(Not So) Merry Christmas From the Pope

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Today, Pope Francis addressed the Vatican in his annual Christmas address for the bishops, cardinals and other staffers who live and work in Vatican City.  Rather than offer up a pithy “Merry Christmas” and how-do-you-do, Pope Francis offered up what we in the preaching biz call an “epic verbal smackdown.” Not an angry rant or a shrieking critique – just a sober and sorrowful listing of 15 institutional sins that the Curia are guilty of. My own reflection leads me to my knees. I am guilty of many of the following. How about you?

  1. Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable. ‘A Curia (read church) that doesn’t criticize itself, that doesn’t update itself, that doesn’t seek to improve itself is a sick body.’
  2. Working too hard. ‘Rest for those who have done their work is necessary, good and should be taken seriously.’
  3. Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened. ‘It’s dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful.’
  4. Planning too much. ‘Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan.’
  5. Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise. ‘When the foot tells the hand, ‘I don’t need you’ or the hand tells the head ‘I’m in charge.”
  6. Having ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s.’ ‘We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord … in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands.’
  7. Being rivals or boastful. ‘When one’s appearance, the color of one’s vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life.’
  8. Suffering from ‘existential schizophrenia.’ ‘It’s the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It’s a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people.’
  9. Committing the ‘terrorism of gossip.’ ‘It’s the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people’s backs.’
  10. Glorifying one’s bosses. ‘It’s the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honor people who aren’t God.’
  11. Being indifferent to others. ‘When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him.’
  12. Having a ‘funereal face.’ ‘In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes.’
  13. Wanting more. ‘When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he’ll feel more secure.’
  14. Forming ‘closed circles’ that seek to be stronger than the whole. ‘This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad — scandals — especially to our younger brothers.’
  15. Seeking worldly profit and showing off. ‘It’s the sickness of those who insatiably try to multiply their powers and to do so are capable of calumny, defamation and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally to show themselves as being more capable than others.

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