A Need For Unsentimentality in the Church

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   

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Peter Lakeonovich
8 years 6 months ago
"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?"

What good Catholic can accept the premise which these seemingly sincere, open-ended questions imply?

Are we to believe that the Church does NOT expect its leader of work to a certain standard, to be evaluated regularly, and when necessary to be changed? Please Fr. Jim. How's Jesus Christ for a standard? How are Sts. Peter and Paul for a standard? How's St. Ignatius of Loyola for a standard? How about reading a single page from Bishop Sheen's "The Priest is Not His Own?"

I mean, seriously, Fr. Jim, run the questions quoted above by Archbishop Dolan and just watch the consternation on his face as if to say "are you kidding me?"

These may be good questions to ponder as an exercise, but to even imply that the Chruch does not have such standards is absolutely silly. Especially coming from a son of St. Ignatius, perhaps the greatest defender and lover of the Church of all our saints.

Vince Killoran
8 years 6 months ago
The fact that Archbishop Dolan would have "consternation on his face as if to say "are you kidding me?" is unremarkable.  Of course he, and most every member of the hierarchy would reject any measure of transparency. They have confused the pastoral role with being (to summon C. Wright Mills) the "power elite."
Sunlight is the best antiseptic.
John Stabeno
8 years 6 months ago
I believe change is going to come to the Church one way or another. We cannot remain at this impasse too much longer. John Paul II single-handedly moved us away from the reforms of Vatican II. Benedict, in comparison, surprisingly, seems moderate. His appointment of Bishops has been much more centered in pastoral competence or understanding. There is still a long way to go. I think the 50 year mark of the Second Vatican Council and the next conclave will be the indicators of the future. If it doesn't come from the inside, the change will come from a revolution from outside. The people cannot sit back any longer and watch the Church they love become totally irrelevant to the lives they live and meet them where they are. The pius platitudes from on high and this generation of cultic priest will have run their course in the coming years. The American Catholic Church is becoming poor. Many Diocese's are running out of money. Bishops know that when their diocese are in the red, they have a slim chance of wearing red. The people will be heard again.
Stephen SCHEWE
8 years 6 months ago
To hold leaders accountable, you must know how they are being measured.  Metrics are already in place for today's priests, bishops, and cardinals:  orthodoxy of belief (narrowly interpreted); omerta about the failings of other clergy; and obedience to clerical superiors.  The current system reinforces itself by doling out rewards to the compliant and rapped knuckles to anyone, including senior leaders like Cardinal Schoenborn, who gets out of line.  The abuse scandals have rocked but not fundamentally changed this system.  So the Church has management practices in place; they're just not healthy ones.  And it all starts at the top. Unlike some of the institutions Mr. Kelly mentions, the Church allows for minimal transparency or decentralization of power, which often serve to foster change from within.
When the institutional pain gets bad enough, there will be change, or the Church will die in its present form.  We just don't seem to be there yet.  Vatican II didn't work, particularly once the revisionists got control.  In the case of other feudal institutions, change has required revolutions.


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