POPE FRANCIS' CRITICISMS OF VATICAN CURIA
Pope Francis has ended the year with a scathing critique of the church’s highest-ranking officials, including a list of 15 “ailments” that he said plagued the Vatican’s power-hungry bureaucracy.
The Argentinian pontiff used a traditional Christmas greeting on Monday to the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Holy See to portray a church hierarchy that had lost its humanity at times, a body consumed by narcissism and excessive activity, where men who are meant to serve God with optimism instead presented a hardened, sterile face to the world.
The 78-year-old pope’s second Christmas speech since his election in 2013 was met by tepid applause among his Vatican audience, according to the Associated Press, and just a few smiling faces.
Chief among the pope’s list of sins was the “terrorism of gossip”, which he said could “kill the reputation of our colleagues and brothers in cold blood”. He denounced the “pathology of power” that afflicts those who seek to enhance themselves above all else, and the “spiritual Alzheimer’s” that has made leaders of the Catholic church forget they are supposed to be joyful.
Francis, the first pope born in the Americas, has refused many of the trappings of office and made plain his determination to bring the church’s hierarchy closer to its 1.2 billion members.
To that end, he has set out to reform the Italian-dominated Curia, the Vatican’s civil service whose power struggles and leaks were widely held to be partly responsible for Benedict XVI’s decision last year to become the first pope in six centuries to resign.
In his Christmas greeting, Francis used biblical references to condemn the “disease” of feeling “immortal and essential”.
“Sometimes [officials] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ – superior to everyone and everything,” he said.
“These and other maladies and temptations are a danger for every Christian and for any administrative organisation … and can strike at both the individual and the corporate level,” he said.
It was a harsh denouncement of his colleagues following a successful few weeks for the pope, who was seen as instrumental in the biggest diplomatic breakthrough of the year: the restoration of relations between the United States and Cuba.
But Pope Francis also experienced a significant setback in 2014. His attempt to shift the Vatican’s positions on some family issues, including its position on gay and lesbian people and the question of whether divorced and remarried Catholics could take communion, erupted into a massive feud between liberal and conservative forces in the church. Ultimately, his attempts to soften the church’s positions failed to win enough support among cardinals.
John Allen, a Vatican expert and associate editor of the Crux blog, said the Christmas greeting came at a tense time for the Holy See, as Francis and nine of his cardinal advisers are drawing up plans for a revamp of the Vatican bureaucracy.
This year, the pontiff celebrated the holiday not just with cardinals and archbishops, as pope’s have traditionally done, but also with rank-and-file employees at the Vatican and their families, Allen noted.
1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable. “A Curia that doesn’t criticise itself, that doesn’t update itself, that doesn’t seek to improve itself is a sick body.”
2) Working too hard. “Rest for those who have done their work is necessary, good and should be taken seriously.”
3) Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened. “It’s dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful.”
4) Planning too much. “Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan.”
5) Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise. “When the foot tells the hand, ‘I don’t need you’ or the hand tells the head ‘I’m in charge.’”
6) Having “spiritual Alzheimer’s”. “We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord ... in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands.”
7) Being rivals or boastful. “When one’s appearance, the colour of one’s vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life.”
8) Suffering from “existential schizophrenia”. “It’s the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It’s a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people.”
9) Committing the “terrorism of gossip”. “It’s the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people’s backs.”
10) Glorifying one’s bosses. “It’s the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honour people who aren’t God.”
11) Being indifferent to others. “When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him.”
12) Having a “funereal face”. “In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes.”
13) Wanting more. “When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he’ll feel more secure.”
14) Forming closed circles that seek to be stronger than the whole. “This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad scandals especially to our younger brothers.”
15) Seeking worldly profit and showing off. “It’s the sickness of those who insatiably try to multiply their powers and to do so are capable of calumny, defamation and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally to show themselves as being more capable than others.”