Goodbye Father: The Celibate Male Priesthood and the Future of the Catholic Church

By Richard A. Schoenherr; David Yamane | Go to book overview

10
BUREAUCRATIC COUNTERINSURGENCY
IN CATHOLIC HISTORY

Religious conflict is highly charged because it deals with ultimate reality. In his study of the politics of heresy, Lester Kurtz captures some of the intensity by labeling behavior that promotes doctrinal change insurgency and behavior that defends the status quo as bureaucratic counterinsurgency.1 I use the term “progressive coalition” for insurgency and “conservative coalition” for counterinsurgency. As used here, conservative and progressive are sociological concepts and should be understood in their restrictive meanings. A progressive coalition moves the social order in the direction of new productive forces and away from those that are old and spent. A conservative coalition, in contrast, tries to keep the social order centered in the productive forces that constitute the status quo.


Catholic Coalitions

Contrasting values distinguish conservative from progressive behavior, but a basic agreement lies beneath them. Most of us value productive forces that foster life and support human well-being, at least once we put aside our class, ethnic, gender, or other self-interests. We are motivated by “good” conservative values when we believe that productive forces in the current structures are still vibrant and so we strive to conserve the status quo. With the same “good” intentions, we act out of progressive motives when we see new forces and relations of production generating in the womb of the old social order and we strive to give them birth by opposing the status quo.

In organizational terms, conservatives call for a bureaucratic reproduction of Catholic ministry; progressives seek a charismatic breakthrough. Simply by carrying out their religious commitments, practitioners engage in political behavior. Sometimes they actively support either continuity or change, but most often they only passively support one option. Thus, whether consciously or unwittingly, Catholic leaders and their followers create the two kinds of coalitions common in organizational politics. 2 In the ideal-typical sense, active and passive conflict over the status quo tends to group actors in either conservative or progressive alliances. I thus assume that a conservative coalition exists in the Cath

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