Benedict XVI had a deep formative influence on this Irish monsignor
VATICAN CITY — On his return flight from Fatima to Rome, Pope Francis was asked what he is doing to ensure that bishops and priests implement new guidelines regarding the protection of minors from abuse.
One of the most significant steps forward, the pope said, was the recent appointment of Monsignor John Kennedy as head of the disciplinary section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. An official with the CDF since 2003, he described the Irish monsignor as “a very good person, very efficient, and swift,” which he said “helps a great deal” in ensuring that cases are handled properly.
Aleteia sat down with Msgr. Kennedy to talk about the new appointment, the “hidden” work of the CDF, and what it was like to work under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Monsignor Kennedy, what role does the Discipline Section of the CDF play within the Church?
Within the Church, we are an instrument in the hands of the Holy Father and we serve as a liaison between him and the local churches within the limits of the competences assigned to us.
The role of the Discipline Section is outlined well in the explanation given on the Vatican website, namely: “The disciplinary office deals with delicts against the faith and the more grave delicts against morals and in the celebration of the sacraments. It is also responsible for examining other problems connected with the discipline of the faith, such as cases of false mysticism, claims of apparitions, spiritualism, magic, and simony. It deals with admission to the priesthood of men who were formerly ministers in non-Catholic religions; dispensations from irregularities or impediments to the reception of Holy Orders that fall within the competency of the Congregation; and absolution for excommunications reserved to the Holy See, except when these are dealt with by the Apostolic Penitentiary. It also considers, from a disciplinary point of view, requests to determine that there is no obstacle to making an appointment or granting an honor.”
The Congregation also deals with crimes against the Eucharist and other crimes that involve the Sacrament of Penance. Medjugorje and other instances of mystical phenomena (seeping statues, moving statues, locutions, etc.) are also part of the competence of the Congregation.
What will your new role involve?
My new role will involve working closely with the Superiors and coordinating the work of the Discipline Section on a daily basis. It also includes being available to local Ordinaries and Superiors General, often through their Procurators General resident in Rome, to offer guidance and assistance in various delicate cases that fall to us as part of our service to the Pope and the universal Church.