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April 15, 2013 10:48 AM Reforming the Vatican

By James Wimberley

Pope Francis has set up a committee of 8 cardinals to advise him how to reform the Curia. (I get this from a good Huffpo report by Nicole Winfield.) The small size and non-Italian composition of the group indicate he means business:
Maradiaga (Honduras), chair; Errazuriz Ossa (Chile); Gracias (India); Marx (Germany); Monsengwo Pasinya (DR Congo); O’Malley (USA); Pell (Australia), and one Italian Curia incumbent, Bertello. The secretary, Monsignor Semeraro, is also Italian.

The ideas being canvassed by reforming cardinals are quite radical. I cite, but number them for convenience of commenters:
1. “Term limits on Vatican jobs to prevent priests from becoming career bureaucrats.”
2. “Consolidated financial reports to remove the cloak of secrecy from the Vatican’s murky finances.”
3. “Regular Cabinet meetings where department heads actually talk to one another.”
4. “Bringing more laymen and women into the Vatican bureaucracy, ”

A thought experiment for policy wonk commenters. You have been appointed a consultant to the Gang of Eight. What is your advice to make the Vatican more efficient, honest, and responsive in serving the Pope, the bishops and the Catholic Church as a whole? To keep the exercise interestingly difficult, let us rule out changes in theology and basic structure, so no sounding off on reproductive rights, liberation theology, women priests, and Papal fallibility please. (I’m with you really! Trust me!)

To start you off, three more suggestions from me:

5. An FOI bull, throwing the archives systematically open to independent researchers after a short period, with exceptions for privacy (annulments).

6. Adopting English as the main day-to-day working language. With an Italian-Argentine Pope this will not work, but it follows the sensible practice of many non-Anglo multinational companies like ABB and Deutsche Bank.

7. Appointing women and lay cardinals. SFIK priestly orders are not technically required. Women have played leadership roles in the Church for centuries – probably more in the Dark Ages than now, with Hilda of Whitby and Odile of Alsace. Abbesses were usually like Hilda surplus younger daughters of the nobility, and quite capable of steamrollering mere priests of lowly origins. [Update: Odile’s trajectory was a bit different - she rejected an arranged marriage and took to religion after a row with her (noble) father. It annoys Alsatian Catholics that the Vatican has never recognized her as a proper saint, possibly because of the unsettling example of independence, but that doesn’t stop them from venerating her at a hilltop shrine.]

I don’t have a good suggestion for making the Pope’s pro-poor rhetoric operational. An advisory committee of development economists (idea 8) looks rather feeble, but the Vatican does need a lot more expertise here not to let the pseudo-Marxists and neoliberals have all the best tunes. The Chinese Communists listened to Kenneth Arrow, why shouldn’t the Pope?

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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James Wimberley was head of the mutual assistance section of the department of education for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and secretary to the Councilís higher education and research committee. He is retired.

Comments

  • DJ on April 15, 2013 6:40 PM:

    . Appointing women and lay cardinals. SFIK priestly orders are not technically required.

    Canon 351 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law requires that a cardinal be at least in the order of priesthood at his appointment, and that those who are not already bishops must receive episcopal consecration. Now you know.