Pope Francis’ Christmas message to the Roman Curia (cardinals, bishops, monsignors) sounded more like a John the Baptist exhortation than a Hallmark cards Peace on Earth to Men of Goodwill sentiment.
John the Baptist once warned his audience: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Not the kind of sermon upon which to build a mega-church. Pope Francis didn’t go that far, and if his warning to the bigwigs caused “shock and awe” that just shows how far the mighty have fallen.
He warned them about spiritual diseases, which will destroy their souls. In fact, his message goes for any group of leaders, but if the leaders are self-satisfied because they are Church leaders, then you can you bet there was gnashing of teeth.
“the sickness of feeling oneself immortal, immune or in fact indispensable”, he said. Graveyards were full of such people, he added, saying a curia “which does not seek to improve itself is a sick body”.
“excessive busyness of those who immerse themselves in work” and the “mental and spiritual petrification” of those “who have a heart of stone and a stiff neck”.
spiritual Alzheimer’s” . . . “a progressive decline of the spiritual faculty”-forgetting WHY they serve in the first place.
“rivalry and vainglory” when “appearance, the colour of garments and signs of honour become the primary objective of life”. There was the “existential schizophrenia” of those “who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy typical of the mediocre”, “of gossip, of grumbling and of tittle-tattle”, and of the “divinising directors . . . who court their superiors”.
Ouch, ouch, ouch. But then think about it: if the shoe does NOT fit, don’t wear it. In any group there are snakes and saints and every shade in between. The saints who heard this will examine themselves and make corrections in humility. The snakes will coil up and hiss.
So maybe it was a Peace to Men of Goodwill message after all. But not to men of ill will; they are urged to change.