Father Peter Snieg is used to working in administration. He served as rector at Quigley High School Seminary at the time of its closing in 2007. Following that, Snieg became vice rector and then rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary, where he just completed construction of a new college seminary building at Loyola University.
In January, Cardinal George announced that he had a new job for Snieg as moderator of the curia. It’s one of the senior administrative positions in the Archdiocese of Chicago and oversees most of the departments that work out of the archdiocese’s two pastoral centers.
Snieg recently sat down with editor Joyce Duriga to discuss his new role.
Catholic New World: Can you explain what the moderator of the curia is and why the archdiocese switched the structure?
Father Peter Snieg: The curia is the administrative offices underneath the cardinal archbishop or underneath the bishop of any diocese. A bishop does not have to have a moderator of the curia but it is generally viewed as a good thing for large dioceses and archdioceses such as Chicago.
The word curia goes back to early ancient Roman days and means a gathering of people to come together and work things out. In a more modern sense a moderator of the curia brings people together — specifically the administrative offices and departments that report to the moderator of the curia and the agencies under them.
So my job is to bring people together to help the cardinal-archbishop. Of course, his job is to teach, sanctify and govern the Archdiocese of Chicago. My job is to pull all of the administrative people together and to help him realize his mission for the Archdiocese of Chicago. We really are an extension of the cardinal-archbishop.
CNW: You said it is a good thing for an archdiocese of this size to have a moderator of the curia. Why?
Snieg: In answering that it leads to the next question of why there was a change from having a chancellor to the moderator of the curia. We’ve had Jimmy Lago as the chancellor but it is usually not the chancellor in the diocese who would hold this position of bringing together.
The specific job of the chancellor is archives and records and notary. Jimmy has now moved in that direction of the true chancellor of the archdiocese, with a few more additions to his job from the cardinal. The structure is generally moderator of the curia and vicar general. The vicar general could be the moderator of the curia and in some dioceses he is. The moderator of the curia must be a priest.
I would say the change was made in a sense because the archdiocese is so large. The cardinal decided to go to the kind of recommended form that may benefit the archdiocese in a better way so that we can separate duties to have a chancellor doing what a chancellor does and somebody moderating the departments and agencies and the administrative duties.
It’s really pulling apart duties and putting them where they can best serve the archdiocese.
CNW: Why do some dioceses have only chancellors and it seems to work well?
Snieg: I would say that it is more of the preference on a bishop’s particular style and, most often, the size of the diocese. The Archdiocese of Chicago is very large. You have seven departments but numerous agencies under those departments so it is a very large archdiocese.
If somebody would ask me what I would liken this role to — after eight weeks of doing this — it would be a chief operating officer. That might be a modern term for somebody out there to understand what is a moderator of the curia.
But as a priest I bring my priestly ministry to that role. I think that is a key factor in the cardinal making this change and asking me to do this. We are all an extension of his ministry but I am, in particular, an extension of his priestly ministry. He’s asking me to bring priestly ministry also to the department heads and agency directors to make sure that we always remember first and foremost that we are a church. A lot of business happens in the church but we have to always call ourselves back and remember that we function as a church.
CNW: So there is a pastoral side to this job? It’s not all administrative.
Snieg: Yes, there are a lot of administrative duties that go along with the chief operating officer. I think the cardinal would not like the term chief operating officer because it implies of a company so that is why we say moderator of the curia, because I’m a priest who happens to be the person in charge of administrative duties.
But you are dealing with department directors and agency directors and all of the people under them, the support staff, and they are people. So when you are dealing with people of faith on a daily basis it has to be pastoral.
It has to be a pastoral activity so I must be priest to them. They have to see me more as priest and as a person of faith and not just somebody who has a title and who is going to make decisions.
In that sense when it comes to decisions there are some day-to-day decisions that I will make as moderator of the curia but as we all together assist the cardinal-archbishop, my role is to bring people together, gather information and to help him make good decisions for the archdiocese because ultimately he’s in charge of the archdiocese.