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

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

June 7, 2011


Mountains have from earliest times been associated with notions of divinity and mystery. The earth is seen as exploding upward from its foundations with an impulse of life, reaching upward to jagged peaks and heights as if somehow the sky itself is being sought. Mountains would be named after particular divinities. Mount Kailash in the Tibetan Himalayas was sacred to ancient Hinduism and Buddhism. Japan's Mount Fuji, named after a Buddhist fire goddess, has a Shinto shrine near its peak. Machu Pichu in Peru is the site of temples where Incan tribes worshipped their gods.

In Hebrew tradition there is Mount Sinai, where Moses received God's Ten Commandments. Mount Nebo, from which Moses viewed the Promised Land. The Temple Mount is sacred to Jews and Moslems. Jesus takes us to the Sermon on the Mount, the Mount of the Transfiguration, the Mount of Olives, Mount Calvary, and the mountain on whose peak Satan tempted Jesus with the aggrandizement of power.

Matthew's Gospel (4,1-11) places an extraordinary scene before us: the devil tempts Jesus with three proposals. What will Jesus base His appeal upon? The devil: Change these stones into bread: Bread for the masses. That's the way to go. Jesus rejects that approach. The devil then suggests that Jesus base his appeal on showmanship. Cast yourself down from pinnacle of the temple without getting hurt. Jesus rejects this and thus rejects using showmanship to attract people.

For his third temptation, the devil takes Jesus up into a high mountain and, with a 360 degree sweep of his arm, tells Jesus that He can obtain control and power of all this vision if He will embrace evil in the person of the devil. But any thirst for power and control is wholly alien to Jesus. "Come follow Me." "Blessed are the merciful, pure of heart, the seeker after justice..." The story of the wounded man on the road to Jericho; Jesus' spirited conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. At the time of His arrest, Jesus told Peter to put up his sword. "My kingdom is not of this world." This Jesus does not seek to control and command.

Has the Church of Jesus, on occasion throughout history, forgotten that Jesus was not a command and control type? Did His Church at times warrant the picture, as Dostoyevsky portrayed it in the "Brothers Kamerazov" as the Grand Inquisitor, who fails to recognize that it is Jesus he is interrogating? Reforms of the Church in history have often succeeded in departing from abuses of power and the attempted control of others. The Protestant Reformation, in shaking off the controls of church governance and priestly celibacy, did this. Our Church is very much in need of new reform. The greatest scandal in its history, priestly abuse of young people and the failure of bishops to punish miscreants, is still very much with us.

Astute commentators have observed that such abuse is a misuse of power - by the abusers and by tolerant bishops. Has our Church become an instrument of misused power? There almost seems to be a frenzy in the last two pontificates to centralize authority of the papacy and to aggrandize its power and control. In 2002, national conferences of bishops were stripped of authority by Rome's decree that any proclamation by a national conference without a unanimous vote must be referred to Rome. Attempted expansion of papal infallibility became evident in papal insistence on "definitively defined" items being accorded practically the same acceptance as that given to infallible statements. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy, established in 1963, its members appointed by the English-speaking bishops, was high jacked by JPII with his new philosophy of translation. In 2002, members and staff of the ICEL were replaced by others appointed by Rome. Their new, heavily criticized, translation of the Roman Missal was issued in April 2010 and simply imposed on English-speaking congregations. The CEO of Caritas, an international federation of 165 Catholic charitable organizations, was Leslie-Anne Knight. According to custom, she was to be reelected for another term. However, B16 and his curia wanted a somewhat different philosophy to furnish its direction. In May 2011, Michael Roy was elected Secretary General.

The centralizing and control-seeking form of our Church's governance raises questions. Why, with all its power and authority, did its much touted command and control authority fail to command and control an inner evil, only to be discovered by outsiders, that would destroy its credibility and trust? Why is it so different from the person and manner of Jesus? It also is different from the leadership practices of many CEOs, university presidents, museum executives, and other leaders. In writing about their leadership principles, they agree that listening is all important. Listening to employees, staff, board members, customers, and the public is accomplished through feed-back practices, meetings, and just being readily available. Constituencies must be made to feel that they share a mission, a product, that they are being heard, an overriding philosophy that they have helped to shape. One business leader, decrying command and control organizations, called attention to the difference between power and influence. "Power? Thanks. I'd rather have influence. As a person of authority, I'm a teacher-consultant more than a wielder of power".

Is Jesus a wielder of power or is He a seeker of influence? And Jesus' Church? Does it give first place to use power to keep its authority or does it first look to contact and communicate with others and thus have influence? Like Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.