In a remarkably frank Christmas address to the Vatican Curia - the cabal of cardinals and Vatican bureaucrats who cluster around the Pope and generally run and live off the vast money-making and power-wielding organization that the Catholic Church has become - Pope Francis showed his frustration with them.
He bluntly accused them of suffering from fifteen 'spiritual diseases' including 'spiritual Alzheimers' and 'theological schizophrenia', and of indulging in the 'terrorism of gossip' as they jostle for position, power and influence within the Vatican hierarchy, having more regard for their own interests and career progression than for the church they supposedly serve.
His address was greeted with stunned, sullen silence giving rise to speculation that his hint last August that he too might retire like his immediate predecessor rather than hanging on waiting for, and desperately trying to delay, death in the traditional manner, might come true sooner than he thought. In fact, it was his predecessors prior to the odious Pope Ratzinger who, by hanging on well into their dotage, had allowed the Curia to get so much power and influence in the first place, as they effectively ran the show, only holding the moribund and senile Pope John Paul II up to a window every now and then to show the public that he was actually still alive.
Ratzinger himself was very much a Vatican insider who, as John Paul II's 'enforcer', the person in charge of covering up the institutional abuses to which the Church had become accustomed and de facto Pope in John Paul's incapacity, was best-placed to 'negotiate' inside the conclave which elected him Pope.
In fact, we have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet. It is important to point out that the Vatican is not broke … the Holy See is paying its way, while possessing substantial assets and investmentsSo poor old Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has found he's inherited a mess, seething with corruption and self-serving byzantine intrigue with little or no governance or accountability and in which, as the Australian Cardinal Pell, who had been brought in to sort out the Vatican's finances has found, departmental heads have been squirreling away hundreds of millions of euros in secret bank accounts with little or no accountability or control over what they did with the money or even where they got it from.
Far from Vatican finances being in a parlous state, they are actually quite healthy. It was just that department heads had been surreptitiously salting it all away for reasons which can only be guessed at, and it certainly doesn't seem to have been to give it all to the poor.
The Pope is the absolute ruler of the tiny Vatican state and could, of course, dismiss the entire Curia and replace them, if he were so minded. But this would inevitably lead to a backlash and probably split the Church from top to bottom as powerful interests called on favours and blackmailed people with threats of spilling the beans about past misdeeds and cover-ups in the time-honoured Maffioso way. It is unlikely that they would go quietly and give up the comfort, power, privilege and influence, and above all the ability to act without accountability they have amassed for themselves. It is doubtful that Pope Francis himself would survive the inevitable assault on his position if not his actual person.
Do you know who would be the last person ever to be accepted as a prince of the [Catholic] Church? The Galilean carpenter. That Jew. They would kick him out before he tried to cross the threshold. He would be so ill-at-ease in the Church... What would he think, what would he think of St. Peter’s? What would he think of the wealth, and the power, and the self-justification, and the wheedling apologies? ... The Pope could decide that all this power, all this wealth, this hierarchy of princes and bishops and archbishops and priests and monks and nuns could be sent out in the world with money and art treasures, to put them back in the countries that they once raped and violated, ... they could give that money away, and they could concentrate on the apparent essence of their belief, and then, I would stand here and say the Catholic Church may well be a force for good in the world, but until that day, it is not. Thank you.Another sign that the Catholic Church is trying to reform it's image, if not its fundamental organisation and modus operandi, came recently with a watering down of a report into the behaviour of US Catholic nuns which astonishingly had complained in 2012 that the nuns were concentrating too much on helping the poor and not enough on spouting the orthodox condemnatory bigotry against contraception, women's reproductive rights, homosexuality and same-sex marriage. This was seen as excessively feminist and secular and not Christian enough.
The enquiry had been compared to the Inquisition but has now only issues a 'mild rebuke' calling on the nuns to, "carefully review their spiritual practices and ministry to assure that these are in harmony with Catholic teaching about God, creation, the incarnation and the redemption". And that stuff about forsaking all worldly goods and giving to the poor? Obviously, good Catholic nuns are expect to obey the Vatican, not Jesus.
And finally, to give Pope Francis an even happier Christmas, it seems the 'gentle' Franciscan order of Friars Minor is also riven with corruption and is now in grave financial difficulties. According the the order's 'Minster General' the American Michael Perry, the future of the order is now in doubt. The order, which is officially dedicated to a life of poverty following the example of St Francis of Assisi (after whom Pope Francis, himself a Franciscan, took his papal name) has been indulging in 'questionable financial activities' which have emptied its coffers and left it with a 'considerable burden of debt'.
Pope Francis seems to be discovering that you don't change centuries of corruption and malpractice overnight, and certainly not by simply complaining about it hoing that something magical will happen to change things or that corrupt, greedy and self-serving people will suddenly see the error of their ways and reform things themselves. He is actually going to have to change the fundamental culture within the Church and throw out the turds currently making the entire cesspit stink. And that of course means abandoning the basic theology on which the entire edifice is constructed, including the rigidly hierarchical structure which give absolute power, and so absolute corruption, to those who live within it.
And then, of course, there is the on-going, simmering scandal involving the Vatican bank, money laundering and shady property deals...
It's good to see the old traditions being kept alive in today's 'modernised' Catholic Church.
'via Blog this'