compromise with pagan beliefs to bring Anglo-Saxon tribes into the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church was built by merging pagan practices with Christian doctrine.
In 1983, Herbert W. Armstrong predicted that the Vatican might issue a more flexible moral code. “The moral and spiritual trend in the world is toward more liberalism—more permissiveness,” he wrote during the papacy of John Paul ii. “Now even the Roman Catholic Church, in order to keep alive in an immoral and unrighteous world, is relaxing and giving people what they like to call ‘their rights.’”
Mr. Armstrong understood Catholicism’s pagan history. “Where did Sunday observance originate?” he asked in Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast? “Not with the church, but with the pagan religion of the Roman Empire! It is the day on which the ancient pagans assembled at sunrise, faced the east (as they do Easter Sunday morning today), and worshiped the rising sun. It was Constantine, emperor of the Roman Empire, not a pope, who made Sunday the official so-called Christian day of rest. But it was enforced—people were caused to accept it universally—by the church!”
After explaining the origins of Sunday worship, Mr. Armstrong explained how the Catholic Church adopted the government structure of Rome. “Where, then, did human church government derive its present form?” he asked elsewhere in his book. “‘The first pope, in the real sense of the word, was Leo i (a.d. 440–461),’ says the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 7, page 629. To him the form of government of the Roman Empire was the most marvelous thing on Earth. He applied its principles to the church, organized the church into a government, forming the papacy.”
In The Incredible Human Potential, Mr. Armstrong explained how the gospel Jesus Christ preached about the coming Kingdom of God was replaced with a substitute “gospel” about the person of Christ—proclaiming the Messenger but suppressing the message.
The provinces of the Roman Empire were called dioceses long before the bishoprics of the Catholic Church were called dioceses, and the chief high priest of the ancient Roman College of Pontiffs was styled Pontifex Maximus long before Pope Francis adopted @Pontifex for his Twitter handle.
The Vatican’s new constitution comes from its imperial spirit and desire for dominance. The word “Catholic” means universal—the pope wants to bring all peoples under Roman government.
The Bible often uses a woman to symbolize a church (e.g. 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:22-27; Revelation 19:7). Isaiah 47 describes a “woman” called “daughter of Babylon,” “daughter of the Chaldeans,” and “the lady of kingdoms.” This woman says, “I shall not … know the loss of children.”
It is a well-established fact that the Chaldeans of the neo-Babylonian Empire emigrated to Italy during and after the reign of Caesar Augustus. The book New Testament Survey, by Merrill Tenney is used as a textbook at Herbert W. Armstrong College, and it describes the Eastern mystery religions that became prevalent in Rome as Chaldean immigrants poured into the Italian Peninsula. Many of the doctrines of these Eastern mystery religions were adopted by the early Christian Church; therefore, Roman Catholicism is the “daughter of Babylon” that the Prophet Isaiah spoke against.
When this church says, “[N]either shall I know the loss of children,” she means she will not allow the various Protestant denominations that rebelled against her to remain independent. The pope’s new evangelical crusade is an attempt to woo them back. While it is unlikely the Vatican will make any sweeping doctrinal changes, the church may make strategic compromises—standing firm in one area while compromising in another—to attract more converts. But all people under Rome’s authority will be forced to adopt Sunday worship when the Vatican garners enough power to enforce its dictates.
To understand what the Bible says about the religion that will dominate the Western world during the last days, request a free copy of Mr. Armstrong’s booklet Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast? as well as a free copy of The True History of God’s True Church, by Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry.