The Tablet Blog
The Pope's false friendsRobert Mickens in Rome
1 June 2012, 9:00
The VatiLeaks scandal and the firing of the president of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR) - or Vatican Bank - have generated an extraordinary amount of unflattering media attention on the workings inside the Roman Curia.
These are tense days inside the papal enclave. The 'mess' inside its walls is complicated, but a few things are clear.
First of all, the leaking of the private Vatican documents is clearly intended to embarrass Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's Secretary of State. They are aimed at his removal.
Secondly, the rancour and in-fighting - demonstrated by the contents of the leaked documents - depict a Roman Curia that is dysfunctional and in need of reform.
Furthermore, it is clear that there continues to be a lack of transparency in most of the Roman Curia's operating structures, despite the official mantra that Pope Benedict XVI has rigorously worked for more transparency.
Add to this the clericalist ethos that permeates the curia, which is obvious to anyone with eyes to see. This clericalism is a major obstacle to transparency and serves only to shield members of the hierarchy from being judged by (or held accountable to) anyone of lower rank or by the lay faithful - and certainly from anyone outside the Vatican. This is one of the main issues concerning the IOR: whether the Vatican can allow outside regulators to look into its operations without surrendering its sovereignty. The alternative is secrecy.
In the end, the continued confusion and negative press that all of this has generated have cast this pontificate in an extremely negative light. They have raised, like never before, serious concerns about Pope Benedict's governance and painful questions about his choice of personnel.
Yet throughout all of this, people inside the Vatican - no matter how they view or are involved in the current crisis - continue to profess their loyalty, esteem and love for the Pope. Whether Benedict XVI trusts their words is another matter altogether. He knows that even his critics inside the Vatican - yes, they do exist - would never dare speak ill of him openly. That's because they religiously follow the curia's Golden Rule, 'One never criticises the Supreme Pontiff'.
Pope Benedict must have been reminded of this when he came across these words this morning while praying Psalm 55 in the Office of Readings (v21-22):
'The traitor has turned against his friends;
he has broken his word.
His speech is softer than butter,
but war is in his heart.
His words are smoother than oil,
but they are naked swords.'
Those who are flattering the Pope during these days of crisis and refusing to tell him that the Roman Curia and other church structures are in need of major reform (and not merely spiritual renewal), are doing him no favours. And they surely are not his true friends.
You can read Robert Mickens' analysis of the VatiLeaks scandal in this week's edition of The Tablet, which subscribers can read here.
Above: Paolo Gabriele, private assistant to Pope Benedict XVI, pictured bottom left in the Popemobile on 2 May, three weeks before his arrest by Vatican police after they found private Vatican documents in his home on Vatican property. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring
12 June 2012 11:46 (5 of 5)
So, 'A Priest', in an earlier comment, is praying 'for a conclave very soon'. Surely this cannot be genuine - if so, it is disgraceful that a priest should be praying for the death of the Holy Father. Long may Pope Benedict reign!
10 June 2012 18:47 (4 of 5)
...When did we last have a smiling, laughing or giggling pope ? ... John Paul the First
9 June 2012 14:12 (3 of 5)
Is this the moment to reflect on what what Newman wrote in Arians of the 4th century.: 'The episcopate, whose action was so prompt and concordant at NicÃ¦a on the rise of Arianism, did not, as a class or order of men, play a good part in the troubles consequent upon the Council; and the laity did. The Catholic people, in the length and breadth of Christendom, were the obstinate champions of Catholic truth, and the bishops were not. Of course there were great and illustrious exceptions; first, Athanasius, Hilary, the Latin Eusebius, and PhÅ“badius; and after them, Basil, the two Gregories, and Ambrose; there are others, too, who suffered, if they did nothing else, as Eustathius, Paulus, Paulinus, and Dionysius; and the Egyptian bishops, whose weight was small in the Church in proportion to the great power of their Patriarch. And, on the other hand, as I shall say presently, there were exceptions to the Christian heroism of the laity, especially in some of the great towns. And again, in speaking of the laity, I speak inclusively of their parish-priests (so to call them), at least in many places; but on the whole, taking a wide view of the history, we are obliged to say that the governing body of the Church came short, and the governed were pre-eminent in faith, zeal, courage, and constancy. This is a very remarkable fact: but there is a moral in it. Perhaps it was permitted, in order to impress upon the Church at that very time passing out of her state of persecution to her long temporal ascendancy, the great evangelical lesson, that, not the wise and powerful, but the obscure, the unlearned, and the weak constitute her real strength. It was mainly by the faithful people that Paganism was overthrown; it was by the faithful people, under the lead of Athanasius and the Egyptian bishops, and in some places supported by their Bishops or priests, that the worst of heresies was withstood and stamped out of the sacred territory,'¯ He even goes further: Appendix, Note 5, New Edition, London, 2002 (first edition 1891). In his assessment of the hierarchy of that period of history, he used strong clauses. 'The three clauses which furnished matter of objection were these: 'I said, (1), that 'there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the 'Ecclesia docens;' (2), that 'the body of Bishops failed in their confession of the faith.' (3), that 'general councils, &c., said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth.'¯ Perhaps the laity should make their voice heard and their demands clear by pulling on the 'purse strings' - money sometimes speaks louder than words.
FR HF. O'BEACHAIN
8 June 2012 16:57 (2 of 5)
Every organisation of humans has its internal dysfunction of power, pride, jealousy. Jesus had to deal with it in His Apostolic College. So accept the reality, work with the system and realise that the Holy Spirit works around, through and with the decisions we all make. Look when the rejected Montini and got JohnXX111 who set them all on their toes, and God knows who was the alternate choice to Pope Ratzinger!
8 June 2012 14:25 (1 of 5)
Can we trust anyone in the church these days. Even I would not dare put my name any more !!! I just pray we will once again become the jolly, open and happy 'pilgrim people of God'. I noticed a bishop (Birmingham) recently talking to his people as the mystical body of Christ !! Nice idea but how top down (and utterly clerical) and just look at how toxic the church has become on that one. I pray for a conclave very soon and for those voting to take very great care and give us a man (!!!) who puts Jesus Christ at the top of his agenda and NOT the institution as the present pope clearly does......... Remember dear Basil Hume who went to Rome rarely (and clearly 'they' didn't like this too much) but simply had Jesus Christ write large in all he said and did. It touched everyone. Or perhaps we should aim for someone like the Dalai Lama (one of the few credible religious leaders around) who touches everyone with his warm heartedness and his smile, laugh or giggle. When did we last have a smiling, laughing or giggling pope ???? Does the present pope realise just how dreadfully polarised he has made the present church. I suppose not a soul who can speak to him honestly either sees this or would dare say it to me. I am really inclined to think roll on the next reformation. And this one will not be anything from outside the fold but from deep within it. Ouch !!! Come Holy Spirit, we are ready, we desperately need you...................
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