11Jun Pope Francis downplays threat of Vatican scrutiny of religious orders

Alessandro Speciale,Religion News Service | Jun. 11, 2013

Weeks after authorizing a continued investigation of American nuns, Pope Francis told a group of nuns and priests from Latin America not to worry if they found themselves under similar scrutiny.

The pope’s purported remarks came during a meeting with top officials of the Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR) on June 6.

During the meeting, Francis seemed to refer to the Vatican investigation of an American nuns’ group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, while telling the Latin American delegates not to worry should they find themselves the target of a similar investigation.

“They will make mistakes, they will make a blunder, this will pass! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine [of the Faith] will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing. … But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward.”

In what was seen as one of the defining acts of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy, the Vatican’s doctrinal office issued a “doctrinal assessment” that criticized the LCWR for not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.
The Vatican also chided the U.S. nuns for “serious doctrinal problems” among many LCWR members, and said LCWR conferences suffered from “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

A partial account of the meeting was published Sunday by the Chilean magazine Reflexion y Liberacion, and later translated into English by the Rorate Coeli website.

Francis also reportedly admitted the existence of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican, and confessed that he is “disorganized” when it comes to administrative matters such as reforming the Vatican Curia.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, said Tuesday that the meeting was “of a private nature” and “therefore, I have no statement to make on the content of the conversation.”

According to the Reflexion y Liberacion account, which seems to consist of notes from the meeting rather than an actual word-for-word transcript, Francis admitted that his task as head of the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia, is “difficult.”

In the Curia there are “holy people,” he said, but “there also is a stream of corruption.” “The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there. … We need to see what we can do.”

Reports of a “gay lobby” appeared in the Italian press last year in the context of the so-called Vatileaks affair that led to the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI’s personal butler for leaking confidential documents to the press.

Benedict tasked three retired cardinals to investigate the allegations of infighting and personal rivalries in the Curia revealed in the documents. Their report was passed on to Francis after his election in March.

According to the Rorate Coeli report, Francis also said “almost all Cardinals” asked for a reform of the Curia during the cardinals’ closed-door meetings that preceded the conclave.

30 Responses

  1. Darlene Starrs

    God help us! Pope Francis is disorganized “when it comes to administrative matters, such as reforming the Curia”. There are plenty of us who could help him get organized! An administrative matter? yes,……but, oh, so much more! It looks like two groups might be seen by Francis to be corrupt….the L.C.W.R. and the Curia….I, myself, wouldn’t include the L.C.W.R……There are holy people in the Curia? Really? There are also holy people with the L.C.W.R……..Holy people might be found everywhere…but, let’s just get on with the matter of reforming the curia and correcting abuses….I recall when I first discovered this website..back in November or so…Eddie Finnegan, remarked that if we had Mary V and Darlene, the Pope would have been sorted a long time ago…(paraphrased)…The point is: There are many, many, individuals who can assist in the process of reform. My understanding was that there was no shortage of advice available to the Vatican! Do we take this to mean that the 8 cardinal team is not working out?

  2. Joe O'Leary

    He has gone beyond humility to holy helplessness.

    Those who talk about the “gay lobby” are conservative Cardinals or homophobic American commentators. This feeds into the Vatican obsession with gayness, seen as the fount of all corruption in the church — I refer to the Instruction of a few years back banning all with deep-seated homosexual tendencies from the priesthood. The Vatican is so confused on this issue, including Pope Francis, that calls for a reform of the curia couched in such terms will only increase the regnant chaos. What the Vatican needs to do, to repent of its millennial Sodomy (oppression and mental rape of Jews and homosexuals) is to open the door wide to a dialogue with the gay community and recant its destructive errors.

    Francis relies on George Pell and the other seven cardinals to solve the problems — it’s going to be another futile exercise like the investigation of the Irish seminaries. The corruption is not something bureaucrats can sort out, since it is in their own minds.

  3. Wanderer

    Out to destroy marriage and bring the ruination of civilization.

    If marriage means nothing these days then perhaps should look to the married.

    They should hire Jeff Wayne for for the musical score, have that Hungarian who sounds just like Orson Welles, and off you go,

    “War of the………. ?????”

    Though having said that, whatever the corruption in the Vatican, whether straight, gay, bi or all angles adding to 180 degrees which I am sure some of that lot could manage very easily, they should be removed…… and flogged.

    On seconds thoughts flogging might be a little too ‘good’ for them.

  4. Darlene Starrs

    I read another take on that meeting cited in the above entry. It was another reporter from the N.C.R. who said that the meeting was a plus, in that, it was so informal and Pope Francis was open and conversational. (paraphrased) This reporter’s impression of Pope Francis is that he is astute. Do astute and disorganized go well together? Perhaps, that is very possible, I do not know. It is also clearer in this report that Pope Francis is concerned about corruption with groups he considers “Pelagius” and “Gnostic”, as well as the “Gay Lobby”, that Father Joe comments on.@2 What is disconcerting from this report and the one up above, is the “non-chalant’ attitude, Pope Francis appears to take to the CDF. Are we to believe, that the CDF do not necessarily have to be taken seriously after all? Perhaps, they can actually be ignored in some instances? Perhaps, Father Tony Flannery, and Father Roy Bourgeois, for instance, might just as well, shrug the CDF and carry on, business as usual? Well, I think, someone needs to say something to Pope Francis about making light of some of the real cruelty delivered at the hands of the CDF. Pope Francis also said, during this meeting, to pray for him, because he doesn’t want to make any mistakes….well…Now, don’t be mislead, by my criticism…I still like the man…I just wish,….there was someone who could advise him with greater accuracy and care…

  5. Tom Andre

    Yes, the Pope admitted to being disorganized. But what is missing in this report is that he reportedly added:

    “I have never been good at this. But the cardinals of the Commission will move it forward. There is Rodríguez Maradiaga, who is Latin American, who is in front of it, there is Errázuriz, they are very organized. The one from Munich is also very organized. They will move it forward”.

    He brought in people with talents he knows he does not have, rather than thinking he has to have all the answers. That is certainly the mark of a good leader.

  6. Darlene Starrs

    Today, I am left with five questions: Who is sliding down the road of corruption? What does Pope Francis consider to be the power of the CDF?, Will the 8 cardinals designated to examine the question of reform produce what the Pope needs? Will it be decided at the Vatican Liturgical Conference, this June, that we reinstate the former translation?(the one I had known for most of my Vatican II life), and finally, have you seen the interview with the new female moderator of the Methodist Church of Ireland?

  7. Mary O Vallely

    I agree with much of what Joe O’Leary @2 says and Pope Francis, in acknowledging the fact of the possible existence of a gay lobby, is continuing slowly to build trust again. (Wasn’t this denied by the Vatican months ago?) He is leading by example, condemning careerism in the Vatican, pleading for us to work more to eliminate poverty etc; in those simple, effective and challenging little daily homilies. He has made a good start and we need to allow him time and to pray continually for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the mighty task of reform and renewal.
    This corruption is not going to disappear overnight and trust needs to be rebuilt again slowly, layer by layer. I have a vision of an “I’m Spartacus” moment where all those cardinals, bishops and priests who were homosexual by nature stood up and declared it to the world. Think of the difference that would make to those who are living in fear of being ‘outed’, who are full of self-disgust because they have been branded as “intrinsically disordered.” There would then be no need to blackmail, to threaten or to bribe.
    “Wouldn’t it be great if there were days like this?”
    The sooner we start to discuss the normality of sexuality, homeo or hetero, the healthier we will be and the more we can then concentrate on the real evils of the world, the other many injustices that cry out to heaven to be tackled.

  8. Pól Ó Duibhir

    A further version of the encounter

  9. Pól Ó Duibhir

    A good summary of where things are at, and a fine tribute to a fine man, Don Gallo.

  10. Joe O'Leary

    I am really amazed that he mocked people who gave him a spiritual bouquet of 3000+ rosaries. Does he think that liberal Catholics will be pleased at that, as conservative Catholics are expected to be pleased when he mocks nuns who take “cosmic baths”? If so, he does not know what liberal Catholicism is about. As to the cosmic baths, of course we should steep ourselves in the glories of the cosmos, via science and poetry, is we really believe in the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The media pounced on many of his predecessor’s statements, but this pope is giving countless hosts to fortune, and when the media begin to pounce there will be scenes of havoc.

  11. Martin Murray

    “I will share two concerns with you. One is the pelagian trend in the Church right now……..” (Pope Francis)
    Good news and bad news here. The good news is that Pope Francis is on the ball to recognise the current pelagian trend. The bad news is that he needs to see that as a problem. Some healthy conversations on this are currently happening in emerging spirituality.

  12. Mary O Vallely

    Thanks, Pól, for that beautiful insight into Papa Bergoglio @8. How could you not love this man who ponders and wonders and peppers his sentences with lots of “I don’t know how to interpret it… I don’t know… It concerns me… It is something that needs to be thought about.”
    He is refreshingly honest, genuinely humble and so sure of the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding him. “These gestures aren’t mine; there’s Someone else here. That gives me confidence.”
    Well, it gives the rest of us confidence too.
    His plea to us that we need “to go to the causes; we can’t just stay on the symptoms” is a gentle challenge.
    The wonder at being sent 3,525 rosaries evokes the response, “I take it with respect but it concerns me.” How wisely diplomatic!
    The main thrust of his conversation however is a message to all of us.
    “Put all your effort into dialogue…. Talk to them, have conversations…”
    This is a man who is unafraid to ponder aloud, to admit that he doesn’t have the answers,to stress that heart to heart contact is vitally important and that listening is essential. How could you not fail to respect and warm to this Pope? 🙂

  13. mjt

    On the other hand, Mary, there`s this:


    What do you make of it? I don`t know what to think. Like a lot of people, I want to think Francis is a change..but..one wonders, after reading that..

  14. Darlene Starrs

    You get no argument from me Mary, in the sense that, he says things naturally and without pretense. The difficulty that I recognize, is that, now, there is a question as to how does Pope Francis work or not work with the CDF? Seriously, we cannot gloss over the many lives that have been effected by their rulings…can we?
    How does Pope Francis view the CDF? Are there instances/cases, that he would not support their work? It seems that if the CDF is going after Pelagians, Gnostics, the Gay Lobby, and the groups who want to take us back 60 years, as well as the ‘radical femininists’, then, he supports their work….but, are there groups and persons, that, can ignore any threat/letter from the CDF with the Pope’s approval? That is the problem….What is the Popes true view of the CDF? There are lives that depend on that answer!

    I still think he’s a rose……but, there is probably some pruning, the Lord needs to do…

  15. Darlene Starrs

    You have provided a very thought provoking piece mjt, very thought provoking indeed. I believe we are at an important marker or milestone in Pope Francis’ papacy with the words that he has spoken at this meeting with CLAR. My spirtitual “dipstick” would say that the tide has turned again for the Church, and I sincerely hope that Pope Francis is genuine in accommodating the Curial reform. As I say, if we continue to have concerns about any abuses of ecclesial power, then, we need to continue to press for change from the bottom up, as Hans Kung has said. Pope Francis cannot accomplish this work by himself and so yes, I do believe that the ‘Holy Spirit’ will continue to show all of us, what needs to be done. I remember those, oh so important words of Pope Francis, when he said, “Pray that I do not become Proud, and do what I want, instead of what Christ wants.”

  16. Paddy Ferry

    After reading your link @13, mjt,I am now depressed!!

  17. Darlene Starrs

    While I was busy pouring over Pope Francis’s words from the CLAR meeting….he was also meeting with the 8 Cardinals to plan for the next bishop’s synod….one of the topics is ‘collegiality and synodality?’….There were four topics named. My concern is that there are issues that need to be raised, many of them, brought forward by the contributors on this website and I do not think, they will see the light of day…issues of sexuality, women in the Church, the sexual abuse crisis, and so on. A major red flag went up for me, when I read, that the Pope’s concern is around the fact that Catholics are not getting married….I realize that marriage is sacrament, but, we have a lot of “crisis” type issues. I guess, I’m seriously wondering if he can really manage very much of the troubling issues of the Church….maybe…he’s provided as much unique push for reform as he is able…I think, this really is a turning point for his papacy…he will accomplish more, but, I’m not sure, he’s going to address the issues that many of us have identified. This information about this meeting was in the National Catholic Reporter.

  18. Brendan Butler

    Until the CDF lift their silencing of Tony Flannery then and only then will I be convinced there is hope for our Church under Pope Francis.

  19. Mary O Vallely

    Yes, Paddy Ferry, I am also depressed after reading mjt’s link! I also accuse myself of naivete and perhaps the sin of clericalism is the mote in my own eye. Still, Pope Francis is but one man, doing his best and too much of our hope is invested in that one man and in that ‘curia’-ous body of men who surround him in Rome.
    Far better to concentrate on what each of us can do in our own parishes, helping to give a voice to the marginalised and more importantly being faithful as far as possible to the Gospel. I know I spend too much time and energy wondering what Pope and Cardinals should do or are doing when it isn’t going to make the slightest difference except make me think I am important and connecting me with other like- minded people. Ok for helping keep insanity at bay perhaps but the murky world of church politics is too alarming to contemplate. I’ll shut up for a while.
    I take your point, Brendan Butler. Any word back on the reception of both petitions? Any moves afoot to actually dialogue with TF and all those censured or silenced?
    P.S. mjt, Polyanna here 🙂 thanks you for the gentle challenge. There are always at least two viewpoints. Still, it’s “good to talk!”

  20. Darlene Starrs

    I agree with Brendan Butler, that a lifting of the silencing of Tony Flannery would be the signal that the Vatican has clearly understood that it needs to address ‘how it conducts business’ with the rest of the Church. Pope Francis has and will address certain aspects of the “sins” of the Church, especially as they manifest at the Vatican, but, by and large, many abuses will go unheard. No doubt, Pope Francis has and will accomplish other successes, but, leaving the provocative and potentially divisive issues, waved aside, will at the end of the day, leave the Church still crying for justice within. While Pope Francis may work collegially to develop many subjects as important as ecology, and the family, etc….to proceed with these, and ignore, “hot button’ topics is to do so at the Church’s peril. Remember Hans Kung’s words: “Please Don’t Turn Spring Into Winter”. As I say, this is a turning point in the Papacy, especially, since, Pope Francis is also now preparing for the Bishops Synod….while I still look forward to good things, I am also very apprehensive, about the “things” ignored.

  21. Paddy Ferry

    Mary@ 19, we would not like you to shut up. Good point made by Brendan @18. Gerhard Muller is in Scotland this week speaking to bishops and priests in Motherwell yesterday and he is speaking at Glasgow University tomorrow morning, Saturday. Priests I know who were at the Motherwell meeting tell me that he came across as a nice man. I then told them of Tony Flannery’s experience of Archbishop Muller.

  22. Julie Mackey

    I am not depressed by thelink provided at 13mjt. I am appalled by its unfairness. Much in the way of unpleasant accusations against Francis appeared on the internet after his election. I explored their veracity to the extent that I could. My conclusion is that none of them stick. There is a moutain of credible information, explanation and opinion out there about his character and his difficult past decisions. If that is all taken into account he is shown to be blameless. Take the trouble to learn what he has done and why. I did. HE COMES OUT SHINING.

  23. mjt

    Julie Mackey, I`m glad you looked at it, and I`m impressed that you have had your conviction in Pope Francis and in the eight churchmen he chose to help him affirmed by your research. If you have spotted factual inaccuracies there, or examples of malice and bias in action, maybe you could show the rest of us, since you have done the work.
    In a case like this it`s difficult to know what`s what, what`s fact, what`s opinion, and what might be sheer malignancy. Like many I have to go by what I read, and while of course I know that some people have it in for the church, sometimes one has to accept that there can be grains of truth in what they write.
    I put the link up, not because I believed what it says, but specifically in the hope that someone, like yourself, who had deeper and wider information that I do, would reply to enlighten me.

  24. Julie Mackey

    Dear mjt, how good you are! I have no research on the eight churchmen. They seem to represent all continents. I am not a fount of knowledge but I assure you that, from the internet,(and it took a lot of time) I am utterly convinced that Francis acted wisely and bravely in a situation we would find hard to imagine. I cannot persuade you in a comment, but I ask that you seek, as I did, verification of his failings. I found none and neither will you.

  25. Julie Mackey

    Dear mtj That was too brief, unconvincing. But there is too much to tell in a comment. He did not betray the two young jesuits but saved their lives. He was only a Jesuit Provincial and Jesuits were disposed of by the regime. He had to consider the safety of all Jesuits in his care. The Church heirarchy supported the monsters in the regime. Jesuits were divided over liberation theology while he had reservations over marxist elements. He did not support the regime but did the little he could to save its victims, and that was a lot. There was so much wickedness and suffering that one should forgive the anger directed at him, despite the lack of justification.

  26. Julie Mackey

    “But do not worry. Explain what you have to explain, but move forward”. Why have I not read a single comment filled with joy by this statement?

  27. Darlene Starrs

    Hi Julie:

    I just want to add a thought to your above question: I think that it is refreshing to have a Pope who can have informal conversations with people and in those conversations be genuinely attentive and even humorous. The difficulty is “when speaking off the cuff” sometimes things are said, that actually are insensitive. I’m sure we’ve all been there….The insensitivity in this statement is that many people have been terribly, terribly, “hurt” by the actions of the CDF. Father Tony Flannery is just one of those people….When I watched the youtube documentary about Father Brian D’Arcy and viewed what happened after he was silenced, it was heart wrenching to see the reaction of himself, and the parishioners. I don’t believe it was staged…but, Father D’Arcy wept and parishioners wept at how he was disciplined and that discipline came from the CDF….supposedly Christian men….and Pope Francis might well call them “holy” as he said in this same meeting with CLAR,…that there are ‘Holy men’ in the Curia….In my view….professional, public, Holy Men…need to show compassion, intelligence, and understanding to the people of the Church…Stoning our own members is not the way, even if, there was any call for correction.
    It’s the sensitivity that is lacking here….in the Pope’s statement. It’s not his intention to harm or hurt…but, he’s obviously not aware of all the nuances…and that is a problem when you speak “off the cuff”. I hope that helps…To everyone who is a Father….Happy Father’s Day!

  28. mjt

    I think that many will have been heartened by the spirit expressed in these words attributed to Pope Francis, the problem being that the subjects or victims of such Vatican investigations find themselves disempowered in the church, to put it mildly, and find it difficult if not impossible to “move forward” with weights and chains of banning orders, silencing orders, condemnation and suspicion, attached. Accounts written by some of the subjects of these investigations tell us what it felt or feels like. See the case of Tony Flannery for one.
    Julie, in my previous post by providing the link I had meant to draw attention not so much to the person of Francis himself or to his record when Archbishop, but more to the record of those he has chosen to help him. But I wait in hope..

  29. Joe O'Leary

    Julie has offerred no rebuttal of the truly scary allegations linked to in post no. 13 above. “Much in the way of unpleasant accusations against Francis appeared on the internet after his election. I explored their veracity to the extent that I could. My conclusion is that none of them stick. There is a moutain of credible information, explanation and opinion out there about his character and his difficult past decisions. If that is all taken into account he is shown to be blameless. Take the trouble to learn what he has done and why. I did. HE COMES OUT SHINING.” When asked to substantiate, she refers to the story of the two Jesuits (the surviving one said he forgave Bergoglio), which is not mentioned in the link given by mjt.

  30. Joe O'Leary

    “Explain what you have to explain, and move forward” — this is a sinister comment — it means, obey and smile; accept intrusive questioning, and disciplinary measures imposed on yourself, your colleague, your congregation. Francis is an expert love bomber — the sort that propels the Focolare, Opus Dei, CL to world success — and the Catholic world has succumbed to this love bombing in an amazingly naive way, it seems.

Scroll Up