Thursday, February 9, 2017


Pope admits corruption at the Vatican in wide-ranging talk to men religious


Pope Francis admitted to the leaders of the world's Catholic male religious orders in a meeting last fall that the Vatican is a corrupt place, but said he is at peace in his work reforming the church's command structures.

"There is corruption in the Vatican," the pontiff told members of the Union of Superiors General Nov. 26, according to a report of the meeting released for the first time Thursday by the Italian Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica.

The pope made the admission after being asked by one of the religious leaders how he maintains serenity in his work.

"I do not take tranquilizers!" Francis joked, before adding: "The Italians offer good advice: to live in peace you need a healthy dose of not caring."

"I am at peace," said the pontiff, explaining that he has a small statue of a sleeping St. Joseph on his desk and that he places notes identifying problems he needs Joseph to help with under the statue.

"Now he is sleeping under a mattress of notes!" he joked again. "That is why I sleep well: it is a grace of God."

Francis was speaking in November to about 140 male superior generals, who were meeting in Rome for the 88th general assembly of their umbrella group. Thursday's report of the encounter was written by Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the chief editor of Civilta Cattolica and a papal confidant.

Release of the report of the November meeting comes as the Jesuit magazine is celebrating is 4,000th issue since its founding in 1850, and as the outlet is beginning to publish editions in four additional languages: English, Spanish, French and Korean.

In Thursday's report, Spadaro says the meeting between the pope and the religious leaders lasted three full hours and was not broadcast originally because it "had to be free and fraternal, made up of unfiltered questions and answers."

Besides mentioning corruption in the Vatican, Francis also speaks at length about how he sees the work of the church, how religious leaders can prevent sexual abuse of minors, and what community life should look like.

Discernment a 'great problem' in priestly formation

The meeting began with a question about the reason why Francis chose that the next session of the Synod of Bishops, to take place in 2018, would focus on young people.

The pope explains that at the end of the 2015 Synod, all the participants were asked to make three suggestions for the next meeting. Those suggestions, he said, were also joined by suggestions from bishops' conferences, which were then discussed by the council of bishops that oversees the Synod.

Francis says he was part of that discussion. "I was present," states the pope. "I always go, but I do not speak. For me it is important to truly listen. It is important that I might listen, but let them do their work freely. In this way I understand how problems emerge, what the proposals are, and how to confront them."

The pope says he hopes the next Synod would focus most on helping young people discern God's will for their lives. He says the issue of discernment "is one of the greatest problems we have with priestly formation at the moment."

"In formation we are used to formulas, black and white, but not to the gray of daily life," says the pontiff. "And what counts is life, not the formulas."

"We must grow in discernment," he continues. "The logic of black and white can lead to caustic abstraction. Instead, discernment means going beyond the gray of life according to the will of God."

"And you look for the will of God following the true doctrine of the Gospel and not in the fixations of an abstract doctrine," says Francis.

A fear of 'rigid' religious orders

Francis is also asked about the diminishing numbers of people joining religious orders in the Western world, as compared to the large numbers that used to join in the past. The pontiff says he has some concerns about that but he is also concerned some of the newer religious orders that have sprung up in recent decades.

While the pope says some of those orders "are really good and do things seriously," others "are born not from a charism of the Holy Spirit, but human charisma, from charismatic people who attract others by their alluring human skills."

"Some are, I could say, 'restorationists,'" says Francis. "They seem to provide safety and instead they offer only rigidity."

"When I am told that there is a Congregation that attracts many vocations, I confess, I am worried," says the pope. "The Spirit does not work with the logic of human success: the Spirit has another way. But they say to me: there are many young people committing themselves, praying much, they are very faithful."

"I say to myself: 'Very well: we’ll see if it is the Lord!'" Francis states.

"Do not put your hope in the sudden and powerful flowering of these Institutes," the pope advises the religious leaders. "Seek instead the humble path of Jesus, that of evangelical witness. Benedict XVI told us well: the Church does not grow by proselytizing but by attraction."

The pope also exhorts the leaders against inappropriate forms of adoration of Mary, saying he hopes they pray to the "true Madonna" and "not the postmistress who sends out a letter every day saying, 'My child, do this and then the next day do that.'"

"The true Madonna is the one who generates Jesus in our hearts, as a Mother," says Francis. "The trend of the Madonna superstar, who puts herself at the center as a protagonist, is not Catholic."

Not only cardinals act as princes

The religious leaders also asked Francis about how they can better structure their lives in their communities.

"Community life?" the pope retorts. "Some saints defined this as a continual penance."

"There are communities where people are at each other’s throats!" says the pontiff. "If mercy does not enter into the community, that is not good."

"For religious, the ability to forgive often has to begin within the community," Francis continues. "And this is prophetic. You begin with listening: let everybody feel they are being heard."

"Superiors need to be listening and persuading," says the pope. "If superiors are continuously rebuking, it does not help create the radical prophecy of religious life. I am convinced that religious have an advantage in giving a contribution to the renewal of the structures and the mentality of the Church."

"A climate of worldliness and of little princes can enter into the structures of the church, and religious have to contribute to destroying this evil climate," says Francis.

"You don’t need to become a cardinal to think of yourself as a prince!" he exhorts. "It is enough to be clerical. This is what is worst in the organization of the Church. Religious can give witness as an upside-down iceberg, where the tip, that is the top, is at the base."

Preventing sexual abuse

Asked about how to prevent sexual abuse in religious orders, Francis says there is not time in their meeting for a "very articulated response" to the question. But he tells the religious to "be careful in receiving formation candidates to the religious life without evaluating well their sufficient affective maturity."

"Never receive to the religious life or to a diocese candidates that have been rejected from another seminary or from another Institute without asking for clear and detailed information on the motivations for their moving away," the pontiff advises.

Francis also tells the religious that God wants religious orders to be poor, joking: "When they are not poor, the Lord sends a finance officer to send the institute into bankruptcy!"

The pope ends the encounter by returning to his frequent exhortation that the church should be going forth into the world.

"The Church was born going forth," says Francis. "She was closed in the Upper Room and then she went out. And she must continue to go out. She shouldn’t go back to hiding in the Upper Room. This is what Jesus wanted."

The pontiff recommends that the religious re-read his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel"), which he says "matured in the light of" Paul VI's 1975 exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi ("Evangelization in the Modern World") and the 2007 meeting of the Latin American bishops in Aparecida, Brazil.

"Go on with courage and without fear of erring!" says Francis. "Those who never make mistakes are those who never do anything. We have to go forward! We will get things wrong sometimes, yes, but there is always the mercy of God on our side!"

Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent.


Anonymous said...

It's easy to see see how Archbishop Bergoglio succeeded in reducing vocations in Buenos Aires virtually to scratch. Let's hope that the attitudes he expresses here do not spread this success to the whole Church. Evidently he's antipathetic to those orders that are vibrant with orthodox faith and spirituality. If they're too vibrant and faithful, like the Franciscans of the Immaculate, they'd better watch their backs. Apparently better to be faithless and degenerate, even heterodox, in order to enjoy ecclesiastical favor in the current environment.

rcg said...

Yikes. Whenever I hear a leader talking like this I feel like he is distracted and maybe a little lost. People in this circumstance tend to react rather than act. So you get responses like the Knights of Malta while simultaneously sitting on an admitted den of vipers. Ironically, for a guy who likes to think of himself as a common man he really over-thinks things.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I suspect that the Holy Father is thinking of orders that are more structured, traditional and rigid, like the Legionaries of Christ, who attracted all kinds of young men for the priesthood, but whose founder was a fraud but had a charismatic personality and was able to attract based upon the cult of the personality. That doesn't happen in liberal orders since these have become so individualistic and they are all over the place in terms of spirituality, piety, devotion and apostolate.

The Franciscans of the Immaculate may have had some of the same issues with the cult of the personality and people who were escaping the world by using religious life to do it.

Think of the movie Sound of Music when the wonderful Benedictine Abbess tells Maria that nuns don't escape the world but join for altruistic reasons, then she sends her to that large family.

Can anyone name any male religious order that is liberal that has had the same disaster as the Legionaries of Christ?

Anonymous said...

What's the use of saying anything after reading that. I just ignore him, say a Hail Mary for him and go about my business shaking my head. He must be a really unhappy, miserable soul.

Dan said...

"We will get things wrong sometimes, yes, but there is always the mercy of God on our side!"
These words bring me no comfort whatsoever given this pope's wrecking-ball tendencies.

""When I am told that there is a Congregation that attracts many vocations, I confess, I am worried," says the pope."
He is worried because they threaten his Jesuit world view.

" And she must continue to go out. She shouldn’t go back to hiding in the Upper Room."

Were any Trappists in attendance?

TJM said...

Fr. McDonald,

Liberal orders, who have caused far more damage to the Faith, aren't focused on because they are the favored pets in the Church. But they are dying out whereas the more traditional ones are growing. The biological solution will take care of the problem. This is another example of Pope Francis' twisted notion of "mercy."

Dan said...

"Can anyone name any male religious order that is liberal that has had the same disaster as the Legionaries of Christ?" Fr. McDonald, liberal religious orders have their own disasters to deal with--like maybe-- they are dying?

"...and people who were escaping the world by using religious life to do it." Fr. McDonald, are you telling us people who join liberal religious orders cannot be engaged in the same escapism? Kindly explain, for I am mystified by your comment. And just what is "escaping the world"? How is it measured, and how does your analysis distinguish the legitimate desire to reject the world and its corruptions (I John 2:15) and what you regard as "escapism"?

TJM said...

Anonymous at 10:47

You are likely onto something here. Also good advice!

Anonymous said...

Fr. McDonald: "The Franciscans of the Immaculate may have had some of the same issues with the cult of the personality and people who were escaping the world by using religious life to do it."

Can you cite any basis for this speculation on your part? Absent any factual basis, such speculation seems inappropriate and unfair (if not detractive) to what to all appearances a refreshingly vibrant and wholesomely spiritual order.

On the other had, there is considerable evidence for the suggestion that the FFI was suppressed solely because their orthodoxy and spirituality were so conspicuously at variance with Vatican authorities who are aligned with more liberal (and less successful) orders, and who in particular are antipathetic to Summorum Pontificum and the TLM.

rcg said...

It is likely that 'liberal' (attitudes and politics) religious orders have different crises than 'conservative' ones. If you are asking if they have the same issue with sex as the traditional orders the answer is certainly 'no'. Since they disagree with Church teachings on sex and morality They don't need to prey on the children of the parishoners because they have each other and the accolytes in their seminaries.

John Nolan said...

'Restorationist' is a pejorative term used by liberals to denigrate those who uphold tradition. And once again we have the deployment of his favourite term 'rigid' which in fact means 'orthodox'.

Is this man mad or bad or both? Or is the odious and slippery Spadaro manipulating him? In any event, I have lost what little confidence I have in this dysfunctional papacy and pray for its speedy end.

TJM said...

John Nolan,

You have articulated the concerns of many faithful Catholics. This Pope is a master of "projection", accusing others of the very conduct he allegedly deplores.

Anonymous said...

rcg: "If you are asking if they have the same issue with sex as the traditional orders the answer is certainly 'no'."

Certainly not, the sexual deviance (i.e., homosexuality) in certainly "liberal" religious orders is far greater than that alleged in any traditional order that I'm aware of.

PrayTell, think of a certain notorious Benedictine monastery, home to a well-known ultra-liturgical blog, about half of whose monks have been accused of sexual abuse. The 18 monks referred to in the article quoted below are only a minority of those who have been the subject to "credible accusations".

"St. John’s Abbey, one of the largest Benedictine monasteries in the U.S., released more than 15,000 pages of documents Tuesday related to 18 priests it said 'likely offended' sexually against minors dating back to the 1960s."

"The disclosure comes as the latest chapter in the jagged history for the Benedictine community in Collegeville, Minn., on the issue of clergy sexual abuse, one that at times has seen it attempt to lead in understanding the epidemic but at others fall ill to the plague of its horrors. Like many others before them, the disclosed documents provide a recounting of what the abbey knew when regarding each monk -- nearly half of whom have died -- and often the attempts to shuttle them from place to place to avoid possible lawsuits and scandal."

rcg said...

Henry, you and I are not the first to notice that some people don't have problems with deviant behavior simply because they don't care. The charges only matter for traditionalists because they do care and attempt to avoid those temptations. This gives joy to demons that live in the hearts of those liberals because they can mock, humiliate, and most importantly defeat the traditionalist from proclaiming the word of God. It is interesting to note, however, that liberals are most infatuated with accusing someone of being a hypocrite and see that as the greatest ut of all. Of course for them it is a sin because their lord expects them, once fallen, to remain so because it is the easiest path. Our Lord not only knows we will fall again He offers to help us Rise each time. So they betray a great weapon we can use to fight them in the public square: publish their hypocrisies with an offer of redemption and the promise of foregivness.

For what it is worth this might be the best reason for public confession and contrition. Our internal forum can work against us if we use it to hide shame.

TJM said...


I know recall that terrible history at the liberal Benedictine Abbey! I bet Pope Frank will not focus on groups like this. He will show them "mercy."

Православный физик said...

Depends on how you define a spiritual sense, definitely the orders that are liberal....

Anonymous said...

I don't know why people are using the terms liberal and conservative. Shouldn't they be using good and bad or good and evil? Liberal versus conservative sounds so political, like some people are watching way too much TV.

TJM said...

Anonymous, we use those terms because the National Anti-Catholic Reporter (a left wing loon rag masquerading as a "Catholic" newspaper) does. I prefer the term Catholic versus fake catholic.

Charles G said...

This Pope is certainly a divider and not a uniter. A variety of charismas and spiritualities in the Church? Forget it, everyone including religious orders must now in this age of Aquarian mercy walk in lockstep with the hippy Pope's 1970s new age spirituality. No thanks for me. He is no leader. I literally cannot stand to read anything this man says, and it is increasing my anger at this Church whose leadership doesn't care one iota about preserving the timeless traditional teachings and practices of the Church handed down from of old.

Rood Screen said...

When Charles G. has had enough, there has certainly been enough. Basta.

Rood Screen said...


There are prudential matters affecting Church life which can authentically be approached from either a perspective of conservation or a perspective of liberality. However, in discussions about faith and morals, there is simply fidelity and infidelity.