One of the narratives I keep hearing repeated regarding Pope Francis’ papacy is the reform of the Curia. This keeps getting repeated like this is the highest priority and of the upmost importance.
Now of course I realize the Curia needs reform. We all are in need of reform daily and this can be said of any bureaucracy. The Curia has no dispensation from original sin and is filled with all forms of human stupidity. The Curia has generated many unforced errors especially in regard to communication with the media and lacking simple due diligence in research (sometimes even a simple Google search could have saved heartburn).
So surely the Curia needs reform and possibly even an outsider to the Curia might be able to further advance such reform. I am not sure if that statement is true or not in this case, but an outsider can be more immune to “This is the way we have always done it.”
Regardless, what if the Curia was perfectly reformed and actually became a well functioning bureaucracy (if that is not a contradiction in term)? What would it really give us? Sure it would be nice to prevent unnecessary headlines and actually have a more unitive message among the Secretary of State and various congregations and tribunals.
Still when I look at the problems the Catholic Church faces, the Roman Curia is not at the top of the list of what needs to be addressed. The problems of secularism and the fact that many believers act in their daily lives as if God did not exist is of much more concern. There has never been a perfect time in Church history when all the believers actually acted as if their faith was true. Maybe it was always a mistake to divide territories and to describe some as mission territories. Evangelization never ends with the conversion. This is the point Catholic soteriology makes in that salvation is a process. Conversion that is not continuous is no conversion at all.
This emphasis can come under the heading of the New Evangelization which can be simply described by:
“It is an old story that, while we may need somebody like Dominic to convert the heathen to Christianity, we are in even greater need of somebody like Francis, to convert the Christians to Christianity.” –G.K. Chesterton “The Dumb Ox”
Maybe one of the reasons for so much focus on the Pope and the Curia is that in many ways we have become dependent on structures. Instead of going out and evangelizing ourselves we hope for a higher organization to fix those problems for us. Just as in politics increased Federalization to solve problems is akin to this attitude. If only we had such and such dicastery with such and such prefect in charge of it everything would be better. We want a charismatic Pope to evangelize for us, so we don’t have to do it ourselves.
Now as a great believer in both/and I don’t mean to throw things into opposition. It is not a case of either the Pope doing something or ourselves. It is also not the case of whether we evangelize or instead reform some aspects of the Curia. Really I am quite thankful for the great catechists and evangelizers I have been lucky to have as popes during my lifetime (even when I didn’t appreciate it). I am just ranting at the idea of an idealized Curia and the transferring of what are also our personal responsibilities to others. Most of all I have to rant at myself for falling into this same trap.