Benedict XVI had a deep formative influence on this Irish monsignor
You worked under Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, while he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. What was it like to work for him? What was his style?
Pope Benedict’s style while Prefect was to create an atmosphere of professionalism which was marked by a great sense of calm among the officials. We knew what a great mind he had and how he had the ability to understand the most complex of questions. He fostered a strong family spirit among the Superiors and officials. He had great confidence in the abilities of his co-workers and regularly praised them for their contribution and service. He was always respectful, kind and warm. We were struck by his simplicity of life and his work ethic. Whether we were working, praying or simply together for a moment of fraternal gathering, he seemed to be able to bind us together without putting himself at the center. It was a most formative experience to have worked for him and we were so grateful that, on the morning following his election as Pope, he came to visit the CDF and give us his blessing.
You have worked for many years in the Matrimonial section of the CDF? How has the work of examining cases dealing with marriage prepared you for your new role?
I worked for four years in the matrimonial section and thereafter have assisted in various ways alongside the other responsibilities I was given. Then for about a year I was the acting head of the section before being named recently to the role in the discipline section.
The work of the matrimonial section involves helping couples in a unique way that favors and strengthens their faith and assists them to enter a marriage which can be celebrated in Church. You see, it is only the Holy Father who can grant ultimately what they are seeking and so we, along with the diocesan Bishop, work in a “hidden” or at least “out of the public eye” way to assist the couples. There is a beautiful feeling of being able to help someone without ever meeting them but also realizing that you have supported them in a spiritual way. The same is true of the Discipline Section. We know that we can genuinely help the Holy Father in his Petrine ministry and, in turn, bring about a resolution in individual cases, which certainly impacts on the local church in various ways.
What have you learned about the Church, marriage, and the care of souls through your work?
I have learned and have come to appreciate more and more that the Church is God’s work for our sanctification, that it is sustained by Him and that it exists ultimately to guide souls towards their salvation. Once we can appreciate that our ultimate goal is spiritual and salvific, we realize that we are being called into a collaboration with God’s will for our ultimate happiness. If carried out in this way, no work of the Church is, therefore, without its merit, even if it should be hidden from the gaze of the world. The work of the CDF has its own importance because through it many can learn to know the beauty of truth and have their faith restored knowing that the Church is striving to confront various realities, in particular that of the abuse of minors, through the search for truth and the bringing about of justice.
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