Pope Francis: “The Curia Is in Need of Reform”

ORF, the Austrian national broadcasting corporation, reports on a documentary on Pope Francis to be aired tomorrow:

The pope is of the viewpoint that the curia is in need of reform. It is tied to old traditions that are long since obsolete. The pope says this in the documentary film “Papst Franziskus: ‘Wie Gott will'”[“Pope Francis: ‘As God Wills’”], which the TV platform Sky Atlantic broadcasts on Monday.

“I do not say this in the negative sense, but it has to change,” said the pope. In the documentary film, from which a few excerpts were made public, the pope reported, among other things, on his problems with Vatican protocol.

“I have a thousand problems with ceremonial protocol but I must respect it. Do you know the difference between terrorism and ceremonial protocol? You can negotiate with terrorism,” said the pope in the film, which came about in collaboration with the Jesuit priest Antonio Spadaro, chief editor of the Jesuit newspaper “Civilta Cattolica.”

14 comments

  1. While teaching an all day class for Theology and Leadership for Ministry last month, this same old joke came up about liturgists and terrorists. I pushed back that I believe when we say such horrible things about one another, even in jest, it becomes easier to make the church about us and them rather than us. But it appears even our beloved Pope finds this to be an acceptable line. I find the need for reform of the curia to be quite heartening. I find the joke quite disheartening.

    1. @Virginia Meagher:
      I find the joke to be a light hearted way of putting things in perspective. When there are people who celebrate form over substance (and that is what I think they do) they have chosen to make it about ‘them and us’ even if they haven’t realized it. I just think it is a way to try and make them see that as a possibility. Bravo Francis!

    2. @Virginia Meagher:
      But Virginia, the joke is funny (albeit disheartening) because it is true. Why do we Catholics so often want to force other Catholics to worship the way we think they should? Why are we so reluctant to admit when liturgical experiments fail?

      1. @Tony Phillips:
        I have to confess when I first saw this comment, I read, “Why do we Catholics so often want to force other Christians to worship the way we think they should?” As for “liturgical experiments,” I was thinking of 2007’s mutual enrichment.

        Maybe a more apt joke is the apocryphal statement attributed to John XXIII. When asked how many people work at the Vatican, he quipped, “Oh, about half.”

  2. One must constantly wonder whether this is the Church of the Curia or the community of the followers of Jesus Christ. In my mind, the two are irreconcilable, Scripture records Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees and it appears that Francis is siding with Jesus. Which, given his background in Latin American Theology, leaves him no other choice.

    1. @Tony Barr:
      There was an eminent English Archbishop who was fond of reminding troubled Catholics that the Vatican and Christ’s holy Church are not the same entity.

  3. I understand our Holy Father’s desire for reform. Our order is 800+ years old and our current Rule of Pope Paul VI was promulgated on 24 June, 1978 after a ten year wait and even today, our Rule continues to like scripture, reveal to our fraternities, hidden gems, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, always by the Holy Spirit. We have to trust in the Spirit that our Holy Father is being guided by God’s hand for the good of the faithful.

  4. The Roman Curia is neither an object of faith nor a means of salvation. The Church would be no less Catholic without it.

  5. “Do you know the difference between terrorism and ceremonial protocol? You can negotiate with terrorism.”

    As funny and silly as that may have been supposed to be, let’s see if that is true. Let him go to negotiate with terrorists and see how far he gets!

  6. If the Church has problems and then people, all of us who are the Church, have a contribution to make at both parish and diocesan level. Those who participate in finding solutions after carefully exploring the issues are far more likely to accept and implement the resultant conclusion.

    Either we arrange our discussion in a careful and positive manner with due respect for each and everyone concerned or we gnaw at issues in a narrow, and in the end, non-productive way that only serves to antagonize many people.

    It is a lesson the Curia might learn.

  7. Ugh. I really fear that Pope Francis is losing his mojo. I don’t see him enough in pictures and videos to know if he looks tired, but his momentum as a reformer seems to be sort of sputtering. He’s the one guy on the planet who can actually change the ceremonial protocol if he has a mind to do so. For the Francis of the first couple of years of his papacy, it would have been the work of a moment to consign ceremonial protocol to mothballs and simplify and streamline all the nonsense.

    1. @Jim Pauwels:

      He’s the one guy on the planet who can actually change the ceremonial protocol if he has a mind to do so.

      Not sure if this is true.

      By “ceremonial protocol,” I’m guessing Pope Francis is referring to those official procedures and rules that involve other heads of state and government, which I don’t think can easily be done away with just because the Pope doesn’t like them, hence his remark, “I must respect it.”

      And, no, Francis does not look tired, at all. Quite the opposite actually. For an 80-year old man, he — and his mojo — seems to be doing just fine, so.

      1. @Elisabeth Ahn:

        “By “ceremonial protocol,” I’m guessing Pope Francis is referring to those official procedures and rules that involve other heads of state and government”

        Perhaps that is what he meant, but just running with the title and context of what was posted, it appears he was referring to the ceremonial protocols of the curia.

        In addition to reforming the curia, Francis has set up a commission to reform the way that the church handles sex abuse cases. Also he is seeking to reform the Vatican’s financial management. He has other reform initiatives in flight, too, including a study of whether women can be deacons. All of these are important. For any eighty year old man, the time horizon is not lengthy; and it is far from assured that Francis’ successor will be committed to Francis’ reform agenda. I am sure his opponents are thinking and hoping that they can simply wait him out.

  8. While we don’t want a papal version of Trump, neither do we want a papal version of General Patton. I think Francis is following a prudent course.

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