The Pope’s Christmas Greeting: 15 Ailments

PopeFrancisChristmas2014Since this is a blog about health, I think I’ll post this. It was Pope Francis’ Christmas greeting yesterday to religious officials at the Vatican, the “Roman Curia.”

A preface:

“Sometimes,” said Pope Francis, “[Officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ – superior to everyone and everything,” forgetting that the spirit, which should animate them in their lives of service to the universal Church, is one of humility and generosity, especially in view of the fact that none of us will live forever on this earth.

“The Curia is always required to better itself. … However, like any body, it is exposed to sickness, malfunction and infirmity. … I would like to mention some of these illnesses that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Curia.”

The 15 ailments, in summary:

1. The first is “the sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable’. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others.”

2. The second is “’Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work. … Neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation.”

3. “The sickness of mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper. … It is dangerous to lose the human sensibility necessary to be able to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice!”

4. “The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant. … One falls prey to this sickness because it is easier and more convenient to settle into static and unchanging positions.”

5. The “sickness of poor coordination. … Members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team.”

6. “Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease. … This is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one’s own often imaginary views. … We see this in those who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted.”

7. “The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the colour of one’s robes, insignia and honours become the most important aim in life.”

8. Then there is “existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honours. … They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.

9. The sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord. … It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.

10. “The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism. … They are people who experience service thinking only of what they might obtain and not of what they should give. They are mean, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness”.

11. “The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself. When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy … one experiences joy in seeing another person fall instead of lifting him up or encouraging him”.

12. “The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity”.

13. “The disease of accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure.”

14. “The ailment of closed circles. … This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a ‘cancer’ that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers”.

15. The “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others”.

I read that the audience of cardinals, bishops, and priests replied with tepid applause.

13 thoughts on “The Pope’s Christmas Greeting: 15 Ailments

  1. Marj

    Wonderful!! and meaningful! Thanks for posting, I would have missed it probably.
    The response of “tepid applause” — not surprising. I am not of the Catholic faith, but in my view Pope Francis is outstanding.

    Reply
    1. Bix Post author

      I really liked it too. I find myself paying attention to him. He sure is taking risks. About this list, I see myself in some of them. Like Martha-ism. Funeral face. So in a way, it’s like a gift.

      Reply
  2. Melinda

    Ole “Red Frank” is truly amazing! Such radical comments to make whilst surrounded by his fellows at the Curia. A friend of mine said she hopes he has a food-taster–so do I.

    Reply
  3. Melinda

    That’s the interesting thing about it–he’s talking to the Curia, yet also is addressing all of us. I certainly hope he lives a long time.

    Reply
    1. Bix Post author

      I recall reading … he said he doesn’t think he’s long for the job, that his health isn’t the best.

      You know, I’m not especially devout, but when I see something like this, something that addresses humility and compassion, said with the expectation of living that way, not just professing it, I’m really moved. Because all around me I see the opposite. I see arrogance and a lack of empathy. It hurts.

      Reply
  4. Melinda

    Totally agree with you Bix, re the difference b/tw his ideas & the way people actually act. I also remember his comment, when he was flying home from Korea & he told the press corps that he thinks he only has a couple more years before he “goes home to the Father.” Now *that’s* sad, and a huge loss to the world.

    Reply
    1. Bix Post author

      I’m hurt because I see these ailments, not just in others but in myself. I see them in everyone I know. I see that you cannot live in a society and not absorb its ways. I see that no one has immunity to these ailments, including the Pope, who I suspect understands this, making it that much harder for him to say it. You can’t see something in someone else unless you are familiar with it in yourself. No one gets to be Pope without a bit of careerism and narcissism … focusing on and projecting one’s abilities. Some of this is necessary in life, but I think as a society, as a culture, we’re swinging too far in an unhealthy direction. We’re glorifying the self at the expense of the whole.

      We put down others so we may feel superior. There are a million subtle and unsubtle ways to do this. He described this in his numbers 11 and 15.

      The irony in this is that the moment we call out arrogance, we, ourselves display arrogance. As if we know. They are the idiots, not us. But we are all idiots at one time or another, about many things. We’re all in this together. Why berate? Why not encourage?

      Maybe many people think these things, feel these things. I don’t know.

      Reply
  5. Melinda

    Bix, your long comment there is beautifully and movingly said. You’re absolutely right. We all bear the burden of “sins” as well as whatever kind or empathetic things we do.

    Reply
    1. Bix Post author

      When we ridicule someone, when we call someone stupid, we reveal a lack of empathy, a lack of compassion.

      Deeds and thoughts aren’t the same. We can act one way while thinking another. e.g. Just because we don’t steal doesn’t mean we might not want to steal. The stealing is a sin, but so is the desire to steal. Thoughts themselves can be sins. The last two commandments express this. If the act of ridiculing another is a sin, then just thinking we are better than someone would be a sin.

      The Pope could have just said, “Love.” That’s what it all comes down to.

      Reply
  6. Pingback: Pope Francis: Ailment Number 9 | Fanatic Cook

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