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

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

March 15, 2010


Our Church is not a democracy; it is not a business corporation. It is a catalyst entity to bring people closer to Jesus, Savior and Redeemer. But, like a democracy, like a corporation, it possesses a network of individuals and groups that must work together, each having one or more of many functions towards achieving the common goal of relating individuals to the heart and mind of Jesus. And this assortment of individuals, whether in government, corporations, or churches, including our Church must be subject to personnel management techniques. A network of relationships must be operating harmoniously if it is to be successful.

The relationships within our Church are in a sorry state, as evidenced by the sex abuse crises that have wounded innocent young people and the Church's faithful in the United States with its outburst in early 2002, in Ireland with the tumult after the Ryan and Murphy reports in 2009, and, at present, as new revelations rock the German church. There, a Father Peter Hullerman in Essen abused a child, was sent to Munich from where he was sent for treatment in 1980 with the approval of Munich's Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Apparently having received treatment, he subsequently was assigned to pastoral work, where he, again, committed abuse for which he was civilly prosecuted and given five years probation. But he apparently then continued in pastoral ministry up to the present. It was only on Monday of this present week that Hullermann was suspended from ministry! Gerhard Gruber, Vicar General of Munich has assumed full responsibility for "the mistakes that were made". The Vatican is in full throated denial of then Archbishop Ratzinger's responsibility.

There is little question but that church personnel management has gone sadly awry: priests abuse children, bishops in authority fail to enforce Canon 1395 (punish abusers); the law (Canon 1389), to penalize failure to perform a required act of governance, is ignored. This appears to be what underlies the crises in the United States, Ireland, and Germany. Canon law was very much on target. The law, for whatever reasons, was simply not enforced by those in authority. Precisely this same diagnosis of the cause of the crises was made by the National Review Board, established by the US bishops, to oversee implementation of their 2002 Dallas Charter, in its February 2004 report. The Board further observed that Church officials in the US rarely enforced Canon 1395 and that no bishop in the US had ever been punishd under Canon 1389 for a failure to enforce Canon 1395. The Board also called for "greater examination by the Church of the role of, extent of compliance with, and consequences of celibacy ". I mention that , since celibacy as a possible factor in abuse, is now being discussed in Austria and other European countries as a result of the current scandals.

Why would bishops fail to enforce canon law? The November 2009 report of the Irish government Commission to Investigate the Archdiocese of Dublin provides its answer to the Dublin situation, which would seem also to explain the enforcement failures in the US and in Germany:

"The Dublin Archdiocese's preoccupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid-1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities. The Archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the State."

Secrecy and efforts to protect the Church's reputation were the hallmarks of a clerical culture, widespread throughout the Church even to Munich, where the present pope was archbishop. Critics, anxious to score points against Pope Benedict, also jumped upon his avowal of secrecy in dealing with issues of abuse during his years as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. This secrecy, it is being charged, prevented disclosure of criminal acts to the civil authorities. Secrecy also had the unintended effect of blocking Vatican abuse directives in 1922 and 1962 from their intended recipients. Written in Latin and marked "secret", several Irish bishops testified, they were placed in secret archives with many successive bishops completely unaware of their existence.

This is the culture that enshrouded abuse corruption within the Church and blocked its disclosure and an honest response. Unable to diagnose and remedy its own ailment, the Church had to rely on outsiders to uncover its wounds and begin their treatment: the press, trial lawyers, and district attorneys for the Boston church; two governmental commissions for the Irish church; the Munich newspaper, Suddeneutsche Zeitung, for the church in Germany. This is the culture about which Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare, on being forced to resign for his complicity, declared, "From the time I became an auxiliary bishop, I should have challenged the prevailing culture".

Challenging the prevailing culture will entail new thinking and new relationships that involve the pope, bishops, priests, lay men and women, outside individuals in our secular society, and relationships, relationships, relationships! An enormous order, indeed! In my next post, I shall review what leadership means to some CEOs, presidents of colleges and universities, heads of Chambers of Commerce, and other key
individuals noted for ability to organize, manage, and motivate individuals. Those, whom I have studied, refer to relationships among all involved in an enterprise: officers, managers, stockholders, employees, customers, public opinion. Effective relationships require respect, listening, ability to learn more than to teach, seeking those with new perspectives, ideas outside the box, making individuals believe they are creating value and have a kind of ownership in the enterprise because they are listened to, be confident not certain, collaborative operations, communication, feedback. Tune in for the next posting. Not a thesis on the Wittenberg Cathedral doors, but a challenge for listening and for respect that move organizations ahead beyond "terminal niceness", as expressed by Xerox's CEO.