Beliefs

The doctor is in: Pope Francis’ list of 15 diseases that ail the church

Pope Francis on July 28, 2014, asked forgiveness for Catholics who had persecuted and denounced pentecostalists and other evangelicals.
Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sept. 11, 2013. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sept. 11, 2013. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis held nothing back on Monday (Dec. 22) in addressing the ills of the Roman Catholic Church in a blistering critique of what ails the Curia, the church’s central bureaucracy. From the “terrorism of gossip” to “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” Francis has a few get-healthy New Year’s resolutions in mind for his staff:

1.The disease: Feeling “immortal” or “immune” or even “indispensible”

The cure: A visit to the cemetery, Francis said, could help us see the names of those who “maybe thought they were immortal, immune and indispensible.”

2. The disease: Excessive activity

The cure: It is the disease of those who, like Martha in the Gospels, “lose themselves in their work, inevitably neglecting ‘what is better’: sitting at Jesus’ feet.”

3. The disease: Mental and spiritual “petrification”

The symptoms: It is the disease of those who “lose their internal peace, their vivacity and audacity, to hide under papers and become ‘procedural machines’ instead of ‘men of God.’”

4. The disease: Overplanning and functionalism

The symptoms: “When the apostle plans everything in minute detail and believes that, through this, things progress effectively, they are becoming an accountant. Good planning is necessary — but without falling into the temptation of wanting to enclose or steer the freedom of the Holy Spirit.”

5. The disease: Bad coordination

The symptoms: It is the disease of members who “lose the community between themselves … becoming ‘an orchestra producing undisciplined noise.'”

6. The disease: Spiritual Alzheimer’s

The symptoms: A “progressive decline of spiritual faculties,” making victims live in a “state of absolute dependence on their, often imagined, views.” It’s most seen, Francis said, in those “who have ‘lost their memory’ of their encounter with the Lord.”

7. The disease: Rivalry and vainglory

The symptoms: “When the appearance, the color of vestments and honors become the first objectives of life … it is the disease that leads us to become false men and women, living a false ‘mysticism.'”

8. The disease : Existential schizophrenia

The symptoms: It is the disease of those who live “a double life, a result of the hypocrisy typical of mediocre people and of advancing spiritual emptiness, which degrees or academic titles cannot fill.”

9. The disease: Gossip and chatter

The symptoms: A “serious illness,” the pope warned, that can begin with a simple chat and sometimes end up with “cold-blooded murder.” It is the disease of cowards, who do not have the courage to speak upfront and so talk behind one’s back. “Look out for the terrorism of gossip!”

10. The disease: Deifying leaders

The symptoms: Those who “court their superior,” becoming victims of “careerism and opportunism” and “live their vocation thinking only of what they must gain and not of what they should give.”

11. The disease: Indifference

The symptoms: “When, because of jealousy or cunning, we rejoice in seeing others fall, rather than lifting them up and encouraging them.”

12. The disease: The funeral face

The symptoms: People who are “scowling and unfriendly” with a “theatrical severity” and “sterile pessimism” that are often symptoms of “fear and insecurity.”

13. The disease: Hoarding

The symptoms: “When the apostle seeks to fill an existential void in his heart by hoarding material possessions, not because of necessity, but only to feel secure. In reality we can carry nothing material with us … and all our earthly treasures — even gifts — can never fill the void.”

14. The disease: Closed circles

The symptoms: “When belonging to a clique becomes more important than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, than belonging to Christ himself. Even this disease starts from good intentions, but in time it enslaves all its members becoming ‘a cancer’ that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much illness.”

15. The disease: Worldly profit and exhibitionism

The symptoms: “It is the disease of those people who relentlessly seek to increase their powers. To achieve that, they may defame, slander and discredit others, even in newspapers and magazines. Naturally, that is in order to show off and exhibit their superiority.”

KRE/AMB END MCKENNA

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

About the author

Kevin Eckstrom

Kevin Eckstrom joined the Religion News Service staff in 2000 and became editor-in-chief in 2006.

30 Comments

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  • This isn’t likely to be inaccurate.

    As a church minister, I should be looking at this list and measuring my own attitudes, beliefs and practices, rather than rejoicing in a few high-level falls from grace.

  • The fundamental disease that they have is repeating the fraudulent and intentionally misleading claim that they are God’s authorized agents and have been given authority by him over other, lessor favored, men.
    Radical though this prescription may appear, candor is the only cure.

  • Largely hooey, like you expect from a certain type of clergyman. Of course he fails to mention the most acute ailment: wretched leadership, starting with the occupant of the Chair of Peter.

  • GOOD GRIEF!

    Poor Pope Francis,
    He thinks “the Disease” which occupies his days is caused people who do not know Jesus. The Disease IS JESUS HIMSELF .

    1.The disease: Feeling “immortal” or “immune” or even “indispensable”

    The CAUSE: JESUS!
    “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents…and over
    all the power of the enemy: and nothing
    shall by any means hurt you.”
    – Jesus (Luke 10:19-20)

    2. The disease: Excessive activity

    The CAUSE: JESUS
    Spread the Gospel! It is urgent!
    “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them…Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you..” (Matthew 28:19–20)
    The consequences of failure are steep!
    “Bring to me those enemies [who failed me]…and execute them in front of me!” – JESUS (luke 19:27)

    3. The disease: Mental and spiritual “petrification”

    The Cause: JESUS COMMANDS COMPLETE PETRIFICATION!
    “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law..” – JESUS (Matthew 5:18)

    5. The disease: Bad coordination

    The Cause: JESUS! He is DISCORDANT!
    “..my testimony is NOT valid.” – Jesus (John 5:31)
    “..my testimony IS valid.” – Jesus (John 8:14)
    “I have come to bring FIRE…What constraints! I am impatient to bring NOT PEACE BUT DIVISION.” – Jesus (Luke 12:49-51)

    6. The disease: Spiritual Alzheimer’s

    The CAUSE – JESUS! He repeatedly forgets which side of the coin he has flipped!
    “Love enemies” – Jesus (Matthew 5:44)
    “Kill enemies” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

    7. The disease: Rivalry and vainglory

    the CAUSE OF OVERWEENING VANITY IS JESUS!
    “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents…and over
    all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”
    – Jesus (Luke 10:19-20)
    WHERE IS THE HUMILITY IN THAT ?

    8. The disease : Existential schizophrenia

    THE CAUSE IS JESUS !!!
    “Don’t waste….on the people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs!” – Jesus (Matthew 7:6)
    “Love thy neighbor..” – JESUS (Mark 12:31)
    He hates/loves everyone.
    He condemns/forgives everyone!

    9. The disease: Gossip and chatter

    THE CAUSE: DO AS JESUS! The first Christian Gossip!
    “They are fools!” – JESUS (Matthew 23:17)
    “They are dogs!” – JESUS (Matthew 15:26)
    “they are swine!” – JESUS (Matthew 7:6)

    10. The disease: Deifying leaders

    The CAUSE: JESUS!
    “Thomas said ….‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:28)
    “Jesus answered them, ‘I and My Father are one.’” (John 10:30-33)

    11. The disease: Indifference

    THE CAUSE: JESUS!
    ETERNAL TORTURE FOR MINOR CRIMES IS THE DEFINITION OF INDIFFERENCE!
    “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire…” – JESUS (Matthew 25:41 – 12)

    The disease: The funeral face

    The CAUSE: JESUS! ‘NEVER LET YOUR GUARD DOWN’!
    “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that NEVER shall be quenched.” (Mark 9:43 – 13)

    The disease: Closed circles

    the CAUSE is JESUS ACCORDING TO PAUL!!
    “Avoid Them” (Romans 16:17)
    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” (Matthew 18:15)
    “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonian 3:14)
    THE CHRISTIAN COMMAND IS TO DIVIDE INTO CLOSED CIRCLES!

    15. The disease: Worldly profit and exhibitionism

    the CAUSE: RELIGION!
    RICHES ARE A SIGN OF HOLINESS!
    “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord …. Wealth and riches shall be in his house.” (Psalm 112:1, 3)
    “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.” – (Proverbs 13:22)
    “In the house of the righteous is much treasure.”
    – (Proverbs 15:6)

    JESUS IS DESPICABLE.

    It is never a surprise to see conflicting messages coming from Christians. Jesus is to be RIDICULED.

    The sayings attributed to him are absurd, obviously written by several dozen people and are unworkable. They are ridiculously contradictory.

    ___
    AM
    For Peace, Human needs and The Separation of Church and State

  • Oh, Max. 27 deaths moved you like millions before didn’t, and you’re blaming a rabbi from twenty centuries ago. Why on earth are you quoting the Bible? You can’t even do it well.

    You missed some numbers, btw.

  • Do not forget that we are here in the field of spiritual leadership that cannot be
    measured by the worldly one!
    John P. S.

  • Here is a classic example of repeating the words leaving the meaning with the speaker, confusing words and meanings. They are not the same as the signs and what they point to cannot be the same! A strong dose of Linguistic Analysis alone can cure this disease!
    John P. S.

  • The Pope is trying to renew the Church adopting a top to bottom approach that is most praiseworthy. People who do not love the Church are not the most qualified to evaluate his sincere attempts!
    John P. S.

  • Keep on whistling past the graveyard John. We had capable Popes for 34 years. The best they could do in occidental countries was reduce the rate of decay. Now we have a Pope bent on promoting corruption of every kind.

  • Hi John,
    “we are here in the field of spiritual leadership”
    That is precisely the problem- their empty claim to spiritual leadership.

  • “People who do not love the Church are not the most qualified to evaluate his sincere attempts!”
    If that were true there would be no such thing as independent audits.

  • I agree that the Bible does often contradict itself. But, I assure you dear Max that Jesus was and is a good person. He made mistakes because he is human, and he redeemed us because he is also somehow God.

  • Great diagnosis by the pope! Now I would like to see him let go of his control over the investigation of former archbishop Wesolowski. The pope needs to send him to Poland and to the Dominican Republic to face charges against him of sexual abuse/rape of young boys. It is not the job of the pope to investigate the crimes and criminals in his own church.
    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, M.D., M.Spir.

  • I have a dear friend who is an avowed Atheist. I’ve found her respectful of others’ beliefs. Hint.

    “Jesus is to be ridiculed.” Pure ignorance. Gandhi spent an hour each morning meditating on the Beatitudes.

  • One needs to know how to read the Bible. It is not written as history. The contradictions are not literal, they’re faith statements.

  • Jesus is to be ridiculed.

    This is not ignorance. It is required for the advancement of humanity.
    Mohammed must be ridiculed also.
    “White Light” and Chakras must be ridiculed also.

    Any belief based on unsupportable nonsense is a threat to civilization if it advances to the level of LAW.
    The Hobby Lobby decision is a case in point – it is a disgrace because it rests on the disgusting, disgraceful inhumanity of The Jesus Death Cult.

    Gandi is not remembered for his meditations on the Beatitudes any more than Isaac Newton is remembered for believing in ‘The Ether’.

    “Execute them all in front of me” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

    Religion is disgusting brain garbage.

    ____
    AM
    For Peace, Civilization and The Separation of Church and State

  • @Friend,

    What is “dear” or good about Jesus?

    JESUS – I WILL DISMEMBER PEOPLE WITH A SWORD
    “The master shall cut him to pieces” – Jesus (Luke 12)
    JESUS describes what he intends to do to his own enemies.

    JESUS – I SHALL RETURN TO EXECUTE MY ENEMIES
    “..bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King, and execute them in front of me.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    JESUS – YOU SHOULD DROWN THEM
    “Drown him with a millstone” (Matt 18:6)

    JESUS – KILL YOUR CHILDREN THE WAY GOD TOLD YOU TO
    “And why do you break the command of God
    for the sake of your tradition? …. ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ ” (Matthew 15:3)

    JESUS – YOU MUST JUDGE OTHERS HARSHLY
    “…if they are unworthy..REMOVE your blessing of peace.” – JESUS (Matt 10:13)

    JESUS – I CAME TO BURN UP THE WORLD AND DESTROY IT
    “I have come to bring FIRE…What constraints! I am impatient to bring NOT PEACE BUT DIVISION.” – Jesus (Luke 12:49-51)

    JESUS – HATE THOSE WHO LOVE YOU
    “Hate your parents…hate your life” – Jesus (Luke 14:26)

    JESUS – I’M A MAFIA GODFATHER. LOVE ME, OR ELSE.
    “Eat of my body” and “Be baptized and believe” or “Be condemned to Hell” – Jesus (John 6:53-54) (Mark 16:16).

    JESUS – I WILL KILL THE CHILDREN MYSELF
    “I shall kill her children with Death” – Jesus (REV. 2:23)

    JESUS – I WANT YOU TO LIVE IN A HOUSE FULL OF ENEMIES
    “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death…for ME.” – JESUS (Matthew 10:21)

    JESUS – I’M HERE TO RUIN YOUR LIFE AND ALL THAT YOU LOVE
    “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his daughter, and a daughter against her mother, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.” – JESUS (Matthew 10:35)

    JESUS – JUDGE OTHERS AND MARK THEM FOR GOD’S WRATH!
    “And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet AS A TESTIMONY AGAINST THEM.” – JESUS (Luke 9:3-5)

    JESUS ENDORSED the stoning laws – He rejected any change to the stoning laws of Moses.

    JESUS – KEEP ALL 500 STONING LAWS AS GOD COMMANDS
    “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commands and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – JESUS (Matthew 5:18-19 RSV)

    JESUS – STONE ALL OF THESE PEOPLE TO DEATH:
    “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law” – JESUS (Matthew 5:18-19)

    I ENDORSE STONING THOSE WHO WON’T FOLLOW GOD’S LAWS; “EXECUTE THEM” – JESUS (LUKE 19:27)

    Gays
    Inhabitants of conquered cities
    Victims of rape
    People who work on Sunday
    Infidels
    Prostitutes
    Uncircumcised men
    Men who have sex with women who are menstruating
    Ignorers of Priests
    Ignorers of Sacraments
    people who drink blood
    People who eat peace offerings
    People who let food go bad
    People who do magic tricks
    People who go to temple while filthy
    Heretics
    Perjurors
    fortune tellers
    Spiritualists
    False prophets
    People who approach the Tabernacle
    Apostates
    Kidnappers
    Pretenders of witchcraft
    Pretenders of other religions
    Stubborn children
    Rebellious children
    Children who disagree with their parents
    Profligates
    Sorcerers
    Women who marry their daughters
    Adulterers
    Fornicators
    People who are irresponsible with their bulls
    People who pretend to worship idols
    People who actually worship idols
    Unruly children
    Slaves who run away
    Gluttons
    Drunkards
    Liars
    Slaves who disobey
    Wives who disobey
    Men who steal
    Women who steal
    Children who steal
    Children who pretend to be witches
    Masturbators
    etc…

    There would be nobody left.

    If you spread the lie that Jesus is good, you are contributing to more horror and misery in the world.

    These ridiculous ancient beliefs need to be abandoned as soon as possible to save the world.

    ____
    AM
    For Peace, Civilization and The Separation of Church and State

  • The bible states;
    Peace on earth, good will towards man.

    If you don’t believe in Christ you need people praying for you. If you were ever to see one of His miracles (which happen everyday all day) or better yet be a recipient of one of His blessings you would be shouting from the roof tops for Him. Jesus, the Pope, and Christians are about love and peace. God does have wrath for fear. Without fear where would we be. A good kind of fear. Not knowing The Father, means you don’t know the fear needed for peace and love.

  • @Todd,

    “Oh, Max. 27 deaths moved you like millions before didn’t…..”

    Yes. And how tragic is that?

    From MY CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW – millions of people dying was not so bad because everything was in God’s hands. It is all part of God’s plan and HE will take them to heaven.

    Did you catch that?

    AS A Christian I had a worldview which REDUCED MY RESPONSIBILITY TO CARE! Just as you shrug off the rampant murders by Christians and Muslims today

    Yes – as an Atheist even 27 needless deaths outrages me!

    I don’t blame the Rabbi Jesus for those deaths!
    I blame the cult of the Rabbi Jesus for blocking our collective responsibilities for one another – as well as our true understanding of humanity!

    Perhaps you should try to examine what I am revealing to you.
    Perhaps you should examine the corruption in yourself.

  • “Execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)j

    What the hell does this have to do with ‘good will towards men’?
    The message of jesus is an incoherent mess.

  • Many of those listed are about the Curia. Number 14, “closed circles” is one of the most widespread beyond Rome. Despite the Vatican II recognition that the Church is embodied in other denominations, (Lumen Gentium), many Catholics continue to contend that the RC church is the only “one, true church.” My ministry involves baptism of youth and adults. The insistence of many catechumenal ministers in the RC denomination that one is baptized into the Roman Catholic Church rather than into the Church, into the Body of Christ, is frustrating

    The other illness of the church is in the personnel or human resource department of the denomination. Once ordained ministry is opened to those who are married (more than it currently is) and to women, our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers will have come a long way to curing many ills.

  • How true for any member of an organisation, church or otherwise:
    “I should be looking at this list and measuring my own attitudes, beliefs and practices”.
    It takes a bit of adaptation, but Francis’ fifteen points make a good checklist for me as well.

  • Dear Max, I see that you are a critique but not a comprehensive viewer of a subject. you have goodness in you. you want to do the right thing. but your won blindness is blocking you from seeing.
    just imagine I don’t know Spanish language and I write a big essay about the flows and illogics found In the language and publish. it will be the biggest joke right?
    similarly Spirituality is like a languae—one has to learn the language first and then he/she will know what is being said, understand correctly, grasp the meaning etc.,
    well this applies to all of us….I need to learn your language of atheism…to know you better. so now we have more matured people in the world who assess things and not generally conclude for they know that what is to be understood is as big as ocean.
    with much care
    jai

  • I feel sorry for you being so full of hate. Today, I will pray for you-I will light a candle and pray a Hail Mary for you!
    In Christ

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