Pope Benedict Was Simply No Match For The Vatican's Hostility To Reform

Rome Vatican Pope

Photo: Getty / Franco Origlia

Earlier today Pope Benedict XVI gave his first Angelus blessing since he announced his retirement, with crowds in St. Peter’s Square unfurling a banner that says “We Love You,” CBS News reports.Now that almost a week has passed since Benedict’s unexpected announcement, however, there’s been some time to consider what exactly his legacy will be and to face the fact that it may not be positive.

As we wrote last week when the news broke, the “VatiLeaks” scandal — which revealed infighting in the Church and allegations of corruption in the Vatican Bank — may well be the defining feature of Benedict’s time as leader.

Worse still, as nothing has been done to address the root problems, they may well be the defining feature of the next Pope’s time as leader too.

In a long article published this weekend, the Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz’s uses interviews with insiders to reveal the post-VatiLeaks Vatican. These three paragraphs near the beginning of Horowitz’s article sum up a lot of the problems:

The next pope may bring with him an invigorating connection to the Southern Hemisphere, a media magnetism or better leadership skills than the shy and cerebral Benedict. But whoever he may be, the 266th pope will inherit a gerontocracy obsessed with turf and Italian politics, uninterested in basic management practices and hostile to reforms.

VatiLeaks, as the scandal came to be known, dragged the fusty institution into the wild WikiLeaks era. It exposed the church bureaucracy’s entrenched opposition to Benedict’s fledgling effort to carve out a legacy as a reformer against the backdrop of a global child sex abuse scandal and the continued dwindling of his flock.

It showed how Benedict, a weak manager who may most be remembered for the way in which he left office, was no match for a culture that rejected even a modicum of transparency and preferred a damage-control campaign that diverted attention from the institution’s fundamental problems. Interviews in Rome with dozens of church officials, Vatican insiders and foreign government officials close to the church, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, mapped out that hermetic universe.

Horowitz’s article is a must read, not just because of its descriptions of the Church’s problems, but also because he shows how shallow the response of the Vatican has been to this problem.

For example, a huge scandal breaks in the Italian media about the practices of the Vatican Bank, and what are the main actions of the Church? Have the Pope join Twitter and hire a former Fox News reporter as a PR guy.

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