In Miller’s Crossing, after gaining the upper hand over, Leo, the Irish mafia boss, Johnny Caspar, the Italian boss, complains that “running things” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Administration takes a lot of time and leads to a lot of compromise and loss of focus.
So, when the Renaissance popes built their capital city and their ecclesiastical office, did they ever consider what they might have done? How do you administer a global church with 1.2 billion souls and bodies? One way is through bureaucracy. Thomas Reese explains:
The Roman Curia is made up of the Secretariat of State, nine congregations, 12 councils, three tribunals, and a host of commissions, academies, institutes and other offices. Each of these was created in response to a perceived need or priority of a previous papacy.
But how do you reform these structures? You need one part Urban II and one part Peter Drucker:
Reforming the Roman Curia requires a theological vision for the Petrine ministry, a sense of what the church needs today, and a practical understanding of how to organize people to implement it.
First, what is the theological vision of the Petrine ministry? Is the pope an infallible, absolute monarch in whom all wisdom resides, or is he first among equals who acts collegially with the college of bishops?
If it is the former, then all important decisions will be referred to the pope or to those to whom he has delegated decision-making power in the Curia. Any issue that is in doubt must go up the chain of command.
If it is the latter vision, then the church needs a system for encouraging discussion and consensus building in the college of bishops. Here, the Curia is in service to the pope and the college of bishops; curial officials are not decision-makers.
Second, what are the needs of the church today? Does the church need more stability or change, unity or pluralism, clearer teaching or better witness? Should it be challenging or accommodating, devotional or prophetic?
Another way of asking this question is: What are the pope’s priorities? What does he want to focus on, and what does he want to delegate to others?
Third, all of this has to be organized into offices with people with specific responsibilities. Management experts note that different types of organizations are organized differently. An entrepreneurial startup is not run like an established utility. An emergency room is not a factory. The Department of Motor Vehicles is not the Marines. A business office is not a research lab.
Reform of the Roman Curia is difficult because there is no consensus on the Petrine ministry, the needs of the church today, or the practical issues of management.
While Jason and the Callers think that a magisterium fixes everything, they seldom notice that the very hierarchy that gives them such a sense of superiority lives life more like Johnny Caspar than John Wayne.