The bureaucracy of the Roman Curia is nothing new. When Pope John XXIII was asked how many people worked at the Vatican, he replied, “About half.” A great chuckle, but an unfortunate truth.

The National Post’s Scott Barber shares the mess that Pope Francis is going to have to deal with:

A poisonous combination of corruption, incompetence and tradition could stifle Pope Francis’ ability to rid the Catholic Church of scandal, Vatican analysts say.

“This whole mess needs to be excavated like the site of a toxic contamination,” said Michael D’Antonio, author of Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime and the Era of Catholic Scandal.


Barber believes that the last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, were passionate about teaching and preaching, but not about governing the Vatican. That has led to a tangled administrative nightmare.

“There are two main challenges with regard to the Roman Curia,” said Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an organization that studies religion and liberty. “They have the misfortune of being both Italian and bureaucratic. This combination makes it difficult for efficient governance and for the pope to get his program across.”

Gridlock is common in all bureaucracies,” but the Vatican has the added issue of a “general Italian disregard for rules and structure,” Rev. Sirico said. Many within the Curia are more concerned with their own “agendas and priorities,” than serving the pope.

Loyalty should top the job description for incoming officials, he added.

Clearly, it remains to be seen if Pope Francis will have the desire and/or the ability to tackle this as chief Vatican administrator.