In his pre-Christmas address, Pope Francis has launched a stunning attack on members of the Catholic clergy and the bureaucracy of the Vatican.
In a meeting with the Curia that would usually serve to exchange festive pleasantries, Pope Francis instead chose to accuse the assembled clerics of leading “hypocritical” double lives and of indulging in the “terrorism of gossip.” The Pope also asserted that many priests were suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease,” along with forgetting their connection with God and becoming slaves to “their passions, whims, and manias.”
Perhaps most damning of all, Pope Francis said that many were living double lives in “a parallel world, where they disregard all that they sternly teach to others, and they start living a life that is secret and often dissolute.”
“For my failings and those of my advisers, and also for some scandals, which are very hurtful: Forgive me.”
“This is a speech without historic precedent,” said church historian Alberto Melloni, a contributor to Italian daily Corriere della Sera. “If the pope uses this tone, it’s because he knows it’s necessary.”
Francis spoke of lugubrious priests and “cold-blooded assassins” and urged the clergy to use the Christmas season to repent and make for a better church in the year 2015.
Indeed, the year 2014 has been a shameful period in the history of the Catholic church. Continuing accusations of child abuse cover-ups were followed by the discovery of a mass grave containing the skeletons of 800 babies on a site next to a former home for single mothers and their children. Children are believed to have died of malnutrition and neglect at the home run by nuns between 1925 and 1961.
The Head of the Catholic church has likened the abuse of children by priests to “like celebrating a black Mass.” In April, Pope Francis issued an apology for sex abuses committed by priests against children.
“I feel called to take responsibility for all the evil some priests – large in number, but not in proportion to the total – have committed and to ask for forgiveness for the damage they’ve done with the sexual abuse of children.”
And then in June, the Pope revealed that three bishops were under investigation for allegations of child abuse and one had already been convicted.
“When a priest commits abuse, he betrays the Lord’s body. A priest must guide children to sainthood. And the child trusts him. But instead, he abuses him or her.”
Pope Francis was elected as the first Latin american pontiff in March 2013 with a mandate to clean up a Catholic Church weakened by the VatiLeaks scandal and disgusting revelations of sexual abuse by priests worldwide.
Although some progress may have been made in matters of financial transparency, Pope Francis has much work to do in reforming an archaic and secretive bureaucracy that has been proven time and again to hide the most heinous of crimes.