National Commentary

Pope Francis Slams Vatican Bureaucrats

nfbenton-mugSomebody needs to give a dressing down to the U.S. Congress like Pope Francis did in his annual Christmas message to his highest level Vatican bureaucrats this week.

Francis unloaded a scathing attack on the central administration of the church, charging cardinals, bishops and priests at the Vatican with “using their Vatican careers to grab power and wealth, of living ‘hypocritical’ double lives” and “suffering” from “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” forgetting what drew them into the priesthood in the first place.

It was an unprecedented speech and no one he was delivering his remarks to was smiling. Reform and renewal, he was telling them, needs to come from within.

Not what these entitled bureaucrats have ever heard before, according to observers. These leaders of the 1.2 billion member Catholic Church, were assailed for the gossiping, careerism and power intrigues.
He started off his talk referring to “the ailment of feeling immortal, immune or even indispensable,” moving on to the sins of “being rivals and boasting, wanting to accumulate things, having a ‘hardened heart,’ wooing superiors for personal gain, having a ‘funereal face’” and being too rigid, tough and arrogant, especially toward underlings.

He took on the control freaks in their midst, too, who plan everything so much that “they don’t allow themselves to be surprised by the ‘freshness, fantasy and novelty’ of the Holy Spirit.”

He said “the terrorism of gossip” can “kill the reputation of our colleagues and brothers in cold blood,” and spoke of “how cliques can enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the church body and eventually kill it off by friendly fire.”

The remarks of this new Argentinean pope were described as unprecedented and scathing.

All his comments spoke to the disposition of the souls of his audience, not to any specific projects or proposals. It is a matter of the human spirit, he intoned, even as Vatican finances are in the midst of an overhaul and there are plans being drawn up to revamp the whole Vatican bureaucratic structure, including by merging offices to make them more efficient and responsive, according to the Associated Press.

He concluded by asking everyone there to pray “that the wounds of the sins that each one of us carries are healed.”

Indeed, this is a message that would do just as well being delivered to the entire human race, and Francis apparently realizes that there is no way his church can ever aspire to do this unless its leadership internalizes the message from the top.

And just as it is a message for the entire human race on this planet, so it is for each and every individual who needs to internalize it himself or herself as a grounding point for personal moral renewal. We do not need to fear embracing such criticism, because it is for the purpose of bringing us all closer to a profound human endeavor.

It is a sad state of affairs when the world’s most powerful nation must defend its people’s right to self-expression by asserting the right of Seth Rogan and James Franco to spread their sophomoric scatological humor all over the globe, and to showcase a tasteless assassination scene in the process.

Far better for the world’s attention to be focused on the inherent human dignity achieved by the restoration of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, and before that, the action by President Obama to cease the family-rending deportation of up to five million people. Add to those life-affirming steps the enormous public response to the Affordable Care Act as reported this week, and you have some hugely important steps to enhance the lives and moral stature of millions among us.

Here are great steps to celebrate this holiday season for anyone who has the eyes, ears and spiritual vitality to appreciate them.

Don’t count on deadened bureaucrats in Washington, be they politicians or journalists, or at the Vatican for any of that, however. Too many have hearts hardened by slavish obedience to partisan party lines or angry, arm-twisting patrons to acknowledge the simple beauty of the many human lives brightened and enhanced by these moves.