Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis told gossip-loving priests and nuns to bite their tongues on Monday, and warned those breaking their vow of obedience to fall into line sharpish.
"If you get an urge to say something against a brother or a sister, to drop a gossip bomb, bite your tongue! Hard!" the pontiff said in an improvised speech to members of the clergy marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life.
The Argentine warned against those abusing their religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, describing "anarchy" as the "daughter of the devil".
And he bemoaned a drop in the number of people signing up for a religious life, but warned against taking just anyone.
"Why is the womb of consecrated live becoming so sterile?" he asked.
"Some congregations experiment with 'artificial insemination'. What do they do? They welcome... 'Yes come, come, come'. And then there are problems," he said.
"No. We must be serious about who we take. We must clearly distinguish if it is a real vocation, and help it to grow."
The Roman Catholic Church is still smarting from the clerical sex abuse scandal, which hurt the institution globally and saw many believers, particularly in the West, turn their back on the centuries-old institution.
The number of priests and nuns in industrialised countries is in sharp decline, though the Church still counts 693,000 nuns around the world and 55,000 priests.