Pope Francis Tells Vatican Leadership They Have “Spiritual Alzheimer’s Disease” December 23, 2014

Pope Francis Tells Vatican Leadership They Have “Spiritual Alzheimer’s Disease”

On Monday, Pope Francis delivered his annual Christmas greeting to the administrative body of the Holy See, the Curia. And it’s more or less the verbal equivalent of finding coal in your stocking on Christmas morning, from the Vicar of Christ.

The Pope went through a “catalog of illnesses” he saw in the bureaucracy, cautioning the assembled clergy,

Yet like every body, like every human body, it is exposed to illnesses, malfunctioning, infirmity. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to God.

The list of ailments he identifies is wide-ranging, from bureaucratic duplication of efforts… to gossip and brown nosing. Some were more geared toward the workings of the Roman Curia, and others were general spiritual guidelines. Seven of the fifteen in particular are worth noting, if only for the bluntness of expression:

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…

Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the ‘first love’…

The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the colour of one’s robes, insignia and honours become the most important aim in life…

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 honours…

The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships…

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…

[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…

The Vatican’s corruption and centuries’ worth of wealth accumulation often make it an easy (and deserving) target for criticism, so it’s interesting to see such unabashed and honest criticism — not from an outsider, or an embattled reformer, but from the top. I rather doubt that it’s done much to endear Pope Francis to the Curia. On the other hand, if he cared about ending up on his bishops’ “Nice” list, rather than following his conscience, he probably would have chosen a different Christmas address.

(Image via neneo / Shutterstock.com)

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