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The Pope’s Challenge to the Leaders of the Catholic Church

by on December 30, 2014

First of all, a disclaimer is in order. It is important to note that I am not in agreement with the Catholic system or with the statements attributed to the Pope through the past year. However, when a leader of a religious group speaks out as clearly as he has lately, it is noteworthy.

His comments sound more like a football coach at halftime than like a religious leader to his preachers. Expecting the customary ‘genteel’ address, the Curia got a list of their failings instead.

Institutions easily create good-old-boy clubs in their inner sanctums. This is a grievous and sad situation. Gone is the commitment to doing good and blessing the people. In is the hierarchy of back-scratching comrades.

It remains to be seen, of course, if the address will cause corrections or if it will be summarily ignored. There is a lesson here for all church groups. There is a lesson here for all church group leaders. Will the lessons be heeded? Will they be patterns for other groups? All of that remains to be seen.

One issue at risk is the issue of truth and hypocrisy. Especially in the minds of youth, truth and hypocrisy are critical elements. Knowing that someone is watching the store will go a long way to build trust in any group.

There is little sugar coating in the following statement. It is abrupt and in some places it is downright embarrassing. Like the Old Testament prophets, the Pope uses graphic illustrations to call his people to a nobler path and he is starting with the leaders at the highest levels.

Here’s a summary of the Curia’s 15 ailments, as reported by the Vatican news service.

1. False indispensability. “The sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal,’ ‘immune,’ or ‘indispensable’, neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up to date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body.”

2. Workaholism. “[E]xcessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting ‘the better part’ of sitting at Jesus’ feet. Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation.”

3. Corporate disillusionment. “The sickness of mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity, and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God.”

4. Perfectionism. “The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism: This is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant.”

5. Poor communication. “Sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team.”

6. Forgotten mission statement. “Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the ‘first love’: This is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one’s own often imaginary views.”

7. Excessive competition. “The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: When appearances, the color of one’s robes, insignia, and honors, become the most important aim in life.”

8. Institutionalization. “Existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honors. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people.”

9. Office gossip. “Chatter, grumbling, and gossip: This is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren.”

10. Brownnosing. “The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honoring people rather than God.”

11. Isolationism. “The disease of indifference toward others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships.”

12. Disgruntled-employee syndrome. “The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others–especially those they consider inferior–with rigidity, hardness, and arrogance.”

13. Materialism. “The disease of accumulation: When the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure.”

14. Office cliques. “The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself.”

15. Power-hungry employees. The “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power.”

For the unabridged version of the list, check out the story from The Washington Post.


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