Pope Francis Blasts Fellow Churchmen at Christmas Greeting

Pope Francis talks during an audience for Christmas greetings to the Curia in the Clementina hall at the Vatican December 22, 2014. Andreas Solaro/Reuters

It is customary at the Vatican's annual Christmas greeting for the pope to say a few nice words about the assembled clergy, touch on major ecclesiastical themes and recount the year's goings-on. The assembled clergy of the Vatican's Curia, or senior governing body, were probably surprised, then, when Pope Francis took the opportunity today to excoriate them.

Francis blasted the assembled clergymen with 15 "diseases" afflicting the highest-ranking members of the church. Among them were the diseases of "rivalry and vainglory," the diseases of "chatter, grumbling and gossip," and the disease of "funeral face"—the alleged tendency among high-ranking clergy to be overly serious and a failure to "radiate joy."

The pope also castigated the assembled churchmen for the disease of "accumulating material goods," a possible reference to Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the so-called "Bishop of Bling" who handed Francis his resignation in March after media reports revealed Tebartz-van Elst spent $43 million on renovating his palatial home.

Francis further mentioned "spiritual Alzheimer's," what he called "a progressive decline of the spiritual faculties," and "existential schizophrenia," which he described as, "the disease of those who live a double life...the spiritual vacuum that degrees or academic qualifications cannot fill."

Francis concluded by castigating his fellow clergymen for gossiping to the press: "I am reminded of the memory of a priest who called journalists to tell them—and invent—private and confidential information [about] his brothers and parishioners," he said.

Pope Francis is popularly seen as a reformer. He has famously spoken up in favor of inclusivity toward groups that have traditionally received the cold shoulder among Catholics, such as homosexual couples and the remarried. He has also spoken in favor of the theory of evolution, which came as a surprise to non-Catholics but was common knowledge among Catholics.