Curial reform

CURIAL REFORM BRIEFING: On Monday 7 August, Archbishop Leo Cushley announced the proposed reform of the Curia of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. This started a period of consultation with the curial staff affected. Below is the Archbishop Cushley’s message outlining his rationale for renewing the structure of the Curia as he “endeavours to build and live a Vatican II Church” in collaboration with the clergy and laity of the Archdiocese. Appropriately, the Archbishop unveiled his proposal to the existing curial staff and was keen to reassure them that any proposed structural renewal in no way reflects upon their professional competence or commitment to the Archdiocese which is, of course, greatly valued.

Reform of the Curia of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh

 Can. 375 §1. Bishops, who by divine institution succeed to the place of the Apostles through the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, are constituted pastors in the Church, so that they are teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship, and ministers of governance.

Can. 469 The diocesan curia consists of those institutions and persons which assist the bishop in the governance of the whole diocese, especially in guiding pastoral action, in caring for the administration of the diocese, and in exercising judicial power.

It is already four years since Pope Francis asked me to become the Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, during which time I have travelled widely, visited every parish cluster, met a huge number of parishioners and carefully observed the organisational structures of the Diocese. Now, after much prayer and reflection, as well as spending many hours listening to people and in informal consultation, I have decided to change the present structure of the Curia of the Archdiocese.

According to the law of the Church, the Curia is designed to be a means to the sanctification of the People of God, and an instrument at the disposal of the bishop for achieving that goal.

The essential roles of the Curia are, therefore, twofold. First, the Curia exists for the execution of the civil and canonical duties of the bishop and the diocese as a legal whole. These include finances, safeguarding, communications, our Catholic schools, and the maintenance of our many properties, offices, archives and our cemetery at Mount Vernon. But the Curia also exists to assist me as chief Pastor, in my duty to sanctify and teach, as well as govern, the portion of the People of God entrusted to me.

In the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, a few years ago there were put in place a number of pastoral services or resources, with a view to the catechetical and spiritual formation of the people, and with a view to assisting ever-decreasing numbers of priests and alleviating the burdens laid upon them.

The Archdiocese therefore chose to employ a number of people to carry out some of these tasks of catechesis and formation.  These were in the fields of sacramental preparation and catechetics, adult formation, marriage preparation, justice and peace, and youth work.  As such tasks do not specifically require the power of holy orders to be effective, it was thought that the creation of an Office to accomplish these tasks would alleviate the burdens placed upon pastors, who were becoming ever busier on the ground in parishes. A pastoral resources office was therefore created in the hope of assisting the bishop and clergy to educate the laity and to help the latter grow more in their faith and assume their legitimate place in the life of the Church.

Upon my arrival in the Archdiocese, this system had been in existence for five years or so, and I left it substantially unchanged. Now, having considered carefully how best to move forward, I have decided to modify the present model of resource for the formation of the people and the support of the clergy.  Given the very real financial constraints facing us, I believe that we have to look to a different way to support the modest numbers of clergy available to us and to fulfil the desires of our people to be formed better in our Catholic faith.

I have decided, therefore, to move away from the model of a centralised Pastoral Resources Office as part of the Diocesan Curia. Following the Catholic principle of subsidiarity (according to which those things that can be accomplished locally should be accomplished locally) I have decided instead to devolve such activities as sacramental and marriage preparation, RCIA, youth work and charitable outreach to Deanery and Parish level and to concentrate the efforts of the Curia at Gillis on those things which cannot be accomplished at a local level, for instance the coordination of legal compliance with financial, health and safety and safeguarding regulations together with a Chancery office and the organisation of an ongoing programme of property maintenance.

It is clear that it is my responsibility to be the chief pastor of this local church; that is not in dispute, and it is a duty that I take up willingly and seriously on your behalf.  Having said that, it is also incumbent on me to fulfil that role with the help and assistance of both lay people and clergy. I have decided, therefore, to delegate some of my responsibility as pastor to proven local pastors, by appointing five of them as Vicars Episcopal for five areas of pastoral concern.  I have divided these areas into the following responsibilities: Catechetics, Marriage and the Family, Justice and Peace, Ecumenism, and an Office for Clergy and Religious. Each of the Vicars Episcopal will chair a Commission composed of a number of qualified Catholic lay women and men in the field I entrust to them.  This will be done on a voluntary basis.

Importantly, these five Vicars Episcopal together with two of the volunteer lay members of their respective Commissions, will form a new Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. The role of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council will be consultative and will therefore help and advise me in my governance of the Diocese.

As I am sure can be seen, in this way I hope to achieve several things at once. By instituting an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council composed of laity and clergy which can meet regularly, I will preside over the pastoral life of the diocese in a new way, and I will be able to hear from clergy and people alike in these important times for the life of the diocese.  It will also associate a broad number of clergy with me in my task as chief pastor of the diocese. It is true that the Vicars Episcopal, already busy pastors running parishes, are being given an important and heavy burden, but it is one that I hope will not be excessive, as the task will be sufficiently specific. The choice of suitable lay volunteers to assist them, which will be made in consultation with me, will therefore be key to the success of this initiative.

It is envisioned that these Commissions will be formed and running by the end of the year. In the interim we will all need to re-adjust and some parishes that have relied upon hitherto centralised resources and talent may have to realign. On the other hand, I know that there are many places where resources and programs are already highly developed at a local or at the deanery level. And I also hope to create soon a network of knowledge and skills for those places that require them. Moreover, the amalgamation of our parish clusters ought to draw our talent and experience together, as we learn with humility both to offer and to receive assistance and support from our neighbouring parishes.

The central Archdiocesan curia based at Gillis, therefore, will from now on exist primarily to fulfil those tasks required of us by canon or civil law which cannot be done at a local or deanery level. To this end there will continue to be a Chancery as well as Curial Departments for Finance, Property (including Mount Vernon), Safeguarding and Communications. And there will also be a new Department for Schools headed, as in other Dioceses in Scotland, by a Priest, who will be assisted by two part-time lay expert advisors, one for Secondary Schools and one for Primary Schools. In this way and under the overall management of the Chief Operating Officer, we hope to arrive at a new and more efficient organisation which will cut costs and effectively meet the needs of the people and the clergy of the Archdiocese as we move forward.

I am aware that change is always difficult and that some of you may not entirely welcome these changes. However, I have waited and observed the situation in this Diocese for a long time and, after much thought and prayerful discernment, I have now decided that this is the way in which I wish to move forward. I ask all of you to support and work with me as we endeavour to build and live a Vatican II Church.


+ Leo Cushley

Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh

7 August 2017