Pope warns against Vatican mediocrity, gossip

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis warned Vatican administrators Saturday that their work can take a downward spiral into mediocrity, gossip and bureaucratic squabbling if they forget that theirs is a professional vocation of service to the church.

Francis made the comments in his Christmas address to the Vatican Curia, the bureaucracy that forms the central government of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church. The speech was eagerly anticipated given that Francis was elected in March on a mandate to overhaul the antiquated and oftentimes dysfunctional Vatican administration.

Already, heads have started to roll: Just last week, Francis reshuffled the advisory body of the powerful Congregation for Bishops, the office that vets all the world’s bishop nominations. He removed the archconservative American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a key figure in the U.S. culture wars over abortion and gay marriage, and also nixed the head of Italy’s bishops’ conference and another hard-line Italian, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, earlier axed as head of the Vatican office responsible for priests.

Other changes are on the horizon: In the coming weeks Francis will name his first batch of cardinals and in February will preside over the third summit of his “Group of Eight” cardinal advisers, who are expected to put forward a first round of proposals for revamping the Holy See bureaucracy.

Francis has said he wants a Vatican Curia that is more responsive to the needs of local bishops, who have long complained of Rome’s slow or unhelpful interventions in their work caring for souls. Francis has said he wants the church as a whole to be less consumed with moralizing than showing mercy to the needy, wherever they are.

Francis thanked the cardinals, bishops and priests gathered in the Clementine Hall for the Christmas address for their work, diligence and creativity. Deviating from his prepared text, he said “There are saints in the Curia!”

But he also reminded them that Vatican officials must display professionalism and competence as well as holiness in their lives.

“When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards toward mediocrity. Dossiers become full of trite and lifeless information, and incapable of opening up lofty perspectives,” he said. “Then, too, when the attitude is no longer one of service to the particular churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customs house, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s people.”

Francis also repeated a warning he has issued on several occasions in his morning homilies at the Vatican hotel where he lives: an admonition against gossiping. The secretive, closed world of the Vatican is a den of gossip, as revealed publicly last year by the leaks of papal documents from then-Pope Benedict XVI’s butler.

Using terminology familiar to those present, Francis called for Vatican officials to exercise “conscientious objection to gossip.”

“Let us all be conscientious objectors, and mind you I’m not simply moralizing! Gossip is harmful to people, our work and our surroundings.”

Gossiping of late has been focusing on the work of the two commissions Francis named over the summer to advise him on reforming the troubled Vatican bank and rationalizing the Holy See’s overall finances and administrative structures.

Four big-name consulting firms — Promontory Financial Group, KPMG, EY and McKinsey &Co. — have been contracted for various projects.

More in Local News

Second teen charged after $1 million in school vandalism

Two teens now face felony charges for damage at two schools in Darrington last summer.

This dental office devoted a day to free care for veterans

All Smiles Northwest in Everett was among businesses observing Freedom Day USA.

A potentially transformative council election in Snohomish

As the city adopts a new form of government, many new faces are seeking office.

Majority of Marysville City Council seats are contested

The most closely watched race is between Mark James and Donna Wright.

1 shot dead, another wounded in apparent Everett robbery

There are indications the victims might have known the shooter, who apparently fled in a vehicle.

Mill Creek hires Gina Hortillosa as public works director

Hortillosa will be responsible for creating strategic infrastructure plans to promote economic growth.

Inclusion super important to Monroe High senior

Sarah Reeves worked to make homecoming more representative of the student population.

500 tires go up in flames at a store south of Everett

There were no injuries. And it was nowhere near as bad as that months-long tire fire in 1984.

Most Read