The National Catholic Review
Our readers
Church Management

I appreciate the observations of Frederick W. Gluck in Crisis Management in the Church (12/1). There are, however, some special circumstances that should be kept in mind in discussing management policies in the church.

First, church members and clergy are volunteers, and they cannot be managed by the same principles as those applied to salaried employees.

Second, shortly after the Second Vatican Council, a number of religious orders made use of management firms to attempt to plan their future ministry, but the results of careful planning by consultants unfamiliar with the church brought great disturbance to parishes and schools that were left out of the planning process. (They were often consulted, but with no real input).

Third, the theology of the church, which supports both our present hierarchical structure and the special character of the clergy, militates against the kind of accountability that good corporate management sees as necessary.

Finally, a national conference of bishops, according to Canon Law, cannot make the strong public commitment to managerial change that Mr. Gluck suggests. There is only one C.E.O. of the church, and he resides abroad and will not share his authority with the U.S. bishops.

I hope, nonetheless, that the church in the United States can begin to take steps toward better management in this difficult time. There are many initiatives that could contribute to a turnaround.

(Msgr.) Frank Mouch
Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Frederick W. Gluck’s corporate model approach to the current crisis in the church in the United States could be useful in certain areas, I am sure, but it is an approach about which Catholics should be wary. Isn’t part of the current crisis the perception that the bishops largely have tried to be managers rather than pastors, even if, as Mr. Gluck points out, they have failed to be successful managers? Indeed, I believe the root crisis is that the ways of the world are too much with us and that simply to view the crisis as largely bad management style is a form of naturalism. The engine moving the crisis regarding vocations, the scandals and other negative circumstances has been a profound crisis of faith. Bishops have tried to be managers while neglecting, in my view, their roles as teachers and pastors insisting on sound doctrine, morality and practice. Their failure in this regard is one of the reasons we have lost control of our institutions.

We must address the crisis of faith squarely and the solution, like alllasting church reforms, begins with grace.

(Rev.) Leonard F. Villa
Yonkers, N.Y.

While I agree with Frederick W. Gluck’s recommendations for the bishops, I think there is a crucial dimension to the crisis that the author ignores. Individuals who see the church as relevant to their lives are moving away from the center, but in different directions. In effect, the church in the United States is on the way to becoming a very fractured entity.

We are already seeing a very militant traditionalismoften identified with Opus Dei, although other groups are involvedthat is moving to develop a new core of conservative Catholics. We are also seeing a far less cohesive movement of reform-minded Catholics, who are increasingly willing to function outside the establishment. The Vatican clearly supports the first and is definitely uncomfortable with the second.

The bishops could, of course, allow for a more pluralist structure that would accommodate both traditionalists and progressives by abandoning the traditional geographical parish. This, however, seems most improbable, and either there could be a real struggle for control of existing resources or one or both wings could in effect create a situation of de facto schism.

Doug McFerran
Woodland Hills, Calif.

When Mr. Gluck says There is no effective performance measurement system at any level, he misses an opportunity sadly ignored by most clergy, one that goes as far back as the Council of Trent: the Status Animarum. This is the Latin name for the annual report filled out by each parish that summarizes the participation of the laity in the main aspects of Catholic life: Mass attendance, baptisms, participation in various religious education classes, confirmations, marriages, etc. While many will say that you cannot measure holiness by a quantitative index, if a parish report shows that for the past five years post-Confirmation attendance at religious education classes is dropping by 10 percent a year, then someone should be concerned. Year-over-year comparisons are only a first cut at possible meaningful analysis; summaries by diocese could easily provide benchmarks of what is possible and the identification of strategies that make for significant improvement.

Robert F. Cummins
New York, N.Y.

If ever there were an example of how the laity can help the Catholic Church deal with its long-term decline, in terms of relevance to the lives and spiritual well-being of its members, Frederick Gluck’s article is a boiler-plate model. It should be must reading for every member of the U.S. Catholic Conference, as a checklist of things to do for the next decade and beyond.

Public companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for turnaround strategies and programs similar to those that Mr. Gluck has provided the U.S.C.C.B. in these superb guidelines for change, and he has given them to all of us, at no expense, on three simple pages. I pray that our bishops will read the message and begin to energize a management structure that seems to have lost that bunny with the battery.

John Shean
San Diego, Calif.

The Path to Forgiving

I offer a reflection on the excellent article by John F. X. Sheehan, S.J., on the need for forgiveness as the only answer to resentment (Love Your Enemies, 11/17).

Over the course of the years, I have been privileged to conduct many A.A. weekends around the country. Since Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote that resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else, I tackle the dangers of resentment head-on.

In my opinion, forgive and forget is just a cute phrase, nothing more. I cannot forget a serious harm done me by another, nor can I forgive him on my own. Only God can give me that grace, and it happens in the course of my praying for that person, which the church tells us to do. I suddenly realize that I have forgiven him. My praying for him has tilled the soil of my soul so that it is now receptive to that special grace of forgiveness.

One further thought. Resentment is not monolithic. I believe its components are anger (obviously), but also a bit of self-pity (poor me!) and a suspicion of guilt (what did I have to do with bringing this situation about?). I cannot pray for the offender out of any of these feelings, but I can if I dwell on the great sadness that a relationship is in shambles. From that platform I can launch my prayer, a prayer that will automatically dissolve the negative feelings I’ve mentioned.

Neil J. Carr, S.J.
Jacksonville, Fla.

Clerical Omission

The comparison drawn by James D. Davidson in Fewer and Fewer (12/1) between Catholic clergy and the clergy of 10 Protestant denominations omitted the 13,000 permanent deacons in the United States. As permanent deacons can and do perform all the functions of Protestant clergy, this omission seriously distorts the comparison of clerical shortages. Permanent deacons are clergy in the Catholic Church, and the misuse of the term is not in keeping with the high editorial policy of this magazine.

While no one can deny the lack of available priests is a challenge to the church, the presence of this growing group of clerics within the church should not be ignored. The Holy Spirit was present and active in the restoration of the order of the permanent diaconate during and following the Second Vatican Council. The many fine ministries of the diaconate keep alive the mission of the church to the world.

(Deacon) Chuck Hannan,
Council Bluffs, Iowa

Comments

Jim Conniff | 12/24/2003 - 11:44am
Jacksonville's Jesuit Fr. Neil Carr makes excellent points on the healing power of forgiveness. But he glosses over, no doubt unintentionally, Avery Cardinal Dulles's crucial point in making the process complete and effective, as Dulles made clear a year or so ago in these same pages. Unless the recipient of forgiveness is aware he or she is being forgiven, AND WHAT IT WAS THEY WERE GUILTY OF THAT CALLED FOR FORGIVENESS, as is also an essential component for fulfillment of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, no healng is possible for either the one being forgiven or the one offering forgiveness. Ironically, a recent spiritual advisor suggested caution when forgiving might simply occasion intensified repetition of the offense the party offering forgiveness was forgiving the offender. "What, ME need forgiving? Try THIS on for size!"

Jim Conniff | 12/24/2003 - 11:44am
Jacksonville's Jesuit Fr. Neil Carr makes excellent points on the healing power of forgiveness. But he glosses over, no doubt unintentionally, Avery Cardinal Dulles's crucial point in making the process complete and effective, as Dulles made clear a year or so ago in these same pages. Unless the recipient of forgiveness is aware he or she is being forgiven, AND WHAT IT WAS THEY WERE GUILTY OF THAT CALLED FOR FORGIVENESS, as is also an essential component for fulfillment of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, no healng is possible for either the one being forgiven or the one offering forgiveness. Ironically, a recent spiritual advisor suggested caution when forgiving might simply occasion intensified repetition of the offense the party offering forgiveness was forgiving the offender. "What, ME need forgiving? Try THIS on for size!"

Recently in Letters