Will the Real Curia Please Stand Up?

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There has been much written about curial disfunction under the reign of Pope Benedict XVI (and perhaps even in the waning years of John Paul II).  Not to minimize problems that exist within Vatican governance, but it is worth pointing out that, much as there was the “real” Second Vatican Council and then the “Council of the Media”, so too is there a “real” Curia and the “Curia of the Media.”  As my good friend Mark from A Dei in the Life points out, “The ‘Curia’ imagined by the press does not exist, though the idea makes for dramatic stories.”

The Curia is a collection of a number of different offices, and it is worth pointing out that the most important offices such as the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seem to be without scandal altogether.  I mention these as the most important offices because they deal directly with those task that are specifically and forever assigned to Holy Mother Church: they are part of what makes the Church what she is.  Contrast that with something like the Secretary of State.  While the tasks assigned to the Secretary of State may be important, they are not in and of themselves essential to the nature of the Church.  On the other hand, protection of the Sacraments and the Doctrine of the Church is essential to its nature.  It is a curious curial conundrum that the more more “worldly” and non-essential offices are the ones currently plagued with mismanagement.  The far more important ones seem to be functioning just fine.  While we would certainly like to see a Curia that is managed well in all aspects, it at least seems clear that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI had their priorities straight.  They have good men in charge of the most important offices.  The press, on the other hand, has these priorities turned upside down.

Mark puts it this way:

[T]he problems associated with the “Curia” most likely do not involve offices such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Apostolic Signatura, the Congregation for Clergy, the Congregation for Bishops, or various others.  These make up a significant portion of what constitutes the Curia.  The problems (and problematic figures) seem to be more closely associated with the Vatican itself, such as the Secretary of State’s office, the Pontifical Household, etc.

He goes on to say that because the Curial disfunction is not Curial-wide, the Cardinals are savvy enough to know the difference, and thus the “aversion” to a papal candidate coming from the Curia, properly understood, is a construction of the media and not based in reality.  Mark ends with a refreshing note of sobriety:

[T]he point is clear enough, and the response should be too.  Let’s just relax a bit and not worry so much.  The “Curia” imagined by the press does not exist, though the idea makes for dramatic stories.  In reality, God is in control of this process, most of the cardinals are in tune to that, and we’ll have the pope of the Holy Spirit’s choosing soon enough.  For our part, all we need do is pray and wait.

The rest of Mark’s piece is well done, so please go read it in its entirety.

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