Cardinals V. Reform

By Mark Silk
The Beliefnet
October 21, 2010

The new collection of cardinals named by Pope Benedict yesterday is heavy with officials of the Roman curia. According to Tom Reese (in an emailed piece not yet posted now posted here), the curial component of the College of Cardinals has increased from 24 percent to 28 during Benedict's papacy, and relatedly, the percentage of Italians from 16.5 percent to 20.7 percent. This reflects a notable shift from John Paul II's policy of decreasing the number of Italians in favor of Eastern Europeans.

It's been clear for some time (at least to me and the editors of America) that major responsibility for the abuse crisis rests with the Curia. Here, for example, is a bit of America's May 17, 2010 editorial:

Beyond taking responsibility for the crisis of sexual abuse of minors by clerics, the renewal of the church must include the reform of the Roman Curia proposed by the Second Vatican Council and begun by Pope Paul VI. The interpersonal and institutional practices that blocked proper handling of abuse cases must be rooted out. Many American bishops can testify to their frustration in their attempts to get support from Vatican offices for disciplining offenders. Along with the victims, many bishops have suffered because of this. Favoritism and personal influence can never be wholly eliminated, but they can be held in check. Institutional reform is not the most elevated religious activity, but it is religiously necessary; and it is precisely the kind of endeavor for which God blesses us with the gift of wisdom.

Let's just say that bulking up the place of the Curia in the College does not exactly send a signal of imminent reform. Nor does it bode well for the selection of a pope with the wherewithal to undertake it. Whatever else he is, Benedict is a man of the Curia. It's where he's spent most of his career. It's where he feels at home. I suppose this was to be expected.


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