Promoting and defending Catholic teaching is itself a pastoral practice, said Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“There is clearly a pastoral dimension,” the archbishop said in a Vatican News interview published March 10. “We have the task of promoting and defending the faith, preaching the faith. This is an eminently pastoral role. It involves promoting the Catholic faith so that it is increasingly known and, when there are problems, defending this faith as well.”
“Many times I heard Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger and Prefect of the Congregation, say that ‘we must defend the faith of simple believers, not the faith of theologians.’ They already have their ways of knowing how things are! It seems to me that this is a very valid and correct intuition,” Archbishop Ladaria said.
Pope Francis has described the congregation’s work as having a “pastoral face.”
For Archbishop Ladaria, the congregation has an “eminently pastoral role” in disciplinary matters that can affect many people. While this does not mean avoiding closely studying dossiers, the goal of such work is the salvation of souls.
“This is always the primary purpose of all our work,” the archbishop said.
The Spanish-born Jesuit has headed the congregation since last year, when he replaced Cardinal Müller. Benedict XVI named him as the congregation’s secretary in 2008. In 2004, St. John Paul II had named him Secretary-General of the International Theological Commission.
As a Jesuit, he said, he has some commonalities with Pope Francis in similar formation or shared acquaintances that help his work with the Pope. However, had only met him once before the 2013 conclave during a visit of Argentina’s bishops to the Vatican.
“Whether he’s a Jesuit or not makes no difference to me: the Pope is the Pope.”
Archbishop Ladaria said he holds his position as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as “a simple question of obedience.”
“Pope Francis called me and told me his decision, and I said: ‘Holy Father, if that’s what you have decided, I accept and say no more.’ So that’s the first thing.”
“Of course it is a responsibility and I must say that the first few days I did not sleep too well... But slowly you get used to the idea and see that it is possible, especially knowing this is what the Pope wants. So it’s better not to think too much about it: the whole thing is done and dusted!”
The Pope’s reform of the Roman Curia has not yet resulted in any directives to the CDF, Ladaria said.
“When we do, we will accept them willingly and cooperate accordingly, as always,” he said. “Our collaboration with Pope Francis will be total, of course, but we have received no concrete indications as yet. When we do, we will accept them happily.”