Institutions

Pope Francis to Curia: Merry Christmas, you power-hungry hypocrites

Pope Francis during a homily he delivered in Sibari, Italy, on June 21, 2014.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis launched a blistering attack on the Vatican bureaucracy on Monday (Dec. 22), outlining a “catalog of illnesses” that plague the church’s central administration, including “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and gossipy cliques.

After linking war and capitalism together in remarks made to La Vanguardia in June 2014, The Economist accused Pope Francis of "following Lenin."

Creative Commons image by Catholic Church England and Wales

After linking war and capitalism together in remarks made to La Vanguardia in June 2014, The Economist accused Pope Francis of “following Lenin.”

The pope’s traditional Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Holy See was more “Bah! Humbug!” than holiday cheer as he ticked off a laundry list of “ailments of the Curia” that he wants to cure.

In a critique that left many of the assembled clerics clearly uncomfortable, the 15 ailments in Francis’ “catalog of illnesses” reflected the take-no-prisoners approach he promised when he was elected nearly two years ago as an outsider with little direct experience in Rome.

“The Curia is called upon to improve itself, always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fully realize its mission,” the pope said.

“Yet like every body, like every human body, it is exposed to illnesses, malfunctioning, infirmity. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to God.”

In a separate address to Vatican staff later, Francis begged pardon for the “shortcomings” of senior church leaders, as well as the “several scandals” that had “caused so much harm,” without specifying which scandals he had in mind.

The pope denounced the lust for power of ladder-climbing clerics, those who indulge in hypocritical double lives, and lamented a sense of “spiritual Alzheimer’s” that leads clerics to forget the joy that is supposed to animate their lives.

He also attacked what he called “existential schizophrenia” and the “terrorism of gossip.” He was especially critical of cliques that “enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body,” eventually leading to death by “friendly fire.”

“These and other maladies and temptations,” Francis said, “are a danger for every Christian and for any administrative organization, community, congregation, parish, ecclesial movement, etc., and can strike at both the individual and the corporate level.”

The pope signaled early on that he aimed to overhaul and upend the church’s institutional culture; now 78, many had expected Francis to have a relatively short term in office, but he seems intent on using whatever time he has to set policies in ways that will outlive his papacy.

Francis has previously criticized the careerism and power intrigues that afflict those who work inside the Vatican. In elevating his first round of cardinals earlier this year, he warned the new princes of the church that they should not imagine they had joined a “royal court.”

After firing a German bishop who spent $43 million on a grand new residential complex, Francis demoted a leading American conservative, Cardinal Raymond Burke, from the church’s highest court. Burke is known for hard-line dogmatism, elaborate vestments and, most importantly, for opposing major aspects of Francis’ reform agenda.

As he and senior cardinals press ahead with controversial financial and administrative reforms, the pope seemed even more outspoken as he highlighted his concerns about the institution.

“It’s nice to think of the Roman Curia as a little model church, that is a body that every day seeks to become more unified and harmonious,” the pope said.

“In reality the Curia is a complex body … with different elements that don’t have the same job, but are coordinated to work in an exemplary, disciplined effective way, despite the cultural and linguistic diversity of its members.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI greets Pope Francis at the conclusion of a consistory at which Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 22. Pope Benedict's presence at the ceremony marked the first time he had joined Pope Francis for a public liturgy. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Retired Pope Benedict XVI greets Pope Francis at the conclusion of a consistory at which Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 22. Pope Benedict’s presence at the ceremony marked the first time he had joined Pope Francis for a public liturgy. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Francis, the first pope from Latin American, never worked in the Italian-dominated Curia before he was elected in March 2013 after the shocking resignation of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. The final months of Benedict’s pontificate were overshadowed by the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal in which Benedict’s personal butler leaked sensitive documents alleging corruption in the Curia.

Francis is also the first Jesuit pope, and his outsiders’ critique reflects the sometimes tense relations between Rome and the church’s largest religious order, which often chafes at directives from church headquarters.

The pope’s address reportedly startled assembled members of the Curia. Few were smiling as Francis ticked off his diagnosis, complete with footnotes and biblical references.

At the end of his speech, he asked the prelates to pray that the “wounds of the sins that each one of us carries are healed” so that the Church and Curia itself are made healthy.

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.

71 Comments

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  • Fratelli e sorelle,
    Global institutions are a reflection of their members. There will always be deficiencies in individuals. It’s refreshing that HH Franciscus is helping to re-focus the gaze of this ancient and noble horse.
    Rumors of its demise have circulated since at least the fourth century…its critics all pass away!

  • Looks like Pope “who am I to judge” Francis is perfectly willing to judge wrong and unscriptural behaviors, and even judge them publicly, ***when he wants to.***

    Now if we could just get this Pope to do the same thing publicly with Legalized Gay Marriage, instead of giving it a wide-open free pass!

  • I like this porteño pope. Doc, I’d much rather hear him reprimanding his subordinates the Vatican hierarchy than hear what you have to say. The catholic bishops shielded pedophiles and Vatican bank ties to the mafia. He’s doing what they should have done 60 years ago.

    By the way Wendy-o…I’m a Buddhist, and agnostic. But I like this guy.

  • What constitutes “way too many”? Just curious: is there some statistical data on this? Seems like a major religious figure for 14% of the world should get some press. I’m fine reading more about other religions, too. Maybe RNS should hire more Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists rather than atheists. I’d be fine reading something daily during Ramadan or Diwali or such.

  • The article is horrible!!!!!!!!!!! Written by someone who wants to poor bad light on the Church and on the Pope!!! I have just read the whole discorse of Pope in original language and it’s highly educative for every Christian, full of love to his collaborators, told by a true Apostle of the Lord… I invoke all of you to read the original text on vatican web-site … and try to get your own conclusions!!!!!!!! Merry Christmas to all!

  • Re: “Now if we could just get this Pope to do the same thing publicly with Legalized Gay Marriage, instead of giving it a wide-open free pass!”

    The really funny thing about gay marriage is, that when a couple of gays marry somewhere, no one else, anywhere else, is harmed by it.

    No one.

    But, when Catholic hierarchs shuffle a pedophilic priest around to keep him one step ahead of Johnny Law, that very definitely can harm someone. Specifically, any children who might come within the pedophilic priest’s orbit after he’s been moved.

    So I can’t really say I’m all that impressed with Catholics getting their knickers twisted in knots over gay marriage, when the R.C. Church has a very clear globe-spanning track record of horrendous behavior which it consistently refuses to address.

  • Such a display of institutional leadership! Memo to Pope Blockhead: if you want to replace a troublesome official, just do it. No need to damage morale by giving abusive speeches to a miscellany of officials.

    Francis will replace the current administrators with figures piling out of his clown car and they’ll make matters worse.

  • Miss McKenna, You Lied to us! I have read and watched the Pope regarding his address to the Vatican employees and the Curia. His talk was filled with charity. And your article was NOT!!! Just last week, the Pope warned us of manipulating journalists. Please don’t be one of those. You have commited a dishonor to your readers. I forgive you and shall pray for you. Peace and goodwill.

  • The church has gone on and on about gay marriage, about the great evil it poses. They failed.

    I can remember when the Baptists were going on and on about the evils of mixed race marriage, about the great evil it posed. They also failed.

    and here’s our resident homobigot, going on again about gay marriage, without being able to cite a single reason that stands any trest whatsoever, except “oooh! Gay! Icky! and so does GAWD!” The very same GAWD who used to hate interracial marriage.

    Go figure.

  • Pope Francis is a very mixed bag, John, with the negative outweighing the positive. On the positive side, he IS starting to clean the house in the way that you described. We can even agree that it “should have been done 60 years ago.” Okay. That’s a good start.

    But I’m merely saying that if this Pope is going to publicly place Spike Strips in front of the Curia’s bus, this Pope ought to also do like his two well-respected, doctrine-upholding predecessors and publicly place a couple Spike Strips in front of the speeding Gay Marriage RV as well.

    You say you’re a Buddhist. That means you believe and affirm a set of Buddhist beliefs, right? You do not accept the truth claims of those Christians who specifically argue against Buddhism. That’s rationally consistent.

    Well, that kind of strong, firm, rationally consistent, normal belief characterizes both the late Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict. You could trust them. They accepted and believed the Official Catechism, and influenced others to at least check things out.

    (I never had any interest in reading ANY Catholic stuff until JPII showed up. Then I found myself reading the Catechism, just to see what a great leader like JPII believed.)

    But THAT important aspect, is where Mr.Francis has messed up. He has de facto REPEALED the Official Catechism’s position on marriage and homosexuality. He has given the official green light to Catholicism’s mortal enemies–the Gay Activists.

    And he’s done it all thru the back door, like a thief. He’s the one doing the Frog-In-The-Kettle experiment on his own Catholic Church. As for me? I’m merely pointing it out.

  • Thank you Anthony. Except Pope Francis did NOT can NOT will NOT!!! change the doctrine of the Church. As the Pope said himself, again last week, do NOT listen to the media, do listen to me.

  • The author does the Church a service. It is Her Spouse that claimed to be “The Truth.” — not partial truth nor even perspective. We can only strive to see Truth from perspectives, but must pay attention and when warranted, lots of attention.

    The ironies in what this Pope says here are, to those who follow him, big and over-ripe.

    The reaction to it is subdued– not in the least by ostrich politic but by people’s caring more about their entertainment than their immortal souls.

    Nothing this man says is by accident. Nothing is insignificant. If we are uninformed we will be unprepared.

    Know what was meant in 2 Peter 6.

    Thanks for the information.

  • If you don’t like it then don’t read it! The website is called religionnews!
    So please go somewhere else if you disagree.

  • Dude, being a Christian is about following the Bible. If you do not follow the Bible then p you are not a Christain. No one can just change it because they want to live a different life style. It is there for a reason but instead people have thrown all wisdom and knowledge out the door. Gay marriage is not marriage at all because you cannot change what God intended and break His first commandment which is to. Be fruitful and multiply. We can not be for gay marriage because it would mean instinct of the human race!
    There is already many couples who can not have children, now people are marrying the same sex. So there is no standard after that!
    Because if you say it’s who you love then people can marry their pets, relatives, muilple and so on. Just can you love someone does not make it a real marriage.

  • +AMDG
    from the same speech by Pope Francis to members of the Vatican curia:
    ‘the living relationship with God feeds and strengthens also our communion with others, whereby the more intimately united with God we are, the more united among us we become, because God’s Spirit unites and the devil’s spirit divides.’ Pope Francis recommends that everyone repeats often St. Thomas More’s prayer to preserve self-irony and a sense of limitations: ‘Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest. Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humour to maintain it… Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumblings, sighs and laments, nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called “I”.

  • I think your headline is needlessly sensational and inaccurate. It isn’t an “attack.” It’s a call to examine one’s conscience before Christmas confession, and a list of sins that clergy are particularly prone to. It strikes me as a very pastoral sermon, although it certainly must have made some of them uncomfortable..

  • >>>Now if we could just get this Pope to do the same thing publicly with Legalized Gay Marriage,>>>

    That’s a civil matter, and has nothing to do with the Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony.

    No one thinks it odd that the Catholic Church doesn’t try to make remarriage after divorce illegal, even though that opposes Catholic teaching. Because it make no sense to demand that the Civil Marriage law – which applies to Protestants, Jews, Pagans, Muslims and atheists – conform to the rules of Catholic matrimony.

  • “Dude, being a Christian is about following the Bible.” Unless it’s inconvenient. We have centuries of religious wars and pogroms to prove that,

    “If you do not follow the Bible then p you are not a Christain.” You have it right. A Christ-stain. See the centuries of wars over whether god wanted hymns sung in French or Latin. And the burning of witches? Also justified by the bible.

    “No one can just change it because they want to live a different life style.” It’s not a lifestyle, it’s a life.

    “It is there for a reason but instead people have thrown all wisdom and knowledge out the door.” Ppot, meet kettle.

    Gay marriage is not marriage at all because you cannot change what God intended and break His first commandment which is to. Be fruitful and multiply.” That wasn’t his first commandment. ready your bible.

    “We can not be for gay marriage because it would mean instinct of the human race!” I believe you meant extinction. Gay people have always existed. Heterosexuals have always existed. If the only thing keeping the race heterosexual is opposition to my life, heterosexuality is in big trouble.

    The rest of your screed is too much ignorance on too much caffeine.
    There is already many couples who can not have children, now people are marrying the same sex. So there is no standard after that!
    Because if you say it’s who you love then people can marry their pets, relatives, muilple and so on. Just can you love someone does not make it a real marriage.

  • He has given the official green light to Catholicism’s mortal enemies–the Gay Activists.

    and that’s why you cannot be taken seriously, despite your obvious intelligence.

  • Wendy-O: You couldn’t be more wrong. A religion that’s dying out??? Not gonna happen. All other religions will die out before the Catholic Church. Why? Because we have Jesus; body, soul and divinity. No other religion can claim that. Believing in Jesus is great. But it is not the same as having Jesus.

  • Pope Francis kicked Cardinal Burke out of the Curia. Is his strategy to get rid of the good cardinals so that he may criticize the rest?

  • The Catholic Church has had good Popes, bad Popes and Saintly Popes. No matter what kind of Pope she has, she outlasts every civilization and government and kingdom for the past two thousand + years. The Catholic Church can not die. Paganism, liberalism, Modernism, Communism, Socialism and all the heresies will die but the Catholic Church Triumps! She always Triumps!

  • Funny you pick satan’s fork for a symbol of your hate speech. Funny but sad at the same time and all too calculated. You are someone that needs to embrace Jesus as your savior and your days will become brighter and finally have meaning. You will sleep better at night too! Yours in JMJ,

  • God created marriage for man & woman, the church is only maintaining what God has blessed. He does not change to cater for every arrogant wish that people like you want , such an unnatural sexual relations, It really irritates me how all these minorities are trying to turn the world upside down. You say it doesn’t harm anyone, you had better think again, because in the long term it will ruin the world, and tear up what God himself invented. The devil wants the world to do this because he wants to make a mockery of Gods creation. As for pedophiles do you think the church is perfect ?there are good and bad people in every institution throughout the world.This is always going to be the case, because this is why we are here, to see who is fit for the kingdom and who is not.

  • If homosexuality is so good in your view why do you have a problem with pedophilia? Is it like the problem with abortion – a child only becomes a child after birth? One seems to make a nonsensical time distinction between good and evil. It shows a clouded and deceived mind because these ways of thinking defy logic.

  • Don’t worry about the Pope. Most of what he says is not exactly what is printed by the media. But when it comes to the joining of two gays by the courts it is just a civil union for the purpose of legalizing their sex life and not a real marriage. The Catholic Church still teaches that sex outside of marriage is still a sin. This is true for everyone but many people don’t like this doctrine so they create their own. The courts have no business calling what they do a marriage. What about separation of Church and State?

  • That’s the problem. He is Catholic, for Catholics and yet Catholics don’t like what he is doing to our Church. If liberal Catholics like him and non-Catholics like him, what’s wrong with this picture? Who cares if he is popular outside his Church, what matters is that he is the head of the Catholic Church and I cringe a little every time he opens his mouth.

  • Yes, A religion that is dying out… for the last 2000 years. Very astute observation! Please tell me Wendy-O what oh what shall I believe in next? I’ve been hoping for someone wiser to follow than Christ.

  • “because in the long term it will ruin the world, and tear up what God himself invented.”

    In the long run, my friend, we are all dead.

    meanwhile, it is wonderful to hear that you think I am so powerful, and that your god, who is the creator of all, agrees with you.

  • And yet, doc, you do it all the time. And when confronted with it, you say its perfectly fine to judge.

    Which is it?

  • ” If liberal Catholics like him and non-Catholics like him, what’s wrong with this picture?”

    Nothing wrong with it at all. It just shows that people of compassion can recognize those who sow division and ids cord when they see them.

  • @gallibus “If homosexuality is so good in your view why do you have a problem with pedophilia?” you mean the difference between two consenting adults vs a confused minor? I’m not even going to try and explain trimesters and fetus development with you. “nonsensical time distinction between good and evil” ? that doesn’t mean anything at all, but just so you know Time is relative, just like morality. I think your dogmatic faith has you defying logic my friend…

  • Human beings are fragile and prone to make blunders. Conversion is an ongoing process. We need to keep on praying for good health of all.

  • Pope Francis has every right to reform the Curia to suit his needs. But his Xmas speech was a mean spirited insult to the Pope Emiritus and the prelates of the Curia who work for little pay, no gratitude and who have made an outstanding contribution to the chutch. This Pope has created division, confusion and doctrinal uncertainty and to slander the Curia is the last straw

  • The address by Pope Francis to the Curia was an insult to the Pope Emiritus and the Roma prelates who have served the church so well. This Pope has created confusion, division, doctrinal uncertainty and this blanket slander of the Curia is the last straw. This Pope seems incapable of saying anything positive about the clergy.

  • Re: “Funny you pick satan’s fork for a symbol of your hate speech.”

    Uh … you’re wrong. That “fork” is a Greek letter psi. You might have realized this had you noted my pseudonym, which is “PsiCop.” It’s taken from the TV show Babylon 5 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105946/?ref_=nv_sr_1). Within it, there’s an organization of telepaths known as “PsiCorps” whose internal police are “PsiCops.” The symbol of PsiCorps is a majuscule Greek letter psi. I used a minuscule psi in my own icon.

    Re: “You are someone that needs to embrace Jesus as your savior and your days will become brighter and finally have meaning.”

    Sorry, but no. You have no power over me. I do not have to do your bidding just because you order me to do it.

  • Re: “God created marriage for man & woman, the church is only maintaining what God has blessed. He does not change to cater for every arrogant wish that people like you want , such an unnatural sexual relations, It really irritates me how all these minorities are trying to turn the world upside down.”

    None of this is even remotely relevant to the fact that, if a couple of gays somewhere get married, it DOES NOT harm you in any way. You can SAY it will “turn the world upside down,” but that’s just your own subjective claim and has no objective reality to support it. It’s just your way of imposing your own admitted “irritation” on other people, compelling others to behave in ways they choose not to, solely so you won’t become “irritated.”

    I am, by the same token, “irritated” by people such as yourself who construe your metaphysics as granting you the power to control other people’s lives, even when those others don’t have the same metaphysics as you.

    So there we stand. You’re “irritated” by gays marrying, and I’m “irritated” by you assuming your metaphysics must be imposed on them. Where exactly does that leave us? Nowhere.

  • @Doc Anthony, Now there is some self righteous reply from a conservative who has forgotten that a Catholic should think twice to talk like this about the Pope. It is easy to support the Pope as long he says what you expect him to. But if he doesn’t, those more papal than the pope might show their colors…

    In nothing, what Pope Francis says about gays and marriage does he stray from what the RC catechism teaches. It’s just those arch conservatives looking for things behind what he does, which he in fact doesn’t.

  • Who are you to say who are good cardinals. Wouldn’t you see that the way this Cardinal Burke dresses up is let us say “very gay” ? Excuse me. But it’s time to really prepare for 21st century..

  • But do you realize that this God that was created 2000 years ago doesn’t exist anymore today?
    Just like the Hebrew G*d, YHWH, that was created as the G*d of war had morphed into the G*d of agriculture by +/-1000 BC and ceased completely into oblivion, became the “only-observing G*d” after the second exile in Babilon (+/- 500BC)?
    The Christian God is obviously obsolete, even if the Curia is not…..

  • homosexuals have been given over to a reprobate mind. Rom 1:27,28
    you cannot reason with one.

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