Francis, the G8, and reform of the Roman Curia – some musings

Over here I posted about the new G8 that Pope Francis will call together in October.  They are supposedly to help with alterations to the constitution called Pastor bonus, that governs the Roman Curia.

We all agree that reform of the Curia is necessary.  We can all imagine that Francis was elected because the Cardinals thought he could and would do the job.

Let’s think about this.

First, the G8 (the group of 8 Cardinals) won’t meet until October.  That means that not much will be done for about a year or so into this Pope’s pontificate.  He has been Pope for about a month.  The G8 meets for the first time over half a year from now.  They won’t be leaping into action on the day after there meeting. They will have to ponder and consult and listen some more.  They will have to draft proposals, which will need study and reflection and more consultation.

A lot can happen in a year of a pontificate.  Consider, for example, what happened in Benedict XVI’s first year after the famous Regensburg Address.  Benedict was set to launch a reform of the Curia.  He had even started in motion the combination of offices into a new location, hoisted the head of the dicastery for inter-religious dialogue, etc.  After Regensburg, that crawled to a halt.  A lot can happen in a year of a pontificate.  Even six months.

Second, when people start talking about structural reformation, they usually think about term limits.  Term limits sweep out the undesirable chaff.  That’s what we want in curial reform, right?  Out with the chaff?  The problem with term limits is that the wheat is also term limited.  In the Roman Curia clerics are generally given 5 year appointments.  They are appointed ad quinquennium, with possibility of renewal…or not.  Fine.  The problem with giving pretty much everyone the heave-ho after 5 years is that you lose both institutional memory and you lose competence.  If takes about 5 years to learn some of these complicated positions well.  Moreover,  it takes a while to get language skill up to speed.  If anyone is under the illusion that just because a man studied in Rome he speaks Italian well (much less writes it well), well… get over that.  They live and study and work in their own little national ghettos where they don’t have to speak or write in Italian.  In most of the universities, profs accept exams and papers in the major languages, since Latin is all but lost.  Furthermore, and this is not a secret, bishops are not always eager to let their brightest and best go: they are needed in the diocese.  There is, therefore, a fairly small pool of men who can fill the jobs competently and they need time to get up to speed.  In addition, if they are swept out every few years, it may be hard to motivate them.

Some might accuse me of defending “careerism”, which they will identify as a root of problems in the Curia. Term limits, however, might not produce the desired results: a lean but still competent, well-motivated Curia.

“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are itching to say, “What you are saying is an argument in favor of declericalizing the Curia.  We need more lay men!  And women!  They would never be as incompetent and corrupt as those bad male clerics.  And there are more of them, too!  It’s a larger pool.  There’s your solution!”

Curial reform doesn’t eliminate the effects of original sin.

If you are looking for the real corruption, the deep and serious curial corruption, forget about the clerics.  For example, in the scandal about the vast overspending on things like flowers for papal events or the building of the Christmas presepio in St. Peter’s Square, the kickbacks and bribes and the differences in actual costs versus what was paid were not going into the pockets of clerics.  Lay people are not the silver bullets for the curial werewolf.  And the clerics who could name names were shown the door.

And, frankly, some matter have to be handled by clerics.

I don’t know what the G8 are going to recommend (if they recommend anything at all).  Having been on the inside for a while, I can say with confidence that the reform of the Roman Curia won’t be among the easiest of many pending herculean labors.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. The Drifter says:

    Father, you know better than I that what a bureacracy fears most is reform: not for ideological reasons, but because it upsets existing frames and balances. Yet, intelligent bureaucrats also understand the maxim: “If you cant lick ’em, join ’em”. The Curia, therefore, may decide to implement a reform from within, rather than wait for one from outside, should the Holy Father not prove ameable to be part of the existing game. After all, the worst poacher is also the best bailiff. And results are what count in the end, rather than lofty talk.

  2. Lin says:

    Sustainable development; green economy; social, economic, and environmental needs; global warming; global governance; just solutions; social justice; human rights. These are just a few of the topics associated with the G8 names on the Internet. Whatever happened to our Church leaders focusing on the four last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell? The Church has always set the example on social justice. We don’t need more government, especially not socialism and/ or communism. We need Catechized! The Church is the last stand against the evil that permeates our world. Satan uses all those topics listed above to take our eyes off the ball. Loving our neighbor means not only making sure he is fed, but that he also knows he cannot covet his neighbors wife!

  3. Tito Edwards says:

    . . .on the positive side, a certain Massachusetts cardinal won’t be able to offer his terrible opinions and advice on how to reform the curia, ie, Fr. Bryan Hehir.

  4. Priam1184 says:

    So, Father, are you saying that the Regensburg address brought a halt to Benedict XVI’s papacy. [This is a rabbit hole.]
    If this is so, and this minor brush up over nothing (in fact the Holy Father should have made an actual address against Islam not just quote a remark about it from a 14th century philosophical dialogue in an address about another topic) has the power to bring a papacy to a halt then the Church will continue to be in retreat for the rest of our days. Pray for a Holy Father who will stand up, probably for the first time in centuries, to the demonic force in the world that Islam as and fight it with all the strength and Truth of the Gospel. I suffer from the weakness of cowardliness as much if not more than the next man, but I also know that is not what Christ called us to and I am tired of our leaders giving so much respect to a religion founded by the ravings of a madman into whose ears a demon whispered in a cave outside of Mecca so many centuries ago. If you don’t believe this characterization then read the Qu’ran itself, you will see. It bears no resemblance to the Gospel whatsoever. [Rabbit hole is now closed.]

  5. jhayes says:

    First, the G8 (the group of 8 Cardinals) won’t meet until October. That means that not much will be done for about a year or so into this Pope’s pontificate

    My guess is that the work is already underway and that as Francis is deciding what to do about a specific issue he is getting on the telephone or teleconference screen day by day with whoever out of that group he thinks could give him good advice on that specific subject. They are described as. “advisors,” not as a “study commission” to debate among themselves and then come back in 6 months or a year with a recommended plan.

    Right now, all of the heads of dicasteries and other senior people are serving “at the pleasure of the Pope.” No one has a fixed term of office. Sounds like a good system to make permanent.

    The issues on which the Pope may seek advice are not limited to revising Pastor Bonus. They could involve the collaboration of the Pope with cardinals and bishops, the role of National Conferences of Bishops, the child abuse issue, etc.

  6. lelnet says:

    Not to mention that _every single time_ a Church function is handed over to increased participation by “laity”, what ends up happening is that clerics who have dedicated their lives to God get pushed aside in favor of both clerics and nominal-laymen who have dedicated their lives to bureaucracy.

    Clerics are often suspected of being isolated from the circumstances of the world. But the average priest celebrating Mass and hearing confessions in some parish somewhere is a lot more connected to the circumstances of the world than the sort of “laymen” that end up getting jobs in the Church’s bureaucracy.

  7. acardnal says:

    I wonder if the G8 will consult with ArchBishop Vigano, Apostolic Nuncio to the USA? From reports, while he was in the Roman curia, he discovered corruption and brought it to light but was summarily transferred out – to Washington, DC.

  8. Lucas Whittaker says:

    jhayes said: “The issues on which the Pope may seek advice are not limited to revising Pastor Bonus. They could involve the collaboration of the Pope with cardinals and bishops, the role of National Conferences of Bishops, the child abuse issue, etc.”

    This is exactly the concern that I expressed in my comment in the other thread. Pastor Bonus, Pastor Bonus spells out the manner in which the Curia will “strengthen the unity of the faith and the communion of the people of God and promote the mission proper to the Church in the world”(from Pastor Bonus). But I doubt the degree to which every participant in the G8 holds to Tradition as we know it, which leaves me asking: “And if this is true then exactly what mission will these men come to see as proper to the Church?” We could see a restructuring of the Curia that changes the mission of the Church in a direction that will not be in keeping with our beautiful Tradition. We can only wait to see, I guess.

  9. catholicmidwest says:

    Actually, what you say about “the sort of laymen that end up getting jobs in the Church’s bureaucracy is generally true, but I don’t know that that has anything to do with clergy who work in the Church’s bureaucracy. I tend to think that the threshold for lay hiring is pretty low in the Church. I’m not really sure that has anything to do with pay either. I think other factors are at work.

  10. cmcbocds says:

    First, the G8 (the group of 8 Cardinals) won’t meet until October.

    But Father, but Father….you could a had a V-8!

    (Thank you for adding some more commentary on the latest development. And please forgive the attempt to inject a wee bit of humor.)

  11. Andrew says:

    October 1: first meeting: (some more musings:)

    Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello: Buongiorno a tutti.
    Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa: Yo pensaba que ibamos hablar en espanol.
    Cardinal Oswald Gracias: I am very happy to be here.
    Cardinal Reinhard Marx: Ich bin verloren. Was ist passiert?
    Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya: I am also very happy to be here.
    Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley: Yo hablo espanol tambien.
    Cardinal George Pell: Olim didici linguam latinam in collegio.
    Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga: Ich spreche ein wenig Deutsch
    Bishop Marcello Semeraro: abbiamo ordinato la pizza per tutti.

    “Hi namque ecclesiastici viri, ubicumque sunt gentium, Romanorum sermone adhibito, quae sunt Sanctae Sedis promptius comperire possunt, atque cum ipsa et inter se expeditius habere commercium.” (Joannes Pp. XXIII, Veterum Sapientia)

  12. PA mom says:

    If no one uses Latin and so everything needs to be in Italian, that creates quite the lock on positions for the Italians….

  13. idelsan says:

    As Saint Josemaria used to say “these world crises are crises of saints”. The crisis of the curia it’s a crisis of saints.

  14. acardnal says:

    idelsan, I would add bishops’ conferences to your list.

  15. Giuseppe says:

    I heard this question from a man at church yesterday, and I did not know the answer: does Pope Francis always concelebrate mass?

  16. Stu says:

    I have to say, that as a retired military officer, this sort of approach would only leave me with some skepticism.

    It’s like when an Admiral comes into “change things for the better” and his first course of action is to call together a group of other Admirals.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I always sort of enjoyed the approach as depicted in “Patton” when he shows up to take command of the forces in Africa. Sometimes the man in charge needs to “shoot” some people and do it publicly.

    Papa remains in my prayers and do wish for his success.

  17. anna 6 says:

    I am glad they are not meeting until October. All of this panicked talk about the “first 100 days” was making me very uncomfortable.

    “Lay people are not the silver bullets for the curial werewolf.”

    True. And though not a member of the curia, the butler wasn’t exactly a cleric.

    As for Archbishop Vigano, I believe that story is far more complicated than it seems on the surface.

  18. PhilipNeri says:

    I wonder if the Holy Father is thinking back to Pope Paul III’s establishment of a similar commission in 1536 to root out curial abuses. The nine prelates appointed by PIII composed a document titled, Consilium de Emendanda Ecclesia. Interesting enough, that document is largely an indictment financial abuses in curia.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  19. One more observation is that once someone becomes a cardinal in the Curia, it becomes almost impossible to relocate him; there is no more possibility of kicking him upstairs (we can have only so many Popes). Such a man can rarely be returned to an archdiocese, even assuming that one conveniently becomes available– curial positions and archdiocesan administration don’t necessarily call for the same set of skills. That leaves early retirement or some sort of fig leaf appointment as the only options, and if the cardinal is young enough, the former is hard to explain. Even an archbishop in the Curia can be difficult to reassign for the same reasons.

    Perhaps one way to reform the Curia is simply to reduce the number of cardinals and titular archbishops who serve there. As an analogy, the vicar general (No. 2 in governance) of a diocese is not always an auxiliary bishop. He may, after his term as vicar general is over, be reassigned as pastor of a parish or even be allowed to serve as an associate pastor if that is advisable. It rarely raises eyebrows. If a new bishop is appointed, if his vicar general is not an auxiliary bishop, the bishop isn’t stuck with him. (Conversely, if the vicar general is an auxiliary bishop, canon law says that he should at least be appointed as an episcopal vicar.) Maybe we need to give Curial appointees, even if clerics, titles of governance rather than episcopal ordination, much less make them cardinals. Reassigning a monsignor is much easier than reassigning an archbishop or cardinal. That’s a large issue– while strictly speaking, Curial appointees serve at the pleasure of the Pope, the practical realities of Church politics make that more theory than fact. Refraining from ordaining clerics as bishops or elevating them to cardinals could emphasize that their power is vicarious, dependent upon the Pope, rather than inherent in themselves.

  20. Giuseppe says:

    Andrew Saucci is right on the money. I would much prefer the titles of bishop and archbishop reserved as much as possible for pastoral use. Most curial offices could well be staffed by someone with a title of Monsignor. I would much rather have a cardinal be located in his archdiocese and not in an office in Rome.

  21. Papabile says:

    It’s not the same thing, but I can speak of what term limits would do to the US Congress. After being a staffer for 15 years, I can say that term limits would only empower staff in a way which they have never been empowered. You could simply hold the member’s hand fo the first two years while you led him to water. Tell him to go outside and play for the second two years, and then right when he actually starts to ask questions, he’s gone at the end of 6.

    Having worked at the NCCB in the 90’s (now USCCB) – again not the curia – I already know how powerful staff are there. Most of the Bishops end up signing whatever is put in front of them. That’s why the liberals were so afraid when John Carr retired.

    Will the Holy Father simply empower curial staff through term limits? Probably not. I bet he focuses on internationalizing it though, and otentially devolving things to the National Conferences.

  22. RafkasRoad says:

    As one other commenter has noted either here or in Fr.’s previous post on this topic, there are no representatives of the Eastern Catholic Churches e.g. would it not perhaps have been wise to include, for instance, Card. Bechara Rai (marounite) or another Eastern Catholic Cardinal so the genuine universality of the Catholic Church and her needs are best reflected, after all, the Catholic church is much more than the ‘roman’ Church.


    Aussie Marounite.
    St. Charbel, pray for Pope Francis and the members of the G8, and pray for Holy Mother Church that her orthodoxy is not sabotaged by the enemy and his minions.

  23. Fr. Z, what is your opinion on the ‘implications’ and rumours we’ve been hearing that this advisory committee is the formation of some kind of ‘papal privy council’ that is in reality more bureaucracy on top of the current bureaucracy it is meant to reform?
    I guess we haven’t seen a real curial reform in living memory, so it is hard to consider the most effective way to do it.

  24. Phil_NL says:

    No institutional reform can protect against original sin, indeed. And frankly, institutional reform is not, strictly speaking, what we need; the curia requires effective reform. Changing the mechanics is no guarantee of any improvement – it may help, it may make things even worse.

    In fact, if we look at what institutional mechanism we have available, none of them will help much. For term limits, see Fr. Z.’s arguments above. The alternatives are balance of power and increased control, and neither sit well with the papal prerogatives: the Church cannot be governed by spreading power into elements that keep eachother in check (there’s no clerical equivalent of the trias politica, nor would it be desirable), and control mechanisms would have to report to the Pope anyway, which only relocate the problem: instead of curial officials who apparently cannot be trusted to do their job well, now you’ll get a controlling entity which will soon have the same problem.

    So it boils down to changing the culture of the curia, and since culture is primarily made by people, we’ll have to look at staffing decisions. Lay people are not guaranteed to do any better, and markedly worse in some situations, so we need to find a way to get better priests for the jobs.
    Looking from quite far afield, it seems that the curia is slow to act, internally focussed, wasteful (if not corrupt at times) in financial matters, and isolated from the issues affecting the wider church.

    While it is often said that a priest needs to be a five-legged sheep (for all the demands made of him), a curial official would therefore be a six-legged sheep. Those will be rare, and therefore what Francis needs foremost is a good recruiter, and the will to make room for good people. Andrew Saucci nailed it: there must be a way to get rid of non-functioning or even unsuccesfull curial prelates. They may need to be priests, but they may not need red hats or be archbishops. And the recruiter would need to cast his net further afield. For that, it may be better if the curia stops working in Italian. That may be a lot to ask for, but we need people from all over the world, and sometimes especially non-italians. [I’d say we need some Northern Europeans on the financial side, perhaps a nice humorless group of a Swiss, German, Dutch and a Scandinavian. Also, working in Italian means curial officials have had to spend quite some time in Rome to learn the language well (presumably during an earlier stint there) and that also fosters isolation fromt he church at large]. And then one simply needs to roll the dice, pray that one has found the right guy for the job this time, and learn from experiences. The problem isn’t so much structural, as a people problem – but it will take time to get the right people, and mistakes will be made en route.

  25. Imrahil says:

    As all the red hat means is assisting governance of the City and the World, yes, the most important heads of dicasteries – frankly, almost every head of dicastery – needs to be a cardinal; more so in fact than even a patriarch.

    As any nuncio must be a bishop for both the law and, imho, rather obvious pastoral reasons, the few other bishops do not really weigh so much comparatively.

    How to get rid of Cardinals? There are some posts, 6 or so… But it won’t do damage if the Pope simply says: You shall work as member of my Senate, head pastor of St. Titolo in Chiesaromana, and *member* of the Sacred X Congregation.

  26. solideopileolus says:

    Cardinal Gracias is my metropolitan and is well-spoken and holds a doctorate in Canon Law. The Archdiocese of Bombay however is awash with accusations of financial misdemeanor/mismanagement even amounting to fraud. The clergy here are wholly into inculturation and New Age practices such as vipassana meditation, yoga, naturopathy and crystal healing. Indifferentism, modernism and syncretism rule the roost here. I’ve heard cringe-worthy sermons at the largest parish in the Archdiocese openly advocating women’s ordination to a congregation numbering in the thousands, from the parish priest none-the-less. The EF is unknown to nearly everyone; even the parish offices I’ve called to enquire whether the EF was being offered haven’t seemed to have heard of it. Cardinal Gracias allows all of this to continue unchallenged. His reason for not implementing SP? Not enough interest shown by the laity. So far I haven’t heard a single sound-bite from him in defense of true orthodoxy and orthopraxis. I’m not optimistic in the least.


  27. @PA mom
    I live in Rome, and in general Italians have much better Latin than the rest of us – at least in general. The maturità exam (think of SAT or ACT but over several days) has a 2-hour Latin exam as part of it and Italian is so close to Latin that once you learn the declensions, 30 basic words, and standard phonetic changes you can read 80% of Latin. (Maybe this is a slight exaduration, Fr. Z can correct me.)

  28. mark says:

    Since the group of Cardinals has been convened to review and amend the document ‘Pastor bonus’, a good starting point of any discussion (I mean here, as well as within the group itself) would be to read and understand that document. I had a quick look last night and, as with every such document, it did not seem very hard to think of ways in which it might be improved. Particularly so in the light of the many deficiencies which ‘Vatileaks’ highlighted about the Curia’s organisation. I cannot see that there is anything to prevent the faithful (clerical or lay) from making suggestions to the Cardinals? If they are interested, they will read the suggestions. If they think they know all the answers already, they won’t. Either way no harm done, and perhaps some good? I think that’s what I will do.

  29. persyn says:

    How could it be possible for laity to do this less expensively? Priest: Requires a very small salary, 250 square feet of living space, even in a communal setting, and 3 or 4 cassocks. Layman: Requires enough salary to feed a family and provide them with between 750 and 1500 square feet of living space that is private, not communal (at a minimum, even in Europe) and clothe them and transport them and educate the children. Don’t forget the tax on all this is way more than the tax on what the Priest needs.
    An early poster on this thread put their finger right on what should be the real issue in the “reform” – lets get the church out of such secular subjects as “global warming” and “social justice” and into Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell, where the Church is competent. Letting people go to Hell without fighting for that soul is not justice, social or otherwise.

  30. CharlesG says:

    Everybody keeps saying the Curia needs reform, but I don’t know why particularly it should be reformed structure wise. The Vatileaks showed that they don’t really run a tight ship, and there is some opaque factionalism going on the implications of which are beyond me. I suppose the bank IOR needs to be further brought up to international standards. If there is homosexual activity going on, that is more a matter of enforcing clerical discipline than anything else, isn’t it? Generally, unless people actually believe the faith and see their tasks as protecting and evangelizing it, any structure is not going to work. But looking at the past half a century or so, it seems to me that the Pope and his curia have played an important role in preserving the deposit of faith, while the local bishops and the national bishops’ conferences have often been rather willing to bend to the Zeitgeist and compromise the teachings of the faith, although things have gotten better in the most recent years. To the extent that people like Cardinal Kasper talk about reform as meaning decentralization and greater collegiality, I worry that they are instrumentalizing reform to push a liberal agenda at the expense of the deposit of faith. If bishops and bishops conferences could be trusted to promote the faith whole and entire, it would be less worrisome, but I’m not sure that is the case, and particularly with the very strong societal currents against church teaching in the moral and sexual sphere, I think the supreme authority of the See of Peter will be necessary to uphold the deposit of faith as it has been doing. I worry where this whole “reform” thing is going to lead. Just look at the example of the Anglican churches and the other mainstream Protestant churches who have been ditching core Christian principles right and left in recent years — that is a direction the Catholic Church must avoid at all costs. I can’t get on this curial reform bandwagon unless and until I see where it is going.

  31. Simon_GNR says:

    Somewhat off-topic but persyn’s comment above:

    “Priest: Requires a very small salary, 250 square feet of living space, even in a communal setting, and 3 or 4 cassocks. Layman: Requires enough salary to feed a family and provide them with between 750 and 1500 square feet of living space that is private, not communal (at a minimum, even in Europe) and clothe them and transport them and educate the children. Don’t forget the tax on all this is way more than the tax on what the Priest needs.”

    is very relevant in the debate about priestly celibacy. In most cases, the Church could not remotely afford to pay its priests what would be a reasonable salary for a married man with children. Any priests who were married and had children could not look to their diocese to provide them with the income they would need to keep their wives and families in a reasonble standard of living: they would need to have independent means, or a “normal” job paying a living wage, and so could not be ordinary diocesan clergy.

    As for the Roman Curia: it may be necessary to shoot one or two of them, “pour encourager les autres”!!

  32. AnnAsher says:

    On the structure of the Curia and why it needs structural reform I am ignorant. I thought (hoped) this reform would mean personal reforming of certain Cardinals to the complete fidelity. I thought (hoped) this reform would mean replacing certain Curial members with Cardinals who are faithful. I hoped it would mean men like Cardinal Mahoney being de-cardinalized and sent to be auxiliary bishop of the Kerguelen Islands.

  33. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Simon_GNR,

    interesting, and might explain why so much opposition against the celibate comes from Germany, where a parish priest is guaranteed the income equivalent to a soldier of the rank of major, or a higher-education teacher, made possible by an obligatory – approximately – tithe.

    Though the traditional expectation would have been to employ a housemaid from the money, which cuts down much of it. (I think this is not so generally common any more among the younger priests.)

    (I’m not critizing anything. I am, for a change, merely analyzing.)

  34. jhayes says:

    At the local Anglican-use parish, which goes back long before the ordinariate, the diocese bought a house for the pastor in a residential neighborhood some distance from the church. I don’t know how his income compares to that of celibate priests.

    I assume that the priests of the ordinariate must receive similar housing.and income.

    I live across the street from a very large building which was the convent for the sisters who taught at the adjoining school I attended for eight years. Now, it is empty and the school teachers are laypersons.

    We have to adjust to changing times.

  35. heway says:

    I don’t know what you think a non-celibate priest and family would need to live, but I wonder if Dioceses ever look at the salary of a married family man teaching in a catholic school…his wife has to work outside the home.

  36. jhayes says:

    From Pope Francis’ sermon today at St. Paul Outside the Walls

    “Mi viene in mente adesso un consiglio che San Francesco di Assisi dava ai suoi fratelli: ‘Predicate il Vangelo e, se fosse necessario, anche con le parole’. Predicare con la vita, la testimonianza. L’incoerenza dei fedeli e dei Pastori tra quello che dicono e quello che fanno, tra la parola e il modo di vivere mina la credibilità della Chiesa”.

    Testo proveniente dalla pagina
    del sito Radio Vaticana

    “This brings to my mind the advice St Francis of Assisi gave to his brothers ‘Preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.’ Give witness with your life. Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility.”

  37. acardnal says:

    As has been noted elsewhere on this blog, there is no documentary evidence that St. Francis of Assisi ever said “Preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.”

  38. jhayes says:

    As has been noted elsewhere on this blog, there is no documentary evidence that St. Francis of Assisi ever said “Preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.”

    I don’t think Francis meant it as an infallible sttement.

  39. anna 6 says:

    Charles G…excellent points!! Structural changes can only do so much. True reform, as Mother Teresa used to say, and was often repeated by B16, begins with “me”. What the curia needs more than anything, is saints.

  40. acardnal says:

    jhayes wrote, “I don’t think Francis meant it as an infallible sttement.”

    I hope not but you never know with a Jesuit.

  41. Daniel says:

    One of the things that Pastor Bonus created (Article 24-25) is a Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Questions of the Apostolic See. It “consists of fifteen cardinals who head particular Churches from various parts of the world and are appointed by the Supreme Pontiff for a five-year term of office.”

    From what I could find, Pope Benedict had appointed 8 cardinals to this Council back in 2007, including: Napier, Cipriani Thorne, Olubunmi Okogie, Scheid, Pell, Ouellet, Rosales and Cheong Jin-Suk. There were “statements” made on the Holy See’s budget in both February of 2011 and 2012, so if they were meeting annually then they should have been meeting just about the time Pope Benedict announced his resignation.

    So what is the difference between this “Council of Cardinals” and the new group of Cardinals? I would have though dealing with “organizational” questions of the Holy See would have already given the Council the task of looking at Pastor Bonus.

    From what I can see, I’d think that there is less need to change Pastor Bonus that to fully implement it. The one part that may cause the most difficulty is the requirements of the Ad Limina visits. With over 5,000 bishops in the world, for them all to get a chance to have an audience with both the Pope and the Curia every five years means there is little time for much else to get done in the Vatican.

  42. catholicmidwest says:

    Correct, acardinal, St. Francis of Assisi never made that statement. I was one of the ones who had pointed it out earlier on this blog. The reason I took the pains to point it out is that the way it’s ordinarily used, to justify minimalism, is completely out of the character of St. Francis of Assisi. It’s part of the cloud of romantic nonsense that surrounds him. St. Francis walked the streets in rags for the freedom to preach without the constraints of his family, and was willing to administer care to people with what was then an incurable disease, for the sake of Jesus Christ. He practiced what he preached. He was not AT ALL a minimalist about religion. But, in essence, St. Francis is the saint most likely to be taken out of context and most used to promote precisely the things that would have been most abhorrent to him. In doing so, many people make a mannequin of him.

    That does not take away from the factual character of what the pope said, ” Give witness with your life. Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility.” There is overwhelming evidence that this is going on. By this statement the pope is encouraging people to step back from the kind of life that says one thing and does another, which is another kind of minimalization or compartmentalization of religion that derives the faith of its witness. He’s telling them that they need to practice what they preach as St. Francis REALLY DID.

    My old computer doesn’t want to pick up the text of the homily from the Vatican News Agency, but it’s almost a sure thing that he also exhorted the listeners to personally put their faith in the person of Jesus Christ the Lord, and in fact it may have been the main point of the homily because it’s the other half of this theological picture. However, many people will have skipped right over that, going on to the other piece, looking for the juicy and easy-to-exploit minimalistic detail. This is not surprising, as people often do this. But if there’s anything I know about this pope, based on the pattern I’m seeing so far, he’s going to keep on pointing to the person of Jesus Christ until people so start to realize that they have to put themselves in discipleship to Christ Jesus, which is what Catholicism is supposed to consist of. We cannot claim to be Christians but maintain the mindsets of pagans who put themselves and their little agendas ahead of everyone else, and even ahead of God. It shows and we’re not fooling anybody.

    You can see a sample of his central message in his tweet after the audience: “Pope Francis’ tweet after the April 10 general audience: If we act like children of God, knowing that he loves us, our lives will be made new, filled with serenity and joy.

  43. catholicmidwest says:

    The homily has now been posted to the Vatican website, and in fact, Pope Francis exhorts witness to the Gospel in the very first paragraph. This is the central theme of the message in the homily, which consists of: a) deep conversion to Christ, and b) discipleship with the Christ to whom we have had a conversion. The message is incomplete if both parts are not present.

    Here it is, 2nd paragraph: “But let us take a further step: the proclamation made by Peter and the Apostles does not merely consist of words: fidelity to Christ affects their whole lives, which are changed, given a new direction, [conversion] and it is through their lives that they bear witness to the faith and to the proclamation of Christ. [discipleship]

  44. Traductora says:

    Interesting. I don’t know most of the names, but none of the ones I do recognize are particularly compelling. They’re sort of the same-old-same-old bishops’ conference types. They are probably decent, ethical types (for example, O’Malley) but they have no new ideas and just want the old system to work better (for example, O’Malley).

    Personally, I think Francis is just buying time. He has been presented as the person who is going to “reform the Curia,” starting now, and I think he feels he has to do something. He probably really does want to “reform the Curia” and the entire Vatican structure, which obviously is not serving the Church very well at the moment. But while he’s been presented as a hothead, I think he’s actually pretty deliberate, and appointing these people to form this committee will get everybody off his back for awhile, let him learn the things he needs to learn, and at the same time, not produce any conclusions so stunning and radical that they’re really going to upset anybody.

  45. catholicmidwest says:

    I read earlier that there is a pattern he has used in governance before, which people are able to describe well. He has even talked about it on occasion. Traductora, yes, he’s the exact opposite of a “hothead.” Formerly, he has sought wide consultation with people he trusts, he takes his time, thinking and praying about what to do. He even says he mulls all the possibilities over in his head not just his favorites, because his first impulse is often wrong. But then, he makes a decision as he believes God wants, and he makes this decision alone in prayer. And then it is set in stone. This is how he works. I expect that this is what’s going on. These men he has chosen are not “cabinet members” of a sort, nor have they been given any autonomous authority. They are from all over the world simply to serve as sources of information for his consideration so that he doesn’t miss anything when he looks at a decision.

  46. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    In reference to Curial attitudes to reform, where’s a good clip of Yes, Prime Minister when we need one?

    In reference to what Pope Francis is actually doing…… I’ve now read the dopiest report of this in our local newspaper, earlier this morning. “More collegiality” and “more democracy” aren’t characterized by consulting only Cardinals who don’t have legislative authority. It’s not “revolutionary” either — since, as Father has pointed out, the Vatican updates its technology every 75 years, whether or not it’s necessary.

  47. jhayes says:

    Daniel, ad limina visits now occur every six to nine years and with groups of bishops rather than individually with each bishop.

  48. Daniel says:


    Yes, the rate of ad limina visits according to Pastor Bonus is one of the things that I can’t see implementing. I’ve heard that there have been complaints about things such as dicasteries not communicating with each other, which seems covered by Article 22. It just seems when looking at Pastor Bonus, that if it were entirely being used there shouldn’t be some of the problems that seem to have been raised, other than the fact that trying to do ad limina visits per Pastor Bonus wouldn’t allow the time for much else.

  49. robtbrown says:

    I have never worked in the Curia, but at one time I was consultant to IT organizations.

    1 All organizations are subject to Original Sin, but some organizations function better than other ones.

    2. Two components are necessary for a well functioning organization: a) The reason for the organization’s existence must be well understood by everyone. b) Lines of communication must be kept open. If the first is not in place, then the second also usually is not.

    3. The simple truth is that for the last 40+ years the identity of the Church has not been well understood. Does it exist to sanctify persons? Or is it an organization intended to unite humanity? Is the Church looking for converts . . . or just friends?

    4. No doubt that the pope can clean up the Curia a bit, but Benedict XVI was right when he would speak about Catholic Identity.

    5. Speaking of which, yesterday I fulfilled a long held desire and visited Auriesville, NY, the Shrine of the Jesuit Martyrs, three of whom died there–Sts Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil, and John LaLande. None of whom would be considered a moderate. (It was also the home of St Kateri Takekwitha.)

    A few hours later I drove by the Culinary Institute of America, once a Jesuit Novitiate.

    6. Meanwhile, it seems that God is a contrarian. In 2005 a pope was elected from the nation that has done the most damage in the Church in the past 50 years. Then this year a pope was elected from the religious order (institute) that has done the most damage.

  50. catholicmidwest says:

    The Church has a very well-defined mission, however most Catholics can’t tell you what it is. It is:

    The Commissioning of the Disciples
    16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
    Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Matthew 28:16-20.

  51. robtbrown says:

    catholicmidwest says:
    The Church has a very well-defined mission, however most Catholics can’t tell you what it is.</B

    Of course. The problem is that so many bishops and priests have not been trained to act that way.

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  53. again,, regarding the ‘Preaching without Words’…
    Many!! sayings are attributed to St. Francis, but were never actually written by him.
    One of the more famous of these has to do with preaching without words.
    This one is based on what St. Francis said and taught.
    What St. Francis said about giving good example, and how this was more important that preaching with words comes from a variety of sources, one of which is:
    The Little Flowers of St. Francis: Chapter 50
    At the end of this chapter, in the English translation by T. Okey, which appeared in the Everyman Library edition of 1951, Philosophy and Theology, n. 485A, p. 295, St. Francis is quoted to have said:–
    ” But as for me, I desire this privilege from the Lord, that never may I have any privilege from man, except to do reverence to all, and to convert the world by obedience to * the Holy Rule rather by example than by word.”–
    *”The Holy Rule” is the Rule of St. Francis.

    ~The Franciscan Archive~

  54. catholicmidwest says:

    Correct, in the West the classical thing has occurred: In the process of carrying out the mission, we shifted our attention to the mechanics of the process and lost sight of the mission. We got lost in the forest for the trees, so to speak.

    Even more interesting, when a statement about the mission comes from the Church, and many have throughout the years, people read into it, because there are always parallel ways to read anything unless a lot of conversation goes on to clarify the statement definitively. This is something Catholics have not paid as much attention to as they should have. The English language is particularly notorious for this multivalency of meaning. A person can talk to someone with a completely different worldview and end up naively (and unknowingly!) agreeing with everything they say because they’re seeing the words, even the organization and references of the words, through parallel paradigms of meaning. Even sometimes through idiosyncratic paradigms of meaning, which don’t always immediately break down. Of course, it takes a lot of work, and a lot of talk, to break through this effect and much of the time it doesn’t happen, but much of the time it’s not crucial. What’s going on in the Church sometimes reaches the crucial point, however.

    In science we have some strange examples of this parallel reasoning, even historical ones such as the “theory of caloric” in physics. And there’s always the darksucker theory of light, for a modern comical take. I used to give this to my students just to watch their expressions as this multivalency thing dawned on them. Many people are quite completely unaware of the depth of this communication problem in the English language. It probably exists in other languages, and I don’t know the extent, but it’s very profoundly present in the English language. This is why we have so many puns and so much poetry and meta-humor available to us in English.

    I mean, and Fr Z will like this, this is exactly REASON #1 to use Latin in official Church documents. It’s nowhere near as plastic.

  55. BLB Oregon says:

    Could more of the Curia’s work be done by laypersons? Well, sure, but that does not increase the pool of candidates as much as people think it would. If you think a bishop does not want to lose a gifted and scholarly priest to Rome for an indefinite period, consider that not many spouses and extended families are wild about that prospect, either. A person might easily take out student loans to become a physician or a lawyer, because those professions can pay enough to pay the loan back, but how much does the Curia pay? It is not like a canon lawyer, who can have a paying law secular law practice on the side. How long is it hoped that a layperson with an expensive education to pay off will stay, once trained?

    I don’t know if this already happens, but it would be worthwhile if the bishops of the world were to compensate their brother bishops who “donate” gifted priests for lengthy stints of service to the Universal Church for some of the amount spent on educating those clerics sent to work in Rome. If they don’t do that, then the sting is double: both the man and the money spent to educate him is offered up by his home diocese for the sake of the Universal Church, and that is no small thing! As hard as it is to find suitable candidates for the priesthood, sometimes coming up with the money to get them through their studies is just as difficult!

  56. catholicmidwest says:

    Hermit sans Permit,

    Even the Little Flowers is not an accurate account, having been written later for hagiographic purposes. Among serious Franciscan scholars, it’s given a very low rating when authoritativeness is taken into account. There are books of Francis’ actual writings which are much more direct and purposeful. St. Francis was the very opposite of passive, which you will see if you study what he actually wrote and did.

    If you genuinely want to know anything about St. Francis, you have to step away from all the popular sources of information on him and look to the Franciscans who have made this study their life-work such as Marion Habig, Raoul Manselli and Andre Vauchez. Because St. Francis lived so long ago and became so iconic in Western culture, there are a number of “lenses” to see him through and a nearly unavoidable tendency to project our own wishes and hopes onto him. Most of these lenses are frankly bogus. To find out about St. Francis is a delight indeed but you have to strip your desires down and do some work to really see the man in any sort of a realistic and helpful way. The silly romantic stuff stands in the way and will prevent you.

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  58. Soporatus says:

    HSP no doubt rightly identifies the Holy Rule in the passage as that of St Francis. However, the Saint had great respect for and (as do all Western monks) to various degrees modeled his practice on the Holy Rule (RB) of St Benedict. E.g. the primacy in “preaching” of deed over word is emphasized in RB ch. 2: 11-13, and is several other places in RB.

    catholicmidwest risks seeming flippant dismissing use of I Fioretti as not “serious”. History writing always requires critical evaluation of sources.

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