Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Narcissists and Pope Francis

Just days before Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope, he criticized the Vatican culture as one of narcissism. Speaking to reporters of the popular Italian press La Repubblica Pope Francis emphasized that "Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”[1] 
This staggering accusation by the future Pope Francis seems to suggest that he and the Vatican might finally be prepared to address the endemic and systemic issues which until now have remained hidden behind the sexual abuse and financial scandals of the Vatican Bank (Istituto per le Opere di Religione - IOR).

For many years experts, such as Richard A.W. Sipe, have stated that the sexual abuse and cover-up is central to clerical culture and its inherent narcissism. Is it possible that Pope Francis read the article by Sipe published in March of 2013 under the heading Spirituality andthe Culture of Narcissism'.[2]  Judge for yourself.  .
At an unprecedented summit convened in Rome at the behest of Pope Francis earlier this month, a Vatican official warned the treasurers of 500 Catholic orders from around the world that their financial wealth, sometimes used for secular, commercial purposes such as running hotels and restaurants, was contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church and imperils their religious mission. This new move by Francis, just one part of what many Catholics hope are wide-ranging financial reforms within the church, is driven by the pope’s concern that by engaging in modern economic activity, religious institutions “run the risk of losing their true identity.”  Watch the on-line documentary ‘Holy Money[3] presented by CBC’s ‘The Passionate Eye’ as they investigate the financial scandals rocking the Catholic Church & the efforts of Pope Francis to clean up the Vatican’s multi-billion-dollar business dealings amid accusations of money laundering, corruption, and misuse of donations here.

A year has gone by since Pope Francis took over leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.  His growing popularity and humble manner has been unmistakable.  Hardly a week goes by when 'Il Papa' does not provide the world with some example of what is means to live a simple Christian life despite the fact that he operates out of an extra-ordinary religious institution which can hardly be called simple.   
Many are now asking is this Pope is finally going to bring about the necessary changes that would restore trust in a much tainted institution?  Is this the Pope who will finally tackle the church’s most challenging issues such as contraception, divorce, women in the church, abortion, celibacy, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage?  Is this the Pope who will finally address and listen to the People of God?  Or, is this a Pope who will ultimately be forced to defer to his immediate advisers?   The latter seems more likely according to his German critics.   
The German weekly tabloid Der Spiegel in an article ‘The Pope’s Sex Problem‘’ [4] takes issue with the Synod of Bishops’ questionnaire ‘Catholic Family Values Survey’.  This hurried document, blessed by Pope Francis, which hardly saw the light of day in most parishes, will be dealt with almost exclusively by an all male and celibate jury in October of this year.  Disappointed Catholics will ultimately see this as a return to the conservative style of Pope Benedict.    
Critics derisively refer to Pope Francis's approach as "Papastroika, as if he were opening the Church like Mikhail Gorbachev opened the Soviet Union. That, as we now know, ended in chaos. But it should be noted that, unlike Gorbachev, Francis has yet to modify or eliminate a single relevant rule or regulation in his realm.
Those who have put their hopes in Pope Francis will need to realize that he is faced with some enormous challenges not the least of which have all been shrouded in centuries of secrecy and intrigue inside an established patriarchal hierarchy such as the Roman Curia that unfortunately sees itself as far above and beyond the $ 1.2 billion followers it is called to serve.  It will probably take more than just one man to make the necessary changes and before it can return the institution to the trusted place it once held. It will probably take more than one man to remove the narcissist from the papal court.              

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