Running Things

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.


12 thoughts on “Running Things

  1. Scott, sounds like a star wars movie. 😉

    Listened to about half of your Deut 6 sermon yesterday.

    Thanks for blogging that (and all your online efforts), it was very good to listen to.


  2. Citing Fr. Tom Reese on the Vatican is like citing the Bayly brothers on 2k.

    Jesuit officials say America editor resigned after Vatican complaints

    By John Thavis
    Catholic News Service

    ROME (CNS) — Jesuit officials in Rome said Father Thomas Reese resigned as editor in chief of America magazine after repeated complaints from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who objected to the magazine’s treatment of sensitive church issues.

    Jesuit Father Jose M. de Vera, spokesman for the Society of Jesus in Rome, said Father Reese decided to resign after discussing the situation with his Jesuit superiors, following Cardinal Ratzinger’s election as Pope Benedict XVI. Father de Vera denied reports that Father Reese was forced to resign, but he acknowledged that pressure had been coming from the Vatican for several years.

    “He tendered his resignation. It was not imposed, contrary to what was written,” Father de Vera told Catholic News Service May 9.

    “With Cardinal Ratzinger elected pope, I think (Father Reese) thought it would be very difficult to continue his line of openness, without creating more problems. He had been at America magazine seven years and he improved it tremendously, so I think he understood it was time to go,” the Jesuit spokesman said.


  3. The drunks this week had Jason play a Nihilist.

    Getting excited (like Erik used to) for next week’s show. They are angry at the 90% who listen and don’t leave a review on iTunes.

    Same stuff different day.


  4. Erik, I’m pro bono.

    I’ve done this before with The really mean atheist podcasts get to the heart of a matter quicker. And I prefer my atheists more Sartre-ian, classical, I mean. Existentialism is a Humanism, more CD-Host, less theodicy only issues. But beggars can’t be choosers.

    I’ll probably keep listening, I told Jason I wouldn’t comment, but I caved.


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