Thursday, November 02, 2006

Corporation or Family?

Remember Avery Cardinal Dulles' book, "Models of the Church"? Before the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it was the standard many seminary professors used for ecclesiology (unless they resorted to the McBrien model of dissent and rebellion). Back then, the models offered were the Church as: Sacrament, Institution, Herald, Mystical Communion, or Servant.

While theologically ascertained, the implemented or used models, i.e., what is actually being done in the parish, diocese and universal church, are two very different and mutually exclusive paradigms. There is the CORPORATE model of the Church and the FAMILY model.

Voice of the Faithful and other militant lay groups consider themselves stockholders in the church, from parish level to diocesan. Since they donate the funds to operate the corporation, they feel entitled (as so called stockholders) to manage, direct, supervise and control the parish if not the entire dioceses.

Some diocesan bishops, however, choose to run and perceive their diocese as a corporation. We have bishops who see their role as 'manager' or 'vice president' with parishes being branch offices and the Pope as CEO. Councils proliferate the diocesan bureaucracy and policies, programs, and mission statements carry more weight and importance than the Catechism, the Code of Canon Law and the Roman Missal. Balancing checkbooks, ensuring solvency, creating capital, cutting costs, feasibility studies, etc. become the primary business of the diocese. Pastors end up spending inordinate amounts of time at meetings, listening to various committees give endless diatribes. Bottom line is making sure your diocesan assessment is paid in full and on time. That ensures the pastor keeps his job, otherwise, it is transfer time.

The family model, however, sees the Pope, the Bishop and the Parish Priest as a FATHER, not a corporate executive. A family is headed by the Father. Decisions are made and based on the common good of the entire family. Financial concerns are not the only nor the primary items on the agenda. Saving souls, accurately teaching the faith and reverently celebrating the sacraments are the pillars of the parish family, the diocesan family and the universal church family. Pope John Paul the Great did not come off as the CEO of Catholicism. He was our spiritual FATHER. Good bishops and good pastors know this. Middle management and perpetual bureaucrats shun fatherhood and the family model. They prefer BUSINESS. That is how the clergy sex scandal was handled. No bad publicity, hence, no problems exist. Sweep it under the carpet. Ignore the elephant in the room. Corporate executive types were intentionally blind and deaf to the reports from their lower personnel that seminaries were rife with heresy and homosexuality; that misbehaving clergy were being moved from place to place with no regard to treatment of problems (sexual, drug or alcohol abuse). Victims did not exist since the problem did not exist, i.e., no corporate executives wanted to ADMIT there was a problem, otherwise there is LIABILITY. Business model fears legal action and financial liability. Better to pretend, ignore, or worse yet, cover-up. Enron was not the only business infected with corporate ethical anemia. Bishops who ran dioceses on business mode fell into the same trap.

The family model, however, is not afraid of liability nor does it avoid RESPONSIBILITY, moral and economic. Bishops who saw their mission as FATHER and the diocese as FAMILY acted on revelations that a family member was sick, had been injured or abused, was the abuser, and so on. Political and legal answers would not satisfy the family model's need to correct faults and heal wounds. Treating clergy and laity as family is diametrically different from treating them as blue collar employees or mere stockholders.

JP2 and B16 are real FATHERS. Neither one is a CEO and neither one saw the Church as a business or corporation. Theologically, both view the Bride of Christ as Primordial Sacrament and as Incarnate Communio. Administratively, their role was that of Paterfamilias (Father of the Family). Parishes and Dioceses are not branch offices or satellite locations. The USCCB is not a Board of Directors, either. Corporate and Political models are alien to Catholic ecclesiology. The Mystical Body of Christ is founded on truth and grace, not profit, power, influence, or efficiency. Moral solutions rather than economic; ethical policies rather than convenient ones; these are the goals of our 'contemporary' church experience.

The corporate model was tried and deified in America for too long. We, the believers, clergy, religious and laity, NEED to remind our 'fathers' that our 'family' needs their paternal love, respect, and authority. We do NOT need nor want managers, executives, bureuacrats or politicians. As members of the family of faith, we want a family not a business solution.

My Blog List

Blog Archive