Curia Criticism

I notice a lot of commentary on the pope’s Christmas speech to the curia. Perhaps an unexpected piece of support was from that radical, Walter Kasper, who views Pope Francis as a “Jesuit spiritual guide”:

The fundamental thing is he wants spiritual reform of the Curia. Certainly also reform of the structures is important and he is working on that. But the basis of the problem is spiritual.

I noticed a raft of supportive links for the curia at Pewsitter, including a bit of sympathy from Edward Pentin at the NCReg, who is concerned about demoralization in church government. He also pins the press:

The world’s press, of course, will ignore the reality, partly because the Pope didn’t mention it: that the great majority of Vatican officials are virtuous, hardworking, and faithful clergy and laity.

A few things on this.

Criticism of the curia is not new. There’s that famous, perhaps apocryphal quip from St John XXIII who, when asked how many people work in the curia, he said about half.

And look: laity are included under the curial umbrella. Maybe they tip that circa 1960 half to a “great majority.”

Would concerns about morale and virtue extend to the entire Church, do you think? Mr Pentin reminds us

The Vatican has stressed that his words apply not only to the Curia but the entire Church and even many institutions in the world today that lose sight of their original mission. But that’s not how most of the media will be inclined to read it.

It seems it was the media who read the surprised expressions on the faces of curial prelates. I don’t really care much how the media read things. I’m satisfied to examine my conscience on the Fifteen Points. If one applies, that’s enough to merit my attention.

I’ve had four experiences over the years of having a new pastor appointed while I was serving a parish. There are inevitable changes for a staff. Some people leave. New people are hired. Veterans adjust.

I recall one new pastor, who, after several months of transition, remarked, “I don’t know what a liturgist does.” That wasn’t a particularly inspiring statement. The pastor who hired me also had a long-time choir director and a part-time organist on staff. These people were retained because I adapted to the system I was handed when I was hired. Originally, I was asked to serve as a pastoral minister, but that didn’t fit the new boss’s vision. So we parted ways amicably.

I could tell my own discouragement was not imposed by someone else, but it came from within. Every professional wants to feel a valuable part of a team. When things change under a new boss, some people move onward to new assignments. Good employers handle change well, especially when they know their people well.

If the curia is peopled with demoralized prelates, perhaps the path to wholeness involves a return to pastoral work, or teaching, or some other service.

I’m disinclined to feel much sympathy for curial cardinals. If indeed it has been a small minority misbehaving, the misbehavior has happened on the watch of an ill and sainted pope, and on a discouraged and elderly theologian sitting in the Chair of Peter. Such misbehavior has been magnified because of the curia’s reputation for scandal and stubbornness.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Curia Criticism

  1. Todd, thanks for this post. There is so much to consider, and I love what you say about what happens when a “new boss” shows up. I worked at the same large corporation for 20 years, leaving in 2007. It was not unlike the church in many ways, not the least of which the highly valued trait of unyielding loyalty without asking too many questions was valued. I struggled with that one, as you might imagine. In any case, I could have stayed on, even though I was moving, because my boss would have moved heaven and earth to make it so.

    Fast forward, years later and many of my former cohort were eventually forced into a new way of being or unceremoniously let go. For some, tremendous bitterness remains. I’m sorry for them, but if any of what came to pass came as a surprise, I think people were more deluded than they thought. This scenario is not unlike what plays out in the Curia, and elsewhere, all the time.

    Given that the heart of the eucharist is transformation, we all do have a hard time changing, don’t we? And that is why we must always look at ourselves in these scenarios, and allow God’s work to be done in us.

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