It takes courage to confront the political landscape of any group, family or organization — moreso when that landscape is what Pope Francis recently described as “ailing.” Identifying 15 “ailments,” he took a huge step toward potential change. But knowing you’re ill doesn’t always lead to a cure. In a highly political arena, it can lead to even greater clandestine behavior, hiding the “sickness” rather than changing it. If within the Curia there are those with courage, ones given to soul searching, if the infection is not too pervasive, there’s likely a way back.
It begins largely with leadership of the kind that alters the reward system and/or the route to reward. What matters to those currently in power is made attainable by more constructive paths.
Where many who attempt this fail is assuming what matters — identifying what should be important — rather than assessing what does matter to the people who are capable of changing. The way back from pathological politics, when possible at all, is not usually through the creation of a whole new path foreign to everyone involved, a sudden transition from bad to good, but discovering within familiar terrain a means of creating a new culture.
It will be interesting to observe how members of the Curia respond to Pope Francis’ observations of how far they’ve strayed. Will soul-searching be sufficient to “devine” a new path that includes breaking up cliques and revising the qualifications for future members? Will a leader emerge who can elicit enough support for change, not ridding the terrain of politics altogether, as that’s an impossible goal, but altering it to a more constructive level and creating conditions for long-term maintenance? Discovery of virulent politics is crucial, but the greater challenge is turning things around when the creators of the problem are still in power.