POPE FRANCIS has accused the Vatican's bureaucracy of a host of
vices, ranging from "spiritual Alzheimer's" and "existential
schizophrenia" to gossiping, and even a lack of a sense of
The Pope, who has made reform of the Roman Curia a priority of
his pontificate, used his Christmas message to publicly, and in
person, reprimand the most senior bureaucrats of the Roman Catholic
The annual address of the Pope to Curial cardinals and superiors
usually involves a reflection on the business of the past and
forthcoming years. But, in his address in the Clementine Hall on
Monday, the Pope listed a "catalogue" of 15 broad spiritual
ailments, in the hope that his words might stimulate a "true
examination of conscience to prepare our hearts for holy
They included a sense of immortality, or immunity, among some
Curial officials, who believed themselves to be beyond reproach;
the "Martha-ism" of those who work excessively; petrification of
those who develop a "heart of stone", or a "stiff neck"; and the
functionalism of clerics who become like accountants or
The Pope also condemned the "sickness" of bad co-ordination,
when Curial departments fail to interact harmoniously; and
"spiritual Alzheimer's", when bureaucrats lose sight of the
transforming love of God.
The latter, he said, is "a progressive decline of the spiritual
faculty, which, in a longer or shorter interval of time, causes
serious handicaps to the person, making him become incapable of
carrying out an autonomous activity, living in a state of absolute
dependence of his often imaginary views.
"We see it in those . . . that depend completely on their
'present', on their passions, whims, and fixations; those who build
walls and habits around themselves, becoming ever more slaves of
idols that they have sculpted with their own hands."
Clerics who sought honour and rank were also reprimanded by the
Pope for rivalry, vainglory, and worldliness, while those who
gossiped and grumbled were accused of being "sowers of discord,
He also criticised employees who made gods out of their bosses,
and those Curial chiefs who encouraged that to happen.
One "very serious sickness" identified by the Pope was
"existential schizophrenia", whereby bureaucrats lose touch with
the needs and realities of the people they are meant to serve,
while often living dissolute lives secretly.
The Pope denounced the sicknesses of indifference to others, of
accumulating wealth and power pointlessly, and of the "cancer" of
He also berated the "sickness of the mournful face", saying that
being grumpy ran counter to the Christian value of joy. He said
that he regularly recites to himself a prayer of St Thomas More, to
prevent him from being similarly afflicted.
The Pope, who was 78 on 17 December, told his audience that such
sicknesses "weaken our service to the Lord", and that they were
temptations to the whole Church, not the Curia exclusively.
But, he said, he wanted to highlight them because he wanted the
Curia, like the Church, to be purified and sanctified: "It is good
to think of the Roman Curia as a small model of the Church: that
is, a body that seeks, seriously and on a daily basis, to be more
alive, healthier, more harmonious, and more united in itself and