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

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Part psychologist, part oncologist, here's Pope Francis' diagnosis for what ails the church's central bureaucracy.

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.”