Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Beyond 'Certitudes and Order': The Vatican's Management Problem

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Beyond 'Certitudes and Order': The Vatican's Management Problem

Article excerpt

I am told that Karl Rahner, the German Jesuit theologian who was an expert at Vatican II, concluded toward the end of his life that there were two major groups of people in the world: those who want certitude and those who want understanding. I would very much agree with that, and just add that those two groups have a very hard time understanding one another! I think we saw some of that in last fall's election process.

My great fear and sadness is that if the Catholic Church continues on its present course, it will largely be peopled by people in the first group. An enclave of settled and certain people will serve a real need in history and culture. But it is not the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic" church that the gospel needs and the world so wants to admire.

I do not see a pattern of natural or strong leaders, creative, or risk-taking people being ordained in the Catholic Church in the last 15 years, nor do I see the same being appointed to the episcopacy. I know the Holy Spirit can do anything, and often does, but just speaking structurally, it is a sure recipe for a failing company or institution. Rigid people finally turn against one another and against the success of the mission. Circling the wagons produces a superior and safe identity, but it does not really make sense unless you are under attack, afraid, or still in the first half of life. I had hoped this ancient and wise institution would be beyond all of these. After all, it was the Catholic Church that educated me to think tiffs way.

My disappointment in the present pope is that he has said and written many fine and courageous things that will stand the test of time, but he tends to preserve the heroic gesture for himself (praying in synagogues, kissing the ground of "alien" territories, visiting mosques, proclaiming a gospel of justice for the poor, condemning our war, criticizing both communism and capitalism), but it is quite clear that he does not appoint cardinals or bishops or call forth a church culture that does much of the same-which is a self-defeating management style. He himself always looks larger than life, but anybody who actually imitates him is invariably suspect and usually marginalized. A strong leader normally appoints other strong leaders. …

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