Who is this Pope? On top of everything else he’s done to amaze the world in the last year and a half he now comes out with his “15 Spiritual Diseases of the Curia” list, a very direct message to those guys in the Vatican who have been running things their way for years—decades—centuries! telling them to shape up and get their house and themselves in order. If you read the list of diseases you can’t help but find yourself nodding in agreement, even if you haven’t had the honor of meeting anyone in the Curia personally. These are diseases we’re all prone to, but particularly people in power, people who run organizations : CEOs, CFOs, managers, town officials, college faculty…
These spiritual sicknesses are rampant in any society, and to be aware of them is to be halfway toward a cure. It’s hard to take criticism of this sort, so I’m sure the Vatican is full of the sound of the gnashing of gums as the Curia comes to terms with this public scolding. Let’s hope they have the good grace to humbly accept this view from the outside (because Francis is an outsider) and work on what they need to work on.
What impresses me though is that the emphasis was on the Holy Spirit, not God. God is a tricky thing to get your mind around—the Creator, OK, but what else? Millions of opinions. The Holy Spirit is something different. To me it’s more accessible, more universal. It’s the feeling you get when you have an epiphany, when you feel like you’ve been touched by something divine. These are the seven sacraments I outline in my book, all related to profound human experiences available to all of us. You don’t have to be a Saint to feel it, and in fact there’s a saint in all of us that comes out when we become aware of this Spirit-That-Moves-In-All-Things as Tom Brown calls it.
Among other things Francis is saying is that we need to free that Spirit up to move among us, and you do that by increasing self-awareness, getting out of your ruts, playing as a team, helping the other guys out, trying to get along with those who are difficult, and, who’d have thought it, being happy!
Go Francis! Woodrow Wilson had his 14 points, now Francis has his 15 Diseases. It almost makes you want to become a Catholic. I bet Martin Luther is nodding his approval somewhere on the Other Side, breaking out that yellowed copy of his 95 theses as he turns to John Calvin and says, “See, man, that’s what I was talking about!”
Here is the list of 15 spiritual diseases in case you missed it:
1) Feeling immortal or essential (Narcissim, Messiah complex)
2) Excessive activity (workaholism—no time for the spiritual)
3) Petrification (so caught up in procedures you lose the capacity to weep and laugh)
4) Overplanning (getting stuck in plans—give the Holy Spirit freedom)
5) Bad Coordination (no team spirit)
6) Spiritual Alzheimer’s (forgotten your encounters with the Lord; stuck in obsessions, imaginings)
7) Rivalry and Vainglory (chasing fame)
8) Existential Schizophrenia (hypocritical bureaucrats who have no spiritual life)
9) Gossip and Chatter (murderers of reputations)
10) Deifying leaders (yes-men, opportunists)
11) Indifference to Others (rejoicing in others’ fall instead of helping them)
12) Funeral face (be happy and polite!)
13) Hoarding (material possesssions)
14) Closed Circles (joining a clique)
15) Worldly Profit and Exhibitionism (being power-hungry)