Rome, Italy
AP

Pope Francis took the first step Monday to reorganise the Vatican’s powerful doctrine office, removing the number two official widely believed responsible for a controversial document barring blessings for same-sex couples because God “cannot bless sin".

Francis named Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, currently the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishop of the Italian diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla. The move amounts to a demotion since Morandi currently has the title of archbishop, yet is heading to a small diocese, not an archdiocese.

The Vatican said Morandi would nevertheless retain the title of archbishop “ad personam".

Vatican Pope Francis Angelus prayer 9 Jan 2022

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus noon prayer in St Peter's Square, at the Vatican, on Sunday, 9th January, 2022. PICTURE: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, is one of the most important Vatican offices, interpreting doctrine for the universal Catholic Church, sanctioning dissenters and handling cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Morandi joined the CDF as an under-secretary in 2015 and was promoted to secretary, or the number two, in 2017.

He was widely seen as being behind the March, 2021, document that outraged the gay community, which Francis has made pains to welcome into the church fold. 



The document declared that the Catholic Church won’t bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin". The document said Francis had been informed of the document and “gave his assent” to its publication, but Francis was apparently taken by surprise by its impact. 

Francis has since made several gestures of outreach to the gay Catholic community and their advocates, including a recent letter congratulating an American nun once sanctioned by the CDF, Sister Jeannine Gramick, on her 50 years of LGBTQ ministry.

The CDF is currently headed by the Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria, but he is expected to retire relatively soon since he turns 78 in April, three years beyond the normal retirement age for bishops. 

Aside from Morandi, there are two “additional secretaries” in the CDF, including the American Archbishop Joseph Di Noia, who also is due to retire soon since he turns 79 in July. The other is Archbishop Charles Scicluna, but he has a full-time job as archbishop of Malta. 

The impending retirements and transfer of Morandi thus suggests some management changes at the office, though they probably won’t be announced until Francis releases the blueprint of his reform of the Vatican’s overall bureaucracy, expected sometime this year.