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Pope Francis berates Curia for 15 types of sin

23 December 2014

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 humour.

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 Church.

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 Christmas".

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 businessmen.

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, like Satan".

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 "closed circles".

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 with Christ."

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