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Why smart bishops fail

From a new blog

Business schools are dedicated to teaching executives how to improve personal and organizational performance. For example,Sidney Finkelstein, at Dartmouth, has conducted extensive case studies of how successful exucutives ignored reality until they failed. Hard working and intelligent executives fail, he suggests because:

– of a flawed mindset that distort a company’s perception of reality
– delusional attitudes that keep this inaccurate reality in place
– breakdown in communications systems developed to handle potentially urgent information.
– leadership qualities that keep a company’s executives from correcting their course.

In the March 12 issue of Commonweal Andrew Greeley suggests, “Many in Rome and elsewhere contend that the Church does not need social science because it has the Holy Spirit.” Greeley is correct. The Church could set aside its internal doctrinal controversies and examine its leadership failures. Barring a miracle, it won’t.

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posted March 25, 2004 at 9:49 am

In Business school, and as an undergrad, taking courses in “organizational behavior”, you study the historical roots of business hierarchies by focusing on two groups: The Catholic Church and the Military.
With the Bishops we have some of the same sort of failure of stewardship, or duty to stock/stake-holders that we have seen with Enron, Tyco and others.
Basically for the reasons they cited, but also due to an insular, closed culture. Not all of the dioceses I have dealt with as a vendor are like that, just like all corporations aren’t like that. But one quickly can tell those orgs that have a good culture versus a “bad” one.

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Father Todd Reitmeyer

posted March 25, 2004 at 10:26 am

Egads. First we have the complaints that Bishops are too much like CEO’s and now we have the complaint that they need to be more business like.
John Kerry must be behind this.

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posted March 25, 2004 at 10:37 am

It’s the replacement of the Magisterium by the Managerium.

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Patrick Quinlan

posted March 25, 2004 at 10:50 am

After having gone through Situational Leadership II (well known leadership training model) at work, all I can say is that I kept thinking how revelant those skills were to leading my bible study or being a leader in Young Adult Ministry. I agree that a lot of corporate culture can be antithetical to the Gospel. But much of the secular insights in leadership I learned seemed to have Biblical roots anyway. “Be all things to all men” etc. I would be all for having bishops go through the practical training I went through. I think that it would help. I agreed with many of the points in this original post.

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posted March 25, 2004 at 10:52 am

Fr. Reitmeyer,
The bishops reallly didn’t handle the Situation like CEO’s.
If they had, the guilty priests would have been promptly sacraficed and the victims properly paid off.

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posted March 25, 2004 at 11:05 am

AB: that’s just because the CEOs are afraid they’ll get sued if they don’t act in that manner. Hey…. wait a minute…. 😉

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posted March 25, 2004 at 11:11 am

Peace, all.
Not all businesses handle themselves properly either — it’s why so many of them lose money and go out of business.
A bishop must have good knowledge of people, social systems, and be willing to make sacrifices (his own, especially) to be a good administrator. Bishops such as Law show a clear disregard for productive relationships (which don’t always need to avoid the boss-employee mindset) which are the key to teamwork and getting things accomplished.
Regarding the Magisterium versus managerium argument: we’ve often not had either. All too often bishops and pastors run their church as if it were a fiefdom rather than a magisterium.

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Fr. Matthew K

posted March 25, 2004 at 11:17 am

Greely is like a broken clock. Keep saying the
same thing over and oevr and sometimes you’ll be right.
But like a broken clock he’s also of limited
use. It’s true leadership qualities are an
asset in a Bishop. But like any organization,
the intangibles are what really make a good leader.
And like any other group, choosing Church
leaders is a hit & miss job. Wisdom helps, but
there are no easy answers. Except maybe for Greely
who sees sociology as the answer to everything!

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posted March 25, 2004 at 11:27 am

So were to chuck bad psychological “science” (pedophiles are curable) for bad social science (systems cure original sin). Good plan.

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Steve Cavanaugh

posted March 25, 2004 at 11:47 am

Folks, it’s easy to make the messenger (Fr. Greeley) a target, but the message is that bishops should be men who can run a large group with wisdom and realize that they are accountable to all their membership, laity as well as their clergy. Too many bishops barely acknowledge that there’s a laity…and that was whence the Scandal proceeded. They had to protect the Church, i.e., their priests, as opposed to protecting the parishioners, who apparently weren’t “Church” enough to be protected.
The scriptural term for bishop is, after all, episkopos (overseer). Oversight seems to have been noticeably lacking.
Scripture also says that a bishop must be able to keep order in his own family, else how can he be expected to keep order in the church. There needn’t be any either/or mentality regarding a pastor being both a teacher and a good manager.
(Frankly, the more I read of Fr. Greeley, the more I like him…I still often find myself in disagreement, but I find him likeable. I don’t doubt that he is a good parish priest.)

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posted March 25, 2004 at 12:19 pm

It’s a false choice between the social sciences and the Holy Spirit. Nothing really true that the social sciences uncover can be contrary to the workings of the Spirit.
Two very deeply held myths/delusions are at work in the Church: one, that the Church is somehow immutable and, therefore, is in no need of understanding how it changes over time, and, two, that Church governance and the priesthood are inextricably bound together. If those in Orders would serve and lead, rather than govern and rule, the situation would improve greatly.
Just read the Canons sometime from a sociologist’s or anthropologist’s point of view: the conclusion is inescapable that the Church is governed by the clergy, for the clergy. The words of Jesus against “lording it over” others are nowhere to be found in Church praxis.

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Rod Dreher

posted March 25, 2004 at 12:22 pm

Steve: Frankly, the more I read of Fr. Greeley, the more I like him…I still often find myself in disagreement, but I find him likeable.
I agree with Steve. Nothing is more tiresome than people assuming that because they disagree with the theology of someone, that that person is always and everywhere wrong. The corollary — that if one is theologically orthodox, they’re always right — is equally flawed and destructive.
I’ve just been promoted to a management position at my newspaper. I had to go recently to a management training class, which I attended with great skepticism, having as I do a deep aversion to corporate jargon. I had to admit, though, that I learned some valuable lessons in managing people, and in taking care of problems before they get out of hand.
The problem is the bishops are supposed to be teachers, pastors AND administrators. It’s in their job description. So many of them seem to have no idea when it’s appropriate to use the skills of a pastor, and when it’s appropriate to use the skills of a CEO. It’s not an either/or proposition, but a both/and.

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posted March 25, 2004 at 12:44 pm

When I was the CEO of a smallish company we had several mottos: “shut up and row”, “the beatings will continue until morale improves”, “try not to get any on you”, “ready, fire!”, “don’t just do something, stand there”; that sort of thing. The same sorts of things really do apply here: “shut up and pray”, “the penance will get harsher until we all get better”, and “yeah, it really is that bad, be careful not to step into that other pile while trying to avoid this one”. The pastor of our current parish, may God bless him abundantly, follows exactly this sort of understanding.
Remember that we can offer our prayer and yes, fasting and penance for the modernists in our midst and over our heads who have brought all of this to pass. We can offer ours for them. And we must. Yes, it really is that bad. Yes, the modernist crisis goes all the way to the top, aided and abetted by the leaders we have asked for with our insistence on “equality” and the paradoxical license to enslave ourselves to sin with the support of the surrounding community that it entails. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

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The obedient son

posted March 25, 2004 at 12:50 pm

“It’s a false choice between the social sciences and the Holy Spirit.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
It’s like that old joke about the preacher in the rising flood waters who turns away a would-be rescuer in a row-boat with “The Lord will provide.”
When he drowns he confronts God, “I had faith, why didn’t you save me?”
“Huh?” says God, “Didin’t you get the boat I sent?”
A Catholic doctor doesn’t tell his patient we have the Holy Spirit, we don’t need no stinkin’ medicine.

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Gene Humphreys

posted March 25, 2004 at 1:27 pm

That’s a great joke from The Obedient Son, but I think it reflects a significant cause of the “scandal”: many Bishops did not in their heart believe that God would provide for His church; i.e., we can’t afford to remove a criminal (or heretical) priest because we have a shortage of priests. The fact is God will provide if we would just do right.

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posted March 25, 2004 at 1:44 pm

Congratulations on your promotion.

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Terrence Berres

posted March 25, 2004 at 2:19 pm

Changes are made in the Church, liturgy being the most prominent example, on the expressed basis that the changes will benefit the people. It soon becomes apparent that those making the changes have no concern what effect the changes actually have. As people realize this, morale declines.
In business school terms, we could call this an anti-Hawthorne effect.

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posted March 25, 2004 at 2:36 pm

I agree with Steve. Nothing is more tiresome than people assuming that because they disagree with the theology of someone, that that person is always and everywhere wrong.
The same is true with politics. Some of the best history has been written by men of another time who’s politics would today be considered odd
David Denby wrote a very good book on Columbia’s “Great Books” program.
Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples is an excellent work, despite the fact that Churchill was an imperialist.
Rob’t Carrow–a liberal in anyones book–eviscerated LBJ.

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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted March 25, 2004 at 3:00 pm

“It soon becomes apparent that those making the changes have no concern what effect the changes actually have. As people realize this, morale declines.”
Terrence hits the nail on the head with forceful torque. That’s why there’s so much disgust and despair among Catholics; they know their bishops don’t give a damn about anybody but themselves and their own agendas — and, unfortunately, that includes this Pope (otherwise, he’d be more aggressive in disciplining the episcopally misfeasant).
This is why, ultimately, suggestions such as prayer, fasting and charitable works have limited value as solutions. Of course, we should pray; there’s a spiritual component to this problem, as well. But God doesn’t want us just to pray and do the SAMO that conservative Catholics feel so comfortable with. He wants us to act, to confront, to speak up even against our own “leaders” when they disobey God.
Nothing but constant pressure will ensure change. This is the message that Stephen Brady and Roman Catholic Faithful are spreading. Unfortunately, it’s a message that the self-satisfied parishoners at St. Blog’s are ignoring all too frequently — to their peril and to the Church’s peril, I might add.

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posted March 25, 2004 at 3:16 pm

I’m lucky enough to work for a very good, very tight-knit, very friendly company. I agree that the bishops might benefit from some aspects of our corporate culture. (Frex, I would pay _good money_ to see the bishops holding general diocese meetings. I would love to see them surveying us some Sunday as to our attitudes toward their leadership and that of our pastors. I would love to see more accountability, more teambuilding with the laity and the clergy. Heck, I’d even love to see the bishops doing a skit making fun of themselves like our senior staff do at the sales rally. I know I can talk to my senior staff, whereas talking to the archbishop would require…hmm…well, some research and then a lot of planning. I wouldn’t be able to email and be sure I’d get a personal email back, that’s for sure, much less a personal chat.) Of course, my company’s a lot smaller than my archdiocese!
OTOH, there’s one very important difference between the Church and any business — and I don’t mean the profit objective.
My company starts by trying to make sure everyone in it is the right kind of person, and that every account we take on is going to be profitable and honest.
The Church is tasked with taking on the good, the bad, and the ugly. Everybody.
(Which doesn’t mean that a little more discrimination in taking on people for the clergy wouldn’t have helped….)

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Rod Dreher

posted March 25, 2004 at 5:09 pm

I was just thinking that one way the bishops aren’t like CEOs is that while a smart CEO (or politician) pays very close attention to his customers, and responds to their wants, a bishop can’t be that way, not totally, because he has a sacred obligation to teach the Truth, no matter whom it upsets.
[Pause for sarcastic snicker.]
Anyway, I was thinking too that it’s probably the case that most Catholics don’t share the views of we more or less orthodox types who contribute to this blog. Mark Shea’s view, of course, is that we get the bishops we want. While I have problems with that line, it’s surely the case that if the Church responded to customer surveys, we’d probably get bishops even more liberal than the current lot, though they’d no doubt also have to offer niches for conservatives to go to mass, and other accomodations.
And then another thought occurred to me: if the bishops were smart, they’d cater to and cultivate the orthodox crowd. Why? Because it is from our families that vocations are going to come. The future of the “business” depends on encouraging us.

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posted March 25, 2004 at 5:20 pm

Maureen, “I wouldn’t be able to email [your bishop] and be sure I’d get a personal email back,”
To offer you some hope, I live in the Denver Archdiocese and recently emailed Archbishop Chaput about the Passion movie and was pleasantly surprised when he immediately acknowledged it.

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Ron Belgau

posted March 25, 2004 at 6:27 pm

One of the things that seems to be missing in many (though not all) of the comments here is the fact that the bishops’ responsibility is not primarily to the clergy OR the laity: it is to God. It is fine for a bishop to be disliked by both clergy and laity if he is preaching the truth and they are angry because they don’t want to hear it.
In business language, the Church is a sole proprietorship, owned exclusively by God. The problem with the scandals was not that the bishops ignored the laity, because frankly, the laity is much less concerned with sexual sin than God is. I tend to agree with Mark Shea’s view that we get the bishops we want.
The reason we have the scandals is that the bishops ignored God, who takes a dim view of sexual sin in general and in particular, an extraordinarily dim view of molestating minors. If the bishops had followed Scripture and canon law in upholding the degree of holiness demanded of priests, we would not have this problem.
We have this scandal because bishops do not seem to take their responsibility to God seriously; and browsing over these comments, it seems to me that many of us are more concerned that the bishops’ actions offend and embarras us than that they offend and embarrass God.
Contrary to the modern American creed, life is not all about us.
– Ron

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The obedient son

posted March 25, 2004 at 6:39 pm

Let’s see, I’ve emailed my Bishop exactly once, with a question, “Why are you doing…. rather than…..?”
I was answered very promptly by his assistant, whose letter spoke of everything going on in the diocese BUT the topic about which I had questioned the Bishop, and finished up with a request that I please take any problems I had to my pastor not to the diocese (I hadn’t written about a problem with my pastor’s actions, I had a problem with the Bihops’s actions.)
I wrote back saying it was obvious from his letter that he was much to busy to answer my questions since he was obviously too busy to actually READ my question, and not to worry, I wouldn’t be sending anything else to them.
I reneged, I did send them something — I sent in my check for the Bishop’s Appeal this year — for $1.49.
Funny, they could make the effort to send THREE letters about standing throughout communion….

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Kevin Miller

posted March 27, 2004 at 8:41 pm

Regarding one of the comments above – the idea that JPII is interested only in himself and “his own agenda” (whatever that means) is utterly laughable. This is a man who is interested in nothing so much as to decrease so that Christ may increase. Just listen to the man.
And rememember: exhortations to “obey God” will have little value coming from people who, oh, say, advocate genocide.
Personal holiness has to come first – if only as a purely practical matter!

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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted March 27, 2004 at 11:57 pm

Prof. Miller, I’m sure Amy has good recourse to discipline you for bringing up subjects (“genocide”) that have absolutely nothing to do with the thread in question — especially given that she closed comments boxes to decrease the kind of hostility that you seem intent on provoking (and frankly, Amy, I hope you do so; I’m tired of flame wars with trolls). Nevertheless, let me address the idea you describe as “laughable”.
Look around you, professor. The faith is being taught inadequately, if at all (outside your comfortable little ivory tower at Steubenville). Catholics feel discouraged and despairing. The Pope says mighty words but they are merely words, with no pastoral discipline behind them. Why is Weakland still allowed to address confirmation groups, for example? Why wasn’t he disciplined effectively when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee?
But when it comes to geopolitical matters, this Pope takes great pains to lobby the Polish parliament about their duty to provide more Polish grain to starving African countries. He takes great pains to ensure the legal status of the Church in Greece. And he takes great pains to warmly welcome a sycophantic toady for a mass-murdering dictator (cf, Tariq Aziz).
I suggest you visit Carrie Tomko’s blog ( Lots of non-schismatic Catholics are concerned about the contemporary Church. They have little faith in this Pope to change the situation. That is, if you have the courage to do so.

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