CURIA ROMANA, strictly, the authorities which administer the Papal Primacy, the ensem ble of departments which assist the Sovereign Pontiff in the government of the Roman Cath olic Church. It includes the tribunals, the offices of Curia and the Roman congregations. (Ste CONGREGATIONS, ROMAN). The tribunals of the Curia are three in number: the Sacred Peniten tiaria, the Rota and the Apostolic Segnatura.
The Sacred Penitentiaria consists of the cardinal chief penitentiary, a regent, a theo logian, datary, canonist, corrector, sealer, copy ist, secretary, surrogate and archivist. It is formed of the cardinal penitentiary, the theo logian, the datary, the corrector, the sealer and the canonist, the secretary also taking part in it, but without a vote. The other members are only consulted, the decision being left to the cardinal penitentiary. The constitution "Sapi enti consili0 of Pius X confined the competency of the penitentiary to internal jurisdiction, it being granted powers to grant graces of all i kinds in all internal matters — absolutions, dis pensations, commutations, ratifications in matter of impediments, condonation and matters of conscience submitted to the judgment of the Holy See.
The Rota has competence in all contentious cases that must come before the Holy See and require a judicial investigation with proof, ex cept the so-called major cases. It therefore tries in the first instance the cases, including criminal cases, which the Pope, either motu pro trio or at the request of the contesting parties, calls up for his own judgment and commits to the Rota. It decides these cases even in the second or third instance. It is also the court of appeal for cases already tried judicially in episcopal tribunals of first instance. It also decides in the last instance cases tried by any inferior tribunal of second or further instance. The Rota is composed of the auditors, ranking as prelates, appointed by the Pope: they must hold a doctorate in theology or canon law and are automatically retired on attaining the age of 70. They form a college of which the oldest is dean. Each auditor chooses an assistant. Other officers are a promotor of justice, de fender of the bond in matrimonial eases, and in cases relating to religious ordination, three notaries, selected by the college of auditors.
The auditors decide by a majority vote and the sentence not only gives the conclusion arrived at but the reasons therefor.
The Apostolic Segnatura consists of six cardinals, appointed by the Pope, one of whom is its prefect. It has a secretary, a notary, con sultors and a few minor officials. Under the new constitution promulgated by Pius X the Segnatura is a genuine tribunal, with jurisdic tion in four kinds of cases, namely: accusations of suspicions against an auditor of the Rota; accusations of a violation of secrecy by an auditor of the Rota; appeals against a sentence of the Rota ; and petitions for the nullification of a decision of the Rota that has already become res judicata. Special commissions are also given this tribunal from time to time by the Holy Father.
The officers of Curia are five in number: The Secretariate of State; the Apostolic Chan cery; the Apostolic Dataria; the Apostolic Camera and the Secretarlate of Briefs.
The Cardinal Secretary of State is the ex clusive channel through which must pass all communications carried on between the Holy See and foreign powers. He is the Pope's prime minister — not of course in the sense which the word bears in countries where the Minister is more powerful than the sovereign, so that the former's 'advice' overrides the lat ter's initiative — but in the proper sense of the term a faithful agent executing the intentions of his master, whom he serves- to the best of his ability. He carries on the negotiations, in which the Pontiff is perpetually engaged, which have for their object to secure the liberties, extend the limits and promote the welfare of the Church. Under him are placed the nuncios and other diplomatic agents of the Holy See, and to him they make their reports. The officials under him consist of several Minutanti, writers in cipher, an archivist, subarchivist, etc. Being in close and permanent relations with the Pope he represents the principle of the Pontifical Gov ernment ; his influence is consequently felt in all ways in acts emanating directly from the Pope; he directs all important political meas ures, puts in force the decisions relative to the other organic institutions of the Church, and transmits the instructions by which the func tionaries of the Curia are guided.