Reforming the Vatican is like nailing jelly to a wall

So says Fr. William Grimm MM, writing from Tokyo:

The pope has appointed eight cardinals from around the world to advise him in making that reform happen.

Solutions to careerism, corruption and abuse of power in the Curia were sought at least as early as the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. As Vatileaks and much current experience make clear, we are still searching in the twenty-first century.

A half-millennium of attempts to reform the central administration of the Catholic Church has not succeeded. Hopes that the Operations Octet will perform better against entrenched special interests than others have in the past are probably excessively optimistic.

Read the rest here.


  1. That image is only accurate if you add:
    …and the nails and hammer are both made of jelly also. Oh and the wall is made of jelly, and also covered in jelly. And the one trying to do the hammering? Yeah, he’s jelly too.

  2. Call for Reform of Curia etc. – 1931 style!
    “Most of the bishops, instead of being the strong characters presently needed, dynamic and active personalities, even if indeed pious and religious men, are in effect at the same time mediocre, or even below mediocrity. Some are apathetic, timid, indolent or vain; others are conformists, bureaucrats or introverts; many are ignorant and clumsy administrators. […]. Sometimes the whole episcopate of a country looks like a bunch of cripples”.
    How does that sound today? But this was written in 1931!

    Nothing is held back in this comment in Latin:
    “Aliquando autem totus episcopatus alicuius nationis ita est compositus, veluti si coecorum, claudorum et infirmorum omne genus esset refugium.”

    “The problem is aggravated by the Holy See’s tendency to appoint only obedient and complacent prelates.”
    See more on

  3. In the first centuries when the Church was taking shape administratively, the Church heavily borrowed from the dominant civil government structures of the time, mainly those of the Roman Empire.

    Perhaps a sweeping 21st century reform could borrow heavily from the new dominant civil structure–democracy. Rather than a supreme ruler on high sending down mandates, perhaps we could start with the faithful who elect their own bishop and hold him accountable in some meaningful way.

    1. @Scott Pluff – comment #3:
      As much as I personally like democracy in civil government, I dislike that thought in Church governance almost as much. If you know anything about Protestant denominations in the South, there is no tougher thing to be than a minister with a conscience trying to keep his job in a church that is not interested in hearing the more difficult teachings of Christ.

      1. @Charles Day – comment #4:
        Yes, but: “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” ~ Winston Churchill

  4. Fr Grimm has a lot of excellent commentary.

    But I was also thinking of the eternal struggle against evil. You think you’ve achieved a victory, only to have it pop up three or four other places.

    We continue to advocate for reform not because it’s going to work this time, but because we have a duty to do so. We start with ourselves, and do our best. Then we move on to the Church, and hope for the best. It’s as simple as that.

  5. From Fr James Martin, SJ:
    James Martin, SJ ‏@JamesMartinSJ 29 Apr
    St. Catherine of Siena told corrupt Roman cardinals they gave off “stench.” They: How can you tell in Siena? She: I can smell you from here.

  6. Pope Francis said it already – real shepherds smell like their flock. Visit any restaurant frequented by Curial officials in the Trastevere district and you will encounter, along with the aroma of good food, the refined aroma of clerics determined to keep up their ‘bella figura’. Even in mufti they stand out.

  7. Francis is a low key pope, who will spread a good pastoral style. But curial reform and synodal governance are hardly to be counted among his achievements.

  8. Well, if he reforms, cleanses, purges, the curia and the Vatican (and I hope that he makes a clean sweep), is successful and has put them in their place and made them respectable, we can (if he really does all that) get him to come over here and do a job on the United States Congress

  9. Of course this is going to be a slow and difficult process, but you have to say that it’s at least way ahead of where it was in ages past.

    The Holy Father, and this effort, need our prayers!

  10. True reform demands radical structural thinking and great imagination. Francis is consulting, in leisurely fashion, 8 cardinals, including our new translation man George Pell. No sign of any move toward implementing synodal governance or anything like that. Hans Kung’s hope of perestroika and indeed many of the exuberant expectations of liberal commentators strike me as profoundly fatuous. Francis may, under an impulse of the Spirit, rise to these hopes, but there is no sign of that at present. He is a good preacher, pastor, and a peaceful pope, nada mas.

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