Bishops were ‘mediocre’, cardinals had ‘modest talents’ – in 1931
“Most of the bishops, instead of being the strong characters presently needed, dynamic and active personalities, even if indeed pious and religious men, are in effect at the same time mediocre, or even below mediocrity. Some are apathetic, timid, indolent or vain; others are conformists, bureaucrats or introverts; many are ignorant and clumsy administrators. […]. Sometimes the whole episcopate of a country looks like a bunch of cripples”.
How does that sound today? But this was written in 1931!
Nothing is held back in a comment in Latin:
“Aliquando autem totus episcopatus alicuius nationis ita est compositus, veluti si coecorum, claudorum et infirmorum omne genus esset refugium.”
“The problem is aggravated by the Holy See’s tendency to appoint only obedient and complacent prelates.”
“As for the cardinals, the senate of the Church and the electors of the pope, here the situation is even worse, particularly in the case of those attached to the Roman curia. The sacred college contains too many non-entities who have reached their rank by never asking awkward questions. The merit of many eminences is not their excellent pastoral experience or learning, but that of having staffed a Vatican desk for a very long time. Without any real knowledge of the world or the life of the universal Church, they are nevertheless automatically promoted and placed in executive jobs far above their modest talents.”
“Almost half of the cardinals and the great majority of the curial ones are Italians, as if the Holy Ghost had a distinct preference for the Italian nation (“veluti si solos Italos Spiritus Sanctus dignos invenerit ut eos tamquam S. Pontificis et proximos consultores et electores illustraret”). This only aggravates the matter, for even if Italians may have many talents, they are certainly not noted for their organizational skills. For the universal Church, this is at the same time both an insult and an injustice. The few excellent foreign prelates present in the curia are examples of what the alternative might look like.”
What about proposals for reform?
“Radical changes are needed in the system of recruitment or election [of the bishops and cardinals]. The appointment of bishops should not be left exclusively to the Holy See, where generally the candidates are little known, while the information provided is often biased or unreliable.”
And for the cardinals:
“To emphasize the universal character of the Church, the sacred college should be internationalized by spreading its membership more evenly, while the number of Italian cardinals needs to be reduced drastically. The international character of the Roman curia as a whole should be promoted. Next, the so-called ‘loca cardinalitia’ must be abolished. Only real princes of the Church, known for their outstanding qualities, should be raised to the scarlet: that is, learned, pious and zealous men, who know the world, are experienced, well-informed and therefore able to act as real counsel to the pope.”
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