Pope to Curia: An end to the role of 'inspector and inquisitor'

Pope to Curia: An end to the role of 'inspector and inquisitor'

Pope Francis’ meeting today with officials of the Roman Curia was important for what was said and what wasn’t said.

The annual Christmas encounter between the pope and his bureaucratic support system is often a time for “big” speeches that outline papal agendas, and what better occasion for Pope Francis to explain his big project of Curia reform?

That didn’t happen. Instead, in a short speech, the pope made three points that, while offering some praise for the performance of the Roman Curia, also seemed to challenge the reigning attitudes there.

First, the pope spoke of the need for professional skill and competence. “When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow slide toward the area of mediocrity,” he said. Tasks become routine and communication closed, while awareness of the bigger picture is lost.

Incompetence and lack of communication, of course, have been two of the biggest criticisms of the Roman Curia in recent years – criticisms that were aired in the cardinals’ meetings that took place ahead of last spring’s conclave.

Second, the pope emphasized that the Roman Curia is at the service of the church – the whole church and every local Catholic community, not just the pope. When this attitude of service is lacking, he said, “the Curia structure grows into a heavy bureaucratic customs office, an inspector and inquisitor that no longer allows the action of the Holy Spirit and the development of the people of God.”

Ouch. And this was a Christmas greeting.

The pope identified a third crucial element for Roman Curia officials, holiness of life, which he said was “the most important in the hierarchy of values.” And he repeated a remark he’s made elsewhere, that he’s convinced there are “saints” in the Curia, men and women who serve with faith, zeal and discretion in a spirit of pastoral service.

He added that holiness has an enemy: gossip, which he said unfortunately tends to be an “unwritten rule” of the Curia environment. He suggested that they all become “conscientious objectors” to gossip, which damages people as well as institutions.


23 comments (Add your own)

1. John Farley wrote:
Another approach to gossip is a missionary strategy: by changing the subject of gossip and learning to gossip the good news.

Sat, December 21, 2013 @ 8:32 AM

2. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh wrote:
These recommendations all seem good. However, they do not leave room for the freedom to speak truth to power, which is the role of the whistleblower. Therefore, Pope Francis offers no change from the past corrupt policies of the Vatican, in regard to clergy sexual abuse of innocent children and vulnerable adults around the world, in my view.

Sat, December 21, 2013 @ 10:42 AM

3. Nancy wrote:
Typical Francis. Scold, not inspire.

Sat, December 21, 2013 @ 11:27 AM

4. JEnny wrote:
nice article !!!

Sat, December 21, 2013 @ 1:35 PM

5. Peter wrote:
For the possible critics, read the entire address. The first half almost--and the first message (of four altogether)--consist of genuine expressions of gratitude.

Sat, December 21, 2013 @ 1:44 PM

6. john wrote:
Since the pope has already said the same a dozen times, why make these complaints the heart of what is after all a rather thin speech? It was hardly suited to the occasion. Hasn't Francis warned, again more than once, about Christians becoming sourpusses? Buon Natale, indeed.

Sat, December 21, 2013 @ 1:52 PM

7. James P. Vaughn, OFS wrote:
Each morning at 5:00 am, I enter our chapel and I ask our Lord who is residing in splendor centered in the Monstrance, before beginning my office; Lord Jesus, I have come before you to serve and not be served. Guide me.

Thank you Pope Francis for bringing the Church back home to this unworthy Franciscan and my Brothers and Sisters.

Sat, December 21, 2013 @ 4:45 PM

8. Hegesippus wrote:
Rosemary,
Yet again you criticise a lack of dealing with abuse in a speech. Is this to be the subject of everything a pope says? Haven't you read that he dealt with this last week? Do you realise that saying something positive now and again would strengthen your negative points when you make them?

Sun, December 22, 2013 @ 7:14 AM

9. Kelly wrote:
It appears that Francis sees the main issue with the Curia as their attitudes, not the structures themselves. The problem isn't the structures, but the culture in the Vatican. That is why they all have to begin hearing Confessions and why Cardinal Burke and his types are out of favor. Francis knows that he cannot just rearrange the org. chart; he also has to reform attitudes.

Sun, December 22, 2013 @ 8:46 AM

10. Chris wrote:
Reading the actual text, I didn't see a call for the curia to stop governing/inspecting, as your title implies. I saw, as I usually do in Francis' text, a challenge to change attitude without calling for a change of job description.

Sun, December 22, 2013 @ 10:05 AM

11. Chris wrote:
Kelly, anyone who would write off Burke because of his love for traditional liturgy, Francis included (and I hope that's not what's motivated the recent curial change), have never actually met the man. As bishop he'd meet someone once and remember everything about that person. When it comes to bringing the spirit of a humble servant to his job, not even the pope has him beat. But judgement based on externals is easy, cheap, and I guess we're all prone to it.

Sun, December 22, 2013 @ 10:08 AM

12. John wrote:
Dr. McHugh, Nothing in the Pope's Christmas message prevents "speaking truth to power." In fact, Pope Francis has openly encouraged honest feedback from those around him, including his advisory group of 8 cardinals. He has spoken on the issue of child abuse (and other priestly excesses)by words and action: removal from active ministry. The exhortation to avoid gossip is not an exhortation to "speak truth to power".

Sun, December 22, 2013 @ 11:04 AM

13. Ray McCracken wrote:
I do not think Francis was scolding; rather he was speaking the sacred "No" to a those responsible for unspeakable wrongs that continue to occur everyday in the Church.

Sun, December 22, 2013 @ 2:11 PM

14. Sky wrote:
I lived in Rome for 13 years as a seminarian and priest. I was often involved with the Curia. I learned one thing that has always stood out in my mind. Those who work in the Curia usually fall into one of two categories:
1. Those who are very good at what they do and who can be of great service; or,
2. Those who do not really fit anywhere else.

Number 2 refers to those who have achieved high office in the Church, but have reached their level of incompetence (ironically, this is called the Peter Principal.) As a result, the Church has to find somewhere to put them. Remember, bishops, monsignors, etc., are never demoted. When they have to be removed from a place, the change has to look like a new honor, or a promotion. In fact it is often a way to get someone out of the way. THIS is the culture of the Church. I lived it and I saw it. I knew excellent men and women at the Curia. I also knew some who were incompetent, condescending, and self-important. I suspect it had always been this way.

Mon, December 23, 2013 @ 6:07 AM

15. Kelly wrote:
My judgment of Burke is not just based on his clothing, but on his actions in the U.S. He was anything but pastoral when he was archbishop of St. Louis. He excommunicated an entire parish and regularly intimidated Catholics in St. Louis who disagreed with him, including abuse victims. And his approach to social issues is very divisive. His clothing is a perfect reflection of his outdated values and attitudes just like Francis' symbolic gestures are a reflection of his desire for a more open and compassionate Church. It is very clear that Francis doesn't think highly of Burke, which is why he got dropped from the Congregation of Bishops. Francis also dropped Burke from the Congregation of the Causes of Saints.

Mon, December 23, 2013 @ 6:33 AM

16. kelso wrote:
Kelly, are you insinuating that Cardinal Burke "and his type" do not hear enough confessions. I'd like to know by what authority you make this accusation. What is your problem with Cardinal Burke? Exactly. Be specific if you have honesty.

Mon, December 23, 2013 @ 9:37 AM

17. wrote:
"Typical Francis. Scold, not inspire." How very true! This Pope is forever condemning Catholics: Pelgian Catholics; Triumphalist Cathics; bishops in airports; Catholics without humility; his own Curia, etc. He never draws blood on the enemies of the Church, however. Who is he to judge?

Mon, December 23, 2013 @ 10:30 AM

18. Margarita wrote:
The fact that so much of what he says needs explanation and elaboration, is a concern for many, I suspect.

Mon, December 23, 2013 @ 5:03 PM

19. Laurence Veras wrote:
Don't really know much about the Curia. Did not completely understand the Pope's comments. However, in reading the 18 evaluations, it just seemed like there was some in-fighting going on among the commentators. With the overall Catholic-bashing in the media, shouldn't ALL of us, as Catholics, at least: A) Try and get on the same page; and B) If we differ, be civil about it? God will help us if we try hard to help each other. I'm 75, and, a lifelong R.C. ---Laurence Veras, Clearwater, Florida, U.S.A.

Mon, December 23, 2013 @ 7:58 PM

20. Andrew wrote:
Wrote, wrote: "He never draws blood on the enemies of the Church, however..."

Perhaps the pope sees far greater harm has been done to the Church by its "friends" and protectors on the inside, than by its supposed "enemies" on the outside. Nothing erodes moral authority quicker than hypocrisy ... nothing destroys trust faster than dishonesty (cover ups, denials, pretense).

What the Church has lost over the past several years it has forfeited on its own. The enormous problems and issues it is now beginning to face, it brought upon itself. The mud thrown against its edifice by "enemies" outside the walls is mud the Church supplied, shipped and stockpiled ... as if it was a huge factory for the stuff. If anything needs to be assailed and dispatched, it's the mud ... not the slingers.

I think the pope knows exactly what it is that truly threatens the Church.

Wed, December 25, 2013 @ 2:21 PM

21. Gary Beaubouef wrote:
It is unfair to say the Pope merely scolds and fails to inspire. One simply has to look at how he has been received by the Catholic faithful to recognize his inspiration. Many who are not Catholic have also been inspired by him and, as a result, have taken a new look at the faith they once dismissed as an outdated institution. It is also not true to say the Pope has not taken aim at the enemies of the Church. The true enemies of the Church are not people, but attitudes which lead us to diminish human persons by ignoring genuin concerns and needs. These kinds of attitudes have taken root among those who have guided the Church and present a greater danger to the Church than anything outside of it. It is appropriate for the Pope to call the Curia to holiness and repentance. It reveals his deep concern for those who make up the Curia and can hardly be called scolding, unless, of course, one thinks one is not subject to holiness.

Wed, December 25, 2013 @ 6:22 PM

22. Jo wrote:
Who is he to judge the curia ?

Tue, December 31, 2013 @ 10:45 AM

23. Terrian Williams wrote:
The Pope is focusing on getting people to act and think like Christ--we are the hands and feet and mouthpiece of Christ. Jesus said say a simple "yes" or "no"--anything more than that is from the evil one. There you go--gossip--gossipmongers may not make it into the gates of Heaven. We will give an account on every idle word we say---WOW!!! Jesus said that too.

Thu, January 2, 2014 @ 1:15 AM

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