Each year it is customary for the Roman Pontiff to meet and greet members of the Roman Curia just before Christmas. The Pope gives an address. Often that address is a kind of “State of the Union”, describing things that occurred and prospect for the future. In 2005 Benedict XVI famously used the occasion to deliver one of the most important addresses of many modern pontificates. He spoke of the proper interpretive principles to apply to the Second Vatican Council.
Today Pope Francis also addressed the Curia. I just finished watching the video. It seemed to me, frankly, to be more like a Lenten retreat delivered to Jesuit novices than a Christmas greeting to seasoned churchman, his closest collaborators in his Petrine Ministry.
Francis went through a long list of sins during his prolonged examination of their consciences for them.
The list of the Curia’s spiritual sins? Here they are, as compressed by AP:
Pope Francis listed 15 “ailments” of the Vatican Curia during his annual Christmas greetings to the cardinals, bishops, and priests who run the central administration of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church. Here’s the list.
1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable. “A Curia that doesn’t criticize itself, that doesn’t update itself, that doesn’t seek to improve itself is a sick body.”
2) Working too hard. “Rest for those who have done their work is necessary, good and should be taken seriously.”
3) Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened. “It’s dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful.”
4) Planning too much. “Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan.”
5) Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise. “When the foot tells the hand, ‘I don’t need you’ or the hand tells the head, ‘I’m in charge.’”
6) Having ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s.’ “We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord … in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands.”
7) Being rivals or boastful. “When one’s appearance, the color of one’s vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life.”
8) Suffering from ‘existential schizophrenia.’ “It’s the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It’s a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people.”
9) Committing the ‘terrorism of gossip.’ “It’s the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people’s backs.”
10) Glorifying one’s bosses. “It’s the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honor people who aren’t God.”
11) Being indifferent to others. “When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him.”
12) Having a ‘funereal face.’ “In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes.”
13) Wanting more. “When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he’ll feel more secure.”
14) Forming ‘closed circles’ that seek to be stronger than the whole. “This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad — scandals — especially to our younger brothers.”
15) Seeking worldly profit and showing off. “It’s the sickness of those who insatiably try to multiply their powers and to do so are capable of calumny, defamation and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally to show themselves as being more capable than others.”
Sort of, “Merry Christmas, you vain, hypocritical, funeral faces!”
Mind you, these are just the bullet points. Every point was explained, with citations, in the address of over 3100 words, which took about 32 minutes. There are 20 footnotes. HERE
The Holy Father then went around the room to greet all the Cardinals present.
Veteran Vatican watcher John Allen reported:
“I have to say, I didn’t feel great walking out of that room today,” one senior Vatican official said, who had been in the Vatican’s Sala Clementina for the speech and who spoke on the condition he not be identified.
“I understand that the pope wants us to live up to our ideals, but you wonder sometimes if he has anything positive to say about us at all,” the official said, who’s been in Vatican service for more than two decades.
For the record, this was an official who describes himself as an “enthusiast” over the direction being set by Pope Francis.
The body language on Monday among the cardinals and archbishops who make up the Vatican’s power structure suggest that reaction wasn’t isolated. There were few smiles as the pope spoke and only mild applause; since Francis delivered the address in Italian, it wasn’t because his audience didn’t understand.
Having watched the video, I too thought that the reception of the speech and, afterward, of the Pope himself as he went around the room, was muted and even tense.
One can only guess what fruits this examination of conscience will produce. Time will tell.
On the other hand, Pope Francis also met with the workers and collaborators of the Vatican City State and addressed them. HERE The meeting was held in the Paul VI audience hall. It had a decidedly different feeling, although he told them that he had just addressed the heads of the curial offices. He told all the workers to look at that text, to examine their consciences and to GO TO CONFESSION.
Francis used again the image of the Curia as a body that needs care, indeed, which is sick and needs remedies. He then gave them, too, a list of 10 things that he wanted them all to “take care of… curare”. Some of them were basic, and common sense items that lay people need to attend to. It was the sort of thing that one might hope to hear in a parish pulpit.
Then, at the end, he said (to the workers, not the curial heads):
Non voglio finire queste parole di augurio senza chiedervi perdono per le mancanze, mie e dei collaboratori, e anche per alcuni scandali, che fanno tanto male. Perdonatemi.
I don’t want to conclude these words of greeting without asking pardon of you for shortcomings, mine and those of my collaborators, and also for some scandals, which do great harm. Forgive me.
The moderation queue is ON.
I’ll probably save up a lot of comments for release at the same time, so that each of you are posting individual thoughts, rather than feeding on each other.