John Allen shows why the papal office involves a lot more than the spirituality of the church. That’s why the magisterium needs help from lay folks whose proficiency depends more on temporal than eternal goods:
Whenever we get around to cataloging the principal ironies of the Pope Francis era, right at the top of the list will have to be this: The pontiff who famously longs for a “poor church for the poor” and who rails against “trickle-down” economics is also the pope who’s created a boom market for “God’s consultants.”
Before the Francis reform is finished, there might not be a systems analyst, management expert or financial guru left on earth who doesn’t have a contract in Rome. This pope may have his issues with capitalism, but these days, he can’t even walk across Vatican grounds without bumping into a whole regiment of its foot soldiers.
In brief, three points are especially striking about this rise of God’s consultants:
They represent a clear break with the Vatican’s traditional ambivalence about relying on secular expertise, on the grounds that secular values are inevitably part of the package.
They also represent a clear step towards the “de-Italianization” of the Vatican, rupturing its traditional reliance on Italian financiers for its business advice.
Then again, Pope Francis may be thinking that lay consultants have what clerics need:
In what amounts to his first “State of the Union” speech, Pope Francis warned Dec. 21 that without a spirit of service the Vatican risks becoming no more than a “heavy bureaucratic customs house,” and insisted that its personnel shouldn’t constantly be “inspecting and questioning.”
The pope did not roll out a specific reform plan, but laid out the basic values he believes curial personnel must have: professionalism and a dedication to service.
Francis also issued another strong call to resist gossip, calling on curia personnel to become “conscientious objectors” to the “unwritten law” of the Vatican, which is a temptation to gossip that’s “harmful to people, our work and our surroundings.”
Francis made the comments in the pope’s annual year-end speech to the Roman Curia. The first such speech of a papacy often offers a broad vision of where the new pope wants the Vatican, and, by extension, the broader church, to move. . . .
The heart of the speech was the call for professionalism and service.
“When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards towards mediocrity,” the pope said.
“Dossiers become full of trite and lifeless information, and incapable of opening up lofty perspectives. Then too, when the attitude is no longer one of service to the particular churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customs house, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s people.”
It’s only a century removed, but the Rotarians when they began were all about service and professionalism.