The current Pope, Francis, recently criticized his own predecessors and their curia, the Roman Catholic church's central administration and -- literally -- the pope's "court" and "courtiers": "Heads of the church have often been narcissists", said Francis, "flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court [curia] is the leprosy of the papacy." His sentiments are not unprecedented. His fifteenth-century Tuscan predecessor Pope Pius II, Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, wrote in his fascinating memoirs of how " as a rule, the members of the curia are perverse and inclined to slander, since nearly all of them are slaves to avarice and ambition". Speaking to his conclave of cardinals, Pope Piccolomini was more analytical but not less scathing: "We are in the position of insolvent bankers. We have no credit. People say that we live in luxury, amass wealth, are slaves to ambition ... and they are not entirely wrong. There are many among the cardinals and the other members of the curia who do these things and, if we re willing to tell the truth, the luxury and pride of our curia is excessive. This makes us so hateful to the people that we are not listened to even when we speak the truth." Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose? The Renaissance lives....
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