Pope Francis has unleashed a blistering critique of the Vatican bureaucracy — or Curia — criticizing its “illnesses” ranging from the “disease of feeling immortal” to vainglory and excessive planning.
In his annual Christmas address to the Curia at the Vatican Monday, the Pontiff warned that “a church that doesn’t try to improve is like a sick body.”
Francis said suggested that it would be helpful to the Vatican bureaucrats to have a catalog of their illnesses beginning with “this disease of feeling immortal or indispensable.”
The “pathology of power,” he said, could lead to people believing “they are superior to others and not here for the service to others.”
Francis warned against the disease of loss of compassion, which he said afflicted “those who have a heart of stone.”
“Those who lose their inner serenity, their vivacity and audacity, to hide behind their papers, becoming like procedural machines rather than men of God. This is dangerous to lose human sensitivity, so necessary in order to cry with those who cry and enjoy with those who enjoy,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis referred to the diseases of “excessive planning and functionalism” and of “bad coordination,” which he said could occur when members did not collaborate with each other. There was also the risk of succumbing to spiritual Alzheimer’s disease and “forgetting the story of salvation,” he said, warning that sufferers “lost memory of their encounter with God.”
The Pope described the diseases of rivalry and vainglory, and rebuked those who try to court their superiors “inspired by their own egotism.”
The disease of gossip, Francis said, he had addressed before — but insufficiently.
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“This is a serious disease that begins simply when people chatter, and it takes over the person, turning the person as a Satan, and in so many cases people are speaking ill about their own colleagues and brothers and sisters. These people haven’t got the courage to speak directly, and they speak about others behind their backs,” he said. “Dear brothers, let us be aware and guard against the terrorism of gossip.”
Pope Francis also appeared to speak to the child abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church, referring to it as the “disease of a closeness.”
“This disease also begins from good intentions, but with the passing of time enslaves its members, becoming a cancer which threatens the harmony of the body and causes a lot of evil and scandal, especially towards our small brothers and sisters,” Francis said.
Finally, Francis warned against the disease of the mundane — “of the exhibitionism when the apostle transforms his service in power.”
“This is a disease of people who seek tirelessly to multiply power only aimed at calumny, and to defame and discredit others,” he said.
Pope Francis concluded: “Dear brothers, such diseases and such temptations are a naturally a danger for each Christian and for each Curia. For each community, for any ecclesiastical movement. They can damage both individually and the community. We have to say that only the Holy Spirit and the soul of Christ, only he can protect us from the disease.
“We have to cure ourselves of these. Let us try to grow together and close to Christ.”
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that aired earlier this month, veteran Vatican watcher Marco Politi said Pope Francis had been encountering growing opposition within his own church.
This was mainly due to Francis’ efforts at reform since becoming Pope in March 2013, Politi said.
“Within the Church, there is a tough group of conservative bishops and priests and cardinals, and also very traditionalist bishops and cardinals who are practically against the Pope, who are working against the Pope,” he said. “They don’t like what he wanted to do with the synod about family, to give new possibilities to remarried and divorced people to get the communion, or to have a new look on the homosexual union.”