Here is an interesting fact for Downton Abbey fans:
The nearby town of Ripon is a real place. It has a real Anglican bishop. During the Second Vatican Council, the Anglican Bishop of Ripon represented the Church of England in St. Peter’s. At one point, he said:
For there to be unity among Christians, there will have to be a central head of the Church, and that head will certainly have to be the Bishop of Rome.
Interesting enough, if we leave it at that.
But perhaps even more interestingly, Bishop Moorman went on to say that, in order to arrive at true collegiality among all the bishops of the Church, “some method must be provided whereby representative bishops of the whole world could form a permanent council with the Pope, which would be an improvement on the present system of a largely Italian Curia.”
Now, the system for collegiality which Vatican II envisioned–namely, the regular meeting of bishops in Synod with the Pope–has, in fact, occurred ever since the Council concluded. Also, the Curia is nowhere near as Italian as it was in 1963. Not to mention the fact that the monumental task of organizing and running Vatican II itself was largely accomplished by “the Curia.”
And yet the specter of the unhelpful, if not corrupt, “Italian Curia” remains. To my little mind, the widespread hue and cry for “Curial reform” these days rings empty, like a meaningless shibboleth.
Does it make sense to condemn a corrupt Italian Roman Curia, when the head of the most powerful dicastery has been, for almost all of the eight years of Benedict XVI’s pontificate, an American? When it has been 35 years since an Italian occupied the Chair of Peter? When “the Curia” can boast of a success as truly titanic as publishing the Catechism of the Catholic Church? When “the Curia” has had to navigate the task of ushering the vernacular into the Sacred Liturgy of the Roman Rite?
Old stereotypes die hard. I am afraid that most reporters, when they use (and mispronounce) the word “Curia,” really have no idea whatsoever what they are talking about.
Maybe we can humbly acknowledge that the real business of running the Apostolic See is a bit more complicated than largely uninformed slogans about “the Curia.”