ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Recently, vicar general of his holiness for the diocese of Rome, Cdl. Angelo De Donatis, was the subject of much controversy in Italian Catholic circles for his choice of unprecedentedly unconventional language to address the Roman clergy.
A couple of letters delivered to Roman parishes in July 2019 were unusually informal, as they also contained specifications that could be read as contrary to what the Church teaches about cardinal virtues. The letters aimed to offer guidelines for the formation of the new pastoral teams for the year of 2019–2020.
In the July 11 letter, the informality preceded the inappropriate descriptions given for the requirements for the new pastoral enactments of the de facto bishop of Rome:
I'll take advantage of the summer rest to write you this letter and speak to you in a more open and confidential way about the pastoral year ahead of us. As you know, the process of conversion and renewal taking place in our Diocese … requires the creation, in each parish … of a pastoral team that can take care of everyone's path. … I advise you to choose twelve people. …
Don't look among those who have shown to be prudent, measured and detail-oriented, but on the contrary, look for people "outside the lines" [a clear reference to controversial St. Gallen Mafia's Jesuit, Cdl. Carlo Maria Martini, who left an interview to be published after his death advising "the Pope and the bishops to seek out twelve people outside the lines for administrative positions"], people whom the Holy Spirit has made passionate about imbalance [emphasis in original].
We don't need competent and qualified professionals as much as Christians who are apparently like everyone else but, in reality, are able to dream, to infect others with their dreams and eager to experience new things.
It's fundamental to note that in Italian the word squilibrio [imbalance], when applied to persons, is mainly used to denote mental or moral issues, as noted even by Catholic newspaper La Croix: "Francis used the word squilibrio, which can have other meanings besides disequilibrium — such as insanity or craziness."
Vatican expert Aldo Maria Valli, known for being one of the Italian journalists who met with Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò previous to the publication of his bombshell testimony accusing Pope Francis of covering up for McCarrick last summer, wrote: "We must abandon the old concept that the process of conversion requires personal prayer, constant turning to God, love for Jesus. No, true conversion requires the creation of a pastoral team (just for convenience, we might as well call it soviet, collective, or cell)."
About the dainty demand for "passionate imbalance," Valli observed: "This is definitely speaking clearly! There was a time in which the Church believed the gifts of the Holy Spirit were wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. But this is now forever obsolete."
In the letter, Cdl. De Donatis also quotes an article from Vatican insider Luigi Accatoli centered around Cdl. Carlo Maria Martini's last interview.
Accatoli uses Martini's idea of choosing 12 men "who try new things" to develop his own piece of "advice" to bishops, so they dare choose "courageous explorers" for a "Church in exit."
Accatoli coyly begins the piece stating that his is "an unrequested advice that nobody will follow." Considering the current dynamics of the Roman Curia, it's hard to imagine this was just a coincidental irony and that Accatoli had no idea his "advice" would end up as justification for pastoral guidelines in the most important diocese of the Christian world.
Regarding this particular choice, Valli said: "It's beautiful that his Eminence, in order to reinforce his argumentation, doesn't turn to a saint, a Church father, a theologian, a Pope, like in the old-fashioned days, but to a journalist."
De Donatis' letter continues: "Will they [the new members of the pastoral teams] make mistakes? Possibly." But the cardinal believes it's worth the risk since the kind of people he wants recruited are more capable of "creatively listening to reality" and therefore they'll be of great help in the process of "building the Church of the future."
Valli closes his commentary by stating he finds it "comforting" to know that De Donatis concludes his letter not trusting the future unbalanced pastoral teams of Rome to saints and patrons, but to the support of the "Diocese and the Pastoral Offices," with capital letters, "as in all great nomenklatura."
The second letter, released July 31 to the Fidei Donum priests of the diocese of Rome, corroborated the cardinal's demands for the choice of new pastoral operators. De Donatis reiterated the importance of choosing people who are "outside the lines" and "passionate about imbalance" [emphasis in original], instead of being "prudent, measured and detail-oriented."
The conclusion of the letter reads: "I have wanted to share these reflections with you so that you can accompany us with charitable prayer, as well as feel part of the path of pastoral conversion to which your bishop exhorts you to follow."
The announcement of the creation of new pastoral teams had been made in a previous letter to the clergy written immediately after Rome's diocesan assembly last May. In that letter, the vicar general said, "[A]ll the Auxiliary Bishops, Prefects, and Directors of Diocesan Offices will gather to develop a text with practical guidelines, according to the indications and behaviors suggested by the Pope."
All implies that Cdl. De Donatis, who's been in Pope Francis' good graces since the beginning of the pontificate, is duly complying with the Pope's resolutions. Take for instance the words of the Pontiff's address to the diocesan assembly, which highlighted the Gospels as an "unbalanced doctrine," saying that "the beatitudes deserve the Nobel Prize of imbalance," to the delight of one of his most unbalanced sidekicks, editor-in-chief of Vatican-vetted newspaper La Civiltà Cattolica, Antonio Spadaro, S.J.
And last week, Il Messagero's Vatican expert, Franca Giansoldati, affirmed that not only De Donatis is "considered a loyal executor of Pope Francis' thought," as he also is "dutifully working to shape the Pontiff's diocese according to accurate directives he receives directly from the Pope."
Cardinal De Donatis' loyalty to Pope Francis has become so known in Rome that Church historian Mirticeli Medeiros has even ventured a prediction, forecasting that the cardinal is likely to be nominated by Pope Francis as a "papable" candidate for the next conclave.