Pope warns against 15 spiritual maladies of the pious and powerful
Pope Francis has given the members of the Roman Curia a slightly different sort of Christmas catalogue this year.
In his second Christmas address to the Curia, delivered today in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, the Pope began by offering “sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Lord” for “all the good that He has generously willed to accomplish through the Holy See’s service” over the course of the past year.
He then listed what he called a “catalogue” of 15 diseases that he has found in the Roman Curia so that the heads of the various dicasteries might make an examination of conscience to prepare their hearts for a holy Christmas.
Pope Francis’ catalogue of 15 spiritual ailments include:
1. Feeling “immortal”, “immune” or “indispensable”: “A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service.”
2. “Martha-ism”, i.e. excessive activity: “The sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting the better part’ of sitting at Jesus’ feet.”
3. Mental and spiritual petrification: “That of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God.”
4. Excessive planning: “This is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant.”
5. Poor coordination: “This develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team.”
6. Spiritual Alzheimers: “Forgetfulness of salvation history, of one’s personal history with the Lord, of one’s 'first love’: this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one's own often imaginary views. We see this is those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord … in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands.”
7. Rivalry and vainglory: “When appearances, the color of one’s robes, insignia and honors become the most important aim in life. … It is the disorder that leads us to become false men and women.”
8. Existential schizophrenia: “The sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honors. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.
9. Gossip, murmuring and chattering: “This is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs.”
10. Deifying leaders: “This disease is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honoring people rather than God. They are people who experience service thinking only of what they might obtain and not of what they should give. They are mean, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness.”
11. Indifference to others: “This ailment arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships. When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy … one experiences joy in seeing another person instead of lifting him up or encouraging him.”
12. Funeral Face: “That of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity.”
13. Hoarding: “When the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure. … Accumulation only burdens and inexorably slows down our progress.”
14. Closed circles: “This disease develops when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself. This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a ‘cancer’ that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals — especially to our littlest brothers.”
15. Worldly profit-seeking and exhibitionism: “When the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others.”
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia's English edition.