Vatican crisis highlights Pope Benedict’s failure to reform the Curia

May 30, 2012

(A gust of wind blows Pope Benedict XVI's mantle during the weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 30, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict in 2005, epithets like “God’s Rottweiler” and “Panzerkardinal” suggested he would bring some German efficiency to the opaque Vatican bureaucracy, the Curia.

Instead, as the “Vatileaks” scandal has revealed, the head of the Roman Catholic Church can’t even keep his own private mail secret. His hand-picked deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, faces a “monsignors’ mutiny” by prelates in the halls of power.

Benedict’s papacy has been marked until now by controversies over things he has said and done, such as his criticism of Islam at Regensburg in 2006 or his 2009 decision to readmit four excommunicated ultra-traditionalist bishops to the Church.

Now a goal he has failed to achieve — gain control over the Curia — has come back to haunt him. Leaks of confidential documents on everything from Vatican finances to private papal audiences make his papacy look weak and disorganized.

“We’ve almost forgotten that reform of the Curia was part of Benedict’s program at the start,” recalled Isabelle de Gaulmyn, who was Vatican correspondent for the French Catholic daily La Croix at the time.  “Seven years later, the Curia has never seemed as opaque, ineffective, closed and badly governed as it is today.”

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