Saturday, December 31, 2016


As many have acknowledged, there probably isn't much angst about the current crisis in the papacy in  most rank and file laity. Only the internet geeks know that there is a tempest going on in Rome with a whole lot of Italian and South American intrigue (the combination of both a deadly brew to say the least!).

Crux has a good article with major flaws on what the papal dissenters have not taken into account. You can read the article here.

The article I link above gives pastoral situations where the internal forum might be applied after discernment with a priest. But this is the rub: I was taught that this pastoral discernment must include an attempt at the "external forum" that is the annulment procedure that ends because no decision can be rendered one way or the other as there is not enough evidence provided in the documentation. This can be the case because people refuse to participate (one of the spouses or witnesses) or witnesses cannot be found including a former spouse or witnesses are dead.

If the external forum, i.e. Annulment procedure, definitely states that no annulment can be granted because the marriage on trial is in reality a sacrament, the internal forum is not allowed. It is only when no decision one way or the other can be rendered that the pastoral discernment can move to an internal forum decision.

This is a major flaw of AL as it doesn't discuss the "internal forum" as such and when it can be used after the external forum is exhausted.

Then Giuseppe Narid has an article that overstates the situation with the four cardinals and the pope. While his case is overstated, it is obvious that we are dealing with a situation that could be defused if only the Holy Father has answered the private Dubia before the cardinals made it public. While I have criticized making it public, the fact that it has should be further impetus for the Holy Father to defuse the situation by a clear answer and directly not indirectly in homilies, statements and tweets by underlings.

You can read the article here.

Let's face it, long before Pope Francis and during the time of Popes Paul, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict, the internal forum has been used licitly or illicitly and there wasn't much news on it if any.

My own bishop, without addressing the internal forum, told us a few years ago that if any priest in our diocese illicitly "blessed" an illicit marriage, meaning "convalidated" it illicitly, that we ourselves could be removed from our parish and suspended.

It seems to me, though, that the footnote in AL which other than that footnote, is a marvelous document, opens the door to illicit convalidations. And if you extend its logic, it opens the door to supposed celibate priests to remain as priest even if they are in illicit marriages or sexual relationships as long as someone conducted pastoral discernment with them, whatever that means in reality.

This little footnote opens the door to th logic of the footnote to undermine everything that traditional Catholic morality teaches and believes to be revealed by God.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016



The Gospel Message is neither conservative nor liberal but should be defined as “challenging," says Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. I would agree and have often written that it is best that we not use the political terms of conservative/regressive or liberal/progressive but rather orthodox/orthopraxis and heterodox/heteropraxis.

The Cardinal also  acknowledged "the existence of a fierce and organized opposition to Pope France, carried out in certain. Catholics circles. And he’s warned that it is fomenting considerable polarization within the Church." (I would say that the style/words/actions of Pope Francis are at the root of this and in various circles of the Church. Being the one who has caused it, His Holiness is the one and only one that can end it in a amicable way.)

He goes on to say,  “We are currently witnessing intensive inner-church debates – not so much in Austria, but internationally – as there is quite evidently very strong, significant opposition to Pope Francis.”

I do not know how many rank and file laity are aware of this historic moment in the Catholic Church where there is going to be a "fraternal correction" of the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church by four cardinals and their hidden supporters.

My own anxiety is that this is uncharted and unprecedented in the modern history of the Catholic Church and by modern I mean during and since the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent.

Will Cardinal Burke and the other three lose their red hats? Will they be excommunicated, like Archbishop Marcel Lefebrev if they continue on their chosen path while having been reprimanded by the Supreme Pontiff.

Worse yet, is how so many rank and file Catholics, geeks of the blogosphere, are reacting to the Holy Father in very uncharitable ways, which of course is a mortal sin requiring absolution by a priest after having acknowledge the sin, repented and seeking to amend their lives. I wonder how many of these people present themselves for Holy Communion each Sunday but castigate others with different types of mortal sins, to include adultery, who present themselves as well for Holy Communion. Birds of a feather i would speculate.

What rank and file clergy and laity should be doing in the most charitable way possible is praying to almighty God for the Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church.

Here are three prayers for the Supreme Pontiff that I would recommend:

O God, the Shepherd and Ruler of all Your faithful people, mercifully look upon Your servant [name of Pope], whom You have chosen as the chief Shepherd to preside over Your Church. We beg You to help him edify, both by word and example, those over whom he has charge, that he may reach everlasting life together with the flock entrusted to him. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Almighty and Everlasting God, have mercy on Your servant [name of Pope], our Supreme Pontiff, and direct him, according to Your loving kindness, in the way of eternal salvation, that with Your help he may ever desire that which is pleasing to You and accomplish it with all his strength. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord Jesus, shelter our Holy Father the Pope under the protection of Your Sacred Heart. Be his light, his strength and his consolation.

Or this one written by Pope Leo XII:

O Lord, we are the millions of believers, humbly kneeling at Thy feet and begging Thee to preserve, defend and save the Sovereign Pontiff for many years. He is the Father of the great fellowship of souls and our Father as well. On this day, as on every other day, he is praying for us also, and is offering unto Thee with holy fervor the sacred Victim of love and peace. 

Wherefore, O Lord, turn Thyself toward us with eyes of pity; for we are now, as it were, forgetful of ourselves, and are praying above all for him. Do Thou unite our prayers with his and receive them into the bosom of Thine infinite mercy, as a sweet savor of active and fruitful charity, whereby the children are united in the Church to their Father. All that he asks of Thee this day, we too ask it of Thee in unison with him. 

Whether he weeps or rejoices, whether he hopes or offers himself as a victim of charity for his people, we desire to be united with him; nay more, we desire that the cry of our hearts should be made one with his. Of Thy great mercy grant, O Lord, that not one of us may be far from his mind and his heart in the hour that he prays and offers unto Thee the Sacrifice of Thy blessed Son. At the moment when our venerable High Priest, holding in His hands the very Body of Jesus Christ, shall say to the people over the Chalice of benediction these words: "The peace of the Lord be with you always," grant, O Lord, that Thy sweet peace may come down upon our hearts and upon all the nations with new and manifest power. Amen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Visit this page to see them all.

This one hits the mark:
This one, not so much, elegance contrived on austere shell, the two styles clash:

 Again it is a nice after but it doesn't go with the interior as a whole:

Don't get me wrong, the afters look better than the befores, but I still think they are trying to make something out of these simple buildings that was not intended and it wouldn't have happened in these 1950's pre-Vatican II styles of building churches at that time.

Visit this page to see them all

Visit this page to see them all


A Hanukkah menorah, or Hanukkiah
Kwanzaa which is not a religious celebration but rather a cultural celebration seems to have borrowed from the Chanukah religious celebration the Hanukkah menorah.
Why in the name of God and all that is holy, should not the Catholic Church borrow the Hanukkiah/Kwanzaa menorah for the Octave of Christmas? 
As you may or may not know, depending on what type of coloring book Catholicism you have had, the Octave of Christmas or Easter or Pentecost takes one day's solemnity and stretches it out for eight days. In effect the eight days are one single day of celebration.
I know that as I child I would love to have extended the hours of Christmas day to eight days which is what the Church does.
But we have no way of symbolizing these eight days, this octave except by going to Mass or praying the Liturgy of the Hours.
Why not have a home devotion,similar to the Chanukah menorah or the Kwanzaa or better yet, the Advent Wreathe and light a candle for each of the 8 days of the Octave of Christmas.
Am I the only one who has come up with this?

Here is one possibility for the Octave of Christmas Menorah:


In the 1960's my favorite comedians were Jackie Gleason, Jack Benny, Bob Hope and Johnny Carson.

Here Gleason steps out of character to wish his audience Merry Christmas!🎄


I admit it, I live in a liturgical bubble. I have always tried to make sure that the Mass is celebrated solemnly and reverently in my parishes. I appreciate both forms of the Mass and recognize that the reverence of the EF Mass is built into it whereas one must really work hard to make sure the OF Mass is reverent.

What works against reverence in the OF are built into it. The following must be critiqued and one day officially changed even if nothing else changes in the current OF Roman Missal:

1. Communion in the hand while standing and on the move

2. Interruption of the flow of prayer and spirituality during the Introductory Rite with banal greetings, banter and mini or Maxie homilies

3. Priests acting as actors not as PRIESTS, in the Old Testament sense of the word as well as what is described in the Letter to the Hebrews

4. Priests imposing their own words and actions onto the Roman Missal

I think the art of celebrating the Mass can be witnessed by Masses from St. Peter's in Rome such as the Christmas Mass below this Post. Pope Francis is sober, reverent, does not ad lib and prays the Mass while facing the assembly in an "ad orientem" sort of way.

Also the Propers are Chanted.

When it comes to the Mass I am probably more progressive than many of my readers. I am not opposed to homilies geared to children in so-called children Masses at Christmas. I am also open to a diverse forms of sacred music as long as it is doctrinely sound and in the realm of Catholic liturgical spirituality.

The OF Mass Roman Missal is here to stay and as is for the foreseeable future. Is there a desire by most bishops, priests and laity to pray the black and do the red or is the Staus quo of sloppiness and banality going to remain indefinitely?

Saturday, December 24, 2016



Just too 😎!

Pope Francis offers the Pope Emeritus his Christmas greetings

Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI - ANSA
Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI - ANSA
24/12/2016 14:39
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has visited the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, to convey to him his Christmas greetings.
The visit took place on Friday afternoon, when Francis knocked at the door of the “Mater Ecclesiae” monastery in the Vatican where Benedict resides. 
As they do each year during the Christmas season, the two men spent some time together, first in prayer and then in conversation.
The Pope’s gesture and good wishes for Holy Christmas are part of the simplicity of a daily relationship that exists between the Holy Father and the Pope Emeritus.
24/12/2016 14:39


Given the hysterically uncharitable commentary against Pope Francis in the Blogosphere, this bishop offers a different way to support the Holy Father and to distinguish between opinions outside His Holiness competency and the areas of competence within the framework and service of Divine Truth which no pope or ecumenical council, let alone a synod of bishops, can challenge or change.

Interview: Bishop Andreas Laun on Amoris Laetitia and the Four Cardinals’ Dubia

Editor’s Note: Bishop Andreas Laun is Auxiliary Bishop of Salzburg, Austria. He is also a Professor of Moral Theology at the Philosophical-Theological Faculty of Heiligenkreuz, Austria. He is a member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.
Maike Hickson (MH): You are one of the signatories of the Filial Appeal “Declaration of Fidelity to the Church’s Unchangeable Teaching on Marriage and to Her Uninterrupted Discipline” which has now already found more than 30,000 supporters. Which aspects of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia are in your eyes problematic and open to contradictory interpretations?
Bishop Andreas Laun (AL): I have read the concerns of the Four Cardinals, and I agree with them! Additionally, I know personally especially Cardinals Meisner and Caffarra and know how competent they are! With them, I am in the best company!
MH: Do you see any way for the “remarried” divorcees to receive the Sacraments without their first changing their way of life, and then continuing to live as brother and sister?
AL: “Unfortunately,” no! I would like to name for them an easier path. But it is all about truth and not about my feelings. This objective question has nothing to do with mercy. Could St. John the Baptist have “mercifully allowed” Herod to have his brother’s wife? The spiritual guide whose importance Pope Francis so much emphasizes has the role of a physician who makes a diagnosis but who then does not also render a true service to the patient when he only glosses over this illness – as he would prefer to have it – even though he knows of the illness’ dangers.
MH: Now, four Cardinals – Walter Brandmüller, Joachim Meisner, Carlo Caffarra and Raymond Leo Burke – have presented to Pope Francis five dubia concerning Amoris Laetitia and – since they did not receive an answer – they also have now published them. The four cardinals have been criticized for it and some people have accused them of a lack of loyalty. How do you yourself judge the conduct of these four cardinals?
AL: The conduct of the cardinals is a service to the teaching of the Church! In history, there are many examples of criticism also of a pope. However, it has to follow the “morality of criticism”: that is, to say it politely, objectively, justly, born in love, and with much understanding for the one who is to be criticized because each criticism also hurts more or less.
MH: If it were offered to you, would you also sign these dubiayourself?
AL: Yes, after re-reading them, and perhaps also after consulting at least one of the cardinals, I would sign them!
MH: Do you know other cardinals or bishops who have sympathy with these four cardinals, but who do not dare to say so publicly?
AL: No, but it would be a certain shame if, out of fear, someone would not then speak! As Saint Gregory the Great said, silence can be a sin, and Otto von Habsburg said that cowardice is one of the main vices of our time!
MH: In your eyes, is it permitted for a cardinal or a bishop to express criticism of the Holy Father in public, and, if yes, under what conditions? Which goods are being weighed in such a step – which must be weighed carefully, of course?
AL: Each person has the right to such a critique: if the pope, for example, were to talk about themes that are not part of his competence. More specifically: naturally, a pope can raise his voice about all possible themes, but it should remain clear as to where he speaks as pope or where he speaks merely as a person just as everybody else: for example concerning climate development, or, rather, concerning a question of Faith or Morals! For example, at one time, Pius XII spoke in a very competent way about bees, but, of course, for this [knowledge] he could not also demand the consent and assent of Faith. In some cases, criticism can also pertain to the personal life of a pope, as it was the case with St. Catherine of Siena. The pope at the time was humble enough to accept her [chastening] criticism!
MH: In the face of a great moral crisis within and external to the Catholic Church, where a great number of people do not any longer follow Christian morality – do you think that it is right to soften and lower the Catholic moral standard? Or, should one, rather, call people to convert, after first showing them the negative consequences of a morally disordered life?
AL: The pope cannot lower or raise a moral standard – just as he cannot change a physical law. Moral laws are Divine Laws – or, if they are merely positive human laws, they are not part of morality, as such. For a good and Catholic moral teaching, it is important to make understandable the reference to God and to show that Catholic morality is – to speak in images – the “keeping human beings appropriately to their own species” – as distinct from other animals – in freedom and on the basis of understanding!
MH: How should the Catholic Church lead this discussion and where is there at all any more present an attentiveness to the well-being of the children – in the question of marriage, as well as in the question of pro-life issues? Does the Word of Christ – “Let the Little Ones come to Me” – inspire and sustain any meaning at all any more today?
AL: The best catechesis and teaching consists in referring to good examples and stories which help us to read in the right way (St. Paul!) the Scripture of God within one’s heart. Jesus did not give presentations and did not write in complicated books; rather, he provoked, especially in a personal dialogue, one’s own thinking and one’s own understanding. Concerning the issue of understanding and insight, I mention here the precarious example of contraception: Whoever has understood how contraception also damages love, and whoever has made this experience with the help of the Church’s counsel, also now knows why Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae and how good a life according to this teaching is for any love, even if it is, at the same time, hard to live out. But, something like this also exists in other situations where one follows the Commandment of God!


The Twelve Days of Christmas

Was the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' created as a secret code by persecuted Catholics?

Claim:   The song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was created as a coded reference to important articles of the Christian faith. 
The song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is an English Christmas carol. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the Church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember. To fit the number scheme, when you reach number 9, representing the Fruits of the Holy Ghost, the originator combined 6 to make 3, taking the 6 fruits that were similar: the fruit in each parenthesis is the that was not named separately. There are actually Twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost.
The "True Love" one hears in the song is not a smitten boy or girlfriend but Jesus Christ, because truly Love was born on Christmas Day. The partridge in the pear tree also represents Him because that bird is willing to sacrifice its life if necessary to protect its young by feigning injury to draw away predators.
According to Ann Ball in her book, HANDBOOK OF CATHOLIC SACRAMENTALS:
The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments
The three French hens stood for faith, hope, and love.
The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The five golden rings rerepresented the first five books of the Old Testament, which describe man's fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Savior.
The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit-----Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit-----Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience [Forbearance], Goodness [Kindness], Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continency [Chastity].
The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.
The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful Apostles.
The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles' Creed.
Original Source: Fr. Calvin Goodwin, FSSP, Nebraska
Printed with permission from Catholic Tradition.

Friday, December 23, 2016



Trump names a Catholic who was mocked on Ash Wednesday to be his press secretary

- See more at:


 The risks of Pope Francis’s never-ending Vatican reform
Pope Francis arrives for an audience to exchange Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia in Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Dec. 22. (Credit: CNS/Paul Haring.)
Most who work in the Vatican do so for low pay, no fanfare and at considerable personal sacrifice, and once in a while, they’d like to hear something encouraging from the boss about the value of their labor.

Of course, Francis was elected on a reform mandate, and he’s carrying out a project that enjoys the strong support of many of his cardinals and other bishops from around the world. On the other hand, he also faces the challenge of ensuring that when the reform is finally over, the people left standing have the confidence and enthusiasm to carry it out.--John Allen of Crux
John Allen makes good comments about the Vatican Curia which indeed needs reform. Remember when Pope Francis sat down with Pope Benedict at Benedict's compound and on the coffee table were several notebooks piled high which were the results of an internal investigation of the problems in the Vatican. This was after Pope Benedict had been humiliated by someone leaking his private documents--Vatileaks.

John Allen knows that the good people in the Curia are demoralized by Pope Francis crass style of reform which uses vinegar and insults rather than sugar and spice and everything nice 👍!


Thursday, December 22, 2016


This is long and doesn't need my commentary:

Pope lays out guiding principles of Roman Curia reform

Pope Francis addressed the members of the Roman Curia for his annual Christmas greetings - ANSA
Pope Francis addressed the members of the Roman Curia for his annual Christmas greetings - ANSA
22/12/2016 11:30
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis invited the Roman Curia to embrace the process of reform on Thursday, telling them Christmas is “the feast of the loving humility of God, of the God who upsets our logical expectations, the established order”.
His words came in his annual Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
“At Christmas,” Pope Francis said, “we are called to say ‘yes’ with our faith, not to the Master of the universe, and not even the most noble ideas, but precisely to this God who is the humble lover.”
In his address to the Roman Curia, the Holy Father returned, as during the previous two year’s addresses, to the theme of Curial reform, laying out the framework, guiding principles, and what is yet to come.
He said, “Since the Curia is not an immobile bureaucratic apparatus, reform is first and foremost a sign of life, of a Church that advances on her pilgrim way, of a Church that is living and for this reason semper reformanda, in need of reform because she is alive.”
The Pope said reform must “con-form to the Good News which must be proclaimed joyously and courageously to all, especially to the poor, the least and the outcast” and that it “must be guided by ecclesiology and directed in bonum et in servitium, as is the service of the Bishop of Rome”.
He said the aim of reform is not aesthetic, like a facelift, for “it isn’t wrinkles we need to worry about in the Church, but blemishes!”
Pope Francis said curial reform will only work if the men and women who work in the Curia are renewed and not simply replaced.
“Permanent formation is not enough; what we need also and above all is permanent conversion and purification. Without a change of mentality, efforts at practical improvement will be in vain.”
He said resistance to the process of reform is healthy, provided it does not come from ill intentions.
Describing three types of resistance, the Pope said open resistance is “born of goodwill and sincere dialogue” and hidden resistance comes from “hardened hearts content with the empty rhetoric of a complacent spiritual reform”, while malicious resistance springs up “in misguided minds and comes to the fore when the devil inspires ill intentions… [which] hides behind words of self-justification and often accusation”.
Pope Francis then laid out the guiding principles of the reform, which are:
- Individual responsibility (personal conversion)
- Pastoral concern (pastoral conversion)
- Missionary spirit (Christocentrism)
- Clear organization
- Improved functioning
- Modernization (updating)
- Sobriety
- Subsidiarity
- Synodality
- Catholicity
- Professionalism
- Gradualism (discernment)
In conclusion, the Holy Father reiterated that Christmas is the feast of God’s loving humility and repeated a prayer of Fr. Matta el Meskin, addressing the Lord Jesus born in Bethlehem.
“Grant us to become small like you, so that we can draw near to you and receive from you abundant humility and meekness. Do not deprive us of your revelation, the epiphany of your infancy in our hearts, so that with it we can heal all our pride and all our arrogance. We greatly need… for you to reveal in us your simplicity, by drawing us, and indeed the Church and the whole world, to yourself.”
Please find below the official English translation of Pope Francis’ address:
Greetings of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Roman Curia
Christmas 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to begin this meeting of ours by offering cordial good wishes to all of you, superiors and officials, papal representatives and staff of the Nunciatures worldwide, all those working in the Roman Curia and to your families.  Best wishes for a holy and serene Christmas and a happy New Year 2017!
Saint Augustine, contemplating the face of the Baby Jesus, exclaimed: “immense in the form of God, tiny in the form of a slave”.  To describe the mystery of the Incarnation, Saint Macarius, the fourth-century monk and disciple of Saint Anthony Abbot, used the Greek verb “smikryno”, to become small, to reduce to the bare minimum.  He says: “Listen attentively: the infinite, unapproachable and uncreated God, in his immense and ineffable goodness has taken a body, and, I dare say, infinitely diminished his glory”.
Christmas is thus the feast of the loving humility of God, of the God who upsets our logical expectations, the established order, the order of the dialectician and the mathematician.  In this upset lies all the richness of God’s own thinking, which overturns our limited human ways of thinking (cf. Is 55: 8-9).  As Romano Guardini said: “What an overturning of all our familiar values – not only human values but also divine values!  Truly this God upsets everything that we claim to build up on our own”.  At Christmas, we are called to say “yes” with our faith, not to the Master of the universe, and not even to the most noble of ideas, but precisely to this God who is the humble lover.
Blessed Paul VI, on Christmas of 1971, said: “God could have come wrapped in glory, splendour, light and power, to instill fear, to make us rub our eyes in amazement.  But instead he came as the smallest, the frailest and weakest of beings.  Why?  So that no one would be ashamed to approach him, so that no one would be afraid, so that all would be close to him and draw near him, so that there would be no distance between us and him.  God made the effort to plunge, to dive deep within us, so that each of us, each of you, could speak intimately with him, trust him, draw near him and realize that he thinks of you and loves you… He loves you!  Think about what this means!  If you understand this, if you remember what I am saying, you will have understood the whole of Christianity”.
God chose to be born a tiny child because he wanted to be loved.  Here we see, as it were, how the logic of Christmas is the overturning of worldly logic, of the mentality of power and might, the thinking of the Pharisees and those who see things only in terms of causality or determinism.
In this gentle yet overpowering light of the divine countenance of the Christ Child, I have chosen as the theme of this, our yearly meeting, the reform of the Roman Curia.  It seemed to me right and fitting to share with you the framework of the reform, to point out its guiding principles, the steps taken so far, but above all the logic behind every step already taken and what is yet to come.
Here I spontaneously think of the ancient adage that describes the process of the Spiritual Exercises in the Ignatian method: deformata reformare, reformata conformare, conformata confirmare et confirmata transformare.
There can be no doubt that, for the Curia, the word reform is to be understood in two ways.  First of all, it has to make the Curia con-form “to the Good News which must be proclaimed joyously and courageously to all, especially to the poor, the least and the outcast”.  To make it con-form “to the signs of our time and to all its human achievements”, so as “better to meet the demands of the men and women whom we are called to serve”.  At the same time, this means con-forming the Curia ever more fully to its purpose, which is that of cooperating in the ministry of the Successor of Peter (cum ipso consociatam operam prosequuntur, as the Motu Proprio Humanam Progressionem puts it), and supporting the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his singular, ordinary, full, supreme, immediate and universal power.
Consequently, the reform of the Roman Curia must be guided by ecclesiology and directed in bonum et in servitium, as is the service of the Bishop of Rome.  This finds eloquent expression in the words of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, quoted in the third chapter of the Constitution Pastor Aeternus of the First Vatican Council: “My honour is that of the universal Church.  My honour is the solid strength of my brothers.  I feel truly honoured when none of them is denied his due honour”.
Since the Curia is not an immobile bureaucratic apparatus, reform is first and foremost a sign of life, of a Church that advances on her pilgrim way, of a Church that is living and for this reason semper reformanda, in need of reform because she is alive.
Here it must clearly be said that reform is not an end unto itself, but rather a process of growth and above all of conversion.
Consequently, the aim of reform is not aesthetic, an effort to improve the looks of the Curia, nor can it be understood as a sort of facelift, using make-up and cosmetics to embellish its aging body, nor even as an operation of plastic surgery to take away its wrinkles.
Dear brothers and sisters, it isn’t wrinkles we need to worry about in the Church, but blemishes!
Seen in this light, we need to realize that the reform will be effective only if it is carried out with men and women who are renewed and not simply new.  We cannot be content simply with changing personnel, but need to encourage spiritual, human and professional renewal among the members of the Curia.  The reform of the Curia is in no way implemented with a change of persons – something that certainly is happening and will continue to happen – but with a conversion in persons.  Permanent formation is not enough; what we need also and above all is permanent conversion and purification.  Without a change of mentality, efforts at practical improvement will be in vain.
That is why, in our last two meetings at Christmas, I discussed certain “diseases”, drawing on the teaching of the Desert Fathers (2014), and compiled, on the basis of the word “mercy”, a catalogue of virtues necessary for curial officials and all those who wish their consecration or service to the Church to become more fruitful (2015).  The underlying reason is that, as in the case of the Church overall, the semper reformanda must also become, in the case of the Curia, a permanent personal and structural process of conversion.
It was necessary to speak of disease and cures because every surgical operation, if it is to be successful, must be preceded by detailed diagnosis and careful analysis, and needs to be accompanied and followed up by precise prescriptions.
In this process, it is normal, and indeed healthy, to encounter difficulties, which in the case of the reform, might present themselves as different types of resistance.   There can be cases of open resistance, often born of goodwill and sincere dialogue, and cases of hidden resistance, born of fearful or hardened hearts content with the empty rhetoric of a complacent spiritual reform, on the part of those who say they are ready for change, but want everything to remain as it is.  There are also cases of malicious resistance, which spring up in misguided minds and come to the fore when the devil inspires ill intentions (often cloaked in sheep’s clothing).  This last kind of resistance hides behind words of self-justification and often accusation; it takes refuge in traditions, appearances, formalities, in the familiar, or else in a desire to make everything personal, failing to distinguish between the act, the actor, and the action.
The absence of reaction is a sign of death!  Consequently, the good cases of resistance – and even those not quite so good – are necessary and merit being listened to, welcomed and their expression encouraged.
All this is to say that the reform of the Curia is a delicate process that has to take place in fidelity to essentials, with constant discernment, evangelical courage and ecclesial wisdom, careful listening, persevering action, positive silence and firm decisions.  It requires much prayer, profound humility, farsightedness, concrete steps forward and – whenever necessary – even with steps backward, with determination, vitality, responsible exercise of power, unconditioned obedience, but above all by abandonment to the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit and trust in his necessary support.
These are principally twelve: individualism; pastoral concern; missionary spirit; clear organization; improved functioning; modernization; sobriety; subsidiarity; synodality; catholicity; professionalism and gradualism.
1.         Individual responsibility (personal conversion)
Once again I reaffirm the importance of individual conversion, without which all structural change would prove useless.  The true soul of the reform are the men and women who are part of it and make it possible.  Indeed, personal conversion supports and reinforces communal conversion.
There is a powerful interplay between personal and communal attitudes.  A single person can bring great good to the entire body, but also bring great harm and lead to sickness.  A healthy body is one that can recover, accept, reinforce, care for and sanctify its members.
2.         Pastoral concern (pastoral conversion)
Mindful of the figure of the shepherd (cf. Ez 34:16; Jn 10:1-21) and recognizing that the Curia is a community of service, “it is good for us too, called to be pastors in the Church, to let the face of God the Good Shepherd enlighten us, purify us and transform us, fully renewed, to our mission.  That even in our workplaces we may feel, cultivate and practise a sound pastoral sense, especially towards the people whom we meet each day.  May no one feel overlooked or mistreated, but may everyone experience, here first of all, the care and concern of the Good Shepherd”.
The efforts of all who work in the Curia must be inspired by pastoral concern and a spirituality of service and communion, for this is the antidote to all the venoms of vain ambition and illusory rivalry.  Paul VI cautioned that “the Roman Curia should not be a bureaucracy, as some wrongly judge it, pretentious and apathetic, merely legalistic and ritualistic, a training ground of concealed ambitions and veiled antagonisms, as others would have it.  Rather, it should be a true community of faith and charity, of prayer and of activity, of brothers and sons of the Pope, who carry out their duties respecting one another’s competence and with a sense of collaboration, in order to serve him as he serves his brothers and sons of the universal Church and of the entire world”.
3.         Missionary spirit (Christocentrism)
As the Council taught, it is the chief aim of all forms of service in the Church to bring the Good News to the ends of the earth.  For “there are Church structures which can hamper efforts at evangelization, yet even good structures are only helpful when there is a life constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them.  Without new life and an authentic evangelical spirit, without the Church’s fidelity to her own calling, any new structure will soon prove ineffective.”
4.         Clear organization
On the basis of the principle that all Dicasteries are juridically equal, a clearer organization of the offices of the Roman Curia was needed, in order to bring out the fact that each Dicastery has its own areas of competence.  These areas of competence must be respected, but they must also be distributed in a reasonable, efficient and productive way.  No Dicastery can therefore appropriate the competence of another Dicastery, in accordance with what is laid down by law.  On the other hand, all Dicasteries report directly to the Pope.
5.         Improved functioning
The eventual merging of two or more Dicasteries competent in similar or closely connected matters to create a single Dicastery serves on the one hand to give the latter greater importance (even externally).  On the other hand, the closeness and interaction of individual bodies within a single Dicastery contributes to improved functioning (as shown by the two recently created Dicasteries).
Improved functioning also demands an ongoing review of roles, the relevance of areas of competence, and the responsibilities of the personnel, and consequently of the process of reassignment, hiring, interruption of work and also promotions.
6.         Modernization (updating)
This involves an ability to interpret and attend to “the signs of the times.”  In this sense, “We are concerned to make provisions that the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia be suited to the circumstances of our time and adapted to the needs of the universal Church”.  Such was the request of the Second Vatican Council: “the departments of the Roman Curia should be reorganized in a manner more appropriate to the needs of our time and of different regions and rites, especially in regard to their number, their titles, their competence, their procedures and how they coordinate their activities”.
7.         Sobriety
Here what is called for is a simplification and streamlining of the Curia.  This involves the combination or merging of Dicasteries based on their areas of competence; simplification within individual Dicasteries; the eventual suppression of offices no longer responding to contingent needs; the integration into Dicasteries or the reduction of Commissions, Academies, Committees, etc., all in view of the essential sobriety needed for a proper and authentic witness.
8.         Subsidiarity
This involves the reordering of areas of competence specific to the various Dicasteries, transferring them if necessary from one Dicastery to another, in order to achieve autonomy, coordination and subsidiarity in areas of competence and effective interaction in service.
Here too, respect must be shown for the principles of subsidiarity and clear organization with regard to relations with the Secretariat of State and, within the latter, among its various areas of competence, so that carrying out its proper duties it will be of direct and immediate assistance to the Pope.  This will also improve coordination between the various sectors of the Dicasteries and the Offices of the Curia themselves.  The Secretariat of State will be able to carry out its important function precisely in achieving unity, interdependence and coordination between its sections and different sectors.
9.         Synodality
The work of the Curia must be synodal, with regular meetings of Heads of the Dicasteries, presided over by the Roman Pontiff; regularly scheduled Audiences of Heads of the Dicasteries with the Pope, and the customary interdicasterial meetings.  The reduced number of Dicasteries will allow for more frequent and systematic meetings of individual Prefects with the Pope and productive meetings of Heads of Dicasteries, since this cannot be the case when groups are too large.
Synodality must also be evident in the work of each Dicastery, with particular attention to the Congress and at least a greater frequency of the Ordinary Sessions.  Each Dicastery must avoid the fragmentation caused by factors such as the multiplication of specialized sectors, which can tend to become self-absorbed.  Their coordination must be the task of the Secretary, or the Undersecretary.
10.       Catholicity
Among the Officials, in addition to priests and consecrated persons, the catholicity of the Church must be reflected in the hiring of personnel from throughout the world, of permanent deacons and lay faithful carefully selected on the basis of their unexceptionable spiritual and moral life and their professional competence.  It is fitting to provide for the hiring of greater numbers of the lay faithful, especially in those Dicasteries where they can be more competent than clerics or consecrated persons.  Also of great importance is an enhanced role for women and lay people in the life of the Church and their integration into roles of leadership in the Dicasteries, with particular attention to multiculturalism.
11.       Professionalism
Every Dicastery must adopt a policy of continuing formation for its personnel, to avoid their falling into a rut or becoming stuck in a bureaucratic routine.
Likewise essential is the definitive abolition of the practice of promoveatur ut amoveatur.
12.       Gradualism (discernment)
Gradualism has to do with the necessary discernment entailed by historical processes, the passage of time and stages of development, assessment, correction, experimentation, and approvals ad experimentum.  In these cases, it is not a matter of indecision, but of the flexibility needed to be able to achieve a true reform.
I will now mention briefly and concisely some steps already taken to put into practice these guiding principles and the recommendations made by the Cardinals in the plenary meetings before the Conclave, by the COSEA, by the Council of Cardinals (C9), and by the Heads of the Dicasteries and other experts and individuals:
-           On 13 April 2013 it was announced that the Council of Cardinals (Consilium Cardinalium Summo Pontifici) – the C8 and, after 1 July 2014, the C9 – was created, primarily to counsel the Pope on the governance of the universal Church and on other related topics, also with the specific task of proposing the revision of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus.
-           With the Chirograph of 24 June 2013, the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Institute for Works of Religion was established, in order to study the legal status of the IOR and to allow for its greater ”harmonization” with “the universal mission of the Apostolic See”.  This was “to ensure that economic and financial activities be permeated by Gospel principles” and to achieve a complete and acknowledged transparency in its operation.
-           With the Motu Proprio of 11 July 2013, provisions were made to define the jurisdiction of the judicial authorities of Vatican City State in criminal matters.
-           With the Chirograph of 18 July 2013, the COSEA (Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure) was instituted and given the task of research, analysis and the gathering of information, in cooperation with the Council of Cardinals for the study of the organizational and economic problems of the Holy See.
-           With the Motu Proprio of 8 August 2013, the Holy See’s Financial Security Committee was established for the prevention and countering of money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  This was to bring the IOR and the entire Vatican economic system to the regular adoption of, and fully committed and diligent compliance with, all international legal norms on financial transparency.
-           With the Motu Proprio of 15 November 2013, the Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF), established by Benedict XVI with his Motu Proprio of 30 December 2010 for the prevention and countering of illegal activities in the area of monetary and financial dealings, was consolidated.
-           With the Motu Proprio 24 February 2014 (Fidelis Dispensator et Prudens), the Secretariat for the Economy and the Council for the Economy were established to replace the Council of 15 Cardinals, with the task of harmonizing the policies of control in regard to the economic management of the Holy See and the Vatican City.
-           With the same Motu Proprio of 24 February 2014, the Office of General Auditor (URG) was established as a new agency of the Holy See, charged with auditing the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the institutions connected with to the Holy See or associated with it, and the administrations of the Governatorate of Vatican City.
-           With the Chirograph of 22 March 2014, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established, in order “to promote the protection of the dignity of minors and vulnerable adults, using the forms and methods, consonant with the nature of the Church, which they consider most appropriate”.
-           With the Motu Proprio of 8 July 2014, the Ordinary Section of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See was transferred to the Secretariat for the Economy.
-           On 22 February 2015, the Statutes of the new economic agencies were approved.
-           With the Motu Proprio of 27 June 2015, the Secretariat for Communication was established and charged “to respond to the current context of communication, characterized by the presence and evolution of digital media, and by factors of convergence and interactivity”.  The Secreariat was also charged with overall restructuring, through a process of reorganization and merging, of “all the realities which in various ways up to the present have dealt with communications”, so as to “respond ever better to the needs of the mission of the Church”
-           On 6 September 2016, the Statutes of the Secretariat for Communication were promulgated; they took effect last October.
            With the two Motu Proprios of 15 August 2015, provisions were made for the reform of the canonical process in cases of declaration of marital nullity: Mitis et Misericors Iesus for the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, and Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus for the Code of Canon Law.
-           With the Motu Proprio of 4 June 2016 (Come una madre amorevole), an effort was made to prevent negligence on the part of bishops in the exercise of their office, especially with regard to cases of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
-           With the Motu Proprio of 15 August 2016 (Sedula Mater), the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life was established, in the light of the general pastoral purpose of the Petrine ministry: “I hasten to arrange all things necessary in order that the richness of Christ Jesus may be poured forth appropriately and profusely among the faithful”.
-           With the Motu Proprio of 17 August 2016 (Humanum progressionem), the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development was established, so that development can take place “by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace and the care of creation”.  Beginning in January 2017, four Pontifical Councils  - Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and Healthcare Workers – will be merged into this Dicastery.  For the time being, I will directly head the section for the pastoral care of migrants in the new Dicastery.
-           On 18 October 2016, the Statutes of the Pontifical Academy for Life were approved.
Our meeting today began by speaking of the meaning of Christmas as the overturning of our human criteria, in order to emphasize that the heart and centre of the reform is Christ (Christocentrism).
I would like to conclude simply with a word and a prayer.  The word is to reiterate that Christmas is the feast of God’s loving humility.  The prayer is the Christmas message of Father Matta el Meskin, a monk of our time, who, addressing the Lord Jesus born in Bethlehem, said: “If for us the experience of (your) infancy is so difficult, it is not so for you, O Son of God.  If we stumble along the way that leads to communion with you because of your smallness, you are capable of removing all the obstacles that prevent us from doing this.  We know that you will not be at peace until you find us in your likeness and with this (same) smallness.  Allow us today, O Son of God, to draw dear to your heart.  Grant that we may not consider ourselves great in our experiences.  Grant us instead to become small like you, so that we can draw near to you and receive from you abundant humility and meekness.  Do not deprive us of your revelation, the epiphany of your infancy in our hearts, so that with it we can heal all our pride and all our arrogance.  We greatly need… for you to reveal in us your simplicity, by drawing us, and indeed the Church and the whole world, to yourself.  Our world is weary and exhausted, because everyone is vying to see who is the greatest.  There is a ruthless competition between governments, churches, peoples, within families, from one parish to another: Who of us is the greatest?  The world is festering with painful wounds because of this great illness: Who is the greatest?  But today we have found in you, O Son of God, our one medicine.  We, and the whole world, will not find salvation or peace unless we go back to encounter you anew in the manger of Bethlehem.  Amen.
Thank you, and I wish you a Holy Christmas and a Blessed New Year 2017!

(Devin Sean Watkins)
22/12/2016 11:30