For the pontiff used his annual Christmas message to issue a stinging critique of the Vatican bureaucracy, complete with a blistering catalogue of the 15 sins of the Curia.
The list of sins, or “ailments” as Francis called them, incorporated such terms as “existential schizophrenia” and “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and described how some of his juniors lusted for power at all costs and led hypocritical double-lives.
“The Curia is called on to always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fulfill its mission. But even it, as any human body, can suffer from ailments, dysfunctions, illnesses,” Pope Francis lamented.
The “15 Ailments of The Curia” outlined by the pope were delivered complete with footnotes and Biblical references. They included:
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: “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 colour 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 honour 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.”
The pope’s words came at a tense time for the Curia, the central administration of the Holy See, which governs the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church.
Francis and his nine key cardinal advisers are drawing up plans to reform the entire bureaucratic structure, merging offices to make them more efficient and responsive.
The Vatican’s finances are also in the midst of an overhaul, with Francis’ finance czar, Cardinal George Pell, imposing new accounting and budget measures on traditionally independent congregations not used to having their books inspected.
Meanwhile, Francis concluded his address by asking the prelates to pray that the “wounds of the sins that each one of us carries are healed” and that “the Church and Curia itself are made healthy.”
The cardinals did not appear to be amused. The pope’s speech was greeted with tepid applause and few smiles.