Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Curia: Not a Job I Would Want

I was amused that one blogger had put up a scene from 'Full Metal Jacket' to illustrate the Holy Father's address to the Curia. I know that the Holy Father was actually offering an examination of conscience, and like all these things, first and foremost it is an examination of the authors conscience.

The problem is already middle ranking clergy are leaving Rome, or begging their bishops to apply to the Holy Father for their release. Many have already left, to the point where some dicasteries are drastically undermanned, to the point of not working effectively. Things, like dispensation which took a couple of months to process, can now take well over a year.

Morale in Curia is at an all time low, it was never very high. There were certainly some priests, and bishops too, who would have given their eye-teeth for a job in the Curia, and seen it as way to promotion and power, or of pursuing and academic interest, of those I have known that is not the majority, certainly there is often a detachment from parish life, but that is the nature of the job, it happens with priests (and bishops) and especially laymen and women in diocesan Curias.
One problem is going to be anyone dealing with the Curia, from a lay women seeking an annulment, to bishop asking for clarification, to a foreign State, will probably share the Pope's view that everyone working there is 'crap' and a looser.

A curial friend, who I think is quite saintly, once sent me his timetable, he lives in one of the clergy houses near St Peter's so unless there is Papal Mass or audience that day, that is where he says Mass. Like most of the younger clergy in the EF, 'it suits a contemplative life, and besides the boys prefer it, if one of them serves my Mass.' He means the Maltese minor seminarians who assist in the sacristy, and if you are fortunate will serve your Mass.

Rise 5am
Mass in St Peter's followed by thanksgiving 7am
Breakfast on the way to the office 8am
Start work 8.30am
Lunch 1pm but often that involves a meeting, often he works straight through, some (older) clergy take a siesta until 3.30
Return to Office at 4pm
Return home for Supper at 8pm
Read/study, very occasionally go out with friends
Prayer/spiritual reading 10pm
Bed 11pm

He does this 5 days a week, Saturday is the same except the office closes at 1pm

Sunday is day to catch up on sleep, and meet friends, occasionally pilgrims, if needed, he says Mass in Rome parish, he is not needed that often. He said once he had gone six months without saying Mass with a congregation. Apart from holy days he does this for 11 months of the year. Rome tends to close down for August and he returns to his home to stay with his family, and supply in his home diocese.
What struck me was the sheer boredom of his life, and the loneliness too. His salary I think is about 4500 euros a year, it is not enough to live well in Rome, most of it goes on books, travel entertaining visiting clergy and clothes, 'the Prefect insists we look smart!'. When we eat together as he insist on paying his share its normally a cheapish pizzeria, it is embarrassing he says when visitors expect him to pay for their meal too, he's by nature generous and always offers to do that, sometimes he gets caught out. He is incredibly disciplined, he says if he is not it would be so very easy to get depressed, or drink or worst as some of his confreres do.
I've asked him why he doesn't do some pastoral work in Rome, he says most parishes only really want Italians, 'there are lots of them'. He says he does his best to make friends with homeless but really there is little time.

Say a prayer for those in Curia, it is not a job I or most priests would want. At the moment it seems like a job from hell.


August said...

When I see things like I remember God used pharaoh despite pharaoh definitely not being on the same page. Perhaps Pope Francis shall achieve the sort of decentralization necessary for tradition to flourish again- maybe even enough for unity again- by accident, whereas those trying for it on purpose get their efforts thwarted.

Jon said...

As I've said elsewhere, I hope Francis made the cardinals mad, good and mad.

In fact, I hope he makes them so mad,they never buy what he was selling again.

JARay said...

I'm with "Jon" on this one. I can quite see why working there is not a job most would desire and that any sensible priest would want to get out and into "normal" parish life.

John Vasc said...

If things really are so bad, maybe Pope Francis should go through the phone book until he finds the person responsible for managing the Curia, and have a word with him... :-)
It really sounds as if the Pope is condemning more or less the entire Curia. If he wanted to criticize certain members, he could do so, privately. If he wanted to reform practices or systems, he could easily do so. What this is in effect is an office memo sent to the world's media and copied to the Curia.
Is it - I hope not - that the Curia is the only formal legal body standing between himself and unlimited personal power?

Just another mad Catholic said...

Not to toot one's own trumpet but I think I'd be rather good in the Curia, I've been a bureaucrat for most of my working life, I actually quite envy your friend's timetable and it would certainly suit a loner such as myself.

Patricius said...

If the Pope gives the Curia an Examination of Conscience why is everyone reading it under the assumption that they are guilty on all those points? When I go to Confession I use the Examination of Conscience printed in the Simple Prayer Book. Several sins occur there which I have never committed nor likely to-e.g. procuring an abortion- others I am constitutionally incapable of. Just because they are printed there doesn't mean that I have necessarily committed any. So with the Pope's list for the Curia!

Nicolas Bellord said...

An office memo leaked to the world's media? I suppose there are employers or managers who send out similar memos just before Christmas but I have never come across one. If I did I would ask them to be specific or shut up. This sort of scatter gun approach is utterly unproductive.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Patricius: You are correct in pointing out this was an invitation to an examination of conscience rather than accusations. However there is a difference. The list in A Simple Prayerbook (an excellent publication highly to be recommended)is aimed at the faithful at large and obviously there are sections that do not always apply such as those For Young People. However someone who knows you well such as a spiritual director or perhaps a wife might suggest a rather more accurate and tailored list of sins one might have committed. This would be similar to the situation with Pope Francis and the Curia. However he is not just suggesting that the Cardinal consider whether these sins exist in the curia but he goes further and says they are probable and specifically 'curial sins' - he does indeed almost accuse them.

I reminds me of schooldays and some headmaster making one feel guilty by accusing the whole assembly of some misdemeanour where only a few were involved. Not very helpful.

Thomas said...

Looking up the original, even through Google translate, creates a rather different impression. The Holy Father begins by thanking all the staff in the curia, praying for the recently retired and deceased. He says that ideally the Curia would be a microcosm of the Body of Christ and a close family of disciples gathered round the Lord, but he recognises that this is difficult because of its large and complex structure. He then suggests that there are dangers and temptations for any group, organisation or any individual working for the Church - identifying his 15 tendencies which undermine authentic community and work for the glory of God. He puts it all in his typically colourful and roundabout way, but most of it makes sense to me. As ever, it's the spin being put on it by the press (and by his own press officers?) that turns it into an "attack" on the Curia. His greatest emphasis is on encouraging those at the heart of the Church to make sure they pray and go to Mass every day, ponder on the Word of God and maintain mutual charity above all. He rounds off by urging all to go to confession before the feast of the Nativity. He then wishes everyone a happy Christmas and looks forward to working together in the New Year. You could argue that a little more honey and less vinegar might be more productive, but that does not appear to be his style. But in itself, the penitential meditation seems fair enough to me.

Nicolas Bellord said...

And if a spiritual director were to draw up a list of particular sins for a penitent to examine his conscience one would not expect him to publish the list to the world at large. If he did it might be because he regarded the penitent as thoroughly recalcitrant and in need of public exposure. Does the Pope think that of the Curia?