George Weigel: Cleaning Up the Engine Room


Cleaning Up the Engine Room

April 3, 2013
George Weigel

If the conclave of 2005 was about continuity—extending the legacy of John Paul II by electing his closest theological advisor as his successor—the conclave of 2013 was about governance.
The College of Cardinals came to Rome convinced that the incapacities of the Roman Curia over the previous eight years had become a serious obstacle to the Church’s evangelical mission; their experience in the General Congregations prior to the conclave hardened that view. So the cardinals elected a proven reformer whose age on assuming the papacy meant that he wouldn’t have to play a long game, but could move swiftly to repair what needs repairing in what Blessed John Henry Newman allegedly referred to as the “engine room” of the Barque of Peter.
What needs repairing, down there below decks?
It’s not only a question of structure and personnel, in my view, but of institutional culture. The cast of mind in the Roman Curia must be changed, so that the entire Curia thinks of itself as its many good people now do: as servants of the New Evangelization, not as the twenty-first-century version of a papal court. That means that those curialists who think of themselves as courtiers must either be converted to a different self-understanding or replaced.
Thus a first, specific suggestion for curial personnel reform: strict term limits, by which men and women of proven ability from all over the world would come to Rome to serve the universal Church for a maximum of ten years before returning to their local churches. Service in the Roman Curia would cease being a way to punch one’s ticket for higher ecclesiastical office; it would be a sacrifice.
Then there is language. It’s sometimes assumed that the majority of curialists will always be Italian, which means that Italian-language competence is essential to effective curial service. But why must the majority of curial workers be Italians? The U.N. draws its personnel from New York, Geneva, Vienna, and other locales from all over the world; English is the working language; why should the Roman Curia be different? Because it’s in Rome?
Well, no, not really. The Vicariate of Rome runs the Diocese of Rome for the pope, and of course, its personnel should be of local origin. But the Roman Curia exists to support the bishop of Rome in his mission as universal pastor of the Church and its personnel should reflect that global mission—as should its working language. It will take some time to change this, to be sure. But the first head of a curial department who insists on conducting the department’s business in the world language—English—will be doing the entire Church a big favor by modeling a different, more universalist approach to running the engine room.
As for structure, the first order of business is getting the proliferation of pontifical councils under control, merging some, eliminating others, and reducing many of these entities to the in-house think tanks they were originally intended to be, rather than the document-producing bureaucratic machines they’ve become. 
There will be exceptions: the Pontifical Council for the Laity would still run World Youth Days and be the Roman contact-point for renewal movements and new Catholic communities; Cor Unum would continue to oversee the Vatican’s international development work. But departments like the pontifical councils for the Family, for Justice and Peace, and for Culture would become research centers in their fields, not mini-cabinet departments—and in that new configuration, there is no reason why (with appropriate changes in Church law) they couldn’t be run by lay people.
And then there is integrity. When members of the Roman Curia do not live the lives expected of deeply converted and mature Christian disciples, they must be replaced: not as a matter of retribution in the wake of financial or sexual misbehavior but as a matter of safeguarding the mission. The Church’s ability to preach the gospel is severely compromised when churchmen lead dishonest lives. Integrity is one key to mission effectiveness in the evangelical Catholicism of the twenty-first century.

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5 comments on “George Weigel: Cleaning Up the Engine Room

  1. You know, Weigel’s been correct before… of course, the last time may have been on a high school geometry quiz, but it could happen again. They say that even a broken clock is right twice a day; I’d guess it’s even less often with an indoor sundial.

    Where do we start with poor Georgie’s fantasies? First, we must congratulate him for accomplishing something I thought impossible — to write more than 100 words without mentioning JP2. Bravo, Georgie!

    Okay, so Francis will not have much time to engage in Curial Reform, but when is he going to get around to doing it? So far, he’s been so busy showing the world how humble he is, he doesn’t have time to celebrate even Novus Ordo Masses in their entirety. Even eleven years (a Conciliarist decade) may not be enough time.

    Georgie wants to use the UN as a role model. Really? Let’s count all of the positive accomplishments of the UN… okay, done. That was quick! Sure, go ahead and pattern the Curia on one of the few organizations that’s even more dysfunctional than the Conciliar Politburo. Great idea, but hasn’t this already been accomplished? There are probably a similar proportion of commies and Freemasons in both of them already.

    Why even bother “reforming” the Curia, when it will simply be a revolving door, replacing Conciliarist apparatchiks with other Conciliarist bureaucrats? I’ve heard so many Modernists calling for Curial reform, but have yet to hear any of them name names. Come on, guys — tell us who needs to get the boot, and why.

    Or, is the Curia something along the lines of Congress, or the Public School System? You know, how a large majority thinks that Congress does a terrible job, but it’s just as difficult to remove an incumbent as it ever was. It’s the old “Congress is doing a bad job, but MY Congressman is the exception!” delusion. And with the public schools, most people recognize that these expensive day-care centers are rotten… except for the ones to which they’ve sentenced their own children — and most “Catholic” schools are even worse; now there’s an area that could use some heavy duty reform!

    And why be concerned over which Pontifical Council will be in charge of World Youth Days, when a true reform would result in the termination of “Catholic Woodstock”? As for renewal movements, does Georgie mean the various crypto-Protestant groups such as the Kiko-ites and Opie Dopies, or the real, Catholic renewal sought by the SSPX? I think we know which he means, as evidenced by his push for filling the Vatican with more laymen… er, excuse me… lay people.

    Finally, Georgie comes close to saying something that needs to be recognized by the Conciliarists, but he just can’t quite bring himself to say it. Once more, we have a Conciliarist talking about bad apples in the Curia but without naming a single one. He even mentions “sexual misbehavior”, but is apparently too cowed by the militant sodomites to mention the particular sort of misbehavior at the root of so many problems in the Church. Until all known homosexuals are removed from ministry and positions of influence, no amount of rules — which, these days, it must be admitted, amount to little more than mere suggestions, anyway — will prevent further outbreaks of clerical pervert predators. This won’t solve all of the problems of Modernism, but the presence of the Lavender Mafia makes true reform much more difficult.

    Still, it must’ve been extremely difficult for Georgie to write that many words without a single mention of JP2. Perhaps Wojtylism is curable, after all.

  2. There’s so much in this to take apart, but I believe Mr. Winters is simply not being truthful when he says:

    “You may like the appointment of culture warrior bishops or, like me, think it is a horrible development in the life of the Church, …”

    Well, either untruthful, or not very perceptive. Is his definition of “culture warrior bishops” tailored to mean precisely those with whom he disagrees (i.e., those who are less eager than he to charge ahead into full-blown protestantism/secularism), or is he simply too dim to see that his preferred limp-wristed fairy bishops are also “culture warriors”? Because they are; it’s just that they’re fighting for the other side — his side, not the Catholic side.

  3. Thanks, Howl, for the reminder!

    Yeah, all those “commies under the bed” types sure got it wrong, didn’t they?

    What were they thinking, anyway?

  4. null

    Yet another award-winning piece.

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