The words of Pope Francis to the Vatican Curia on Monday continue to reverberate around the internet.

His challenge to the leadership of his church carries a stern warning that all church leaders would do well the heed. Here are five more of the Pope’s criticisms of his own church with my comment:

6) Having ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s.’ “We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord … in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands.”

It would appear that Pope Francis has a genuine spiritual life. He seems to understand that the purpose of the institution of the church is not to perpetuate its own life but to enable people to experience an “encounter with the Lord.” He understands that human existence is not defined by, or confined to, the “here and now.” The Pope apparently believes we humans are more than our “passions, whims and manias.” And, he is conscious of the subtle temptation we always face to turn anything, even the church, into an idol.

7) Being rivals or boastful. “When one’s appearance, the color of one’s vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life.”

Perhaps the really startling thing about the Pope’s point #7, is that it is so startling. The great tragedy is that these words should sound so stunning coming from a man who has “risen” so “high” in the hierarchy of his church. How did followers of Jesus ever get to a place where the point of life was “one’s appearance, the color of one’s vestments or honorific titles”?

8) Suffering from ‘existential schizophrenia.’ “It’s the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It’s a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people.”

Any community that has lost “contact with reality and concrete people” is not a church. The church needs to listen to the real lives of real people. We need to hear deeply the cry of peoples’ hearts and to take seriously the struggles of living in this complicated broken world we inhabit.

9) Committing the ‘terrorism of gossip.’ “It’s the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people’s backs.”

These words must have been hard to hear; they certainly must have taken courage and conviction to deliver. Pope Francis is a prophet. He is teller of the truth as he sees it. And, the truth is that when we speak behind other peoples’ backs instead of speaking to them “directly,” we are cowards and our words bring only death. There is much here for which many of us might do well to repent.

10) Glorifying one’s bosses. “It’s the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honor people who aren’t God.”

There is no place in Christian faith for fawning on those who hold positions of power and influence. No one ever benefits in any real and deep way from the “benevolence” of “their superiors.” The church exists to enable us to discover that place within ourselves where we share the experience of Mary to whom Gabriel said, “‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’” (Luke 1:28) We are “favoured,” not because our bosses approve of us or because we are powerful and impressive; we are favoured because God “is with” us. When leaders usurp the place of God, we will always create institutions that are sick and poisonous.

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