Pope Francis has denounced the Vatican bureaucracy known as the Curia for being too caught up in jockeying for power while losing sight of its spiritual mission.
In a speech to the top-level cardinals, bishops, and priests who make up the Curia, the Pope identified 15 spiritual illnesses that he suggested afflicts the Roman Catholic Church’s administration, one of which he deemed spiritual Alzheimer’s.
“Sometimes, [officials of the Curia] feel themselves lords of the manor — superior to everyone and everything,” the Pope told the high-level group in an annual Christmas message. “The Curia needs to change, to improve… A Curia that does not criticize itself, that does not bring itself up to date, that does not try to improve, is a sick body.”
Various media reports indicate that the Pope’s speech did not generate much applause from the group in attendance.
Outside of the Curia, perhaps, Pope Francis enjoys worldwide rock-star popularity for his acts of compassion, open-mindedness, outreach efforts, willingness to challenge conventional wisdom, and for his modest personal lifestyle.
Pope Francis, 78, previously the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and who never worked in the Curia, began his papacy in March 2013, after Pope Benedict XVI submitted his resignation because of health issues. Most modern-era Popes have held the position as the leader of the Catholic Church for life. Benedict was apparently the first Pope to step down since Pope Gregory XII in the year 1415, and the first one to do it voluntarily since Pope Celestine V in 1294.
The catalog of 15 diseases of a self-serving nature detailed by the Pope include feeling immortal or essential, the terrorism of gossip/character assassination, indifference to others, existential schizophrenia, and seeking to gain worldly profit.
Pope Francis may have been alluding to the pedophile priest scandals, CNN noted, when he also warned against the “disease of closeness.”
According to the Vatican Insider, which detailed the entire list, Pope Francis described spiritual Alzheimer’s disease as a “progressive decline of spiritual faculties’ which ’causes severe disadvantages to people’, making them live in a ‘state of absolute dependence on their, often imagined, views.’ We can see this in those who have ‘lost their memory’ of their encounter with the Lord, in those who depend on their ‘passions, whims and obsessions.'”
Existential schizophrenia “particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people.”
The pontiff even advised church leaders to lighten up and embrace humor and optimism instead of displaying an overly serious “funeral face.”
A Vatican spokesman noted that the Pope’s analysis could apply to any religious organization throughout the world, not necessarily just the Roman Curia.
According to the Crux website published by the Boston Globe, the pope’s effort to reform the Curia bureaucracy is gaining momentum.
“[The Pope] has not shied from complaining about the gossiping, careerism, and bureaucratic power intrigues that afflict the Holy See… The annual Christmas greeting comes at a tense time for the Curia. Francis and his nine key cardinal advisers are drawing up plans to revamp the whole bureaucratic structure, merging offices to make them more efficient and responsive.”
Do you think the criticism Pope Francis leveled at the Curia is well taken?
[image credit: Edgar Jimenez]