Pope Francis does not mince his words in naming the fifteen ailments of the Curia

Pope Francis addresses Curia 20141222Vatican Radio reports:

Pope Francis received the heads and other senior officials of the departments of the Roman Curia on Monday 22 December, in their traditional exchange of Christmas greetings. In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered Monday morning, the Holy Father focused on the need for those who serve in the curia – especially those in positions of power and authority – to remember and cultivate an attitude and a spirit of service.

“Sometimes,” said Pope Francis, “[Officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ [It. padroni] – superior to everyone and everything,” forgetting that the spirit, which should animate them in their lives of service to the universal Church, is one of humility and generosity, especially in view of the fact that none of us will live forever on this earth.

“It is good to think of the Roman Curia as a small model of the Church, that is, a body that seeks, seriously and on a daily basis, to be more alive, healthier, more harmonious and more united in itself and with Christ”.

“The Curia is always required to better itself and to grow in communion, sanctity and wisdom to fully accomplish its mission. However, like any body, it is exposed to sickness, malfunction and infirmity. … I would like to mention some of these illnesses that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Curia. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord”, continued the Pontiff, who after inviting all those present to an examination of conscience to prepare themselves for Christmas, listed the most common Curial ailments:

The first is “the sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable’, neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.

The second is “‘Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting ‘the better part’ of sitting at Jesus’ feet. Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation. Rest, once one has brought his or her mission to a close, is a necessary duty and must be taken seriously: in spending a little time with relatives and respecting the holidays as a time for spiritual and physical replenishment, it is necessary to learn the teaching of Ecclesiasticus, that ‘there is a time for everything’”.

Then there is “the sickness of mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God. … It is dangerous to lose the human sensibility necessary to be able to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! It is the sickness of those who lose those sentiments that were present in Jesus Christ”.

The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant. … One falls prey to this sickness because it is easier and more convenient to settle into static and unchanging positions. Indeed, the Church shows herself to be faithful to the Holy Spirit to the extent that she does not seek to regulate or domesticate it. The Spirit is freshness, imagination and innovation”.

The “sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team”.

Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the ‘first love’: this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one’s own often imaginary views. We see this in those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord … in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands”.

The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the colour of one’s robes, insignia and honours become the most important aim in life. … It is the disorder that leads us to become false men and women, living a false ‘mysticism’ and a false ‘quietism’”.

Then there is “existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honours. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.

The sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.

The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honouring people rather than God. They are people who experience service thinking only of what they might obtain and not of what they should give. They are mean, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness”.

The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships. When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy … one experiences joy in seeing another person fail instead of lifting him up or encouraging him”.

The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity”.

The disease of accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure. … Accumulation only burdens and inexorably slows down our progress”.

The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself. This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a ‘cancer’ that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers”.

Then, there is the “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others”.

After listing these ailments, Pope Francis continued, “We are therefore required, at this Christmas time and in all the time of our service and our existence – to live ‘speaking the truth in love, we are to grow in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love’”.

“I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticise them and few pray for them”, he concluded. “It is a very nice phrase, but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church”.

P.S. I have just watched the video of this meeting with the cardinals and to be fair, the Holy Father identifíes these ailments not only in the Roman Curia but in any curial structure at whatever level of the Church. – Ed

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14 Responses to Pope Francis does not mince his words in naming the fifteen ailments of the Curia

  1. Ben Sirach says:

    But he did also say that the Curia is a small model of the Church. These ailments are universal in the Church – including in the Ordinariates. I know because as an Ordinariate Priest I can accuse myself of many of the faults.

  2. pioraviacasino says:

    It has been said, that when someone asked Pope John XXIII “How many people worked in the Vatican” His reply was, “Oh I suppose about half of them”. LoL. Fr. Bill H.

  3. Matthew the Wayfarer says:

    Agree with the Bishop of Rome’s evaluation on all these matters but especially this one: “The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism”. Been saying this for at least 3 decades. Every year a new “scheme” to make things better, get more sheep in the pasture, ‘the year of evangelism, the year of Mary, the year of this, the year of that’, YADA YADA YADA and nothing changes. Over thinking everything and not letting the Church be the CHURCH! Go back and look at the heydays of success, post WWII to VII.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Matthew,

      You wrote: Agree with the Bishop of Rome’s evaluation on all these matters but especially this one: “The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism”. Been saying this for at least 3 decades. Every year a new “scheme” to make things better, get more sheep in the pasture, ‘the year of evangelism, the year of Mary, the year of this, the year of that’, YADA YADA YADA and nothing changes. Over thinking everything and not letting the Church be the CHURCH!

      I’m with you completely on this! The myriad of “Come Home to Church” campaigns have failed miserably because all that to offer are the very same dysfunctional parishes that those people abandoned years ago. When word gets out that we fix the problems that persist in far too many of our parishes, the people who have left will come home of their own accord — and that’s when they will stay.

      You continued: Go back and look at the heydays of success, post WWII to VII.

      That would be impossible. The cultural and familial circumstances that compelled people to attend shoddily celebrated masses and to tolerate obnoxious clergy with an air of superiority, abusive sisters teaching in parochial schools and “CCD” programs, shoddy liturgy, inept liturgical music, incompetent preaching, etc., are gone — and that’s precisely why so many parishes have seen a dramatic drop in attendance. The people of today are not going to put up with any of it, nor should they. A reversion to the Tridentine liturgy, celebrated by the same inept clergy who can’t, or won’t, celebrate the current rites properly, would make the situation far worse than the status quo.

      Norm.

      • Matthew the Wayfarer says:

        Norm- You^’re correct about “The cultural and familial circumstances that compelled people to attend shoddily celebrated masses and to tolerate obnoxious clergy with an air of superiority, abusive sisters teaching in parochial schools and ‘CCD'” up to a point. I never experienced most of that in small town Ohio. Also, I wasn’t Catholic at the time so my experience was limited. I only remember nice priests, friendly sisters and good masses but my memories may be distorted.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Matthew,

        You wrote: You’re correct about “The cultural and familial circumstances that compelled people to attend shoddily celebrated masses and to tolerate obnoxious clergy with an air of superiority, abusive sisters teaching in parochial schools and ‘CCD'” up to a point. I never experienced most of that in small town Ohio. Also, I wasn’t Catholic at the time so my experience was limited. I only remember nice priests, friendly sisters and good masses but my memories may be distorted.

        Yes, not all of those misbehaviours by clergy and religious persisted in every parish, but the damage that they caused is considerable.

        Realistically, I surmise that you are a bit younger than me and thus did not live through the worst of the period that you portray so positively. (I was born in 1957.) Also, not being Catholic, your exposure to what was happening in the Catholic Church was much less direct.

        And there’s also a reality that the worst of the behaviors that I described tended to occur in areas that were culturally Catholic — a situation that was much more prevalent in the urban areas of the Northeastern and Southwestern United States than in the rural heartland or the deep south (“bible belt”).

        You continued: I only remember nice priests, friendly sisters and good masses but my memories may be distorted.

        Around here, nice priests are much more commonplace now than four decades ago — but sisters are virtually non-existent in parish ministry and the celebration of mass in most parishes still reflects gross incompetence of the clergy and inadequate formation of those who serve in the various lay ministries.

        Norm.

  4. EPMS says:

    Friendly sisters? I recall visiting a shrine years ago with a mixed group of Anglicans and Catholics. Trying to find the chapel we wandered into part of the adjacent convent and were clearly lost. When a nun appeared, the Anglicans brightened up and said “Here’s a nun, she will help us” at the same time that those who went through the Catholic school system said “Oh oh, a nun—let’s get out of here before she sees us”.

    • OUCH !!

      Although I certainly recollect my father’s tales of his sadistic nun teachers (Dad is a cradle Catholic), on the other hand I also had my fair share of abusive non-religious teachers. Strictest discipline and corporal punishment were often the stuff of education in the past, and many nuns were teachers.

      David Murphy

  5. EPMS says:

    Of course, but Norm’s comment referred to experiences that alienated people from the Catholic church. When one’s primary encounter with representatives of the Church involved physical abuse, experienced or observed, often backed up with commentary on the hopeless spiritual state of the offender, it is not surprising if the Church’s message about love and acceptance did not resonate.

  6. victor2378 says:

    I think Norm’s picture is a caricature of the Catholic Church – it may have been true someplace, but in no way represents the whole picture. I wish we could get off these false dichotomies – at the one hand the strict nun and rigid priest, following the rules no matter what, and on the other hand the happy-clappy priest dancing around the altar strumming his guitar. Both extremes happen(ed) somewhere, but neither has ever been the rule!

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Victor,

      You wrote: I think Norm’s picture is a caricature of the Catholic Church – it may have been true someplace, but in no way represents the whole picture.

      EPMS is right — I was speaking specifically about situations that drove people away from the Catholic church. My description is indeed somewhat of a caricature, but it also grossly understated the worst of the situation by not mentioning parishes and schools in which too many young people suffered sexual molestation at the hands of the clergy. You are quite correct in saying that such abuses were not universal, but the fact that such abuses did not occur in another place does not diminish the damage inflicted in the many parishes in which such abuses were prevalent.

      You continued: I wish we could get off these false dichotomies – at the one hand the strict nun and rigid priest, following the rules no matter what, and on the other hand the happy-clappy priest dancing around the altar strumming his guitar.

      It does not really matter whether the problem is “the strict nun and rigid priest, following the rules no matter what,” or “the happy-clappy priest dancing around the altar strumming his guitar.” I described the former because it was more prevalent during the period that another comment held up as some supposed “golden age” of the Catholic Church, but the latter is just as problematic. My original point was simply that we need to focus on fixing the problems that drove people to leave if we want the people who have left to come back and to stay. A “Come Home to Church” campaign won’t be effective where such problems persist.

      You concluded: Both extremes happen(ed) somewhere, but neither has ever been the rule!

      Here, I think that you are grossly underestimating just how prevalent each of the extremes had become at various periods within my lifetime.

      Norm.

  7. Matthew the Wayfarer says:

    Norm- You are too kind. Actually I am 10 years older than you born November 3, 1947. Most of my “Catholic” experience with Catholic relatives and classmates took place in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. That’s why I stated the Church’s heyday as post WWII to VII. I do understand what you are saying though but I think a lot of this negativity is well, passed down as strange tales. Of all my cousins who were reared Catholic and went to Catholic schools only one tells these tales. He’s the youngest and he always was a bit off kilter – still is! Doesn’t matter, didn’t scare me away.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Matthew,

      You wrote: Actually I am 10 years older than you born November 3, 1947.

      Ah, then sorry that I “misunderestimated” you….

      You continued: Most of my “Catholic” experience with Catholic relatives and classmates took place in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. That’s why I stated the Church’s heyday as post WWII to VII. I do understand what you are saying though but I think a lot of this negativity is well, passed down as strange tales.

      The reality here, again, is that the situation in the great heartland is nothing like the situation in the major dioceses of the Northeast, where I live. I notice a stark contrast on occasions when I visit parishes there even today.

      Norm.

  8. EPMS says:

    “Doesn’t matter,didn’t scare me away”. This is a separate question. I had a friend who spent several years in a Catholic orphanage where he suffered serious physical and psychological abuse at the hands of the sisters. He and his siblings were sent to the orphanage in the first place because Catholic authorities would not allow his grandmother and aunts to take them in because these relatives were Protestants. They were allowed to visit the orphanage, once a month. The whole story was horrifying. But he remained a lifelong Catholic and a lovely human being. Some people demonstrate great resilience and persistence, others not. This does not let the perpetrators off the hook, although in fairness many members of the orders that ran schools and especially residential facilities were former students/wards themselves and no doubt bore their own scars.

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