Open Letter to Pope Francis From a Former Member of the Roman Curia

Open Letter to Pope Francis From a Former Member of the Roman Curia

“You Are Distancing Yourself From Wisdom”


On November 27, 2015, the German-language magazine, FOCUS, published an open letter [Issue 49/2015; pp. 46-48] to Pope Francis from a former high-ranking member of the Roman Curia. The author claims to have drawn his inspiration to “omit to speak about all the good that you are doing and are speaking and … only list those aspects of your exercise of the papal office which seem to me to be problematic” from the pope’s own scorching address to the Roman Curia last Christmas.

Our thanks to Dr. Maike Hickson for graciously providing us a translation from the original German.

FOCUS Editor’s Introduction:

Among some Catholic ecclesiastical dignitaries, indignation about Pope Francis is increasing. A former member of the Roman Curia speaks out sharply here in an Open Letter during this Advent Season.

[A Picture of Pope Francis giving an address to the Roman Curia is featured. The caption explains: In his Christmas Allocution of 2014 in the Sala Clementina, inside the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, Pope Francis rebuked his employees by listing for them some “15 illnesses” of the Curia. This castigation by the Head of the Church caught the attention of the world.]

Two and a half years ago, 115 cardinals elected the Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be the next pope. The outcome of this pontificate turns out to be mixed; while Francis receives much praise in the realm of politics and the media, the current atmosphere in the Vatican is as bad as it has ever been. Employees complain that the pope enjoys his role as Francis Superstar and that he does not care about the Church’s teaching. They also complain that he is a populist and an authoritarian and that he only takes counsel with those people who share his own opinions. There is talk about a “climate of fear.” A former, long-standing member of the Curia sums up the critique in his own open Advent Letter to the Pope – which is itself a grave form of dissonance, because the servants of the Church owe to the pope a complete obedience. FOCUS herewith publishes the text. The author (who is known to the editors) has decided to remain anonymous since he – according to his own words – would otherwise have to fear grave consequences, not only for himself, but also for his superiors and for his former colleagues in Rome.

[The Open Letter Itself:]

Holy Father,

On the occasion of your Christmas Allocution in 2014, you called on your curial employees to make first an examination of conscience. Indeed, Advent is an occasion to reflect upon the promises of God and what He expects from us. You claimed that your employees had to be an example for the whole Church, and you then listed a several “illnesses” from which, in your view, the Curia is now suffering. At the time, I had considered this statement to be rather harsh – yes, even unjust – against so many in the Vatican whom I know personally – while you were talking, instead, as if you knew the Vatican, but either only from the outside or only from above. Nevertheless, this speech of yours has actually inspired me to write this letter to you. Following your own example, I shall omit to speak about all the good that you are doing and are speaking and I shall thus only list those aspects of your exercise of the papal office which seem to me to be problematic:

1. An emotional and anti-intellectual attitude of yours which is often tangible and which has difficulties in dealing with theories and doctrines

The alternative to the Teaching Church is the Arbitrary Church, and not the Merciful Church. Among not a few of your own chosen employees and close counselors, there is to be found a true lack of competence, both in teaching and in theology; these men often have behind them a career within the Church’s government or in a university’s administration, and they think rather all too often in pragmatic and political terms. You, as the Supreme Teacher of the Church, thus have to make clearer the primacy of the Faith – for your own sake, and for the sake of all Catholics. Faith without doctrine does not exist.

2. Authoritarianism

You are distancing yourself from the wisdom which is preserved in the Church’s traditional discipline, in Canon Law, and also in the historical practices of the Curia. Together with your disdain for (supposedly) theoretical teaching, this propensity leads to an authoritarianism of which even the founder of your Order of Jesuits, St. Ignatius himself, would not approve. Do you really accept those admonitory voices who say what you, personally, do not immediately see nor understand? What would happen if you were now to know my own name? It would be helpful to act in a less authoritarian way in order to change the current climate of fear.

3. A populism of change

Today, it is popular to call for change. However, especially the Successor of Peter has to remind himself and others of that which changes only slowly, and even more so of that which does not change at all. Do you really believe that the approval which you receive from the opinion-makers in the realm of politics and of the media is a good sign? Christ did not promise or prophesy to Peter popularity in the media and status in a star cult (John 21:18). A great many of your statements awaken wrong expectations and give the harmful impression that the teaching and discipline of the Church could and should be adapted to the changing opinions of the majority. The Apostle Paul is here of another opinion (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:14)

4. Your own conduct is seen as a critique of how your (often canonized) predecessors have lived, talked, and acted

I cannot recognize how this attitude comports with the humility which you have so many times invoked and demanded. Such humility is indeed needed, especially when it is about continuing the tradition which goes back to the Apostle Peter. Your conduct implicitly proposes the idea that you intend to re-invent somehow the Petrine Office. Instead of preserving faithfully the heritage of your predecessors, you want to acquire it [the heritage]in a quite creative way. But, did Saint John not say: “He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)?

5. Pastoralism

Only recently, you said that you especially like those parts of the papacy where you can act like a pastor. Of course, neither a pope nor a pastor should raise any doubts as to whether the Church is following the teaching of Christ in everything she currently does (Pastoral Care, Sacraments, Liturgy, Catechesis, Theology, Caritas); finally, everything depends upon the revealed Faith as it comes to us in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and which is thus binding upon the consciences of the faithful. We cannot even live the Faith and pass it on to others, if we do not know it. Without a good theory, we are – in the long run – not able to act in a good manner. Without teaching in the field of pastoral care, we shall only have emotional and largely adventitious successes.

6. Exaggerated display of the simplicity of your own way of life

Of course, you want to set an example – but is it better for you yourself to take care of all kinds of daily chores? In ascetical questions, the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing (Mt 6:3); otherwise, the whole thing appears somehow to be insincere. If you really want to drive cars that are ecological, you have to invest, by the way, much more, or to ask someone to give you as a gift the more expensive technology that is thus needed: for. ecology has its price.

7. A particularism which often subjugates the goals and purposes of the Universal Church under the viewpoints of only a part of the Church

This attitude appears nearly comical with regard to a pope. Additionally, our world is now much more interconnected, more mobile, and more proximate than ever. Especially today, it is a treasure that the Catholic Church is throughout the whole world always the same. It corresponds to the global life realities that Catholics in all countries live, pray, and think in a similar vein (and with each other together).

8. An urge for constant spontaneity

A lack of professionalism is not a sign for the working of the Holy Ghost. Expressions like “to breed like rabbits,” or “Who am I to judge…?” might possibly impress some kinds of people, but, in reality, they lead to grave misunderstandings. Constantly, others have to explain what you really meant to say. To act without a plan and outside of the protocol has its time and place – but it should not become the standard. You owe this respect to your employees (in Rome and in the whole world). The measure of spontaneity is much smaller among popes than among pastors.

9. Lack of clarity about the interconnectedness of religious, political, and economic freedom

Many of your statements indicate that the state should rule more, control more, and be responsible for more areas, especially in the economic and social field. We in Europe are used to very strong states. However, history has proven wrong the idea that the state can take care of everything. The Church has to defend non-governmental institutions which can provide things that the state could not provide (in that way). Against the tendency to expect everything from the state, the Church has to help people to take care of their own lives. The welfare state can also become too powerful, and with it, too paternalistic, authoritarian, and illiberal.

10. Meta-Clericalism

On the one hand, you show very little interest in the clergy, on the other hand, you criticize a clericalism which is more of a phantom than something that is real. One cannot compensate for this lack of interest with a good intention or with statements in front of smaller groups. The bishops and priests have to know again that the pope stands behind them when they defend the Gospels “in season and out of season,” even if it is done in a way that does not personally please the pope. It is not good that some think that the pope sees many things quite differently from the Catechism, and that others then imitate him in order to make a career under this pontificate. As a pope, you of necessity have to serve the continuity and Tradition of the Church – even non-Catholic Christians are of this opinion. It may well be better for you to cut back on your innovations and provocations; we anyway already have many people who do that. Your Magisterium, as such, is already in itself the ultimate provocation and innovation – after all, you are the Representative of Christ and the supreme teacher of our supernatural Faith. “Grace, Mercy, and Peace” are coming “from God, the Father, and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in Truth and Love” (2 John 1:3); and they only come together in a complete package. If, during this coming Year of Mercy, you are now preparing yourself for Christmas, please take this occasion as an incentive to find out for yourself what you have yourself neglected in the recent past. Let yourself be helped by your own employees who will only learn from you if you are willing to learn something from them. Like me, many others have difficulties with the way you sometimes talk and act. But that can be fixed, if it becomes clear that you listen to what others have to tell you. Unfortunately, I know that you are not yet capable of dealing well with such criticism – that is why I do not put my name on this letter. I want to protect my superiors against your wrath, especially the priests and bishops with whom I have worked for many years in Rome and from whom I have learned so much. You might want to work on taking away such fears – from me and from others – or, even better, to make such letters as this one superfluous, namely, by learning something from others.

In this spirit, may you have a blessed and contemplative Season of Advent!

A Chaplain of Your Holiness

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2 comments on “Open Letter to Pope Francis From a Former Member of the Roman Curia

  1. I believe that the men faithful to the true doctrine must rise up against Francis when he speaks in a liberal fashion and appears to push things dangerous to the faith. He can’t kick everyone out. Then if enough men rise up against him on certain issues and remind him that he is supposed to be only the leader of the church and not the whole world, then I think you would get somewhere. Just don’t follow his bad teachings or confusing teachings. No one is obliged to follow heterodox prelates, even popes when they get like that. Infallibility lies in the teachings of the church as handed down from the past, not in just the pope as a man with his own conflicting ideas. We have to put the church back on the right road. Get brave, Folks!

    • Nonetheless, those “conservative” cardinals who “speak out” on the issues express their loyalty to and confidence in FrankenPope; for example, Cardinal Burke …

      Cdl. Burke: I Am Not an Enemy of the Pope

      by Joseph Gonzalez • • December 5, 2015

      Being an orthodox prelate doesn’t make you a “Francis hater”

      LONDON ( – “I am not an enemy of the Pope and I never will be.”That’s what Cdl. Raymond Burke recently said in an interview with Mass of Ages, the quarterly magazine of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.

      His Eminence denied he has ever opposed the Holy Father personally. “You won’t find a single statement of mine in which I am speaking against the Holy Father,” he said. “I just don’t do that.”

      Cardinal Burke said it saddens him that some would “suggest that I am an enemy of the Pope and that I am somehow working against the Pope.”

      Some have pointed to Burke’s comments on the Holy Father’s annulment reform as evidence of his attacking the Pope. While he has called Pope Francis’ annulment reforms “radical,” he has never said a word against the Holy Father himself. Cardinal Burke is, after all, a well-known canon law expert: former Defender of the Bond of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest ecclesiastical court authority second only to the Pope.

      His Eminence said his desire has only ever been to serve the Vicar of Christ:

      As I have said to the Holy Father himself, as a cardinal — one of those called to be a principal adviser to the Pope — the only way I can be of service to him is to tell him the truth as I understand it and to assist him in that way. And the Holy Father has assured me that that’s what he wants.

      The accusation that Cdl. Burke and other orthodox prelates are enemies of the Pope is a common tactic by modernist dissenters such as Cdl. Donald Wuerl. Cardinal Burke said he suspects this tactic is used to discredit prelates who upheld the Church’s doctrine at the synod:

      One Synod Father — one of the cardinals during the October 2014 Synod — said to me “What is going on? Those of us who are defending what the Church has always taught and practiced are being called enemies of the Pope.” I think this is a tactic used by those who want to advance a certain agenda. They do that by putting a label on those who are resisting their agenda, saying that they are enemies of the Pope.

      His Eminence said Catholics must accept the Church’s longstanding teaching on marriage and the Holy Eucharist and “cannot accept” any other doctrine. He also noted that taking such a position does not make one opposed to the Holy Father’s wishes. Such unfounded accusations, he said, are “very frustrating, particularly for a person like myself who has given his life to the Church and who has always been loyal to the Apostolic See and to the Roman Pontiff.”

      Cardinal Burke stated he will “always” be obedient to the Vicar of Christ. “I will never change,” he said.

      * * *

      … and Cardinal Sarah …

      Vatican’s liturgy chief: Giving Communion to divorced-and-remarried would ‘oppose Jesus

      Lianne Laurence ROME, December 10, 2015

      Cardinal Robert Sarah has reiterated the traditional teaching of the Church regarding divorced and remarried Catholics, stating that allowing them to receive Communion is “actually to close the true door of life.”

      “To admit a person to Eucharistic communion when he lives in manifest contradiction with the words of Jesus signifies opening a door which does not lead to Christ, or actually to close the true door of life,” he stated in an interview with Armin Schwibach, philosophy professor at Rome’s Pontifical Athanaeum Regina Apostolorum.

      “To kick in this door or climb in some other place means to write another gospel and to oppose Jesus Christ Our Lord,” observed Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

      For people in life situations “contrary to the words of Jesus” the “door is always open, in as much as God continues to call to conversion,” Sarah stated in the interview, translated from Italian by Evan Simpkins and published in the National Catholic Register.

      The outspoken Guinean cardinal also decried analyses “by the press” that argue the final report from 2015 Synod on the Family, known as the “Relatio synodi,” opened the door to allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, saying this gives the synod document “an abusive, even deceitful, interpretation, which deforms its meaning.”

      The section on divorced-and-remarried Catholics in the final report, comprising paragraphs 84-86, have been much-parsed for indications of what Pope Francis might decide regarding the controversial question of granting them Communion.

      “I am quite sure that Pope Francis interprets numbers 84 to 86 of the ‘Relatio synodi’ in perfect continuity with and fidelity to his predecessors,” Sarah told Schwibach [emphasis added].

      * * *

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