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Merry Christmas!

Eat This!

 In Christmas Address to Curia, Francis slams “Malicious Resistance” that accuses others and hides behind Traditions!

Well, folks, it looks like the dubia supporters have gotten their answer. Today, Dec. 22, 2016, Francis gave his annual Christmas address to the Roman Curia, which in the past had been loaded with fireworks. So too this time around.

The main focus of this year’s address was the ongoing reform of the Roman Curia, which he likened to a “surgical operation”. He listed twelve principles that guide his reworking of the Vatican apparatus: individualism; pastoral concern; missionary spirit; clear organization; improved functioning; modernization; sobriety; subsidiarity; synodality; catholicity; professionalism; and gradualism.

The real smoking gun, however, was found in the remarks that preceded the enunciation of these twelve principles. In what was obviously an allusion to the dubia over the ongoing Amoris Laetitia controversy, Francis railed against various types of “resistance” to his efforts, especially that which he called “malicious”, and even remembered an event called the First Vatican Council (1869-70), which defined papal primacy and infallibility. He took the opportunity to kindly remind his adversaries that as the (supposed) Pope, he possesses “singular, ordinary, full, supreme, immediate and universal power” and is owed “unconditioned obedience.” (When it comes to hell’s apostle Hans Kung, of course, Francis is a bit more lenient.)

Here are the explosive parts of Francis’ Christmas address, verbatim:

At the same time, this [reform of the Curia] means con-forming the Curia ever more fully to its purpose, which is that of cooperating in the ministry of the Successor of Peter (cum ipso consociatam operam prosequuntur, as the Motu Proprio Humanam Progressionem puts it), and supporting the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his singular, ordinary, full, supreme, immediate and universal power.

Consequently, the reform of the Roman Curia must be guided by ecclesiology and directed in bonum et in servitium, as is the service of the Bishop of Rome.  This finds eloquent expression in the words of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, quoted in the third chapter of the Constitution Pastor Aeternus of the First Vatican Council: “My honour is that of the universal Church. My honour is the solid strength of my brothers. I feel truly honoured when none of them is denied his due honour”.

The reform of the Curia is in no way implemented with a change of persons – something that certainly is happening and will continue to happen – but with a conversion in persons. Permanent formation is not enough; what we need also and above all is permanent conversion and purification. Without a change of mentality, efforts at practical improvement will be in vain.

In this process, it is normal, and indeed healthy, to encounter difficulties, which in the case of the reform, might present themselves as different types of resistance. There can be cases of open resistance, often born of goodwill and sincere dialogue, and cases of hidden resistance, born of fearful or hardened hearts content with the empty rhetoric of “spiritual window-dressing” typical of those who say they are ready for change, yet want everything to remain as it was before. There are also cases of malicious resistance, which spring up in misguided minds and come to the fore when the devil inspires ill intentions (often cloaked in sheep’s clothing). This last kind of resistance hides behind words of self-justification and often accusation; it takes refuge in traditions, appearances, formalities, in the familiar, or else in a desire to make everything personal, failing to distinguish between the act, the actor, and the action.

The absence of reaction is a sign of death!  Consequently, the good cases of resistance – and even those not quite so good – are necessary and merit being listened to, welcomed and their expression encouraged, because this is a sign that the body is living.

All this is to say that the reform of the Curia is a delicate process that has to take place in fidelity to essentials, with constant discernment, evangelical courage and ecclesial wisdom, careful listening, persevering action, positive silence and firm decisions.  It requires much prayer, much prayer, profound humility, farsightedness, concrete steps forward and – whenever necessary – even with steps backward, with determination, vitality, responsible exercise of power, unconditioned obedience, but above all by abandonment to the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit and trust in his necessary support.  And, for this reason, prayer, prayer and prayer.

(Francis, “Christmas Address to Roman Curia”, Vatican.va, Dec. 22, 2016; italics in original.)

Notice, by the way, that Francis only says that cases of resistance “merit being listened to” — he doesn’t say anything about answering them. For those of us who have learned to read between the lines every time Francis opens his mouth, this is very telling. Although he claims to “welcome” and even “encourage” their expression, he was reported to be “boiling with rage” at finding out that the dubia he had refused to answer were made public in November.

Relatively speaking, the rest of the Christmas address wasn’t very significant. Naturally, he called for a greater incorporation of laity, “especially in those Dicasteries where they can be more competent than clerics or consecrated persons”, and of women in particular, “with particular attention to multiculturalism”. Obviously.

His claim that “it is the chief aim of all forms of service in the Church to bring the Good News to the ends of the earth” was nothing but hypocritical lipservice, since Francis stubbornly refuses to do precisely that, whenever the opportunity arises.

With this latest Bergoglian address, it looks like the ball is once again in the court of the dubia supporters.

Make more popcorn.