Asking for a Friend: What's a Moderator of the Curia?

Recently the Archdiocese of Edmonton announced some new appointments at the senior leadership level, including Vicar General, Moderator of the Curia, Judicial Vicar, and Chancellor. Each of these positions is described in the Code of Canon Law, and each is appointed by the Archbishop to assist him in governance and/or administration of the archdiocese. However, the code does allow for variation in their particular duties, depending on the specific needs of a diocese. In this second of a series of articles on these people and what they do, we meet the Moderator of the Curia.

Rev. Adam Lech, Moderator of the Curia

The Latin word curia means “court.” Historically it referred to the Roman senate, and later was used to refer to the papal court. In contemporary times it came to mean all the people who work at the Vatican in service of the Holy Father -- the Roman Curia. The word curia is also commonly used in Italy and other European countries to describe the offices of a diocese or archdiocese.

The position of Moderator of the Curia was established in 1983, when the Code of Canon Law was revised. The Moderator is a priest appointed when the bishop sees the need for help in administering the diocese. (Can. 473 §2)

Father Adam Lech, a priest of 41 years, served as Chancellor of the Archdiocese for 5½ years before being appointed Moderator of the Curia in February 2018. Now he oversees the activities of the Pastoral and Administration Offices, or the local “curia.” These include the Chancellor, Office of Divine Worship, Office of Vocations, Office of the Permanent Diaconate, Pastoral and Parish Services Department, Temporal Services Department, and Human Resources Manager. (Not included are the Office of Canonical Services and Interdiocesan Tribunal, which come under the jurisdiction of the Judicial Vicar, but more on that later.) 

“The ordinary bishop gives as much responsibility to the moderator as needed,” says Father Adam. “For example, my responsibility will be different from the moderator in Toronto, where the diocese is about five times bigger.”

“In general, my job is assisting the bishop and acting on behalf of the bishop. In civil language, it would be COO, or Chief Operations Officer. Sometimes the Archbishop smiles and calls me Chief of Staff, like they have in the White House. I try as much as possible to delegate to those people who know much more than I do about specific things.”

Since Father Adam serves full-time in the Pastoral & Administration Offices building, he has also been given all the rights of Vicar General. That way, since Father Jim Corrigan, the Vicar General, has pastoral priorities in his parish, Father Adam can cover the day-to-day tasks such as signing documents, giving permissions, or acting on behalf of the Archbishop.

Meetings also take up much of the Moderator’s time. He may represent the Archbishop at deanery meetings or any other meetings as required. He meets regularly with the Archbishop. As Moderator he also serves on the Episcopal Council, Presbyteral Council, Finance Committee, Project Review Committee, and Clergy Personnel Committee.

He concedes that he is still learning about the position of Moderator, since it didn’t exist back when he was ordained, and we’ve never had one who wasn’t a bishop. (The role was formerly filled by Auxiliary Bishop Greg Bittman when he was here.) So Father Adam spent the first few months learning more about the operations of the offices he now oversees.

One role that has carried over from his days as Chancellor relates to relations with priests. When priests have a question about an issue in the parish, or need advice, they continue to call on Father Adam. 

“Three-quarters of our priests are international, and they’re not immersed in our culture, so they often have questions and seek advice about handling various parish situations, schools, personnel, or ministry. So they need this support. I’ve met almost every one of them personally.”

“I also have the privilege to deal with complaints regarding priests, from parishes. The advantage is that I’m old, a priest for 41 years, so we can say that I’ve made many mistakes and learned many lessons, and I’ve had to deal with many of the same issues. So the trust comes from that experience, as well as my experience as chancellor.”

The Moderator also deals with questions from individual Catholics who call the Archbishop’s Office. Depending on the subject, he may delegate the response to the appropriate archdiocesan office, but he also answers questions on somewhat more exotic subjects such as miracles, visions, and exorcisms.

If it sounds like Father Adam has more work that he did before, he does. He still tries to help out in parishes on weekends or hearing confessions at schools, and does some hospital visits, but he just can’t spare the time to drive beyond the Greater Edmonton area. He says he has always been a person who liked to deal with things immediately, but it’s not always possible now.

“So this is learning for me as well, learning to prioritize what is important to do today and what can be done next week or what needs more consultation. It’s teaching me humility.”