Michael Kelly has an interesting piece in Cathnews.com today comparing the recent sacking of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the current issues in church administration.
The sacking of a Prime Minister is just a more visible instance of something that happens every day on a less spectacular scale: leaders are held accountable and judged on their performances; people in relationships assess the sustainability of the union and act on the assessment; executives, workers and business partners are under constant scrutiny for their effectiveness in and value to the enterprise they serve. And the continuation of employment and engagement terms are assessed, judged and acted on.
Life in many regards is not sentimental.... When things fall apart, the separation is always painful and can be messy. That’s why we have industrial law, family courts and civil litigation: to settle disputes about assets and entitlements due to various parties when their engagement is over.
Life in the service of the Church can be unsentimental too. Things fall apart, disputes need resolution and there are parties to be reconciled.
Why, wonders Kelly, couldn't the Church likewise expect its leaders to work to a certain standard, to be evaluated regularly, and when necessary to be changed? Can we not respect a man's ordination and also maintain common sense good business practices?
It's a provocative piece, and also fundamentally hard to argue with. In the life of any large organization, men and women, talented men and women, are put in leadership positions which turn out to be beyond their abilities. In those situations it's a mercy for all involved, including them, to be replaced, so that the organization gets what it needs and so that the individuals can be moved into situations better suited to their abilities.
Our own institutional belief that in the Church the chosen man will always rise to the occasion is neither evidenced in fact, nor, as Kelly argues, is it necessary.
And when we do pull the trigger and change leadership, new possibilities can emerge. Consider the case of Archbishop Donald Wuerl, who as an auxiliary was sent to Seattle, ostensibly to replace then-Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. For any number of reasons it was deemed not a good fit, and Wuerl moved on. Today, he sits as the well-respected Archbishop of Washington, after many good years in Pittsburgh. Undoubtedly the situation in Seattle was difficult at the time for him and all involved; but the end result helped not only the Church in Seattle but those in Pittsburgh and Washington as well.
Jim McDermott, SJ