Sunday, March 10, 2013

Church Business VS Business Church

Lumen Gentium (chapter three) and the Catechism (#779) teach that the Catholic Church is Hierarchical. Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, wrote about the Church as Institution in his "Models of the Church." This makes sense since the Mystical Body of Christ is both human and divine; visible and invisible; temporal and spiritual. Any human activity requires order for it to achieve its goals and be successful. Hence, the Catholic Church has a formal Magisterium to teach and defend the Deposit of Faith; a formal system of Sacraments to organize public worship; a formal organized Hierarchy to govern the external elements of an global group of more than one billion members.

That being said, the Church as a Hierarchical Institution is always the Bride of Christ and His Mystical Body. The business of the Church is stated in the last canon of the Code of Canon Law (#1752) SALUS ANIMARUM SUPREMA LEX (the salvation of souls is the supreme law [of the Church]). In other words, the business of the Church is the salvation of souls.

As the College of Cardinals prepare for the Conclave to elect a Successor of Saint Peter, the press and media have been frenzied with diatribes on what the modern media see as papal necessities. Vati-leaks and other embarrassing scandals from the Curia make it seem as if the Vatican needs some good old fashioned American organizational skills. GOD HELP US. I would love to see an American Pope someday, don't get me wrong. Personally, I think Cardinal Burke is what we need. What I am afraid of is the phony panacea of BUSINESS MODEL of running the Church. The Catholic Church in the United States is one of the most efficient and organized in the world when compared to other nations and countries on the globe. Our parishes and dioceses are run like corporate America. Parishes are like branch offices and the dioceses are regional offices with Rome as the home office.

The danger with the business or corporate model is that one can be tempted to see religion as a business and then make decisions based on the business model. Pastors can be tempted to see their weekly collection as a ballot box in that parishioners vote with their donations. Keep the congregation happy and they will be generous in the collection plate but risk their ire and fear unpaid bills. Likewise, pastors who makes their annual assessments are esteemed by their bishops but those who do not are seen as incompetent. All too often are reports of heretical sermons and/or liturgical abuses ignored by Chancery offices while unpaid diocesan assessments get swift reaction (and transfer).

Teaching orthodox doctrine, celebrating licit, valid and reverent Sacraments and living a prayerful and pious life are what every deacon, priest and bishop should do. These are the non-negotiable necessities of pastors and bishops. Administrative skills are helpful but the People of God NEED shepherds and not managers. Good pastors know how to delegate and know how to get good advice. The best administrator does not do it all himself nor does he erroneously think he alone has all the answers. A good administrator surrounds himself with excellent advisors to give solid counsel. He may not be the sharpest pencil in the pack but a wise administrator finds other sharp pencils to advise him. The fool thinks he knows it all and needs no one.

The Hierarchy is beautiful for it resembles the organization of the human body. The brain governs the body but is also integrally connected with the whole. The circulatory, respiratory, digestive and muscular systems work together and are organized by the brain. Likewise, the Pope and the Bishops govern the Church as Successors of Saint Peter and the Apostles. Pastors represent the local bishop in the local parish. Micromanaging every nickel and dime or controlling every single decision from the purchase of paper clips to the choice of altar wine is not a charism of the Good Shepherd.

Recent scandals in the Church are only rivaled by recent scandals in the corporate business world. When powerful men allow power to go to their head, they make decisions not based on the common good but on their own wants and desires. Sycophants can be found in every board room and Chancery office. There are people who filter what the CEO knows. Middle management bureaucracy can help but also destroy an institution (or at least seriously wound or cripple it). Decisions on closing parishes, priest transfers, second collections, annual assessments, et al., are important but they must take second place to the primary business of the Church: saving souls. Parishioners deserve nothing less than the TRUTH of sound doctrine and the GRACE of valid and reverent sacraments.

All too often we pastors feel more like managers who run a plant as opposed to a shepherd tending to the spiritual needs of his flock.  Bills must be paid which means that funds need to be raised. Income and expenditures are part of life, parish or home life. Stewardship is responsible caring for the external and physical elements of a parish or diocese just as maintaining the home is for the head of a family. What can never be forgotten, however, is that the PRIME DIRECTIVE is the salvation of souls. Feeding the soul with grace and truth are why we have Holy Orders.

Problems occur when clergy are treated and feel like employees. Bishops are shepherds and pastors, not corporate vice presidents. The deacons and priests of their diocese are their spiritual SONS. Bishops must see themselves and act as spiritual fathers to their clergy and to their people. When the business or corporation paradigm is used, then bureaucracy becomes an end in itself. Middle management make themselves indispensable. When a parish priest or deacon is in the hospital, the local bishop should make a personal visit rather than send his vicar or emissary. Business executives send their representatives but spiritual fathers visit their spiritual sons IN PERSON. Likewise, all clergy funerals should be presided by the local bishop. This is a death in the FAMILY.

When the family model is used rather than the corporate/business model, both parish and clergy FEEL like family members. When it is vice versa, then parishioners feel like customers and clergy feel like employees. It filters un up as well.  National conference committees are meant to HELP the local bishop, not manage or control him. Dicastries and Curial offices are there to HELP the Roman Pontiff. When national or international entities see themselves as being on par with bishops or popes, they cease being pastoral and become bureaucratic.

Vati-leaks was only the tip of the iceberg. Stove-piping was not just the problem before 9/11 between the CIA, FBI and the NSA. It also occurs in ecclesiastical levels of authority and administration. Turf wars, reluctance to share information and access and the worst of all, FILTERING information. The overwhelming majority of Bishops around the world and most of the Popes in church history have been good, reliable and competent men. Problem has been that some office personnel decide WHO gets access to the Bishop or Holy Father and they decide WHAT information he receives. They become a middle man that filters people and become a BUFFER between clergy/laity and the hierarchy. Families do not operate that way. If there needs to be a father-son talk, then the father and son speak man to man, face to face. Opinions and suggestions are not treated as threats to one's authority. Fatherly advice is welcome but corporate micromanagement is unwelcome.

The substance of the Church can never change. She is the spotless Bride of Christ, the Mystical Body of Christ. She is our Holy Mother and she is a hierarchical institution. Period. The business model as well as an economic or political or sociological models are incomplete and insufficient. Intrigue, subterfuge, misdirection, coverups, incompetency and all other ills can infect chanceries as well as curia offices. Those who work under the Pope and the Bishop are there to SERVE not just maintain employment. Senior officials must remind themselves they are there to ASSIST their superior rather than make themselves mini-popes or mini-bishops.

The sacred rituals unfolding in the papal conclave remind the Cardinals and the Church that this is about the WORK OF GOD, not the work of man. Saving souls is the supreme law of the Church. Policies, directives, etc., are helpful but the bottom line is the transmission of TRUTH (via doctrine) and GRACE (via sacraments). Of course, even in the Gospel we read about the professional envy experienced between James & John and the other Ten Apostles when it appeared as if their mother was trying to get her boys a good assignment (one on the right and one on the left). The others in fact became indignant, we are told. Clerical indignation has continued ever since. Cronies and sycophants are promoted, rewarded and honored while those loyal sons faithful to Holy Mother Church are often overlooked, ignored, ridiculed, or rebuked.

A new Pope will soon be here. Let us pray that he will have the strength and courage to clean house in Rome and will DEMAND that his brother bishops do likewise in their respective dioceses. Sound doctrine, reverent sacraments and pastoral style is what the people need and deserve. Administration is important but our leaders must be reminded and must remember that they are FIRST and FOREMOST spiritual leaders who have moral and spiritual obligations and responsibilities as spiritual fathers who shepherd a spiritual FAMILY rather than manage an ecclesiastical business.

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