Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

My Photo
Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

November 4, 2010


Large scale departures of Catholics from the faith have been the subject of the Pew research organization, articles by Cathleen Kaveny and Peter Steinfels in the October 22, 2010 COMMONWEAL, and the recent study "American Grace" by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell. Many of those who left have established new religious identities with Episcopal, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and other Christian bodies. The numbers and causes of these departures and new affiliations, not the least of which has been the monstrous sexual abuse scandal, are appropriate subjects for study and analysis by our bishops, think tanks, and whoever. In this posting, I will examine what, in my estimation, is a substantial cause of alienation and, what, simultaneously, indicates a remedy: the institutional and personal refusal of the members of the Catholic hierarchy to "listen" and the remedy,"start listening".

An iconic image of the problem: Pope John Paul II in 1979 as he refused to listen to Sister Teresa Kane, when she rose to speak. As a seemingly fourth person of a new divinity, the pope failed to acknowledge her as a person, did not respect her as a baptized child of God. John Paul, also showed his isolation from the real world, when, in the smoke and mirrors of clericalism, he assigned Cardinal Bernard H. Law, driven from Boston by his priests and people for reassigning miscreant clerics, to a prominent church in Rome and continued him in church-governing positions! John Paul simply did not listen to Sister Kane, to the people of Boston, to the world.

After the November 2 election that devastated the Democratic Party, President Obama
declared that the governing party had simply not listened to the people.

Each Sunday's Business Section of the NY Times presents the CORNER OFFICE, an interview with a distinguished leader: a CEO from the business, academic, or various professional worlds to explore LEADERSHIP in their experience in corporate and people management. What is revealed about LEADERSHIP qualities is dramatically relevant to governance in the Church by pope, bishops, pastors, and others exercising church authority. They may have authority in faith and morals. This does not carry with it expertise in corporate management, people management, or public relations. Church authorities can surely benefit from the voices of experience in these worlds. As the following selected excerpts are reviewed, a comparison or a contrast can be made between the recommended qualities and the readers' personal experience of church governance, favorable or unfavorable, as it may be:

1. CEO, advertising, male: You learn a lot from the worst managers, the "command and control" types. One must make people feel they are part of a team. They need to feel their voice is heard and feel completely fearless in having a conversation with me... The ability to thrive in ambiguity is important. How people feel with something that is not black or white, but grey.

2. CEO, business, male: Leadership and communication are the same thing. We believe in communicating everything to every single employee. We're big on what we call the whole brain concept, which is simply to eliminate silos. We probably have more people than we need at each meeting. But, we get a lot of innovation that way... We talk a lot about a person's wake, like a boat's wake. Most people's wake is much larger than they can imagine as is the leader's... We talk about and emphasize foundational principles and how we apply them, and how that makes us cohesive and act as a team.

3. Hedgefund founder, female: Every year, I ask individuals to write a 360 on everyone in the firm, including me. Then, an outsider, a management coach, synthesizes things and says, "These are the directional comments that people have about you." ... At our all hands meetings, every six weeks or so, I tell people what is going on in our different areas."

4. CEO, info services based in the Netherlands, female: Peoples, cultures are different. How they interpret what you've said to them, and how you interpret what they have said, and the rules of engagement about how you are going to make a decision is very important. Remember, as a boss, everything you do is evaluated.

5. CEO, business, male: Are employees and associates more product oriented than customer oriented? Have I succeeded in making employees feel that they are a real part of the enterprize?...I'd like to ask once a year, anonymously, would you like to work with me for another year? Do you have faith in me? Employees, the board, shareholders, customers, my associates?

6. Ms. Drew Faust, President, Harvard University: Understand the context in which you are leading: an organization to which people have a loyalty and which has had a long history of loyalty. This can cause resistance to change. A willingness to change is to be sensitively cultivated. There are different constituencies, each to be dealt with differently. Communication with these constituencies is important to develop a sense of identity and cohesiveness of the whole, wherein each dean or school comes to appreciate the benefits from the larger organization in which it plays a part....If people feel that they are being listened to and their views are being taken into account, decisions will be more graciously accepted. Differences cannot be allowed to degenerate into enmities. Belief in the organization by its participants is essential. It can be secured only if they are being invested in the institution, being made to have a stake in it, as well as being asked to respond to its needs. We are in the people business!

My brief comment: Pope and hierarchy appear as "command and control" types, viewing outside suggestions and recommendations as invasion of their turf and more concerned about "product" than "customer". Neither seeking nor hearing the voice of the "customer" in a litany of issues, John Paul II, in 1998, in the judgment of some theologians and canonists, has attempted to reshape the "product" by adding a new category of doctrine: "whatever is proposed definitively as part of the magisterium". This has been criticized as an effort to widen the concept of infallibility and as part of the papacy's continuing effort to centralize and increase authority, power, and control. Is it another example of "control and command" governance?

A thoughtful recommendation: Pope and bishops should immediately establish relations with Voice of the Faithful, Call to Action, and other groups of practicing Catholics. These are not invading turf, but seeking to be real parts of the enterprise. The rejection by the hierarchy of such a role for the laity may well explain why many Catholics are seeking other religious identity, where they consciously become part of the enterprise of encountering Jesus.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

People are not leaving the faith, they're leaving the institutional Church, which has become more and more exclusionary. I'm missing my Church, the one I was baptized in, the one I had my first communion, first confession, confirmation, but now rejects me... because of whom I love (I could kill men in the name of just war, bur I'm nor allowed to love them).

November 12, 2010 at 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am getting some spam or junk mail from your site. I received something from John J. Sheehy that I knew when I was a kid but I ended up in a junk pile.

Just thought you wanted to know and that I hope I am not infected.

Sue Hawes

November 13, 2010 at 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1, the Church and Christ are one in mind. The Church is a faithful spouse who teaches as He taught. The Church hasn't become more exclusionary. She is still the same, proclaiming the same saving truth and discipline.
Now, the Gospel commands you to love God above all things and your neighbor as yourself. Such love respects rights of God and both the created dignity of the other and the holiness to which God calls each of us according to the divine law and counsels.
Sadly, many people forget what love is and turn it into a genital fetish. (BTW, Just War is an act of love for the innocent. It aims at stopping aggression against the innocent. It is holy, unless you think we should have, for example, let the Nazi's continue to murder Jews and others?) So, if you think you can't love someone you are wrong. But, if you regard misguided affections stemming from fallen human nature as love, then, check out Christ's first words in the Gospel of Mark - "Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand."
Love, but learn what God reveals about love, not what you or fallen humanity want it to mean!

November 18, 2010 at 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good perspective Msgr. So many people have walked, drifted, or faded away over the last 30 years. J2P2 did his best to empty the church. His rewqard, the want to rush him in as a saint where he can join Jose Escriva. Thank God we dodged the bullet and we didn't get "saint" maciel, much as he promoted his sanctity during his life.

November 19, 2010 at 9:02 PM  
Anonymous Kathryn said...


I keep getting the message that it's a matter of "my way or the Highway".

At some point one has to follow Christ to a place one may not want to go.

I don't want to go. I'm not gone yet, but the litany of the "would be saints" is wearing none the less.

December 22, 2010 at 2:08 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home