Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church: What Needs to Be Improved 1527542726, 9781527542723

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Table of contents :
Foreword • Michael Pender
Introduction: An Enduring Mission, An Evolving Structure
1 Principles for Constructing Healthy Organizations
2 The Parish
3 The Diocese
4 The Cardinals and the Curia
5 Reforming the Curia
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Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church

Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church: What Needs to Be Improved By

Brian Dive

Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church: What Needs to Be Improved By Brian Dive This book first published 2020 Cambridge Scholars Publishing Lady Stephenson Library, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2PA, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2020 by Brian Dive All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-5275-4272-6 ISBN (13): 978-1-5275-4272-3

In Memoriam Ann Bullman Helena Mahoney


Foreword ................................................................................................... ix By Michael Pender Acknowledgements ................................................................................... xi Introduction ................................................................................................ 1 An Enduring Mission, An Evolving Structure Chapter 1 .................................................................................................. 31 Principles for Constructing Healthy Organizations Chapter 2 .................................................................................................. 63 The Parish Chapter 3 .................................................................................................. 95 The Diocese Chapter 4 ................................................................................................ 137 The Cardinals and the Curia Chapter 5 ................................................................................................ 167 Reforming the Curia Epilogue.................................................................................................. 191 Bibliography ........................................................................................... 197 Index ....................................................................................................... 203


Brian Dive has several decades of experience in large multinational organisations working in staff development and organisation design. In recent years, he has advised numerous large organisations and government departments about structure; how to ensure that those at each level in an organisation have sufficient empowerment to become fully effective and gain greater satisfaction. He has written extensively about these matters. In this book, he offers suggestions to the Church based on his experiences. Some might say, thinking of Matthew 28:20, that the Church has done well enough for a couple of millennia and has no need to embrace “new” thinking. However, in the twentieth century the Church readily adopted new technological breakthroughs to assist with its mission. In 1931 Vatican radio established only the sixth short wave broadcasting service in the world (assisted by Guglielmo Marconi). The Vatican website demonstrates an impressive mastery of twenty first century digital means of communication. And, according to recent comments from John W. O’Malley S.J.1, the Vatican adopted microphones and amplifiers before the House of Commons and typewriters before the British Foreign Office. Furthermore, there is the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Vatican Observatory. Recent popes have made extensive use of the technological marvel we call international air travel to visit local churches all around the globe. The conclusion from these observations is that the Church does not turn inwards on itself but rather looks outward towards the world and utilises whatever useful modern ways of doing things come to hand. In fact, in Chapter 1, Dive quotes from comments made by Pope Pius XII in 1950: “The Church welcomes all that is truly human … [she] cannot shut herself up, inactive, in the privacy of her churches and thus neglect the mission entrusted to her.” Given the above uptake of “new thinking” the book suggests, drawing on the fruits of a career spent in applying late 20th century understanding of organisations, possible steps towards the streamlining of existing Church structures and procedures. The book is very readable and the source of many surprising insights.


Commonweal, August 9, 2019.



First, he thinks that the 5500 or so bishops scattered around the globe are hampered by lack of assistance from above as the gap between a bishop and the pope is too large. And anyway, is it reasonable to expect the pope to be able to engage effectively with this number of bishops? Ad limina visits are expected to occur every five years or so; that is about 20 bishops per week passing through Rome! (Recent reports indicate that Pope Francis has introduced some changes to way ad limina visits proceed.) It is clear to all that there is something seriously wrong with the process of appointing bishops. How can it be, even in cases where the incumbent is terminally ill, that there is still a hiatus of several months or longer after his death before a successor is appointed? A telling observation from Dive is that, in the organisations he has worked for, a significant amount of senior executive time is expended in assessing the potential of upcoming staff and, where appropriate, ensuring they have the correct experience to eventually take on senior roles. In the case of a retirement or death a list of appropriate candidates is at hand, and a new appointment is made promptly. Second, Dive comes to the conclusion that, apart from electing a pope, there is no well-defined role for a cardinal! He suggests that an important task for each cardinal could be to interact with a small group of bishops to assist them in their work and to offer advice, and perhaps coordination, when needed. Perhaps a special task could be in assisting bishops promote the vision of the church being presented by the pope. Third, Dive addresses the frequent comments and reports that somehow the Roman Curia seems not to function as a service to the remainder of the Church but rather is often seen as an obstruction. Pope Francis and his Council of nine Cardinal Advisors has embarked on a process to reorganise the Curia and apparently are in the process of putting these recommendations into place. But yet, the process of achieving buy-in and implementing genuine change remains unclear. The issues here are familiar to those involved in change management in any large twentieth- or twenty first-century organisation. Again, Dive can draw on extensive experience of managing such in the secular world. With these credentials, he has much to offer our Church. Michael Pender, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, University of Auckland (and concerned Catholic layperson) September 2019


This subject of this book was suggested to me by a Catholic priest, Gerald Arbuckle S.M., who, when reading some of my work on accountability and leadership said, “You must write on these topics in relation to the Catholic Church.” When we later met up in Oxford, to talk it about it further, this book started to take shape. Father Gerald has provided great encouragement and support during the writing of this book – for which I am very grateful. In preparing this book, I interviewed people, involved in the running of the church, from around the world, laity and clergy, from parish administrator to cardinal. I interviewed some who had left the priesthood or the religious life. I particularly sought the views and experiences of those who had worked and lived in Rome. Many of those I interviewed preferred to remain anonymous. This is disappointing – not only because it reveals a mood of anxiety in the church at the present time, but because it prevents me from thanking them, by name, for all the help, and the insights, they gave me. To any who might be reading this – my warmest thanks. Among those who were happy for me to mention them by name, I am particularly grateful to Fr. Michael Doody S.J., for his insights into Jesuit training and development and the history of the Jesuits in the US and Latin America. I was pleased to interview Fr. Alex Hill, previously an Anglican vicar, who became a married Catholic priest in England, enabling me to contrast the different approaches to leadership training and development of both churches (and to help me understand the situation and motives of Anglican priests who decide to ‘do a Newman’). Other priests who willingly gave of their time to speak with me include Rev. Canon Dr William Hebborn, Fr Emmanuel Ojeifo, Fr Con Foley, Fr John Craddock SM and the late Fr Bob Lee SM. I am also indebted to many Catholic laypeople. Professor Michael Pender at Auckland University commented most helpfully on the early manuscript and also wrote the Foreword. Agnes Fox-Murphy gave me a good understanding of the work of a parish administrator. Anne and Paul Littleton read closely the draft manuscript, suggesting a number of improvements. Graeme Wright pointed me towards material he knew of which helped me appreciate how the lack of clear accountability in the curia and the Vatican State has made for all kinds of dysfunctional behaviour. Brian Mahoney in Spain, an expert in international leadership development, gave me some very helpful feedback



on an early draft. This book is dedicated to Brian’s wonderful late wife, Helena, and to the late Ann Bullman, a close friend of my wife – both of whom were exceptional Catholic wives and mothers. One great challenge while writing this book has been trying to ‘keep up’ with the dynamism of Pope Francis who has, in a very short period of time, instigated reforms in a number of areas, changing the synod of bishops (Episcopalis Communio) reviewing the curia (the review is ongoing as I write, but an initial draft of some proposed curial reforms, Praedicate Evangelium was leaked this year), proposing new norms for reporting and investigating cases of sexual misconduct among the clergy (Vos Estis Lux Mundi), and he has opened questions about such matters as married priests, deaconesses, and the discipline of Communion. (None of these measures have, so far, addressed the major issues – of structure, and of leadership ‘discipline’ – raised in this book.) I am grateful for the help I have received from Adam Rummens and his team at Cambridge Scholars Publishing. The image on the cover of this book is a photograph of the spire in Notre Dame de Paris in flames, taken during the fire of 15 April 2019 which destroyed the spire and much of the roof of the cathedral. It is an image chosen as an emblem of the severity of the crisis currently afflicting the Catholic church, but also as an emblem of hope; because Notre Dame de Paris was not destroyed. The rose windows of Notre Dame – icons of eternity – were not destroyed. A worldwide appeal to secure the necessary funds has ensured that Notre Dame is to be restored. Most importantly, two months after the fire, the Archbishop of Paris celebrated Mass there (wearing a hard hat). Mass there continues. Finally, I am very fortunate that both Anne, my wife and Bernard, my son, have had significant editorial experience in the past. They read the various drafts, identified errors and woolly thinking and suggested needed changes and improvements in style. I am indebted to my daughter Lizzy and my daughter-in-law Melissa, for their support, not to mention their patience, during this process. The book is a much better product as a consequence, although, given the nature of the topic, I have to acknowledge I am accountable for any shortcomings that remain. London September 2019


“The Church must be forever building, and always decaying, and always being restored.” —T.S. Eliot “Choruses from ‘The Rock’”

1. Infallible, not Impeccable Can the structure of the church be changed? St John Henry Newman observed, in an essay on the history of the church, that “the kingdom of Christ, though not of this world, yet is in the world, and has a visible, material, social shape. It consists of men, and it has developed according to the laws under which combinations of men develop. It has an external aspect similar to all other kingdoms. We may generalize and include it as one among the various kinds of polity, as one among the empires, which have been upon the earth.” He observed, equally, that to treat it merely as such, is not to perceive its ultimate significance – for the “Christian history is “an outward visible sign of an inward spiritual grace”, and God “is acting through, with, and beneath those physical, social, and moral laws, of which our experience informs us”, “so that all that exists or happens visibly, conceals and yet suggests, and above all subserves, a system of persons, facts, and events beyond itself.”1 Newman would, in his remark that the “visible, material, social” form of the church “subserves a system of persons, facts, and events beyond itself”, caution against regarding the “visible, material social shape” as the ultimate explanation of the life, and the “history”, of the church. To consider the church merely as a “visible, material social” reality, is to neglect its “inward” aspect: it is to take the notions by which “visible, material social” realities are understood to be sufficient to a reality which is more than “visible, material social”. To maintain this, though, is not to maintain that 1

John Henry Newman “Milman’s View of Christianity”, Essays, Critical and Historical, Vol. 2 (1871; London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1907), 196, 192.



the church cannot be assessed as a “visible, material social” reality, in the terms in which other such realities are assessed. It is merely to acknowledge that such reflections cannot make for a complete, comprehensive account of the church. In An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845), Newman observed that “certainly it is a sort of degradation of a divine work to consider it under an earthly form; but it is no irreverence, since our Lord Himself, its Author and Guardian, bore one also. Christianity differs from other religions and philosophies, in what is superadded to earth from heaven; not in kind, but in origin; not in its nature, but in its personal characteristics; being informed and quickened by what is more than intellect, by a divine spirit.”2 In his “Preface” (1877) to the third edition of his Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church, Newman maintained that “Christianity … is at once a philosophy, a political power, and a religious rite: as a religion, it is Holy; as a philosophy, it is Apostolic; as a political power, it is imperial, that is, One and Catholic. As a religion, its special centre of action is pastor and flock; as a philosophy, the Schools; as a rule, the Papacy and its Curia.”3 Newman observes that while the “prophetical” office of the church – the teaching office of the church – is sustained by the “gift” of “infallibility”, its “regal” office – relating to its existence as a “political power” – is not sustained by a comparable “gift”. While the church may have the gift of infallibility, with regard to its “formal teaching”, this “aid … great as it is, does not secure her from all dangers as regards the problem which she has to solve; nothing but the gift of impeccability granted to her authorities would secure them from all liability to mistake in their conduct, policy, words and decisions, in her legislative and her executive, in ecclesiastical and disciplinarian details; and such a gift they have not received.”4 My concern, in this book, is to consider some of the “disciplinarian details” of the church – the way in which the church organizes itself – and to suggest – based on a knowledge of how other earthly “combinations of men” are organized – ways in which these “disciplinarian details” could, and should, be improved. My approach, in this book, is to consider some features of the church as an organization, comparable, in certain respects, to other organizations. Are there better and worse ways in which organizations can be structured? If certain generalizations can be made, about how organizations 2

John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1909), 57. 3 John Henry Newman, The Via Media of the Anglican Church, Vol. 1 (London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1901), xl. 4 Newman, Via Media, Vol. 1, xliii.

An Enduring Mission, An Evolving Structure


should be structured, then does the church, when those generalizations are applied to it, seem to be well structured or not? The past century has seen the development of, if not a “science” of organizational design, then at least an ever-increasing collection of insights – emerging from the work of numerous writers on management, and on organizations – into what makes for a “sound” or “healthy” organization – insights into what good organizations look like. If the church is an organization, like other organizations in certain respects, then do the insights of “organization design” experts offer any suggestions as to how the “disciplinarian details” of the church might be best ordered? The church may be unlike any other organization, in certain respects, but are those respects in which the church is different from any other organization such that the “principles” of “sound organization design” should not be applied to the church, or to certain features of the life of the church? Even if the “principles” of “sound organization design” might be applied to the church – since it is, after all, an organization – could there be cases where the principles of “sound organization design” should be suspended – superseded by “higher” principles? It is not impossible that this should be so, but one cannot tell if this is so, in a particular case, unless one “tries out” the principles in question, by applying them to the particular case; and one cannot “try out” these various principles, unless one is aware of them. My concern is that there does not appear to be much awareness in the church, and its authorities, of what the principles of “sound organization design” are, and of what those principles suggest, as to how the “disciplinarian details” of the church might be ordered. I would, then, offer an assessment of what Newman might call the “regal” or “disciplinarian” structure of the church, as a contribution to an ongoing conversation within the church – a conversation that cannot but be ongoing, as its leaders are obliged, every day, to make “regal” and “disciplinarian” decisions. Newman himself insisted that the “regal” office of the church must be subordinate to the “prophetical”. “Theology is the fundamental and regulating principle of the whole Church system. It is commensurate with Revelation, and Revelation is the initial and essential idea of Christianity” – and “theologians” are “ever in request and in employment in keeping within bounds both the political and popular elements in the Church’s constitution.”5 I would not, in this book, stray into the bounds proper to the “Theology” which is “commensurate with Revelation”; and I recognize that it is for the “theologians”, not myself, to determine precisely what those “bounds” are. My claim is simply that if one applies the standards of sound organization design to the church, one 5

Newman, Via Media, Vol. 1, xlvii, xlviii.



can recognize that the church has certain structural weaknesses that can, as a matter of fact, be rectified. Pope Benedict XVI was, according to Tracey Rowland, “hostile” to the “mentality” that would regard the church in terms of “power structures”: “he does not see the church as one large multinational corporation with franchise operations across the globe, the bishops as the executive staff, the pope as the CEO and the laity as the shareholders.”6 I would not, either, wish to understand the church in such reductive terms. One need not, however, regard the pope as a “CEO” to recognize that he is in a position of authority, and responsibility, with regard to the bishops. One need not regard the church as merely a “large multinational corporation” if one is to recognize that it has structures of authority, and a worldwide presence. One need not obtrude into the “bounds” of theology, if one is to reflect on whether the current structures of the church are suitable for the demands, and responsibilities, that its “authorities” have to fulfil, given its worldwide mission. I maintain, then, three things: 1.) The hierarchical structure of the church is not well designed, because the pope is the only meaningful formal authority above the bishops, and there are so many bishops – there are about 5,300 of them – that the pope cannot exercise a direct, effective leadership of them. (There are another 700 leaders who have the pope as their true “superior”: the heads of religious orders, and the heads of various curial dicasteries.) Since the pope cannot, in practice, carry out all that is required for the direct leadership of 6,000 leaders, and yet those leaders do require direction, the curia has occupied (without a proper title to do so) a position of authority vis a vis the bishops; and because the de facto authority of the curia in this respect is not properly recognized or constituted, the curia is not made properly accountable for its exercise of this authority. A “layer” of leadership, with well-defined powers, accountable to the pope, is needed in between the pope and the bishops. A bishop should be directed by a leader who would, in turn, be directed by the pope – a leader who might be termed a “pastoral Cardinal”. 2.) The church has neglected the leadership training and development of its priests and bishops. What is more, the bishops tend to be selected by the curia in a process that is unduly secretive, and in which the “selectors” rarely meet or know the candidates. There is not a clear, open process in which the 6 Tracey Rowland, Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 89.

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qualities required for a particular bishopric are defined, and in which a particular person is identified as having those qualities. The selectors are not trained in how to identify the right individuals. They seem, often, to be making selections without a full, detailed and independently verified knowledge of the individuals being selected. What is more, once bishops are selected, they do not seem, in many cases, to be given a clear “brief” as to what is required of them, and they are not given enough support to acquire the skills and capabilities they will need, if they are to fulfil their responsibilities properly. The processes by which the bishops are selected, trained, and supported need to improve. They are currently usurped by the curia. 3.) Leaders in well-designed organizations are often supported, and, to some extent, restrained, by various disciplines and “controls”, often sustained by “support” departments, operating “to the side” of the main “line” of authority (as, for instance, a leader in a large organization will often be subject to various financial disciplines, sustained by the finance department, and might have access to an accountant or “business partner”, belonging to that department, for support with financial matters). There will, in many organizations, be departments “to the side” of the main leadership structure, responsible for maintaining certain disciplines. There will, moreover, be departments – as, for instance, internal audit – whose raison d’etre is to assure the organization that proper disciplines are in place, and are being observed. In some crucial areas of the life of the church, by contrast, there is scarcely any consistently observed discipline. The leaders of the church need support, and oversight, from above, and “from the side”, so that they are not taking decisions “in isolation”, as it were. Two ways in which this support, and oversight, can be provided are: i.) by the establishment of more rigorous, consistently applied “disciplines”, supported by dedicated “departments”, throughout the church; ii.) by the strengthening of some of the forums that already exist, in which church leaders consult with the laity, and with one another, in making decisions, so that those forums can become a genuine source of discipline. On what basis can I make these assertions? I have spent fifty years trying to assess and to improve organizations, many of them global organizations – whether assessing the structures of organizations or trying to improve the ways in which organizations form and develop their leaders. Over the course of this time I have worked with more than a hundred organizations, in both the private and public sectors, and in some seventy countries. My approach



to assessing the “disciplinarian detail” of how the church works is, then, a matter of applying an understanding of “what makes an organization healthy”, that I have developed over many years.7 I have, in preparing this book, conducted interviews with individuals in a variety of roles in the church – from priest to cardinal. I have also canvassed the views of some who have left the priesthood. I am a practicing Catholic, and I am aware that the church, as Benedict XVI once observed, in an interview he gave at the time he was Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, is “not a party, nor an association, nor a club”. Not everything in the church is subject to the decisions of its members.

2. Sacramental and Hierarchical When Cardinal Ratzinger remarked that the church must not be regarded as merely “a party, nor an association, nor a club”, he went on to observe that “her deep and permanent structure is not democratic but sacramental, consequently hierarchical.”8 That an organization is “hierarchical” evidently need not mean it is “sacramental”: most organizations are, in one way or another, hierarchical, in the sense that leaders are, or should be, responsible for taking decisions that are different from the decisions taken by those whom they lead – decisions that orient, and set the terms for, the decisions of those whom they lead; that is, in part, why leaders are needed. The kind of “hierarchy” involved in this sort of case, however, is ultimately a matter of practical necessity, and it seems likely to be something quite other than the “hierarchy” that Cardinal Ratzinger was thinking of, when referring to the “sacramental”. Cardinal Ratzinger, in Salt of the Earth, characterizes “hierarchy” not so much as a matter of “sacred rule” as of “sacred origin”. The correct translation of this term [hierarchy] is probably not “sacred rule” but “sacred origin”. The word arche can mean both things, “origin” and “rule”. But the likelier meaning is “sacred origin”. In other words it communicates itself in virtue of an origin, and the power of this origin, which is sacred, as it were the ever-new beginning of every generation in the Church. It doesn’t live by the mere continuum of generations but by the presence of the ever-new source itself, which communicates itself 7

I have written three books on what makes for a healthy, well-functioning organization: The Healthy Organization (London: Kogan Page, 2002); The Accountable Leader (London: Kogan Page, 2008); Mission Mastery (London: Springer, 2016). 8 Joseph Ratzinger and Vittorio Messori, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), 47.

An Enduring Mission, An Evolving Structure


unceasingly through the sacraments. That I think is an important, different way of looking at things: the category that corresponds to the priesthood is not that of rule. On the contrary, the priesthood has to be a conduit and a making present of a beginning and has to make itself available for this task. When priesthood, episcopacy and papacy are understood essentially in terms of rule, then things are truly wrong and distorted.9

Sacramental rites are rites in which the “sacred origin”, Christ, is present. Sacraments, for Catholics, are – to use the phrase of St Augustine – “outward and visible signs of an inward and invisible grace”. They involve “outward” signs, which indicate the presence of an “inward and invisible”, divine action. The sacraments are signs that are appointed by Christ; they can only be appointed by Christ, because Christ acts in them or through them. The “hierarchy” here, then, is the hierarchical relationship between Christ and the church; and the church cannot alter what Christ has established – it is, itself, constituted by Christ. The members of the church cannot, on their own authority, create “sacraments”. Seven sacraments have been recognized as such by the church: the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation); the sacraments of healing (Reconciliation, and Healing or the Last Rites); the sacraments at the service of communion (Marriage and Holy Orders). There is a hierarchical relationship between Christ and the church, with regard to the institution of the sacraments. There is, moreover, a “hierarchical” relationship between the clergy and the laity, with regard to the celebration or performance of sacramental rites: there are some sacraments – such as Holy Communion – which can be performed only by ordained priests; and the capacity to perform these sacraments is itself conferred by a sacrament – that of Holy Orders – which can be performed only by a bishop. The “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”, Lumen Gentium (1964) from the Second Vatican Council, declares that “the Lord Jesus, after praying to the Father, called to Himself those whom He wanted and appointed twelve to be with Him, whom He might send to preach the Kingdom of God (see Mk 3:13–19; Mt 10:1–42). These apostles (see Lk 6:13) He established as a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which He placed Peter chosen from their number. He sent them first to the children of Israel and then to all peoples (see Rom 1:16), so that, sharing in His power, they might make all peoples His disciples, and sanctify and govern them, and thus propagating the church, being its ministers and 9

Joseph Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth: Christianity and the Catholic Church at the End of the Millenium trans. Adrian Walker (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997), 190–91.



pastors, under the guidance of the Lord, all days until the end of the world.”10 The “mission” of Peter and “the Twelve”, the apostles – ministering to and guiding the church – continues in that of the pope and the “college” of bishops. The “mission”, and the authority associated with it, is ongoing “even to the consummation of the world.” The Second Vatican Council sought to bring out the various dimensions of “priesthood” in the church. Priesthood in the church is a participation in the three “offices” of Christ – prophetic, sacerdotal, and regal. There is the “common priesthood” of all those who are baptised, and, for the laity, this priesthood involves witnessing to Christ, participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice (by prayer, thanksgiving, receiving the sacraments) and acting in the world so as to manifest Christ. There is, moreover, the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood – that of the ordained. The “common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood” differ – according to Lumen Gentium – “essentially and not only in degree.”11 Those who are ordained by the church are empowered to act as representatives of the church and, on occasion, of Christ – with the highest form of acting “in the person of Christ” occurring in the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, in the person of Christ, and in the name of the church. Cardinal Avery Dulles has observed, in The Priestly Office, that “in theology, the idea of representation is not juridical but organic.” The priest is configured to Christ in order that Christ may act in him as an instrument. The church, as Christ’s mystical body, uses its priests not to pray or worship in its place but to be the organs through which it prays and professes its faith. The acts of the church and of Christ as its head cannot be performed except by those who are publicly and sacramentally qualified through ordination. These acts, pertaining intimately to the order of salvation, cannot be done vicariously, by someone who has merely delegated power.12

Why must priests be formally ordained, if they are to carry out these acts? The sacraments are public acts of the church as such, and cannot be celebrated by an individual or a particular congregation except in union with the bishop and the body of bishops. Only through ordinations conferred by the apostolic body can individuals enter into the public ministry … The 10

Lumen Gentium par. 19, in Vatican II: The Basic Sixteen Documents ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996), 26. 11 Lumen Gentium par. 10, in Vatican II: The Basic Sixteen Documents, 14. 12 Avery Dulles S.J., The Priestly Office: A Theological Reflection (New York, Paulist Press: 1997), 14.

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ordained are not mere delegates of the assembly to which they minister. They receive their gifts through apostolic succession in office, which confers upon them the sacred character of order, empowering them to act in the name of the church and in the name of Christ as head of the church.13

The Second Vatican Council characterizes the distinction between the “common” (or lay) priesthood and the ordained priesthood as “essential”. What, though, of the distinctions in degrees of the authority, that exist within the order of clergy? Avery Dulles suggests that the “priestly” function was originally possessed – and is still only possessed in its fullness – by the bishops. The presbyters, or priests, emerged as an order of “associates” or “assistants” of the bishops. By as late as the third century, according to Dulles, there is “no indication”, in the evidence available, “that presbyters are expected either to preach or to celebrate the Eucharist”; the “ordination ritual for the presbyter given by Hippolytus speaks only of the presbyter’s tasks in the government of the people of God”. It is only by the fourth century that “the presbyters had taken on a leadership role in the celebration of the liturgy and in preaching”; and it is by the middle ages that “the presbyters were increasingly seen as the normal presiders at the Eucharist, and hence as having everything requisite for ministerial priesthood.”14 All of this would suggest that, within the “ministerial” order, there can be developments in how the authority of the priestly role is distributed or delegated. There are degrees of authority from priests (or presbyters), to bishops, to the pope. That the church has some such hierarchy is a matter of practical necessity. If, though, Christ ordained a particular office within the church – the apostolic authority possessed by the bishops in communion with the pope – he did not, it seems, determine how those possessed of this authority should organize themselves. Over time, distinctions have emerged – such as that between priests or presbyters, and bishops. These distinctions are in accordance with the “deep and permanent structure” of the church. Why could not further distinctions, over time, emerge? Dulles observes, in Models of the Church, that “the New Testament … does not impose the three-tier hierarchical system (bishop, presbyter, deacon) today familiar to us. Theologians are coming to admit, in increasing numbers, that these hierarchical distinctions are of human institution, alterable by the will of men. But any restructuring of the Christian ministry should be something more than a reflection of the contemporary Zeitgeist.

13 14

Dulles, The Priestly Office, 35. Dulles, The Priestly Office, 9–10.



It should take full cognizance of the biblical roots and of the special mission of the Church.”15 When Ratzinger observes that the church is “sacramental”, his observation accords with the claim, in the first section of Lumen Gentium, that “the church, in Christ, is a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race.”16 Dulles suggests, in Models of the Church, that the “sacramental” model of the church is one of several models – all, in their way, necessary, none quite sufficient – for conceiving of what the church is. The church ultimately, Dulles maintains, is a “mystery”, as it has in it something divine, eluding definition or comprehension – as “the union of the human with the divine, begun in Christ, goes on in the Church”. The church, as such, is “not fully intelligible to the mind of man”, and “like other supernatural mysteries, the Church is known by a kind of connaturality”17 Since the church is a mystery, no concepts are fully adequate to it; but it may be known through various “models”, which work – up to a certain point – to illustrate its nature; and there are a number of “models” which, in this regard, are of use in illustrating something of the reality of the church. Dulles identifies several main models as being of use, in this regard: the model of the church as an “institution”; the model of the church as a “community” (a mystic communion, the “body of Christ”, the “people of God”); the model of the church as a “sacrament”; the model of the church as a “herald” (proclaiming the Gospel); the model of the church as a “servant” (working to bring peace, justice, healing, to the world, revealing thereby the love of Christ); the model of the church as a “community of disciples”. He suggests that all the models need, in various ways, to be supplemented by the others, or to be developed by insights associated with the others, but he suggests, equally, that the models that seem most adequate to the full reality of the church are the model of the church as a “sacrament” and the model of the church as a “community of disciples”. Sacrament, as applied to the Church, is a somewhat technical concept having four characteristics taken from sacramental theology. It means a reality founded by God in Christ, a visible sign of an invisible grace, a true embodiment of the grace that it signifies, and an efficacious transmitter of the grace signified and embodied. The Church may be called a sacrament


Avery Dulles S.J., Models of the Church (New York: Image Books, 2nd ed 2002), 155. 16 Lumen Gentium par.1, in Vatican II: The Basic Sixteen Documents, 1. 17 Dulles, Models of the Church, 10.

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insofar as, having been founded by Christ, it signifies, embodies, and carries on the saving work of Christ, who is himself the original sacrament of God.18

Dulles observes that the notion of the church as a “sacrament”, a sign of Christ, has the potential to make for a certain “complacency”, but it has, equally, the potential to stimulate “honest criticism”. “This ecclesiology does not encourage any deification of the actual form of the Church’s life, for it acknowledges that the symbolic expressions of grace are never adequate to the life of grace itself. The church is continually called to become a better sign of Christ than it has been.”19 The sacramentality of the church is a task – a summons “to become a better sign of Christ” – as well as a gift.

3. Creativity in the Service of Mission: Changes in Governance in the Church The Acts of the Apostles tells the story of the growth of the church under the impulse of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31) and of ways in which the church became increasingly conscious of its central mission, namely to present a “witness” of Christ’s life and teaching, even “to earth’s remotest end” (1:8). The Holy Spirit assumes a central role in Acts, initiating and directing missionary activities at key turning points (e.g. Acts 8:26, 29, 39; 10:19; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6-9). It is the Holy Spirit who causes the church to emerge, inspiring unity, new governance structures, and dramatic missionary activity, as new opportunities and challenges are presented. The story begins in Jerusalem where the faith became established, and the first small community flourished (chapters 1-5). The picture given by Luke is an idyllic one – a picture of a community in which people lived in harmony and were deeply committed to living Gospel values. Luke wrote that the disciples all “joined constantly in prayer” (1:14). He later developed this statement when he described the four main qualities of the emerging Church. He wrote that the disciples “remained devoted…to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42). “Fellowship” or “community” did not only mean that people were of one mind and heart, but also, they acted in ways that showed this unanimity, especially in collecting and distributing money for people who were poor. Financial assistance was a key way of uniting the community and it was evidence of authentic fellowship and commitment to the mission 18 19

Dulles, Models of the Church, 214. Dulles, Models of the Church, 66.



of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4:34-35). This community of sharing would have contrasted dramatically with the wider, non-Christian society where the poor would have been neglected. Luke proceeded to describe three forms of governance. The first type was quite simple. Members of the community in Jerusalem “had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). That is, the community was so small that the needs of those who were destitute were known to all members. So, believers dispersed funds readily and directly to the needy. With the rapid increase in the size of the community, administrative adjustments had to be made to ensure that needy people could be identified and then assisted. A new governance structure emerged to cope with the situation. The apostles received the funds and they took responsibility for ensuring that they reached the poverty-stricken members. “There was not a needy person among them, for as many owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (2:34-35). Now donors provided aid to the poor indirectly, via the apostles. The apostles ensured that the gap between the mission and reality was identified and responded to by the appropriate authorities. This second form of governance, however, did not last long. It was not coping with the increasing size and cultural complexity of the Jerusalem community. It was, in fact, becoming unjust. So, dissension erupted in the once tranquil prophetic community. Greek-speaking Jewish Christians, called Hellenists, complained to the apostles that their widows “were being neglected in the daily distribution of food” (Acts 6:1). They blamed the Hebrews that is Palestinian Jews who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, for disregarding the widows. The widows formed a distinct group in society. In traditional Jewish culture where women depended for their identity, rights and security on men, widows lived a precarious existence. The Hellenists who complained carried out a “prophetic” act, because they had identified just where the mission to the marginalized was being overlooked. It would have been a brave act.20 What had gone wrong? The problem was not only owing to cultural tensions between the different parts of the Jerusalem community. There had been a breakdown in the governance structure. A serious gap had developed between the Gospel imperative to aid the poor and the reality of unresolved 20 Gerald Arbuckle, “Sponsorship’s Biblical Roots and Tensions,” Health Progress: Journal of the Catholic Health Association 87, no.5 (2006): 14-15.

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poverty within the Jerusalem community. And the apostles had not seen the gap because they had become too busy with their various duties as leaders of the community (see Acts 6:1). A new structure had to develop that took into account the rapidly changing situation in the church. The Apostles responded to the prophetic intervention of the lay Hellenists by calling “together the whole community of the disciples” (Acts 6:2). They stated the problem and asked the community for help in resolving it. If they continued to distribute food to needy people in the rapidly expanding community, this would interfere with their primary task of teaching, governing and forming the church according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “It is not right,” they said, “that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables” (6:2). So, they decided to establish a new governance structure that would both free them from this burden and ensure that the mission of Jesus to marginalized people would continue. The Apostles instructed the assembly to choose “seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” whom they would then “appoint to this task” (6:3). The apostles could then be freed to devote themselves “to prayer and to serving the word” (6:4). This decision was well received by the community. Seven lay people were selected according to clearly set out criteria – that is, they had to be men “of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (6:5). They were then formally mandated by apostles to undertake new governing roles: “they had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands of them” (6:6). With this mandate, the seven men were officially appointed to a ministry of the church. Luke observes that the new governance model operated successfully. The community was again living with internal harmony and the apostles were freed to fulfil their ministerial duties (see 6:7). In this case, the Apostles, moved by the Spirit, responded to the concerns of lay people, recognizing that a change was needed in the governance of the church, if it was to continue to carry out its mission. The change, here, did not involve any significant alteration of the “sacramental economy” of the church; it was a change motivated by a recognition of a particular, practical need, to which a practical response was required. The main “structural” change to the church that I would propose – creating a role in between the pope and the bishops – would be a change of this kind. The rationale for this role is akin to that which was involved in the creation of the role for “the seven men” in Acts: just as the Apostles could not carry out the distribution of food personally, since, with the growth of the church community, that task became more complex and time-consuming, so the



pope cannot carry out, personally, all that is involved in the direct leadership of the bishops. A leader must have a direct relationship with those over whom that leader has authority, with those for whom that leader is accountable – a relationship that involves not simply direction, but counsel, support, and assistance in thinking through solutions to problems. It is through such personal contact and mentoring that leaders are able to support those whom they lead in growing, learning, developing. The role of bishop in the Catholic church is, in itself, challenging; but, more than that, it is, given the current structure, one of the loneliest in the world: bishops simply do not receive the counsel and support they need. It is simply impracticable, for obvious reasons, for the pope to provide this support himself: he cannot have an intensive caring, nurturing, relationship with more than 5,000 bishops. Should a bishop turn to the curia for support, the bishop is confronted with a set of departments – an organization, not a person – which is not designed to provide such support (and bishops tend to find on their ad limina visits to Rome that such support is not usually available). Bishops can, it is true, counsel one another, in certain matters; but they need counsel from one who is aware of the larger situation in which they are acting, and who has the authority to take decisions that set the direction for how they should act, in relation to that larger situation. To delegate this task of counselling, supporting, and direction-setting to figures other than the pope – to a layer of “super cardinals” or “pastoral cardinals”, in between the bishops and the pope – is not to infringe on the teaching authority of the pope, which is unique and which does not admit of being delegated. The pope, as the “servant of the servants of God”, has a responsibility for ensuring that bishops are in place who are fitted to being pastoral “servants” of the priests and people to whom they are assigned, and he has a responsibility for ensuring that those bishops are themselves “served” in the right way, provided with the support, counselling and direction that they need. One way in which he might fulfil this responsibility, would be to appoint individuals who are capable of providing that support, counselling and direction, individuals who would be answerable directly to him for how well they have provided that support, counselling and direction. “Mission,” writes Pope Francis, “is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people.”21 Our eyes must always be focused on Christ, the


Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, par. 268.

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primary source of the church’s identity. All ministries and governance structures must ultimately be evaluated in light of this focus.22

4. An Open Church “Structures [of the church need to] be suitably channelled for evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation” —Pope Francis I, Evangelii Gaudum, par. 27.

The structures of the church are not always well understood, even by its members. Most Catholics experience the church primarily in and through their local parish. They will know their local priest. They might, on certain occasions, encounter their bishop. They might be aware that there are numerous titles in the church – Canon, Dean, Monsignor (with various levels of rank), Papal Nuncio, Auxiliary Bishop, Coadjutor Bishop, Episcopal Vicar, Apostolic Delegate, Bishop, Archbishop, Patriarch, and Cardinal – but they will have very little sense of what those titles mean, and what powers, if any, are associated with them. The plethora of titles creates the impression of a steep hierarchy, comprised of roles of ever increasing authority; but it seems that only two of those titles – priest, and bishop – have any distinct authorities associated with them (in that a bishop has a certain disciplinary authority over the priests in his diocese, and a priest is, in principle, answerable for the state of his parish – though of course much of what he does there requires the voluntary cooperation of his parishioners). If, though, the church does not have as many hierarchical “layers” as the plethora of ecclesiastical titles might suggest, that does not seem to prevent the bearers of some of the more exotic ecclesiastical titles from comporting themselves in an authoritative, even authoritarian manner. There is, within the church, a stress on the importance of “obedience”. Some members of the church make vows or promises of “obedience.”23 Priests, in being ordained, make a promise of obedience to 22

See Gerald A. Arbuckle, Catholic Identity or Identities? Refounding Ministries in Chaotic Times (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2013), 121-225. 23 The “religious” clergy, monks or nuns, make vows of “obedience” to their superiors. I will not, in this book, be considering the situation of the “religious” clergy. I will be concerned with the “secular” clergy, with the secular priests and bishops, since they make up the primary line of authority, from parishioner to pope. I am not concerned, in this book, with the full significance of “obedience”, as a religious value. There can be significant dangers in taking “obedience”, understood as submission to the “will of a superior”, to be the primary virtue in religion. The proper assessment of the place of “obedience” in the religious life, however, is a



their bishop (and his “successors”); and bishops, in the rite in which they are appointed to their role, make a promise of obedience to the “successor of Peter”, the pope. If a priest makes a promise of obedience to a bishop, then that implies that the bishop is entitled to direct that priest, under certain conditions (and in relation to certain matters). There is scope, in this regard, for some kind of “oversight” to be established, to ensure that those conditions are being observed – to ensure that leaders, to whom such promises are made, are not misusing the authority conferred by those promises. (A priest who feels that he has been presented with a false, or abusive, claim to “obedience”, could in principle report this to an independent arbiter – the Congregation for the Clergy – who can review the situation, and determine whether the conditions for such a claim have been fulfilled.) “Command” or “direction”, however, does not, of itself, require any promises of “obedience”: a relation of “command” or “direction” can be established without formal vows or promises of “obedience”. An accountable manager, in any organization, is in the position of being able to set certain aims and tasks to those whom that manager leads; that manager will expect those directions to be acted on, and will be entitled to take certain disciplinary measures if they are not. Those who are directed by a manager are not expected to make an undertaking of “obedience” to their manager. The relationship of an employee to his or her manager does involve something like an implicit “contract”: to accept a role reporting to a manager, is to recognize that the manager is entitled to direct one, in matters relevant to that role, and to the work of the organization. This implicit “contract”, however, is something quite different from a formal promise of “obedience”. There can, then, be formal structures of leadership without formal promises of “obedience”. To suggest that a bishop could have a “leader”, other than the pope, is not, then, to maintain that that bishop should make a promise of obedience to that leader. (If such a leader, a “pastoral cardinal”, were to be created, it might, of course, be possible for the pope to require or command his bishops to obey – in certain clearly defined matters – the “pastoral cardinal” to whom they were assigned, as acting in his name; but this is, ultimately, a question for canon lawyers, or theologians.) What is of cardinal importance, here, however, is that a proper approach to matter for a constructive dialogue between psychologists and theologians. For an account of how “obedience” is understood in the Dominican tradition, as – ultimately – “obedience” to the truth, as a matter of a community coming to a “common mind” through the search for truth (rather than something that presupposes an opposition between two isolated wills – the will of a “superior”, and the will of the one “under” the superior), see Herbert McCabe, “Obedience” in God Matters (London: Continuum, 1987), 226–234.

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understanding organizational structure involves conceiving of roles in terms of accountability rather than “command”. Leaders are required to exercise leadership because they are accountable for achieving something (and they are accountable for the work of those they lead, which is aimed at achieving something). One should think about roles not in terms of “who can command whom”, but in terms of “what is the incumbent of the role required to do, what do they need in order to do it, and to whom are they answerable for doing it”. It is not always clear, to those within the church, who is answerable to whom for what. Most are aware that clergy make promises of “obedience”, and this can, itself, make for the belief that the church is “disciplined”, “orderly”, and the like. Yet this is simply not the case. To those outside, the church appears opaque and secretive. The church, certainly, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, had a defensive attitude with regard to “the modern world” (an attitude that, if sometimes excessive, was not altogether unjustifiable, given certain attitudes towards the church emerging in the modern age, attitudes of “écrasez l”infâme”). That defensive attitude has not disappeared (just as the hostility which was, in part, an occasion for it, has not disappeared). The Second Vatican Council seemed, to many, to encourage an attitude of openness towards whatever, in the modern world, is good in itself, and in harmony with Catholicism. Yet it still seems that, whenever there is uncertainty, and stress, in the life of the church, there is an instinct, in many senior leaders, to try to resolve matters internally, to enshroud them in secrecy. To some, it looks like a secrecy arising from a desire for control, or a secrecy arising from a wish to conceal that which would, if revealed, be infamous. Even the proliferation of “official” roles and titles – the function of which is far from self-evident – can look sinister, from this viewpoint: these “official” forms can look like the expression of a “system” that acts, of itself, without any clear purpose (a Kafkaesque bureaucracy, with a life of its own, disconnected from anything meaningful); or (to the more conspiratorially minded) these forms can look like a kind of “cover”, an appearance that conceals the “real” exercise of power, conducted by those who act “behind” the official structures (“behind” the structures, and so, in an unacknowledged and unaccountable manner). One significant problem, with the current structure of the church, becomes evident when one asks the question – “who holds bishops to account?” One of the worst problems, experienced by the church in recent decades, has been the “sex abuse scandal”, where, in cases in which priests had abused children, bishops seemed concerned less with achieving justice and healing for the victims of abuse, than with concealing the fact that the



abuse had occurred – settling with the victims (requiring confidentiality of them) and moving the perpetrators of abuse on to other posts in the church (where many of them committed acts of abuse all over again). Rod Dreher, making use of the insights of Richard Sipe, a psychologist and sociologist of the sexual behaviour of priests, has suggested that one of the important factors, making for the systemic corruption here – a corruption involving an instinct to conceal the crime, protect the “reputation” of the institution, and an egregious unwillingness to render justice to the victim – was that, despite making vows of celibacy, many priests were breaking those vows, engaging in sexual relations (heterosexual or homosexual relations with consenting adults), and then, because of those vows, concealing their sexual activity, in a way that made for a “culture” of habitual secrecy and concealment about such matters. Dreher quotes Sipe claiming that “sexual activity between an older priest and an adult seminarian or young priest sets up a pattern of institutional secrecy. When one of the parties rises to a position of power, his friends are in line also for recommendations and advancement. The dynamic is not limited to homosexual liaisons. Priests and bishops who know about each other’s sexual affairs with women, too, are bound together by draconian links of sacred silence. A system of blackmail reaches into the highest corridors of the American hierarchy and the Vatican and thrives because of this network of sexual knowledge and relationships.”24 The need for “silence” arises, of course, because of the requirement that priests be celibate, and because of the expectation that they should be of exemplary virtue. Dreher adds that the failure to identify this problem for what it was, and the failure of journalists to report it accurately, was due to the ideological commitments (and blinkers) of “conservatives” and “liberals”: conservatives wanted to maintain the reputation of the institution, and were inclined to trust their bishops, as authorities appointed by God; liberals wished to avoid any occasion of stirring up “anti-gay” feeling (a risk, here, since some of the networks of “sacred silence” comprised sexually active gay priests), as they were sensitive to the risks of stigmatizing and scapegoating. The existence of such a “system of blackmail” facilitates the covering up of not simply sexual irregularities and failings, but sexual abuse. When “one of the parties rises to a position of power”, then there is the potential for such a compromised person to be subject to, and to exert, all kinds of undue influence. The cases of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Cardinal Keith O’Brien were cases of senior church leaders, sexually active, implicated in such networks of “silence”, making use of their power, 24

Rod Dreher, “The Only Way Through Purgatory”.

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as senior church leaders, over seminarians and priests that they might act in a sexually predatory manner. What can be done about this? One, is that bishops – who are present are, in effect, without supervision, direction, or support from above – be placed beneath more senior leaders, who are responsible for supervising, directing, and – if necessary – disciplining them. Another, is that “auditing” structures be put in place – that “lines of defence” be created (with the “auditing” in question being concerned not only with “financial” matters – though it should certainly address these – but comprising a number of measures). “Whistleblowing” structures could, and should, be created as well – to respond to ad hoc complaints. At present, a priest who suspects, or knows, his bishop to be misusing his position, can report to the Congregation of the Clergy, based in the Vatican. Yet, as things are at present, the response from the Congregation is likely, at best, to be slow. There is little in the way of practical support to which such a “whistleblowing” priest can, at present, have recourse. (Some have suggested that lay voluntary organizations might be created to provide better support for priests, in such cases.) What seems to be needed, at the very least, is a clear structure of “auditing” support (probably run by laity), with full-time, paid, staff. Such structures are, of course, not invulnerable to corruption, to collusion, and so on. Yet the absence of such structures allows for networks comprised of “draconian links of sacred silence” to burgeon unchecked. Pope Francis has suggested that some of the problem, in relation to the openness of the church, arises from the motivations of those who are in a position to “channel” the structures of the church. He has insisted that those structures need to be “suitably channelled for evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” I would suggest, in addition to this, that the “structures” do not need merely to be “channelled” in new ways; they need to be, themselves, altered in certain respects. If these structures were, in themselves, clearer, and better adapted to the needs of the church, as a worldwide body, then they would be more conducive to effective evangelical action: they would facilitate the process of recognizing, and responding to, the pastoral needs of today. What is more, the appearance of a labyrinthine, unaccountable “system”, created by some of the structures of the church, is itself a bar to effective evangelization, as rousing mistrust. The true mystery of the church – the presence of Christ – is only obscured by the needless mystifications that are attendant on unclear structures. If there were more clarity within the church, about who is answerable to whom, for what, then there is some likelihood that better



decisions would be made, about the practicalities of how the “evangelisation of today’s world” might be carried out.

5. An Energized Church In a pamphlet on the “Spirituality of Leadership”, James Hanvey observed that organizations can have something like a “soul”: there can be an atmosphere, an energy, pervading the organization, which is not reducible to the personalities of those who act within, or for, that organization. And, as the souls of individuals may become, in various ways, “wounded”, so can the souls of organizations. If we accept that organizations and systems do have “soul” even though it is necessarily elusive of precise definition, then we can recognise they can have wounded souls. We know that systems can carry, produce and replicate dysfunction: they can damage those who work for them. Just as in a family this is not always noticed or mentioned, but its effects are there: a heaviness, a collective depression, fear, lack of initiative, excessive caution, no celebration, rigid relationships and defended privileges; excessive control and an emphasis on “transparency” which has more to do with suspicion and lack of trust than a healthy, open confidence. People find themselves feeling trapped.25

One indication of such a “collective depression” in an organization is that its members start to leave it. The past generation has witnessed the departure of thousands upon thousands of priests and religious from the life of ministry and the consecrated life (if not from the church itself). In 1970 there were 1,080,000 religious, in 2014 760,000 worldwide – a drop of 30%. In the same period, the number of Catholics has doubled – 653 million to 1.229 billion. In 1970 the average age of a priest was 35; in 2014, 63.26 Most Catholics are aware that there is a “vocations crisis” in the church; and there are various opinions in circulation as to the causes of this, and to the ways in which it might be addressed (“could more be done to stimulate vocations?” “could the laity be used more in the life of the church, to make up for the shortage of priests?”, “would letting priests get married help?” and so on). One way, however, in which the church could get a fix on what has been happening, and on why, would be to ask the people leaving the ministry or the religious life why they are leaving; and this the church does 25

James Hanvey S.J., The Spirituality of Leadership (London: The Heythrop Institute for Religion, Ethics and Public Life, 2008), 14. 26 CARA Report 2015, Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate

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not try to do. Well run organizations learn much from “exit interviews” of those leaving. They study the reasons given, look at the trends and take corrective action, where possible. The process of “laicization” in the Catholic Church is impersonal, tortuous and lacking in sensitivity, let alone charity, for those who undergo it (who are, in undergoing it, making momentous life decisions). It is conducted by the curia, by individuals who have no personal knowledge of those requesting laicisation, and who may be unwilling, in principle, to grant laicisations at all. So traumatic is the process that some priests are simply advised not to bother with it. It is not, to say the least, a process from which the church gets an insight into the experiences or motives that are animating those who wish to depart from the priesthood or religious life. If those who leave the ministry or religious life can feel somewhat “abandoned” by the church, those entrusted with the leadership of the church do not always have the support and direction that one would expect them to have. If a bishop is to undertake his work with confidence, and energy, he needs support, and he needs to be clear about what that work – in his particular situation – should be. Robert Barron is a gifted American apologist, and communicator of the faith, and – no doubt in recognition of his talents – he was recently made an auxiliary bishop in the Los Angeles diocese. In an interview with the journalist John Allen Jr, Bishop Barron discussed the circumstances of his appointment to a bishopric. He was completely surprised – “flabbergasted” – when he received a phone call, from a papal nuncio, informing him of his appointment (a call that took just over a minute). (John Allen Jr observes, though, that the appointment “shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise”, as Barron was then a seminary rector, and “serving as a seminary rector is one time-honoured and reliable path to the episcopacy.”) Barron then called the Archbishop of Los Angeles whom he would be supporting as an auxiliary bishop, “to find out what he wanted”; but that call “was largely devoted to the logistics of announcing his transition rather than discussing a mission statement for his role”. Barron was told the announcement would be in L.A, so he made his way there. He recalls staying in the guest room at the residence across from the cathedral, looking at the Hollywood sign, and “thinking, what happened to me? Where am I? It was just surreal.” He got a chance to get his brief when the Archbishop drove him to meet some of the priests in his pastoral region – asking the Archbishop (whom he describes as his “boss”) “what do you want me to do?” He got the response, “be present to the people, give them hope, and teach them doctrine”. These directives are all sound enough; but one might wish for something more comprehensive, or detailed. Barron mentions these circumstances of his appointment without any complaint –



which one may take, in part, as an indication of his own unflappability – but, more tellingly perhaps, he mentions these circumstances without appearing to have a sense that any complaint might be called for. He did not receive any training prior to being installed into his bishopric. A year afterwards, he attended an “annual course in Rome sponsored by the Vatican for newly appointed bishops”, known as “baby bishops’ school”. What he gained most from this was a sense of the “universality of the church” – the solidarity he experienced with the 157 other new bishops attending the course, from countries all around the world. He gained a sense that his responsibility was not merely “local” – to his pastoral region in Los Angeles – but “international”: a sense that he is a bishop “for the whole church”. These are, evidently, important insights, and experiences; and these insights and experiences, in themselves, would make the course worth doing. Yet – what of the content of the course? Barron does not mention anything in particular about it (which does not, of course, mean that the content was not useful). The truth is that Barron was appointed to a bishopric, without forewarning, or prior preparation, and, on taking up the bishopric, he received a minimal (albeit worthwhile) “brief”. On becoming a bishop, he joined the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB – once again, without receiving much prior information as to how that body works or what he would be expected to do. He was promptly appointed as the chair of a committee, and, on meeting a Cardinal at one of the USCCB meetings, who congratulated him on his appointment, he said “with all sincerity, ‘I need a crash course in the USCCB,’ and [the Cardinal] looked at [him] kind of puzzled, but it’s true. I don’t really know the inner workings of the USCCB.”27 These experiences of Bishop Barron are telling – not least because of his evident good will. He asks the questions that any well-meaning, conscientious person would ask – “what do you want me to do?”, “how do things work around here?” It seems that Bishop Barron is in the position of having to define for himself certain aspects of his role (he is speculating about whether his posting to Los Angeles means that he ought to form links with the entertainment industry – which, given his skills as a communicator, makes sense); and, doubtless, given his talents, he will define that role in a way that will enable him to do good work for the church. But it seems that, in all this, he is not acting with clear, authoritative counsel or direction “from above”. If the church is to “channel” its energies into evangelization, then it needs to make the best possible use of the talents of gifted individuals 27 Robert Barron, with John Allen Jr, To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age (New York: Crown, 2017)

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such as Bishop Barron; and the church could, evidently, provide such individuals with more counsel and support, assisting them to determine what the best use of their talents – given the current state of things – would be. In having such conversations with its bishops, conversations eliciting their views and insights into what should be done, the church would, moreover, gain from the insights of its bishops.

6. A Well Led Church At present, there does not seem to be any clear or consistent process in the church for selecting bishops (for more about this, see Chapter 3). There does not, equally, seem to be any consistent process by which bishops are trained, supported, and developed. It is of course not unusual for the top leader in a large, global organization not to know all the key managers in that organization. Yet, usually, there is a clear process by which all those who are in a position to know those managers are consulted in determining whether, and how, they might be promoted, a process involving consistent and fair methods for evaluating the contribution and the potential of those managers. There does not seem to be any such process in the church. Those in the church with whom I have discussed this have referred to “soundings being taken among priests and sometimes even the laity”, but these “soundings” seem to be rather ad hoc, and the process does not seem to involve any checks and balances (that would, say, prevent the opinion of one anonymous Vatican official from significantly affecting the outcome). Other organizations – commercial organizations, say, or the military – would not rely on a coterie of bureaucrats to control a leadership selection process informed principally by hearsay. Such an approach can evidently lead to favouritism and to abuse by factions. A top leader in an organization, such as a CEO, would be expected to spend more than 15% of his or her time ensuring that there was a good leadership “pipeline” – a good supply of people with the potential to step up into senior leadership positions, people explicitly identified as such, and provided with the support, training, and learning experiences required for them to acquire the competence needed for such senior leadership positions.28 The focus of a top leader would be on “cover” – on how many of the jobs in the senior layers had potential incumbents, such that were 28

H. Stiglitz ‘Patterns of Organizational Structuring’, 1962 National Industrial Conference Board, Inc., reprinted in ed. H. Eric Frank, Organization Structuring (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971), 299–309.



people in the layers below with the potential to “move up” into the more senior layers. A top leader would look at the number of senior jobs, and the number of people in the layers below with the potential to move up into those jobs and would identify what percentage of those senior jobs had potential incumbents. Most top leaders would then make a point of aiming to meet individuals identified as having potential to “move up” on their operational visits to the field. They would try to observe them at work, forming their own view of those individuals, so that they could take part meaningfully in any subsequent discussions about how they might be deployed. If, for instance, 60 individuals had been identified as having the potential to become bishops, then this would amount to ~1.13% of the 5,300 episcopal posts (~1% cover). If 180 of those episcopal posts were tending to fall vacant per year, then there would be insufficient “cover”. The conversations I have had with various members of the clergy suggest that there is no “leadership pipeline” in the church. Bishops are asked to provide lists of “episcopabile” priests (those thought to have the potential to be bishops) but there is little evidence that the act of requesting these names is part of a rigorous, fair process by which potential is identified. The process by which new bishops are appointed is itself very slow – it is not unusual for it to take more than twelve months. It is true, of course, that being a priest is a vocation, not a “career”. A priest, in living out that vocation, should not be aiming to become a bishop – that would be careerism. One concern that some might have – at the thought of introducing “talent” and “leadership development” procedures into the church – is that doing so might introduce a “careerist” mentality. A number of popes have rightly condemned careerism in the church. In a speech to the Roman Curia in December 2015 Francis urged the curia to overcome its spiritual “diseases”, among them “rivalry and vainglory” and a certain “careerism and opportunism” in those who “idolize” their “superiors”, honouring “persons and not God”, “thinking only of what they can get and not of what they should give”. He condemns, equally, those superiors who “court their collaborators in order to obtain their submission, loyalty and psychological dependency”. “Careerism” is, evidently, something contrary to the meaning of a priestly vocation.29 In the same speech, Francis condemned the “disease of excessive planning and of functionalism. When the apostle plans everything down to the last detail and believes that with perfect planning things will fall into 29

Pope Francis, “Presentation of the Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia”, 22 December 2014. a-francesco_20141222_curia-romana.html

An Enduring Mission, An Evolving Structure


place, he becomes an accountant or an office manager. Things need to be prepared well, but without ever falling into the temptation of trying to contain and direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is always greater and more flexible than any human planning (cf. Jn 3:8).”30 Would an attempt to set up a “leadership pipeline” amount to such a form of “excessive planning and functionalism”? Does not talk of a “pipeline” – such a mechanical-sounding thing – seem contrary to the “freedom of the Holy Spirit”? The simple, inescapable truth is, that the church needs good bishops. The current bishops of the church, and the pope, have an obligation to do all that they can to provide the best possible bishops for the future. Are there certain virtues, capabilities, skills that make for being a “good bishop”? One would think that, when bishops are now asked to identify those priests who are “episcopabile”, this implies that they can identify those priests as having certain qualities that make them “episcopabile”. The aim of a “leadership pipeline” process, is to ensure that those individuals who have the virtues, capabilities, skills required to exercise leadership are identified as such, and that all those who are in a position to know whether those individuals really have those qualities are consulted, in identifying them. It seems, to say the least, highly unlikely that Pope Francis would identify the “freedom of the Holy Spirit” with the process – opaque, tortuous, and liable to distortion – by which bishops are, at present, selected. The current leaders of the church, to provide for the church, need to do their utmost to select the best leaders for the future, and this might involve making use of some of the methods used elsewhere, in other organizations, in selecting leaders. The selection processes used in other organizations proceed from principles that are common-sensical: in identifying which individuals might be best fitted for a role, as having the qualities required to fulfil the demands of that role, then the views of those best placed to know those individuals should be solicited; and the views of a variety of people should be solicited, so that the personal animus of one or two people does not unduly influence the process of assessment. Francis condemns “excessive planning” – an attempt to control everything in advance, a certain pettiness of spirit – but he acknowledges that “things need to be prepared well”. Having a clear view on which individuals have the potential to become bishops would, I suggest, be a matter of “preparing well” for the future. (And, indeed, one quality that an “episcopabile” individual should have, one would think, would be the ability to respond with freedom, and prudence, to the unforeseen, to cope with, and make the best of, those 30 Pope Francis, “Presentation of the Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia,” 2014.



moments when all “planning” founders, but new possibilities arise: that is, in many ways, what leadership is about.) The church is global. While bishops have “local” responsibilities – to their dioceses – they are, equally, bishops of, and for, the whole church. Most cardinals are bishops who see their brief as “helping the pope internationally” (for more on this, see Chapter 4). Other international organizations aim to provide their senior leaders with international experience – opportunities to experience leadership in a variety of countries. The proportion of leaders who are given this experience are, usually, a very small proportion of the total – say 3% to 5%. The idea, in orchestrating these international moves, is not merely to enhance the leadership capabilities of those selected for these experiences; it is to provide them with an understanding of international issues, and an understanding of the overall situation, and purpose, of the organization as a whole. The top leaders in such organizations will need to take decisions that will work internationally, across the variety of countries, and regions, in which those organizations operate; so, they need experiences that will make them properly aware of the variety of countries, and regions, in which those organizations operate. These enriching experiences may be termed “boundary moves”. A boundary move takes an individual outside his or her comfort zone but not outside his or her learning zone. The aim is to provide the individual with enough “experiential learning” so that he becomes prepared to lead in roles of greater seniority and responsibility. Leaders learn mostly by doing (not by talking about doing in a classroom) and the more they do in different, taxing environments, the more they will develop. In an international organisation, limited local moves are not sufficiently “uncomfortable” for the best leaders. In the church, the Vatican is currently quite “international”, but not much else is. Paul VI reformed the curia, aiming to ensure that the staff working there properly represented the international character of the church (and aiming, thereby, to redress certain forms of Italian nepotism). It was a good initiative, but it did not extend to the principal pastoral bishops around the world. The best leaders need to experience change, learn how to cope with, and master it; and they need, moreover, to learn how to address the ways in which people, in different contexts, react to it. Continuous individual development of leaders is taken as axiomatic in many international organisations. One response I got to the idea of “boundary moves” was that “there is a theological argument that bishops do not shift around: a bishop is shepherd of this particular flock.” Yet Gregory VII declared that the Pope may transfer bishops from one see to another. People are used to having their parish priests moved around; why not bishops? As a matter of fact,

An Enduring Mission, An Evolving Structure


since there is an increasing shortage of priests in the global “north”, more and more priests from the “south”, from Africa in particular, are being moved, for a time, to the north, to serve parishes. Most London parishes were already accustomed to being served by priests from Ireland; they are becoming increasingly accustomed to being served by priests from Nigeria. If a Nigerian priest could serve a London parish, why could not a Nigerian bishop serve an English diocese? To move bishops, in this way, providing them with the insights, and capabilities, that arise from international experiences, would be to respond to the needs of a church that is truly global, and that requires leaders who can recognize, and identify solutions to, its global challenges.

7. Accountability and Organizational Health Healthy, well-functioning organizations create roles with true accountability. To be accountable is to be responsible for something, and answerable to someone. In an organization, one has an accountable role if one is assigned a clear task – there is clarity about what is to be done – and if one is entrusted with the means to accomplish that task – one is given resources, and authorities, that one needs to accomplish that task – and if there is clarity about whom one is answerable to, for how one carries out that task. One is, generally, in life, accountable, responsible, for all that one does.31 If one acts freely, such that one has reasons for what one does, reasons that move one to act, then one can present an account of what one does (comprised of those “reasons”), and one is answerable for what one does. In the context of an organization, though, the accountability one has is in relation to a particular, definite task, or aim, which has been assigned to one. Success or failure in the completion of this task can be judged: there can be indications of whether one has succeeded or not, which can be referred to by those who must determine whether one has succeeded or not. (These “indications” should not be confused with “metrics” or quantifiable “targets”.) One can only be answerable for what one has the power to do; so, if one is given a task by an organization, that organization needs to entrust one with whatever resources it has available to enable one to accomplish it, and it needs to accord one a certain authority, such that one can take decisions, act as one judges best and, if appropriate, direct, and 31 Some approaches to “organization design” distinguish between “responsibility” and “accountability”. The distinction is not, in my view, helpful – not least because, in ordinary usage, the words mean the same thing. I use “accountability” and “responsibility” interchangeably in this book.



assign tasks to, others. For accountability to be meaningful, real, in the life of an organization, there must be a rewarding of the successful accomplishment of those tasks for which one is accountable, and a penalizing of failure. Those tasked with assessing performance, in this regard, should be those best able to make a genuine judgement about it (those who understand what is being aimed at, what the challenges are, and what would constitute good or bad performance). Leaders should, moreover, be accountable for the performance of those whom they lead (which means, further, that they should be able to choose who is in their “team”, and remove those whom they judge to be not performing – otherwise, it is simply unjust to judge leaders on the performance of the teams they lead). For there to be genuine accountability, then, there needs to be: 1.) Clarity about what is being asked (a definite “task” or “aim”) 2.) A proper provision of the means required for accomplishing what is being asked (resources, authorities, and so on) 3.) A fair, reasoned judgement of success or failure, for which there are consequences (rewards or penalties) Accountability, so conceived, makes for clarity and openness, and ultimately, trust. The people in an accountable organization know who is responsible for what, and who can do what; and they know that what they do matters. If the roles in an organization are not properly accountable, then they become, in effect, “hollow”; there are no consequences for what is done, so that everything starts to feel inconsequential; inertia sets in, or maverick behaviour emerges. Too much of the discussion about authority in the church seems to be concerned with power: it is too concerned with the “top down” perspective, concerning who has the power to tell whom what. In truth, power should be conceived of in relation to accountability. If one is given power, one is accountable for the use one makes of that power. One can only be accountable for what one has the power to do. If one is given power by an organization, it is a power to do something, for which one is accountable; to be clear about what the power is for, is to be clear about what legitimates it (and what the proper limits of that power are). Father James Mallon, in Divine Renovation, his account of how, through experience, he formed a model for how parish life might be revitalized, observes that “accountability” is not properly realized in the church, as yet. “Accountability for priests takes place only when a critical mass of letters of complaint crosses the bishop’s desk. As a result, assistance

An Enduring Mission, An Evolving Structure


and help are usually given to priests only after the fact, after some kind of failure that could have been prevented if a system of evaluation and accountability was in place.”32 Father Mallon appreciates that a “system of evaluation and accountability” is, above all, a means of support, counselling, and direction.

8. Five Pillars If organizations are to pursue their missions effectively, five key things need to be mastered (the five “pillars” of “mission mastery”).33 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Mission and purpose Organization design Leadership development (including assessment of potential) Experiential learning and training Culture

St Ignatius of Loyola put in place these various “pillars” when establishing the Jesuits. He set out the mission for this Institute; he wrote a clear constitution which reinforced that mission; he set up a clear and accountable structure; he arranged extensive training to prepare his followers for their mission – training that involved spiritual development (the “spiritual exercises”) and a variety of challenging experiences “in the field” so to speak (or “in the vineyard”). (For more on the approach to “formation” taken by the Jesuits, see Chapter 1, Section 7.) The example of the Jesuits suggests that “human wisdom” – encompassing even matters of good organization – is in no way alien to the “mission of grace”.

9. The Plan of this Book The first chapter introduces some core principles for designing healthy organizations, and for developing effective leaders within those organizations, and it assesses how well the church abides by those principles. The next few chapters look at certain key roles within the church – the role of the priest, the role of the bishop, the role of the cardinal, and so on – to determine what the core responsibilities and functions of those roles are, how well they fit together and support each other, and how well the church prepares and 32

Fr James Mallon, Divine Renovation: Bringing your Parish from Maintenance to Mission (New London CT: Twenty Third Publications, 2014), 75. 33 I discuss these “pillars” in detail in Mission Mastery (London: Springer, 2016).



develops individuals to take on those roles. The fifth chapter reflects on the issues that emerge from a consideration of different roles and offices within the church, to identify ways in which the structure of the church could and should be improved.


‘Since a man is a part of a family, or a city, he has to consider what is good for him in terms of his good sense with regard to the good of the community. For the good disposition of a part depends on its relation to the whole.’ —St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II.II.46.10.1

1. Building on Nature There are better and worse ways of structuring, and leading, organizations. While organizations vary in all sorts of ways, there are, nevertheless, certain generalizations that can be made about what conduces to, and what is detrimental to, the “health”, the wellbeing, the effectiveness, of organizations. The church is, in some ways, like other organizations, and, in other ways, like no other organization in the world. Yet, to the extent that the church is like other organizations, one would expect the “rules” or principles of organizational health to apply to it; and the church itself would seem to sanction this expectation, by its acceptance of the principle that “grace perfects nature”. The principle has its clearest statement, and exposition, in the theology of St Thomas Aquinas: “Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it, which is why natural reason ministers to faith.”2 Fergus Kerr has suggested that one way of construing this, with regard to the church, is that one could regard the church as “divine grace humanly transmitted.”3 ‘Grace’ according to the Catechism, ‘is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life… The grace of Christ is 1

Quoted in Herbert McCabe, God Matters (London and New York: Continuum, 1987), 231. 2 Summa Theologiae, 1.1.8 ad.2. Thomas Aqunas, Basic Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, ed. Anton Pegis (New York: Random House, 1945), 14. 3 Fergus Kerr, Thomas Aquinas: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 33.


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the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification … [making for] the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call.’4 For Aquinas, the axiom that “grace does not destroy nature but perfects it” licensed a subtle and balanced use of principles of “natural reason” – as expressed in the philosophy of Aristotle – in harmony with the principles of the faith. For Aristotle, and for Aquinas, things have their “proper” way of functioning, which is itself determined by their nature, as ordered towards certain ends. Human beings, accordingly, have a proper way of being, which is a matter of realizing the good “proper to a rational nature”. For Aquinas, “grace”, the salvation given by God, is not at odds with this “natural” good: “grace”, “salvation”, is a good that is superior to, yet in harmony with, “natural” good – it is a good that consists, ultimately, in a participation in the divine (a good which human beings cannot “naturally” attain, but which they are naturally open to). The principle that “grace perfects nature”, or “builds on” nature, needs, evidently, to be used with care. There is the potential for a misuse of this principle when a certain reality is peremptorily labelled “nature”, and declared to be “therefore” in harmony with grace (“this is nature, so it must be in harmony with grace”); and, equally, there can be a misuse of this principle when a certain reality is labelled “grace”, and declared forthwith to be “necessarily” in harmony with nature. The principle is, in truth, an invitation to a careful balancing and harmonization of different sources of insight and different principles. One is invited to explore “nature”, in the light of “grace” – in the light of the faith – with the expectation that what seems, on examination, to be “nature”, should be compatible with grace; but one should be cautious about making over-hasty claims about what really is “nature”, and one should be particularly cautious about the risk of subordinating the claims of “grace” to what one takes to be “nature”. More generally, it is an invitation to the church to work with, foster, and make use of, the best of “natural” human insight and inventiveness. Pope Pius XII set out this view, when addressing some of his Cardinals in 1950: “The Church welcomes all that is truly human … [she] cannot shut herself up, inactive, in the privacy of her churches and thus neglect the mission entrusted to her.”5 The church, in “welcoming” all that is “truly human”, in the pursuit


Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part III, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 2.ii., 1997–2000 (New York and London: Image, 1995), 538. 5 Pope Pius XII, “Address to new Cardinals” cited by Yves Congar in Lay People in the Church (London: Bloomsbury, 1957), 446.

Principles for Constructing Healthy Organizations


of its mission, could “welcome”, and make use of, “natural”, “human” insights into how it might, as an organization, be structured, and led.

2. The Line of Accountability Any organization, of some complexity, will involve a hierarchy – in which there are leaders, tasked with directing and counselling others, so that certain goals might be accomplished (leaders who are, in turn, led by other, more senior leaders, tasked with directing and counselling them). In welldesigned organizations, a leader will take decisions that are quite distinct, in character, from the decisions taken by those who make up the team led by that leader – decisions that orient and set the terms for the work of the team. For the decisions of a leader to be properly distinct from the decisions of those who make up the team led by that leader, the decisions of the leader need to address wider and larger realities than those addressed in the decisions of those in the team – such that the decisions of the leader “take in”, so to speak, more of the reality that is the “situation” or “context” for the work of the team. Leaders direct, and assign aims to, the members of their team, in the light of their perception of the wider situation in which the team members are working, and in the light of their perception of how the various tasks undertaken by the team members interrelate, within that wider situation. (The manager of a factory, for instance, needs to coordinate the efforts of the Production and Engineering teams, in the light of the objectives for the factory with which that leader has been tasked.) Leaders are, equally, responsible for ensuring that the members of their team are properly trained, and for coaching, counselling, and developing the members of their team. Leaders are accountable for the work undertaken by the members of their team, and, as such, they should have various means for assessing, and rewarding or penalizing, the performance of the work of their team, and they should have the option to choose who is to be a part of their team (and to take out of their team those who are not performing well enough). The decisions taken by leaders should, then, involve more complexity than the decisions taken by team members – if they are to “add value” to the decisions taken by team members. The decisions taken by a parish priest, concerned with the flourishing of a particular parish, should benefit from, and should differ from, the decisions taken by the bishop who leads that priest, who is concerned with the flourishing of a diocese, and who should be able to relate the situation being addressed by the priest in a particular parish to the wider situation that obtains in the diocese. The “vertical” dimension of an organization consists, then, of this hierarchy of leaders, in which leaders who lead teams are, in turn, led by


Chapter 1

more senior leaders. Each leader role, on this “vertical hierarchy”, can be regarded as a “layer” of hierarchy. As organizations become more complex, they require more “layers” of leadership. If organizations are to be “healthy”, they need the right number of “layers”, corresponding to the complexity of what those organizations are undertaking. Where there are too many layers, or too few, problems arise. Where there are too many layers, then one ends up with leaders operating in the “space” of other leaders – which makes for frustration, confusion, delays in decision-making (as it becomes unclear “who is to take such and such a decision”, or as the decisions of one leader are countered by those of another) and so on. Where there are too few layers, then one ends up with leaders who do not get the support and direction they need – which makes for leaders who act waywardly with impunity, and for delays in decision-making, as all important decisions (and quite a few not so important decisions) get referred up to the most senior leaders, who lack the time to take those decisions with due consideration. The “vertical” dimension of an organization coexists with a “horizontal” dimension. An organization might, for instance, structure itself by products, or by markets, or by geographical territories, or by types of professional expertise. The main “horizontal” structuring principle in the church is geographical territory – with the senior leaders of the church, the bishops, presiding over geographical areas termed “dioceses”. (Other “horizontal” structural principles are apparent in the curia. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, for instance, has a general “functional” concern with doctrine, with the “universal” teaching of the church.) The number of people led by a leader – the number of “direct reports” of that leader – constitutes the “span of control” or “span of management” of that leader. A leader in charge of a team of ten people, for instance, will have a “span” of ten. Appropriate spans vary according to a number of factors. The appropriate spans for leaders at the very top of organizations can vary from about ten to more than twenty. The pope, however, has a span of ~6,000 (comprising bishops, heads of religious orders, heads of curial dicasteries, and so on). Such a span is patently unworkable. Most large, complex organizations, operating across the world, have too many layers of leadership. The church, unusually, seems to have too few. The extraordinarily high “span” of the pope is an indication that there is a “layer” of leadership missing, in between the pope and the bishops.

Principles for Constructing Healthy Organizations


One complaint, amongst some Catholics, in recent years, has been against excessive “Roman centralism”. Yet one can see that a “centre” in which a single, overall leader is accountable for ~6,000 senior leaders, distributed worldwide, is not in a position to direct, in any effective way, those senior leaders. The “line” of accountability here – from the “centre” to the senior leaders distributed worldwide – is not only a “line” of control; it is a “line” of communication, whereby the “centre” is brought “in touch” with the concerns, challenges, and insights of the senior leaders worldwide. Where this line of communication is not properly present – as it cannot be, in truth, when the central leader has a span of ~6,000 – there can arise a tendency for the centre to “do everything itself”, to take upon itself certain tasks which it might delegate, had it a better “link” with those to whom it would delegate those tasks. Where there is no effective communication, there cannot be any effective collaboration. There cannot be any effective direction or control, either; and if there have been complaints of excessive “centralism” in recent decades, there have, equally, been complaints of a “lack of accountability” of bishops. Father Alexander Lucie-Smith, writing for the Catholic Herald, observes that “bishops are often, like the great feudal lords of old, accountable to no one, and able to act as they please behind closed doors. Bishops” exercise of power needs to be made less monarchical.”6 When bishops do not have someone exercising a practical oversight of their ministry – someone to whom they must render an account of their ministry, someone who has a clear and detailed understanding of what they are doing, who is tasked with directing, counselling, and assessing what they are doing – then their exercise of authority is liable to become “monarchical”. Problems can arise, and develop, before the central authority becomes properly aware of them – so that, by the time action is taken, the problems are so grave that severe measures need to be taken to address them. (In early 2018, Pope Francis, becoming aware of problems in Chile, called the entire episcopate of Chile to Rome, for a meeting that took several days – and, at the conclusion of that meeting, all the bishops of Chile tendered their resignations to the Pope. It does not seem fanciful to suggest that, had there been a proper line of communication and direction between the centre and the region, in this case, the problems could have been addressed at an earlier stage, and with less drastic measures.) Organizations, then, have a hierarchy of leaders, constituting a “line” of accountability, comprising “layers” of leaders. This “line” needs 6

Alexander Lucie-Smith “After McCarrick’s Fall We Need to Make Bishops More Accountable”, Catholic Herald 25 June, 2018.


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to be constituted in the right way, to fit the overall complexity, and mission, of the organization. Leaders are needed to take decisions, directing those whom they lead, decisions which are different from the decisions taken by those whom they lead. The decisions taken by leaders need – if they are to be of value to those whom they lead – to involve more complexity than the decisions taken by those whom they lead, such that those decisions take into account a wider or deeper view of the realities pertinent to the work being done (which will involve a somewhat more abstract view of those realities). If the hierarchy is to be well formed, the “line” of authority needs to be clear. It needs to be comprised of leadership roles with clear and discrete decision rights, with the decision rights assigned to each “layer” differing from those assigned to the layer above, and those assigned to the layer below. One thing that can obscure the “line” of authority, or accountability, is a confusion between “line” roles and “support” roles. “Support” roles are, more often than not, “expert” roles, needed to provide expertise relevant to a particular team, and functioning as a support to the leader of that team.

In the diagram above, the “support role” is more “senior” than the “Leader 1” role, yet it has no “line” authority over the “Leader 1” role – it functions

Principles for Constructing Healthy Organizations


as providing support and counsel to the “Leader 2” role. The “line” of authority goes from the “Team Member”, to “Leader 1”, to “Leader 2”. One organization that is clear about the distinction between “line” and “support” roles – which it terms “staff” roles – is the military. Though the military has a number of different “ranks”, reflecting degrees of seniority, these ranks do not all equate to degrees of “line” authority.

The Lieutenant Colonel leads a battalion, and reports to a Brigadier. The Colonel outranks the Lieutenant Colonel, but functions as a “staff” support role, assisting the Brigadier. The Colonel does not “command” the Lieutenant Colonel. In the church, the curia should be regarded as a “staff” department – there to support the pope, and to oversee certain general “functions” that pertain to the church as a whole. Yet – since there are so many bishops, and there are no leadership roles in between the bishops and the pope – the curia ends up intervening in the “line”, functioning as a “communications link” between the bishops and the pope, and functioning, equally, as a source (de facto) of certain directives for the bishops, setting out the terms on which bishops are to act. (It is not unusual for the agendas for meetings of bishops, in particular regions – meetings to discuss matters pertinent to those regions


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– to be reviewed in advance, and altered, by the curia.) When the curia intervenes in this way, it is, in effect, intruding, illegitimately, in the line of authority, from pope to parishioner. It would seem that a proper link needs to be established between the pope and the bishops – a link comprised of “line” roles, with clear accountabilities. Two of the most notable support functions in secular organizations are the audit and quality assurance functions. They ensure that the line organization is acting in accordance with internal policies, and in accordance with the law. Audit functions are “alongside” the line, reporting directly to the CEO or, better, to the chairman of the board of directors; they are, as such, crucial to the governance of the organization. Audit functions should be independent, having their own structures which are parallel to the central “line” of accountability in the organization. In a global organization, there is a Head of Audit, with oversight of the whole organization, who would have direct reports responsible for particular regions (e.g. the United States, Europe, and so on), who would be in charge of teams examining businesses within those regions. The audit managers in these teams usually observe a set process, and are trained in how to conduct audits effectively, recognizing wrong-doing. No system is immune from corruption – there can be forms of collusion between the “audit” function and the line – but the auditing system can be strengthened to minimise the risk of this. (A separate “whistleblowing” structure can be one means of minimizing corruption.)

3. Subsidiarity The principle of “subsidiarity”, sanctioned by the church, emerged out of the tradition of “Catholic social teaching”, initiated by Rerum Novarum (1891) an encyclical of Leo XIII, which sought to identify a “mean” between the excesses of laissez fair capitalism, and the excesses of state socialism. In Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII insists that “the State must not absorb the individual or the family; both should be allowed free and untrammelled action so far as is consistent with the common good and the interest of others.”7 The principle of subsidiarity is articulated in Quadragesimo Anno (1931) an encyclical of Pius XI. Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate 7

Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, par.35. en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum.html

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organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.8

What can be accomplished by “lesser and subordinate bodies” should not be taken over by the “higher association”. So, for instance, what families can accomplish – such as the care of children – should not ordinarily be taken over by the state. Pius XII was equally clear: “the subsidiary function is valid for social life in all its organizations and also for the church without prejudice to its hierarchical structure.” John XXIII explored these ideas in Mater et Magistra (1961) and in Pacem in Terris (1963). What can be accomplished by the “lesser and subordinate” entity should not be taken over by a “higher association”. Pius XII insists that this principle is “valid … for the church without prejudice to its hierarchical structure”. This would suggest that what can be accomplished at the parish level, for instance, through the leadership of a parish priest, should not be taken over at the diocesan level, as something to be accomplished through the leadership of a bishop: so – for instance – a bishop should not be determining what parishioner groups should be set up at a particular parish, or should not be determining which individuals are appointed for certain roles in a parish. (And this is “without prejudice” to the “hierarchical structure”, as it suggests that the roles higher up in the hierarchy exist to accomplish that which cannot be accomplished by the roles lower down in the hierarchy, acting of themselves.) The principle of subsidiarity suggests – to translate it into the language of “organizational design” – that decisions should not be made at higher levels of accountability when they can be made at lower levels of accountability. More generally, the principle of subsidiarity would seem to suggest that a certain “decentralization” would be appropriate: the “centre” should not do what could be done in the regions; the “centre” should do what only the centre can do (such as, for instance, defining universal doctrines). If a certain “decentralization” would be appropriate, then this would, equally, suggest that a certain diversity – within limits which it would be the function of the “centre” to determine – would be appropriate. If the authorities within a certain region determine – as they should be competent to determine – that a certain approach, or initiative, would be appropriate for that region, then they should be able to decide that the approach or initiative be adopted. If – as the principle of “subsidiarity” suggests – the “higher association” has its raison d’etre in doing that which the “lower” body 8

Pope Pius XI, Quadregesimo Anno, par. 79.


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cannot do for itself, then this would suggest that, in assessing the “health” or soundness of organizational structures, one should start from the “lower” parts of the organization, determine what they could and should do of themselves, and then move on to the “higher” parts, and determine that they can “add” – identifying what they could and should do, which the “lower” parts of the organization cannot; each additional “layer” of leadership is needed, if the leader in the higher “layer” takes decisions which add to the decisions taken in the lower “layer”. The bodies to which the principle of subsidiarity was first applied – such as the family – have a certain independence and completeness in themselves: the family, as an institution – Leo XIII maintains in Rerum Novarum – exists prior to the state, such that it does not depend on the state for its existence (even if families exist within, and are profoundly affected by, states, societies, cultures, and even if families – when existing within complex states – might make use of, and need, the various agencies and institutions created within those states). The life of a family, a household, has a certain intrinsic completeness. This is not the case, in quite the same way, with the activity that happens in the lower “layers” of large, complex organizations. What of the life of a parish community? A parish community is sustained by the presence of a parish priest, who must be appointed and ordained by a bishop, who must, in turn, be in “communion” with the bishop of Rome; so, while that community might have a certain completeness in itself – as sustaining, forming, developing the religious and spiritual lives of the parishioners, who worship in that community – it is, nevertheless, dependent on, instituted by, a “higher association”. The principle of subsidiarity does, nevertheless, suggest that what is “higher” is of value (or, indeed, legitimate) to the extent that it does something that cannot be done by what is “lower”; and this suggests a way in which the value of higher “layers”, within a single hierarchical organization, can be identified, and assessed. James Hanvey maintains, in The Spirituality of Leadership, that the principle of “subsidiarity” comports with a certain kind of leadership, which he characterizes as “participative leadership”. “Our ecclesial tradition presents us with the principle of subsidiarity, which means recognising the competences of each person or level and working to support them, giving them the due freedom to exercise competence for the good of the whole.” This type of leadership is connected, certainly, to types of structures. Where roles at “lower” and “higher” layers are properly distinct, and where roles at “lower” levels have clearly assigned “decision rights”, then this creates the right conditions for those at lower levels to be accorded “due freedom to exercise competence for the good of the whole”. This type of leadership is not merely, of course, the creation of a certain type of structure: it involves

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a certain mentality, a proper regard for the “competence” of others. Some of the senior leaders in the Church do not, unfortunately, have this mentality, and adopt an authoritarian manner, in relation to their subordinates. A “top down” way of thinking about organizations – thinking of the activity, at “lower” levels, as merely a creature of the “command” exercised at “higher” levels – can foster such an authoritarian manner, or mentality. This way of thinking about organizations, and exercising authority is not, to say the least, in harmony with the way of looking at things implicit in the principle of subsidiarity. “Participative leadership” involves a good “flow” of information throughout the organization. Where more senior leaders are inclined to involve others in resolving the problems they are addressing – in line with the competence of those whom they might involve – so they are less inclined towards a withholding of information, towards secretiveness. Some regard the excessive “centralization” of Rome as implicated with a withholding of information: things are decided at the “centre”, in the curia; others do not know much about it; if others were to know more about it, perhaps, the curia would have less power, less scope to determine things as it would. Hanvey observes that the “freedom” connected with subsidiarity is a freedom “to exercise competence for the good of the whole”. The claims associated with the principle of subsidiarity must be balanced and harmonized with the claims associated with the principle of solidarity, and a concern for the “good of the whole”, the common good. When considering the hierarchy of the Church, then, one can assess whether the “lower” layer has been accorded “due freedom to exercise competence”, and one can assess whether the “lower” is getting the support and direction it requires from the “higher” layer. The “lower” can suffer not merely from being unduly encroached on by the “higher”, but by being left, overmuch, to itself, deprived of the direction, and support, it requires, to act “for the good of the whole”.

4. Components of Accountability If a role within an organization is to be accountable, it needs to involve 1.) a clear “aim” or “task”, 2.) a proper provision of the means required for accomplishing what is being asked (resources, authorities, and so on), and 3.) a proper way of assessing of whether the “aim” or “task” has been accomplished. A fuller notion of “what a role is”, and what it is accountable for, can be formed by considering seven “components” or elements of accountability. These are:


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1.) Purpose. What is the function of the role? What does it exist to do? 2.) Resources. What “means” have been allocated to the role? What “means” does it require – whether in the form of budgets, or of staff, or of forms of knowledge or expertise – if it is to accomplish its purpose? 3.) Problem solving. What sorts of problems are typically addressed by the incumbent of the role, and what sorts of thinking are required to solve them? (Is it a thinking that works with established precedent solutions, or is it a thinking that involves an attempt to formulate entirely new solutions? Are the problems clearly presented, admitting of clear definition, or is part of the challenge to identify what the problems are in the first place? And so on.) 4.) Instigating and managing change. What changes is the incumbent of the role entitled to make, or expected to oversee? (Is, for instance, the incumbent of the role required to carry out a certain activity, in a certain way, which can be set out in definite rules? Or is the incumbent of the role expected to make decisions about whether certain activities are to happen at all, or whether other activities should happen instead? Can the incumbent in the role invest (risk) some of the resources of the organization, in a new venture? And so on) 5.) Harnessing internal networks. Who does the incumbent of the role need to work with, across the organization – in collaborative relationships, rather than relationships of “command” – to be effective? How much does the effectiveness of the incumbent, in achieving the goals associated with the role, require the incumbent to persuade, or enlist the support of, others across the organization? 6.) Harnessing external networks. Who does the incumbent of the role need to work with, and influence, outside the organization, to be effective? 7.) Timeframe. How long does it take, before it is possible to assess whether the various actions or initiatives of the incumbent of the role have been successful, in furthering that which the incumbent of the role was asked to do? The “structure of accountability” in the church, encompassing those who have publicly recognized offices within the church, pertains to only one of the aspects of the church. The church has many aspects, and many

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dimensions. It is, in truth, a “mystery”, as it is instinct with the presence of Christ, with a reality which cannot be fully comprehended. Hans Urs von Balthasar presents the “Marian” dimension of the church (a dimension of holiness, love, openness to the will of God in all circumstances) as distinct from, complementary to, and more primary than the “Petrine” dimension of the church (that dimension of “authority” or “jurisdiction” associated with Peter and “the Twelve”, the first “bishops”).9 The life, the activity of the church in the world is not merely a function of its “Petrine” dimension. The church exists to manifest Christ to the world, making present the grace of Christ to the world, that the world might be restored to harmony with God, in a communion of love. The “success” of the church is when love encounters what is contrary to love, somehow healing what is broken, and this encounter of love with what is contrary to love often looks like “failure” – like Christ on the cross. Whatever the church accomplishes, it accomplishes, not of itself, but through the grace of Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. The church, then, acts through a “power” that is not its own, but of God; when it is most fully itself, its acts are liable to look like “failures” (considered by “worldly” standards); and the ultimate “results” of its activity – with regard to the “salvation” of the world – are not discernible, in this life. How, then, could one apply a scheme for assessing “accountability”, premised on what is involved in the pursuit of worldly goals, to the activity of the church? One might observe that the “Petrine” dimension of the church, which exists together with, and in service of, the “Marian” dimension, involves definite accountabilities. Those who are appointed to certain offices within the church are given, with those offices, certain tasks, and they are, as such, accountable for how well they carry out those tasks. The schema of “components of accountability” pertains to any kind of role, within an organization, that exists to accomplish a goal formally recognized by the organization, so that, if one can provide an account of “what a priest is called on to do” or “what a bishop is called on to do”, or an account of “what makes for a good priest” or “what makes for a good bishop”, then this schema of “components of accountability” is of use – as providing a way of itemising those elements that make up the role of a priest, or the role of a bishop. With regard to the general “purpose” of the roles of priests and bishops, one can observe, at this stage, that if priests and bishops do not “manifest” Christ, by preaching (taking “preaching” in the widest possible sense of the word), by administering the sacraments, and by guiding those 9

Hans Urs Von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993).


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who come to them for guidance as to how they might live in a manner conformed to Christ, then they are not doing what priests and bishops are meant to do.

5. Leadership Development A priest is, among other things, the leader of a community, tasked with building up that community, and ensuring its flourishing. While the community is, ultimately, an effect, and a manifestation, of the grace of Christ, who is present within it, and who is the ultimate “head” of it – while it is a community called and gathered around the Eucharist, and the Lord of the Eucharist – nevertheless, if the church is “divine grace humanly transmitted”, then all the “human” activities pertinent to the building up of a community are activities that one would expect a priest to take on, or to take responsibility for. Yet it does not seem, at present, that priests are usually encouraged to think of themselves as “leaders” in this sense, or that they receive training in how to exercise leadership. According to James Mallon, the training that most priests receive is designed to ensure that they are “orthodox” and “holy” (teachers and role models, rather than leaders). Discussing his own experiences as a priest, Mallon observes that though the “Second Vatican Council taught that the priestly ministry exists to preach the Word of God, to celebrate the sacraments of faith and to lead God’s people”, such that leadership is a responsibility that priests cannot “ignore”, nevertheless “when I think back to my years of seminary formation, it is safe to say that although I received great training to be a theologian-inresidence, and some training to celebrate sacraments, I received very little training on preaching and nothing about leadership”. When, at one point, he found himself “charged with leading a team of eight people [from two parishes being brought together] for a total of just over six full-time positions … [he] realized [he] did not know how to do it”, and he had to turn, for guidance, to “the world of Evangelical Protestantism”, a world in which the leadership qualities of pastors are of vital importance, as “many Evangelical churches function without a local network resembling a Catholic diocese” and “these churches literally sink or swim … [such that] everything is on the shoulders of the local church and its leader.”10 If priests are not given sufficient preparation and training, to act as leaders, then what of bishops, who exercise even greater leadership

10 Fr. James Mallon, Divine Renovation: Bringing Your Parish from Maintenance to Mission (New London CT: Twenty Third Publications, 2014), 233–7.

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responsibilities? In an article on “True and False Reform”, Cardinal Avery Dulles identifies, as a “prime structural problem”, the “episcopal office”. According to the job description in the official documents, the bishop ought to be a man of high culture, firm in faith, solid in orthodoxy, a paragon of holiness, graciously winning in personality, able to assess the talents and weaknesses of others, skilled at managing large corporations and conducting fiscal policy, eloquent in the pulpit, fearless under criticism, indefatigable, and always self-possessed. Do we have in the United States a sufficient supply of priests with all these qualities? Many of the candidates being elevated to the episcopate, it would seem, are men of ordinary abilities, kind and hardworking, but incapable of measuring up to the almost superhuman responsibilities of the office. They run the risk of being morally, psychologically, and spiritually crushed under the burdens. As a prime structural problem, therefore, I would single out for special attention the episcopal office. What can be done to restore the priestly and pastoral ministry of bishops to its position of primacy?11

Dulles considers all that is asked of bishops, and observes how burdensome the responsibilities of bishops are: “no normal individual is capable of being at once the chief teacher, the leading mystagogue, and the principal administrator for millions of Catholics, responsible for a huge array of parishes, schools, universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations”; he notes that bishops are, further, “expected to be in constant consultation with pastoral councils and senates of priests”, that, within their dioceses they hold “the fullness of legislative, judicial, and executive power”, and that, with regard to the wider church, bishops “are regularly engaged in the deliberations and decisions of the national episcopal conference to which they belong and in some cases have assignments from one or more of its multiple committees” and some “serve on congregations of the Holy See, and take part in synods of bishops.” They are, he suggests, somewhat overburdened; so that it makes sense that “in this context the relationship between clergy and laity may need some reconsideration”; it makes sense that there should be more lay involvement in the tasks currently carried out by bishops, but “a great deal of thought and probably some experimentation are needed to arrive at the correct via media between clericalism and laicism.”12 Dulles observes that “no normal individual” could be expected to take on all the responsibilities that bishops currently have; this does not, 11

Cardinal Avery Dulles S.J., “True and False Reform” in First Things, August 2003, 12 Dulles, “True and False Reform”.


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of course, mean that exceptional individuals could not take on such responsibilities – but it makes sense, even so, to consider ways in which greater “lay” involvement might be achieved. He highlights, though, how the issues arising from the challenging nature of the “job” or “office” are exacerbated by the fact that “many of the candidates being elevated to the episcopate … are men of ordinary abilities, kind and hardworking, but incapable of measuring up.” That is, “men of ordinary abilities” are being put into a role that requires abilities of a rather more than ordinary kind. There is a problem of “supply”. Dulles perceives the episcopal office as involving “superhuman responsibilities”, and extraordinary “burdens”. Some of the “burdens” of the episcopal office seem, in fact, to arise from the structure within which the role is set – from the lack of support “from above”, the “gap” in leadership between the bishops and the pope – and these problems are not to be overcome merely by putting into the “episcopal office” individuals of extraordinary “ability”. Yet, it is equally evident that, even if bishops did have more support “from above”, the role of the bishop would still be a role requiring great leadership ability; and it would be a role requiring talents rather different from those required for the role of a parish priest. An individual who has all the virtues and talents required to be a good priest does not, thereby, have all the virtues and talents required to be a good bishop. That a particular individual has made a notable success of his priestly ministry does not mean that he is fitted to making a success of episcopal leadership. (It is not, in any case, always clear that those who are elected to the episcopate are those who have made a signal success of their priestly ministry.) Dulles claims that many of those who are elected to the episcopate are “men of ordinary abilities, kind and hardworking”, and something more than this is needed. How, then, can leaders be developed? James Hanvey observes that “there is no formula for leadership. It is not so much a science as an art which comes through learning, experience, reflection and growth through trial, error, and failure.” Hanvey recognizes that the “learning” by which an aptitude for leadership is acquired is primarily “experiential”. To claim that leaders are formed by experience is not to claim that the forming of them must be left to chance. It is possible to identify the sorts of experiences that form leaders, to identify situations in which those experiences are likely to happen, to identify roles within organizations in which those situations are likely to be encountered, and so to put individuals – when duly prepared – into those situations, in a carefully orchestrated manner. One problem that is often encountered, in the attempt to develop leaders, is that leaders are put into roles, within flawed structures, that are without real accountability:

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no one can develop if they are not given something to do, requiring a genuine exercise of responsibility. Leadership development needs to involve a proper matching of the assignment and the person given the assignment: accountability and capability. When these things are aligned, personal growth can happen. What is more, the series of assignments given to a particular person can be orchestrated in such a way that, in moving through the series, the person develops a range of aptitudes and capabilities, continually developing as a leader. Some years ago, I was asked by a client to investigate what some of the best international companies were doing, to ensure that they had a supply of talented leaders for the future, and to identify what those companies understood to be crucial in the development of leaders. Several principles emerged: 1.) Top “operational” managers had learned mostly on the job. 2.) Some formal learning for managers was helpful 3.) It was useful for managers to be put outside their home continent for a time, in circumstances with which they were not culturally familiar. One way of doing this was for the formal learning experiences of managers to happen outside their home continent. 4.) Managers start to show aptitude for top operational management when they are in their late 20s. High potential leaders tend to get restless when they are ready for a promotion – it seems they are aware of when they need a greater challenge. If it can be stressful to be over-stretched, it can be stressful, in another way, to be under-stretched, underutilised. (This is not to be confused with careerism – with the desire to progress for reasons to do with self-importance or the desire for status.) 5.) There seem to be a series of fulcrum ages for development – around 30, 35, and 40. At each of these ages, for those capable of progressing to the most senior leadership positions, a “step change” in responsibility can be undertaken. 6.) Current operational managers, asked to identify which factors were most likely to cause managers to fail, or to stop progressing, identified these: x An inability to influence people over whom they did not have authority

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x x x x x x x x x

An inability to build a record of success, making for personal credibility A lack of intellectual curiosity, depth, and clarity of purpose A lack of emotional warmth or genuine interest in others A lack of ability to build a team or to contribute within a team A lack of ability to achieve successful results in working with external stakeholders A tendency to treat peers with arrogance Being put into a role with international reach, without having sufficient international experience A lack of operational experience A lack of sufficiently varied experience, in different parts of the organization

Morgan McCall has found, in addition, that “insensitivity and inability to network was the most commonly reported flaw among derailed executives in our research and was one of the sharpest differentiators between derailed and successful executives.”13 Some of the qualities identified as making for effective leaders – like “intellectual curiosity”, or “emotional warmth”, or “ability to network” – might be somewhat innate (which is not to say that they might not admit of being cultivated) or, at least, they might be qualities towards which some have a greater natural predisposition or aptitude than others. Yet, even so, it is clear that “experience” is, equally, identified as being of crucial importance for the formation of leaders – and, in international organizations, international experience is of particular importance for the most senior leaders. (With regard to the church, John Allen Jr has observed that the church of the North has some marked differences from the church of the South – differences of culture more than anything else. This would suggest that it is important for the most senior leaders in the church to have some experience of both North and South. Religious orders, in this regard – particularly those with a missionary ethos – seem to be somewhat more skilled than the dioceses in orchestrating learning experiences of this kind for their leadership.) In the formation of leaders, formal training is important, as well as experience. It is not for nothing that priests typically 13

Morgan McCall Jr, High Flyers: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders (Harvard Business Review Press, 1998), 39.

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undergo seven years of training before being ordained. Yet formal training, in itself, is not sufficient. Assistant priests or curates, when assigned to a parish, are acquiring the experience they need if they are to work effectively as parish priests. The most important form of experiential learning for leaders consists in “boundary moves”: a boundary move takes an individual outside his or her comfort zone but not his or her learning zone. Such moves can be identified, so that the progress of an individual through a series of them can be planned. The aim of a “boundary move” is the personal growth and development of the individual who undergoes it. Potential is not the demonstration of acquired assets but rather is the demonstration of the ability to acquire the assets needed for future situations … In a world of rapid change, the real measure of leadership is the ability to acquire needed new skills as the situation changes.14

Individuals can be given assignments in which they demonstrate their potential, and something of their ability to acquire the abilities needed if they are to take on greater responsibilities. It takes training, and experience, to recognize a demonstration of potential for what it is – to know what to look for, as a marker of potential. If potential is to show itself, moreover, it must be given the opportunity to do so. What are some typical “boundary moves”? What sorts of experiences within the church might present instances of such moves? 1.) A change of function or activity. This might be a move from chaplaincy ministry to parochial ministry. It might be a move from working as a parish priest to working as a part of the team of a bishop, with a specialized focus. 2.) A move to a similar “job”, in a different type of situation, presenting a different challenge. This might be a move, say, from a thriving parish to a struggling parish, or a move to set up a new parish. 3.) A change of location within a country, or a change of country. 4.) A change from a line job to a support job. This might be a move from working as a parish priest, to work as a part of the team of a bishop. This might be a move from working in a particular diocese to working on a team tasked with an international project. 14

Morgan McCall Jr, High Flyers: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders (Harvard Business Review Press, 1998), 5.


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5.) A move to lead a change project. 6.) A move from a “field” to a “head office” role. This might be a move from leading a diocese to being a member of a department in the curia. The curia should have a number of permanent posts open to international transfers, so that individuals can be regularly moved in and out (an approach that Paul VI favoured). (This is often done in the corporate offices of international organizations.) 7.) Moves that are “promotions”, moves up the hierarchy. This would be a move from assistant priest or curate to parish priest, or from parish priest to bishop. The need for a varied set of experiences, in forming leaders, is well understood by the Jesuits. Preparation for the priesthood, with the Jesuits, can take about fifteen years. Chris Lowney, formerly a Jesuit seminarian, has described the training in leadership that Jesuit novices typically receive. One challenge they are often given is that they are sent out to go on pilgrimage, as novices, without money, so that they have to make their way there and back by using their wits (often enough, begging for food along the way), without revealing to anyone they encounter along the way that they are Jesuit seminarians. They are usually sent to work among the poor, as part of a Jesuit mission or charitable initiative, being given considerable responsibility.15 They are expected, while engaged in various active duties, to maintain a contemplative detachment – and, to that end, the founder of the Jesuits devised a regime of spirituality to sustain them in this, one particularly important exercise being the “examen”, a daily prayer involving reflection on the activities of the day, repentance for what has been done amiss, thanksgiving for what has gone well, and an attempt to discern the presence of Christ in the events of the day. Jesuits are often formidably learned, and are expected to acquire considerable expertise in theology, but the training they receive is designed to present them, above all, with opportunities for “experiential learning”, opportunities to mature as individuals, and to acquire leadership capabilities. Jesuits, once ordained, go on to take up various works, and the process of determining what they should do, how they should be “missioned”, involves careful discernment. According to Fr James Martin “Superior and Jesuit together try to discern God’s desires. When a Jesuit is about to be “missioned” to a particular work, the superior is attentive to the Jesuit’s own desires, since he knows … that 15 See Chris Lowney, Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads (Loyola University Press: 2013)

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this is one way that God’s desires are made known … How does a superior know a man’s desires? Through a practice called the “account of conscience”. Once a year the provincial meets with each Jesuit under his care to discuss his work, his community life, his vows, his friendships, and his prayer. Afterward, the superior has a clearer idea of the Jesuit’s interior life and so is better able to mission him.”16 The superior then determines what the Jesuit should do, taking into account the “interior life” of the Jesuit, his aptitudes, and the needs of the apostolate. A sense of the “interior” development of the person being “missioned” is involved in the process of assigning the mission.

6. An Example of Leadership Development in the Church Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII, was expected to be a “caretaker pope”, when elected in 1958. Instead, quite unexpectedly, he initiated a major process of renewal in the Church, summoning the episcopate to Rome for the Second Vatican Council, a council that reflected on, and recovered forgotten dimensions of, the life and activity of the Church in the world. That he should have undertaken such a task of leadership would not necessarily have been a surprise to those who had been acquainted with his career, prior to becoming pope – a career in which he had experienced many dimensions of the life of the Church, formed clear views as to what true “reform” meant, and had taken on varied responsibilities. Roncalli was born in a small village in Northern Italy, to poor peasant farmers, the third of ten children. As he grew up, he attracted the notice of the local parish priest, a priest he greatly admired, who tutored him and assisted him in gaining a scholarship to a seminary in Rome. He was ordained in 1905, after completing a doctorate in Canon Law, and his first appointment was as a secretary to Radini Tedeschi, the new bishop of Bergamo, which was near his home village. Tedeschi selected Roncalli himself, and took him with him on pilgrimage to Lourdes in France as he prepared for his new appointment (this was the first time Roncalli had been abroad). Angelo would work for Tedeschi for nine years. Tedeschi sought nothing less than to renew the life of the diocese. On arrival, his plan was to visit each of the 352 parishes in the diocese of Bergamo – this took four years – and Roncalli accompanied him on these visits. He started an extensive building programme across the diocese. The young priest learned, watching Tedeschi, that achieving genuine transformation 16 James Martin S.J. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life (New York, NY, Harper Collins: 2010), 267–8.


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is arduous, and takes time. Roncalli learned much from Tedeschi, and in a book on My Bishop, he characterized his efforts as an attempt to maintain “the glorious traditions of his diocese interpreting them in harmony with the new conditions of the time.” What he admired in Tedeschi, he sought to emulate, many years later, on becoming pope, when he aimed at “the revivifying of tradition through aggiornamento.” During his posting at Bergamo, Roncalli started to write the history of his hero, St Charles Borromeo – a labour that took a lifetime to complete. St Charles Borromeo was the prime organizer of the third session of the council of Trent, which had occurred not far north of the home village of Roncalli. The council of Trent had been (and often, still is) widely regarded as a matter of countering and resisting Protestantism – as a defensive and reactive council. What Roncalli came to realize, however, as he studied the Borromeo archives, was that Trent was a reforming council, and that the prime agents of reform, envisaged by the council, were the bishops. What was aimed at by Trent was not so much a “counter” reformation movement, but an authentically Catholic reformation. “The archives revealed that Trent showed the constitutional way to reform a diocese was by meticulous episcopal visitation of all parishes and religious houses followed by a diocesan synod. In the mind of the Council of Trent, the bishop, not some curial interloper from Rome, was the proper agent of reform.”17 As Roncalli came to appreciate this, he realized, equally, that he was being presented with the model of a reforming bishop in his own bishop, Tedeschi. The efforts of Tedeschi to revitalize and purify the “traditions” of the diocese were illustrative of the genuine meaning of Trent. While still working for Tedeschi, Roncalli began teaching as a Professor of Church History at the Bergamo seminary. His time as a seminary professor coincided with the “anti modernist” programme initiated by Pius X, in which many theologians – taken to be straying into “modernist” attitudes – experienced severe treatment from Rome; Roncalli was not in sympathy with some of the fiercer “anti modernist” attitudes, so that “trip wires for the young seminary professor abounded.”18 Roncalli had his first contact with Vatican diplomats when he travelled to Munich and Vienna for the Eucharistic congress, staying with papal nuncios. (He managed to avoid arousing anything in the way of envy or enmity.) During the First World War, he was conscripted as a medical orderly sergeant (he had previously done national service, and had been 17

Peter Hebblethwaite, rev. by Margaret Hebblethwaite, John XXIII: Pope of the Century (London, Bloomsbury: 2000), 30. 18 Peter Hebblethwaite, John XXIII: Pope of the Century, 52.

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made a corporal). After the war, he was appointed to be the warden of a student hospital not far from his seminary. He became the spiritual director of the seminary. In 1921, he went to Rome, to become, at the request of Pope Benedict XV, the Italian president of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, supporting missionary endeavours worldwide. The Society was not a part of the formal, official machinery of curial government; but, by being in Rome, in the midst of affairs, Roncalli got some insight into how that machinery worked. His next significant posting was as apostolic visitor to Bulgaria – at which point he was also raised to the episcopate (being consecrated as titular archbishop of Areopolis, Jordan). He was told by the Vatican Secretary of State, Gasparri, that “following this purgatory he would formally enter the Vatican diplomatic service and then be off to Argentina.” In the event the purgatory lasted for ten years (and he never went to Argentina). His main task, on this posting, was to develop, serve, and protect the Catholic minority in Bulgaria. Following the example of Tedeschi, he visited the mountain parishes of the “Slav rite” Catholics, informed himself of their concerns, and formed good relations with them, and with their neighbours. He formed good relations, moreover, with Boris III, the king of the Bulgarians. The diplomatic relationship between the Vatican and Boris III had become strained – Boris had married an Italian princess from the house of Savoy, according to the Roman Catholic rite, and they had promised to raise their children as Catholics, but, on their return to Bulgaria, the king had insisted they be married according to the Byzantine Slav rite (to satisfy his people, and to maintain good relations with Russia). Despite the tensions, Roncalli managed to foster, and maintain, good relations with the king. He used his time in Bulgaria to learn more about Eastern forms of Christianity, and about Slavic languages – all of which would come in useful to him. At his departure, he was honoured by representatives of the King, and by the Orthodox archbishop. In 1935, he was sent to Istanbul as the Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece (becoming titular archbishop of Mesembria, Bulgaria). He would remain there for nine years, and was in the post at the outbreak of the Second World War. Once again, he was responsible for the welfare of a minority (he had direct responsibility for 35,000 Catholics, in and around Istanbul), in a situation presenting considerable diplomatic challenges – Ataturk, the leader of Turkey, was embarked on a programme of secularization, and had put considerable restrictions on forms of Christian expression. The community for which Roncalli was responsible included Catholics of varying nationalities – French, German, Italian, Austrian, as


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well as “Uniates”, Armenians, Chaldeans, Syrians, Maronites, Melkites, Bulgarians and Greeks. He needed, moreover, to establish good relations with the Orthodox Christians, of whom there were about 100,000 or so. His predecessor had been somewhat high-handed. He sought, instead, to persuade by the reasonableness of his speech and conduct. When war broke out – during which Turkey declared itself neutral – he needed to maintain relations with the representatives of the hostile factions at Istanbul. As a representative of the church, he had to assume a neutral stance, though, as an Italian, his country was involved in the war (at different times, on different sides). He became involved in the Vatican’s semi-clandestine efforts to secure Italian Jews passage to Palestine. He was, in short, engaged in all kinds of diplomacy – inter-religious, international, and the diplomacy involved in engaging with a secular state as a representative of a religious minority. He experienced the Church Beleaguered, surrounded by the “clash by night” of the “ignorant armies” of a confused and confusing world. Then – at very short notice – he was asked in December 1944 to serve as papal nuncio to France – a weighty, influential post. There, he had two main challenges: he had to establish a way of working with the new French government, under de Gaulle; and he had to mediate, to some extent, between Rome, and a number of significant French theologians – then regarded with considerable suspicion, and treated with severity, by Rome. On arrival, he was presented with the demand, from de Gaulle, that the church remove twenty five prelates that he regarded as having collaborated with the Germans – three of them Cardinals; the government of de Gaulle had, moreover, “helpfully” identified six bishops who could become archbishops and twenty two priests who could become bishops. The difficulty, here, was that Roncalli had to protect the prerogative of the church to appoint its own bishops, without external interference, and he had, equally, to establish a relationship of cooperation and goodwill with the government of de Gaulle. Roncalli was obliged, equally, to mediate between the Vatican and a number of French theologians (some of whose works had been placed on the index, prompting Mauriac to exclaim that the main interest of the Vatican in Catholic books was as material for bonfires). The French worker-priest movement was, equally, regarded as heterodox by significant figures in the Vatican – Ottaviani in particular. Despite the difficulties he had to navigate, Roncalli was regarded, by the end of his time in France, with considerable goodwill. When it was announced that he would be leaving, to become Patriarch of Venice – a position traditionally associated with receiving a Cardinalate – President de Gaulle wished to present him with his red cardinal hat, and, equally, to present him with the legion d’honneur for his services to France.

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Roncalli was delighted to be called to Venice, as Cardinal Patriarch. He was returning “home” in a sense – Venice was not so far from where he had grown up – and he was returning to truly “pastoral” work, which he was best at. Mindful of the example of Tedeschi, he formulated a detailed plan to visit all the parishes in his diocese. He ran the diocese with skill, tact, and he enabled those who worked for him to grow. He worked hard, and met the deadlines he set for himself. His standing was such, now, that he was asked to attend the National Marian Congress in Beirut as the papal legate; and he travelled to Portugal and to France on similar assignments. Prior to becoming Pope, then, Roncalli had, over the course of his career, made a number of significant “boundary moves”. He had experienced changes of function – he had been secretary to a bishop, he had lectured at a seminary, he had been a spiritual director, he had been the president of a mission society, he had moved between pastoral and diplomatic posts. He combined formal learning – a knowledge of church history – with practical experience; and his formal learning led him to reflect in depth on the nature of the institution, and community, he had been called to serve. (“History”, he liked to say, “is the teacher of life.”) He had supported a superior embarking on a change (or renewal) project. He had a variety of international experiences, encountering different cultures, religions, and governments. He had experienced a variety of different situations, involving distinct challenges, while functioning at a senior level – looking after minority Catholic communities in Bulgaria and in Istanbul, mediating between the Vatican and the French government, governing and revitalizing the Catholic community of Venice. Does not the career of Roncalli, then, show that the church is adept at nurturing and developing its leaders, cultivating those who have the potential to take on its most senior leadership positions? It might, had that career not been almost entirely a series of fortunate accidents – a product of serendipity rather than of any deliberate planning. More than that, it was not merely the case that some of the postings of Roncalli occurred through happenstance, rather than being orchestrated with a view to his development, but, rather, they were – according to his biographer, Peter Hebblethwaite – orchestrated by those who were doubtful of his “orthodoxy”, and who wished him “out of the way”, so to speak. His first bit of good fortune was in getting the opportunity to work with Tedeschi, who would be ever after his model of what a bishop should be. He was selected by Tedeschi – which may itself be attributed to his own merits, and to the insightfulness of Tedeschi – but, that Tedeschi was moving to Bergamo at all, was due to his being, in effect, side-lined. Tedeschi was


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inspired by the “social” vision of Leo XIII, certain aspects of which were, in the atmosphere of “anti modernism” which prevailed under Pius X, regarded with suspicion – as being quasi-socialist (as a form in which socialism was “infiltrating” and corrupting the pure doctrine of the church). The posting of Tedeschi to Bergamo – a relatively minor bishopric – was, in effect, a removal of Tedeschi from the curia. That Roncalli had the opportunity to work with Tedeschi, and with Tedeschi engaged in a pastoral role, was due to “anti modernist” purging of the curia. When Roncalli was, himself, later moved to Bulgaria – a posting that gave him some crucial experience of cultural differences, of other forms of Christianity, of diplomacy, and of representing a Catholic community that was a minority – this was, again, due to efforts on the part of those who wished to “despatch” one who was judged to be theologically or politically unsound (according to Meriol Trevor he was “relieved of his teaching post at the Lateran on suspicion of modernism”, but according to Peter Hebblethwaite it was his “sermon on Radini Tedeschi on September 1 1924, which marked him out as an unrepentant supporter of the PPI [a Christian Democrat party, regarded by the regnant Fascists as enemies of the regime] was enough to despatch him to Bulgaria where he could do no harm.”19 That he was, then, moved to Turkey was due, in part, to the fact that the Apostolic Delegate there had caused considerable offence; it was noted that Roncalli had, while in Bulgaria, caused very little trouble, and it was hoped that, if moved to Turkey, he might, at least, cause rather less trouble than his predecessor. His move to France, as nuncio, was due largely to chance. After the removal of the Germans, and the return of the free French, de Gaulle demanded, at an audience with Pius XII in June 1944, that the French nuncio be removed, as de Gaulle deemed him to have collaborated with Petain. Pius refused – nuncios, he maintained, were appointed to countries, not to governments. Time went by, and then he learned that the Russians had recognized the new regime, and had appointed an ambassador. The papal nuncio would normally present New Year greetings to the head of state, but if there were no nuncio available, the task would fall to the most senior ambassador – who, in this case, was the Russian ambassador. This – for the intensely anticommunist Pius XII – would have been an unendurable loss of face; so – in December – the curia suddenly had to find someone who could be put into the post by the end of the year. There were not many to choose from – the college of Cardinals had not been replenished, and had dwindled to only fifty, which was twenty short of the full complement, and a considerable number were in their eighties. So it would not be not too much of an 19

Hebblethwaite, John XXIII: Pope of the Century, 57.

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exaggeration to say that the “promotion” of Roncalli, to papal nuncio, was driven by the need of the curia to find someone, at short notice, of sufficient seniority, who was capable to making a speech in French. That Roncalli flourished, and developed, gaining from each posting, may be fairly attributed to his own virtues and abilities. Some might take the career of Roncalli to show that true leaders can overcome adversity, and that those who are great will “rise to the top”, whatever their circumstances – in which case, why try to “plan” the career of leaders? Some might even take the serendipitous career of Roncalli as an indication of the guardianship exercised over the church by the Holy Spirit (though one might question whether this guardianship is a matter of providing the best possible leaders, on every occasion). That Roncalli flourished, however, despite various obstacles, need not mean that all potentially great leaders are able to flourish, whatever the obstacles they are presented with. For every Roncalli, who makes it to senior leadership positions in the church, there could be many other, potentially great leaders, who never get the opportunity to develop, or to take on posts appropriate to their capabilities, whose talents are, as a result, lost to the church. That the career of Roncalli was affected by “political” or “ideological” factors is, of itself, not unusual; such factors cannot be eliminated from any organization; but they can be tempered by other factors – most notably, by rigorous, impartial procedures for identifying those individuals who have the potential to lead, and for developing and nourishing those individuals. The organization, as much as possible, should work “for”, rather than “against” such individuals. The simple question, ultimately, is – should the church do what it can to foster and to develop great leaders? Could the beneficial elements, of a career such as that of Roncalli, be reproduced by design, in the careers of other, potentially great leaders, rather than by happenstance?

7. An Example of Effective Training and “Talent Management” in the Church The approach that the Jesuits take to training their members is highly effective. It has evolved over the years, and it is not without its critics (just as the Jesuit order is not without its critics); but, considered from a “talent management” and “leadership development” perspective, it is strikingly thorough, and effective.20 To observe its strengths is not to claim that it 20

I have been informed, by several of those I interviewed, that, among female religious, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are the closest to the Jesuits in the quality of their training. They, like the Jesuits, are deeply committed to education,

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ought to be a model for the training of all priests in the church; but it is surprising – to say no more – that the principles informing it seem to have been largely ignored by those responsible for the training of diocesan priests. The Jesuit approach to training a priest – which can take up to fifteen years – involves a number of stages:21 x


A two-year Novitiate begins with a rigorous thirty-day retreat in the first year, in which the novices undertake the Spiritual Exercises developed by St Ignatius. This involves carrying out five meditations a day, under one-to-one supervision, with four examiners (usually Jesuits). Assessments of novices are rigorous, and they involve a detailed examination of moral character. Psychological tests are used as well. There are at least two “probations”: these might involve undertaking menial roles (such as very basic nursing) or undertaking work with the very poor, with those suffering from alcohol or drug addictions – with the aim of instilling humility, and giving the novices an insight into, and some experience of, the lives of those on the very fringes of society. The performance of novices, throughout, is very closely assessed. Indeed, from that moment onwards (and on into their life, once ordained), they are being assessed all the time. (By contrast, some of the diocesan priests I interviewed felt that they had not been thoroughly prepared for the practical aspects of their ministries; and, once ordained, they felt that they had been “left to get on with it” – they were rarely subject to a thorough assessment.) Next – if approved by the provincial – the Novices make their “first vows” (of poverty, chastity and obedience), in which they are, in effect, promising to enter the Society (and are thereafter known as “Jesuits” – whether or not they go on to be ordained); and then comes two or three years of studying philosophy (and some theology), to Bachelor degree level, together with some ministry work. (Those who already have degrees in philosophy can opt to

as a feature of their mission, and they are involved in education at all levels, from primary schools to universities. They currently undertake mission activities in twenty countries. 21 I am indebted, in this account, to Fr Michael Doody SJ, who took the time to outline the Jesuit approach to training to me (and the reasons for it) in some detail. Those wishing to explore more of the details of the approach should consult Chapter 5 of Peter McDonough, Men Astutely Trained: A History of the Jesuits in the American Century (New York: Free Press, 1992).

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study another topic, deemed relevant to their ministry – such as an MBA. Studying business would not be all that unusual in the U.S., where the Jesuits run twenty six universities, twenty two of which have a business faculty.) After this period of study, the Jesuits then enter the “regency” period, which is devoted to practical work – assignments in parishes or schools. The aim is to test their ability to adapt to difficult situations, and to master the mission they have been given – to test their resilience, moral strength and ingenuity. They are placed in “the deep end” deliberately, and with some care. (One Jesuit informed me he was sent to a major city to help turn around the finances of a high-profile parish that was seriously “in the red” – while the parishioners were not aware of the gravity of the situation. He had previously received considerable training in financial matters, so this was a sound “development move”.22 The Jesuits then return to a period of study – studying theology at graduate level. During this period, those who are “scholastics” – on their way to being ordained as priests – are usually ordained deacons. Some then proceed to higher level, doctoral studies; some are given further “practical” assignments – usually of a challenging kind. After ordination to the priesthood, Jesuits then enter into their final stage of probation, the “tertianship”, which involves a year of spiritual training, in which the “tertian” undertakes the full thirtyday Spiritual Exercises once again. It is, in effect, a year of renewal. Jesuits then undertake their “final vows” – reaffirming their “first vows” (and some Jesuits take a fourth vow, of obedience to the pope “with regard to missions”). In addition to their final vows, they make a number of private promises (such as, never to strive for high office in the church).

Jesuits, before and after ordination, follow a rigorous regime of being constantly tested and assessed. From early on in their formation, they regularly undergo Personal Profile Inventories (PPIs) – the equivalent of a 360-degree appraisal system. This helps to identify personal development needs, and to indicate appropriate formation experiences. The stress on personal development is one of the legacies of St Ignatius. Each year, the performance, and the spiritual state, of a Jesuit is assessed by a superior, 22 For an account of “development moves”, see Morgan McCall and G P Hellenbeck 2002, p.115–116.


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who identifies development needs and, together with the Jesuit being assessed, forms a plan for the year ahead. Jesuits guilty of severe moral lapses are required to leave, even if ordained. There is no preoccupation with status in the Jesuits. (The experience of Ignatian formation may account for why Pope Francis has shown such an antipathy to the obsession with status among some curial officials.) If a Jesuit is appointed Rector, or as the Head of a house or school – he is appointed by the General in Rome, not by vote, as in other religious orders – his maximum tenure is six years. This makes for an attitude of “be kind to your colleagues on the way up, as you will meet them again on the way down.” Jesuits do not encourage aspirations towards becoming a bishop or cardinal. (This may be why it took five hundred years before a Jesuit would be elected pope.) If, in fact, a Jesuit is suspected of seeking high office, he may be reported to his superior. The question presents itself again: why are the experiences of orders such as the Jesuits, who have shown themselves so effective in forming leaders, not being imitated and adapted by the curial congregations responsible for the formation of diocesan priests?

8. What Healthy Organizations Do How do the healthiest organizations develop their leaders? 1.) They establish clear roles for the leaders – determining the “degree” or “level” of accountability associated with those roles, and avoiding duplication or overlap between different roles 2.) They distinguish between “line” and “support” jobs – those which belong to the main line of accountability, and those which support the line (usually through some form of expertise) 3.) They have reliable and consistently applied methods for evaluating the performance of individuals in their roles, and for identifying the training needs of individuals 4.) They are clear about what actions, behaviours, and so on, on the part of individuals indicate that those individuals are capable of operating at a higher “level”. (These can be characterized as “competencies”, aligned to the “components of accountability” by which the complexity or “level” of roles can be ascertained. There can, then, be a methodical approach to determining whether a particular individual has shown the ability to “move up” to a more senior role.)

Principles for Constructing Healthy Organizations


5.) They identify career and learning paths, by which leaders can be developed – series of “learning experiences” which should bring out and develop the capabilities of leaders. (In international companies, these paths will involve international moves, for the more senior leaders.) 6.) They give leaders the time they need to develop, and do not try to “accelerate” the process of development in unrealistic ways 7.) They train their top leaders and managers in how to assess the performance of their team members, coach them, and hold them to account, and how to identify potential leaders within their teams, and to provide them with “learning experiences” in which they might show their potential 8.) They have a culture of “mentoring”, encouraging senior leaders to be open to taking on mentoring roles These practices have not been adopted by the church. (If some of them these practices have been taken up, in certain parts of the church, they have been taken up through the initiative of particular leaders, and they are present in somewhat inchoate form.) There is no centrally directed impetus towards establishing any of these practices, across the church as a whole. Establishing clear roles, within the church – clarifying how the more senior leaders support, direct, and “add value to” the roles which they lead – would seem to be a proper application of the principle of “subsidiarity”. Fostering and developing those with the potential to take on leadership roles would seem to be a matter of “pastoral care” – whereby bishops provide mentoring and support for the clergy who share with them the mission of the church. There are a great many well intentioned, virtuous clergy in the church, priests and bishops; there are a great many clergy who have the capacity to provide leadership of a high order. The church has not established the practices and disciplines that would support and develop these leaders.


‘How can you expect the Church of God to flourish, how can you expect England to be converted, if the instruments which Christ uses for the sanctifying of his people are shoddy instruments? Pray, pray for your priests; every nation, every diocese gets the clergy it deserves … God protect his Church … and give us a supply of good priests to work as the martyrs worked, to live as the martyrs lived, and if need be to die as the martyrs died, to the glory of his holy name’ —Ronald Knox1

The religious life of most Catholics, throughout the world, is sustained by participating in the life of a parish. The parish is, for the majority of Catholics, the centre of religious life: the spiritual formation of these Catholics, their participation in the liturgy of the church, their reception of the sacraments, their involvement in a variety of groups, concerned with prayer, practical works of mercy, and instruction in the faith – all of these activities are activities that take place within the parish. While the term “parish” denotes, strictly, a unit of territory within a diocese, it is applied, ordinarily, to the community within that territory – a community that consists of a priest, and a congregation, gathered to participate in the life and the mission of the church, manifesting Christ. The essence of a parish, in this regard, consists in the community made up of a priest, empowered to perform the rite of the Eucharist, and a congregation. This community does not experience itself as self-sufficient or independent: the priest is encountered as a representative, and agent, of something more than himself – as the assistant of the local Bishop, as the representative, in the parish, of the wider church, and as the representative and instrument of Christ, the “head” of the church; and it is as the representative and instrument of Christ that the priest, on occasion, performs sacramental acts, such as the sacrament of reconciliation, or the sacrament of Holy Communion. While the parish experiences itself as “open to” and “as a part of” the wider, 1 Ronald Knox, ‘Priesthood’ in ed. Philip Caraman S.J., Occasional Sermons (London: Burns & Oates, 1960), 230.


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universal church, it is equally, in practice, a community with its own life, its own rhythms and dynamics. These dynamics can vary considerably, from parish to parish, and indeed, Pope Francis has observed that the “flexibility” of the parish is one of the things that prevent it from becoming “outdated”: “the parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.” In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis characterizes the parish as “the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration.” It is “a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach.”2 As the parish is a “flexible” institution, so different parishes can have markedly different characters. Pope Francis describes the parish as at once a “sanctuary” and a “centre of constant missionary outreach”; some parishes tend to stress the “sanctuary” aspect, some the “missionary” aspect. Indeed, the “sanctuary” aspect has tended to predominate; and part of what Pope Francis is doing in Evangelii Gaudium is to encourage the church, at all levels, to take a more “missionary” orientation. The parish, in countries such as the U.K. and the U.S, in the first half of the twentieth century, was the focal point for a number of voluntary associations and institutions, a web sustaining, and sustained by, something like a distinctive Catholic culture, involving a great variety of popular religious practices, and a strong sense of communal identity. Much of this world, for good or ill, together with the cultural “sanctuary” it provided, has dissipated.3 The church, in the north of the world, is in a state of decline, with congregations diminishing, vocations dwindling, and with parishes, and a range of Catholic institutions, being shut down. If the cultural “sanctuary” of the past could make for a somewhat “inward” orientation, the institutional decline of the present can make for what James Mallon has termed a defensively “self-referential” or “maintenance” mentality – an inclination to preserve, to hold on to, whatever can be held on to, even if the


Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, par.28. 3 For an incisive account of this culture, and of its decline (and of how its decline may have contributed to increased levels of Catholic “disaffiliation”) see Stephen Bullivant, Mass Exodus: Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain and America since Vatican II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

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customs and practices being maintained are no longer “effective”.4 In these circumstances, Mallon suggests, the church needs to rediscover its outwardgoing, missionary energy. Evangelii Gaudium, with its call for all Catholics to become “missionary disciples”, open to all opportunities for sharing the “good news” of Christ, is, Mallon maintains, a response to this situation; and it implies that parishes must become centres of “constant missionary outreach”: parishioners must be imbued, by their pastors, with missionary energy, taking upon themselves the primary “mission” of the church, which they assumed at their Baptism and their Confirmation, the “mission” to share the Gospel. For other Catholics, the institutional decline of the present is to be attributed to a diminishment of the ways in which the church, in the past, had provided a “sanctuary” to its members – in particular, to the loss of a certain experience of sacredness, with the reform of the ancient liturgy, a reform that strived for “outreach” but that did so at the expense of mystery. For such Catholics, the parish needs to become a place centred on rightly conducted worship, a place in which Catholics can centre themselves on the glory of God, before going out to encounter the world, offering something that the world cannot give. Achieving a proper reverence and dignity in worship is necessary if this is to happen. For such Catholics, the moto proprio Summorum Pontificum (2007), enabling a more widespread celebration of the traditional Latin Mass, was a vital move towards a recovery and renewal of the beautiful traditions of Catholic worship. These different accounts of what a parish should be are not, of course, ultimately inconsistent with one another. The aim of “outreach” is to bring others, out of love for them, to the grace of right worship, glorifying God; the aim of maintaining the Christian “sanctuary” is that the world may become, more and more, a part of that sanctuary – that the world as a whole may become the temple of God. The different visions of the proper orientation of the church currently animating Catholics suggest, however, at the very least, differences in priorities. Pope Francis has urged Catholics, among some of whom a “spirit of exclusivity” has arisen, to resist temptations towards divisiveness, and to realize a genuine “fraternal communion”. “It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, and even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs, even to persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts. Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way 4 See Divine Renovation: Bringing Your Parish from Maintenance to Mission (New London CT: Twenty Third Publications, 2014), 43–58.


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we act?” The parish, as a “community of communities” will have members who differ in their “ideas” of what is most necessary, or expedient, for the church at the present time; the challenge for all Catholics is to recognize how those who differ from them in such matters of opinion belong, nevertheless, to the larger church “community” in which Christ is present, and at work. Some tensions seem to be inevitably involved in the life of the church. The parish itself is, as Pope Francis observes, “the presence of the Church in a given territory”, and the church is itself something that can be understood in many ways. In Models of the Church, Avery Dulles sets out six (orthodox) “models” for conceiving of the church: as an “institution” (or society), as a “mystical communion”, as a “sacrament”, as a “herald”, as a “servant”, as a “community of disciples”. Of all the models, not one, Dulles suggests, is wholly adequate as a description of what the church is, because the church is, in its essence, a mystery – an outpouring of the mysterious life of the Triune God – but all of these models capture something of a reality that is known to members of the church primarily through their participation in the life of the church. If the reality of the church is something that cannot be neatly conceptualized in a single “model”, and if that reality has a great many elements and aspects, then one would expect that reality to be expressed or manifest in a great many ways in the parishes that are “the presence of the church” in this place and that. For all the variety in the ways of realizing “the presence of the Church” in different parishes, there are some essential things that are common to all parishes – certain pivotal roles, with attendant accountabilities, that exist in all parishes. The primary roles, in this regard, are those of the parish priest, who may or may not be supported by other clergy – assistant priests or deacons – and of the laity, called to participate in a variety of ways in the “salvific work of the church” and to share “in the church’s mission of salvation”.5 The current shortage of priests means, in practice, that many parishes are without resident priests; such parishes might share a priest with others, or might conduct services led by laypeople. These situations, it seems fair to say, though increasingly common,6 are still experienced by most Catholics as imperfect and untypical. The essential identity of the parish, for most Catholics, is most fully manifest in the situation of worship, in the Mass, in which the priest, in persona Christi, offers the Eucharistic sacrifice, and in which the congregation participate in that offering. 5

Lumen Gentium par.33, in Vatican II: The Basic Sixteen Documents ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996), 51–2. 6 CARA estimated in 2015 that 30% of parishes are without a resident pastor.

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What, then, are the essential features of the roles that are present in the typical parish?

1. People of God Lumen Gentium (1964) characterized the church as “the people of God” – a characterization applicable to “the laity, religious and clergy.”7 Those who believe in Christ, who are reborn, not from a corruptible but an incorruptible seed, through the word of the Living God (see 1 Pet 1: 23), not from flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit (see Jn 3: 5–6) are finally established as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession … who in times past were not a people, but who are now the people of God” (1 Pet 2: 9–10) That messianic people has as its head Christ, “who was delivered up for our sins and rose again for our justification” (Rom 4: 25), and now, having acquired the name which is above all names, reigns gloriously in heaven. This people possesses the dignity and freedom of daughters and sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple. Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us (Jn 13: 34). Its destiny is the kingdom of God which has been begun by God himself on earth, and which must be further extended until it is brought to perfection by him at the end of time.8

The members of this people, as the body of Christ, joined to Christ the “head”, participate in the three “offices” of Christ, as priest, prophet, and king. All of the baptised are called to participate in the “priestly” office of Christ. All the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God (see Acts 2: 42–7) should present themselves as a sacrifice, living, holy and pleasing to God (see Rom 12: 1). They should everywhere on earth bear witness to Christ and give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for their hope of eternal life (see 1 Pet 3: 15).9

If there is a “priesthood” common to all the baptised, there is, nevertheless, an “essential” distinction between the “common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood.”


Lumen Gentium, par.30., 48 Lumen Gentium, par. 9, 12–13. 9 Lumen Gentium, par.10, 14. 8

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Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none the less interrelated; each in its own way shares in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms and governs the priestly people; in the person of Christ he brings about the Eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people. The faithful indeed, by virtue of their royal priesthood, share in the offering of the Eucharist. They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the sacraments, by prayer and thanksgiving, by the witness of a holy life, selfdenial and active charity.10

The church is where God is worshipped rightly, and glorified, by the people of God, in a worship that involves the whole of life – prayer, right action, charitable works, thanksgiving – and, as the glory of God appears through the church, so the world is moved towards the right worship of God through the church. The church is, and must increasingly become, a “sacrament”, a “sign and instrument … of communion with God and of the unity of the human race”, its “face” showing the “light of Christ” to “all humanity”.

2. The Laity The “mission” of the laity, called to undertake the “saving work” of the church, is set out in some of the documents of the Second Vatican Council – most notably, Lumen Gentium (1964) and Apostolicam Actuositatem (1965). These documents provided the mandate for the establishment of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 1976, the functions of which were taken up, in 2016, by the newly created Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. Lumen Gentium observes that “it is the special vocation of the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.”11 They live in the world, in each and every one of the world’s occupations and callings and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life which, as it were, form the context of their existence. There they are called by God to contribute to the sanctification of the world from within, like leaven, in the spirit of the Gospel, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially by the witness of their life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they manifest Christ to others. It is their special task to illuminate and order all temporal matters in which they are closely involved in such a way that

10 11

Lumen Gentium, par.10, 14–15 Lumen Gentium, par.31, 49.

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these are always carried out and develop in Christ’s way and to the praise of the Creator and Redeemer.12

The laity, by ordering “temporal matters” in “Christ’s way”, “manifest Christ”. Their “occupations” have an intrinsic worth, and “Christ’s way” of conducting them accords with and brings out that intrinsic worth. As those occupations may be conducted in a way that is motivated by “the Gospel”, so, individuals who engage in those occupations with such motives reveal, to those who encounter them, and who recognize those motives, something of the Gospel. More generally, the laity is called “to make the church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that it can become the salt of the earth.”13 The whole “people of God” participates in the three offices of Christ – as priest, prophet, and king. The laity carry out the priestly office in “offering spiritual worship for the glory of the Father and the salvation of humanity”, a worship that can pervade “all their works”, all the activities making up the stuff of life, for “all their works, if accomplished in the Spirit, become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. The laity carry out the prophetic office when, as a “body”, together with the hierarchy, they manifest a “supernatural sense of the faith” in a “universal consensus in matters of faith and morals”. They carry out this office, equally, when they “unhesitatingly join the profession of faith to the life of faith”, evangelizing “in the ordinary circumstances of the world”. Those who are married are called to be “witnesses of the faith and love of Christ to each other and to their children”. Lumen Gentium characterizes the family as a “domestic church” in which “parents are to be the first preachers of the faith for their children by word and example” and must “foster the vocation which is proper to each child.”14 The laity carry out the regal office when they achieve a “royal liberty” in their lives, overcoming the “reign of sin in themselves”, and when “by serving Christ in others they may through humility and patience bring their sisters and brothers to that King to serve whom is to reign.” All the members of the church are accorded graces or “gifts” of the Spirit, adapted to the “needs” of the church; “those who have charge over the church should judge the genuineness and orderly use of these gifts.”15 Lumen Gentium discusses the “familiar relationship” that should, ideally, be established between pastors and laity. The laity have “the right to receive abundant help from their pastors out of the church’s spiritual 12

Lumen Gentium, par.31, 49. Lumen Gentium, par. 33, 51. 14 Lumen Gentium, par. 11, 17. 15 Lumen Gentium, par. 12, 17. 13


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treasury, especially the word of God and the sacraments”, and, “to the extent of their knowledge, competence or authority, the laity are entitled, and indeed sometimes duty-bound, to express their opinion on matters which concern the good of the church”, making use of “the institutions established by the church for that purpose.” (The 1983 code of canon law recognizes two such institutions: it requires dioceses and parishes to have finance councils, overseeing the use of church assets; it permits diocese and parishes to have pastoral councils, in which the laity can be consulted by the clergy, in forming pastoral plans.16) If the laity should “express their opinion on matters which concern the good of the church”, they should, equally, “accept in Christian obedience what is decided by the pastors who, as teachers and rulers of the church, represent Christ”; and those pastors should “confidently assign offices” to laypeople “in the service of the church, leaving them freedom and scope for activity”, and should “encourage them to take on work on their own initiative”. Apostolicam Actuositatem, a decree on the “apostolate” of the laity, characterizes the “apostolate” as “any activity” which has “in view” the purpose of the church: the “church was founded so that by spreading Christ’s kingdom throughout the world to the glory of God the Father, every man and woman may share in the saving work of redemption, and so that through them the entire world may be truly directed towards Christ.”17 The laity exercise their apostolate “when they work to evangelize people and make them holy” and “when they endeavour to have the Gospel spirit permeate and improve the temporal order, going about it in a way that bears clear witness to Christ and helps forward the salvation of humanity”. With regard to the “evangelical” work of the laity, this is not solely a matter of a “witness of life”: “the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions to proclaim Christ by word, either to unbelievers to draw them towards the faith, or to the faithful to instruct them, strengthen them, call them to a more fervent life”. With regard to the “renewal” of “the temporal order”, it is observed that the things of this order “are not merely helps to humanity’s last end” but “possess a value of their own, placed in them by God, both in themselves or as parts of the integral temporal structure”, a “natural goodness” that “receives an added dignity from their relation with the human person, for whose use they have been created”; and, in relation to this order, “it is the task of the church as a whole to make women and men capable of establishing the proper scale of values in the temporal order and 16 John L. Allen Jr, The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 198. 17 Apostolicam Actuositatem, par. 2, in Vatican II: The Basic Sixteen Documents ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996), 405.

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to direct it towards God through Christ”; and, in accomplishing this task, the laity “should act directly in this domain and in their own way … [bringing] to their cooperation with others their own special competence and [acting] on their own responsibility”.18 Christians are called, in particular, to charitable works, in fulfilment of the commandment to love God and neighbour. While laypeople have a distinctive “apostolate”, exercised within the world, they may, equally, undertake activities within the church. Nourished by their active participation in the liturgical life of their community, they engage zealously in its apostolic works; they attract people towards the church who had been perhaps very far away from it; they ardently cooperate in the spread of the word of God, particularly by catechetical instruction; by their expert assistance they increase the efficacy of the care of souls as well as of the administration of the goods of the church. The parish offers an outstanding example of community apostolate, for it gathers into one all the human diversities that are found there and inserts them into the universality of the church.19

Apostolicam Actuositatem commends various forms of “group apostolate” in the “free associations” that the laity “form among themselves”: “some serve the general apostolic purposes of the church; others aim specifically at evangelization and sanctification; others work for the permeation of the temporal order by the Christian spirit; and others engage in works of mercy and of charity as their special way of bearing witness to Christ.”20 As a consequence of the “evolution of modern society”, the “universal nature of the church’s mission requires that the apostolic initiatives of Catholics should increasingly develop international associations of various kinds.” In those associations that are characterized, in Apostolicam Actuositatem, as forms of “Catholic action”, the “immediate aim” is “the evangelization and sanctification of men and women and the Christian formation of their consciences, so as to enable them to imbue with the Gospel spirit that various social groups and environments”, and in these associations, the laity, “assume responsibility for the direction” of affairs, while acting “under the higher direction of the hierarchy, which can authorize this cooperation, besides, with an explicit mandate.”21 The duties of the hierarchy, with regard to the lay apostolate, are to “favour” it, “furnish it with principles and spiritual assistance, direct the exercise of the apostolate 18

Apostolicam Actuositatem, par. 7, 412–13. Apostolicam Actuositatem, par. 10, 417. 20 Apostolicam Actuositatem, par. 18–19, 426–427. 21 Apostolicam Actuositatem, par. 20, 429. 19


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to the common good of the church, and see to it that doctrine and order are safeguarded.” “No enterprise may lay claim to the name “catholic” if it does not have the approval of legitimate ecclesiastical authority.”22 The hierarchy can, if appropriate, “unite more closely a given form of the apostolate with its own apostolic functions, without, however, changing the specific nature of either or the distinction between the two, and consequently without depriving the laity of their rightful freedom to act on their own initiative.”23 A great many lay associations and ecclesial movements have emerged, over the past century, which realize aspects of the vision of the lay “group” apostolate presented in Apostolicam Actuositatem – from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, to Opus Dei, to the Neocatechumenal Way, to Focolare. Lumen Gentium and Apostolicam Actuositatem envisage the laity as called to participate in the “mission” of the Church by acting in the world: as called to “renew” the intrinsic goodness of the “temporal order” in “Christ’s way” – in a way that reveals Christ – and to “profess” Christ to others – proclaiming “Christ by word” and by “witness of life”. They are called, equally, to take an active part within the life of the church community, supporting with the “care of souls” and the “administration of the goods of the church”. Lumen Gentium and Apostolicam Actuositatem stress, in different ways, the initiative of the laity, in undertaking “apostolic” work, and the mission of evangelization. The “hierarchy” is not the sole origin for the various initiatives that serve the “mission” of the church; and the work of the laity, in the “temporal order”, is not something wholly apart from that “mission”: the renewal of that order can reveal Christ, and it can constitute a movement towards the Kingdom. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reflects on the extent to which the vision, presented in the Second Vatican Council, of the “mission” of the laity has been realized. There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church. We can count on many lay persons, although still not nearly enough, who have a deeply-rooted sense of community and great fidelity to the tasks of charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith. At the same time, a clear awareness of this responsibility of the laity, grounded in their baptism and confirmation, does not appear in the same way in all places. In some cases, it is because lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities. In others, it is because in their particular Churches room has not been made for them to speak and to act,

22 23

Apostolicam Actuositatem, par. 24, 432. Apostolicam Actuositatem, par. 24, 432.

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due to an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decisionmaking. Even if many are now involved in the lay ministries, this involvement is not reflected in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors. It often remains tied to tasks within the Church, without a real commitment to applying the Gospel to the transformation of society. The formation of the laity and the evangelization of professional and intellectual life represent a significant pastoral challenge.24

Pope Francis suggests that the vision of the “mission of the laity”, set out at the Second Vatican Council, has not yet been fully realized, and he indicates several difficulties: a lack of a “clear awareness” of the responsibilities of the laity; a lack of “formation” for laypeople to undertake “important responsibilities”; and a “clericalism” by which the hierarchy keep the laity from participating in “decision-making”. He notes, moreover, that lay participation in the “mission” of the church is too often “tied to tasks within the Church” rather than being a matter of the “transformation of society” or the “evangelization of professional and intellectual life”. With regard to this last, the “autonomy” of the various spheres of “professional and intellectual life” can be regarded as a feature of “secularization”, considered as a cultural, social and political process.25 Apostolicam Actuositatem observes that such autonomy is proper in itself – it “is only right” – but it can be “accompanied by a certain loss of moral and religious values, seriously jeopardizing the Christian life”; and this is the context for the call in Apostolicam Actuositatem for “the church as a whole to make women and men capable of establishing the proper scale of values in the temporal order, [directing] it towards God through Christ.”26 God “has willed to gather all that was natural, all that was supernatural, into a single whole in Christ”; 24

Evangelii Gaudium, par. 102. In A Secular Age, Charles Taylor identifies several aspects of “secularity”, several things that “secularity” can mean, one of which is a disappearance of a “reference to ultimate reality” in “public spaces”: “as we function within various spheres of activity – economic, political, cultural, educational, professional, recreational – the norms and principles we follow, the deliberations we engage in, generally don”t refer us to God or to any religious beliefs: the considerations we act on are internal to the “rationality” of each sphere – maximum gain within the economy, the greatest benefit to the greatest number in the political area, and so on.” A Secular Age, (Cambridge MA: Belknap Press, 2007), 2. If this is, in part, the sort of “autonomy” that is being referred to in Apostolicam Actuositatem, it is evident that this document does not envisage reversing or undoing this state of affairs, but, rather, working with it or within it, and developing it. 26 Apostolicam Actuositatem, par.7, 413. 25


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and “far from deriving the temporal order of its autonomy, of its specific ends, or its own laws and resources or its importance for human well-being, this design, on the contrary, increases its energy and excellence, raising it at the same time to the level of people’s integral vocation here below.”27 The task is to live in the world, according to a “proper scale of values”, in such a way as to respect the “autonomy” of worldly spheres of activity, while making of those spheres of activity something that is in harmony with “Christ’s way”, ordered to the ultimate “ends” or goals of human life. What is envisaged here, ultimately, is a social and cultural transformation, in which the laity participate in the various spheres of the “temporal order” and “renew” them, such that those spheres retain their autonomy and “natural goodness” – and, indeed, have their natural goodness more fully realized – while being animated by a “scale of values” oriented towards the proper ends of that “natural goodness”, a “scale of values” cognizant of the worth of “the human person”, and cognizant of the ultimate ends of human life. How those spheres might be changed or developed by this, cannot be known in advance; and there is no simple, abstract “programme” for such a transformation: it is to be worked out by those who have acquired competence in those spheres, who understand the “autonomy” of those spheres from within, so to speak, and who have acquired practical wisdom by living in accordance with a “proper scale of values”. Pope Francis observes, in this regard, that there needs to be a “a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors”; with regard to this part of the “mission” of the laity, there is still much to be done.28 The vision of lay participation in the “mission” of the church, set out in Lumen Gentium and Apostolicam Actuositatem certainly does not confine that participation to the “parish” level. These documents set the mission of the laity in the context of the mission of the church as a whole; and the particular functions these documents assign to the laity are relevant to the work of the church at every level: if, for instance, the laity can bring a distinctive competence to support the “care of souls” and the “administration of the goods of the Church”, then this competence can be exercised at the parish level, at the diocesan level, and beyond. The decree Christus Dominus, on the “Pastoral Office of Bishops”, recommends that “in every diocese a special pastoral council be established, presided over by the diocesan bishop himself, in which clergy, religious, and laity specially chosen for the purpose will participate”, and the function of this council should be “to investigate and consider matters relating to pastoral activity 27 28

Apostolicam Actuositatem, par.7, 412. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, par. 102.

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and to formulate practical conclusions concerning them.”29 Lumen Gentium and Apostolicam Actuositatem aim to set out certain principles for how the relationship between laity and clergy should work. The initiative of the laity should be respected, and fostered, by the clergy; and the clergy should recognize the ways in which they can, in the work that is their particular responsibility, elicit the support and counsel of the laity. The clergy are, equally, obliged to exercise a certain judgement about the various undertakings of the laity, where they relate to the primary “mission” of the church – particularly with respect to whether they witness correctly to the teachings of the church, meriting the “name” of Catholic. These documents suggest that the relationship between the laity and clergy should be a relationship of mutual respect, collaboration, and support. If, as Apostolicam Actuositatem suggests, the needs of the church at the present time are such that it is appropriate that lay associations should be established, to serve the overall “mission” of the church, some of them “international” in scope, and if the hierarchy have a duty, in relation to these associations, to “furnish [them] with principles and spiritual assistance, direct the exercise of the apostolate to the common good of the church, and see to it that doctrine and order are safeguarded”, then the hierarchy needs to have within it roles that are fitted to (even dedicated to) interacting with such associations: there need to be roles within the hierarchy that can “liaise” with, and collaborate with, the leaders of those international organizations, who will – assuming those organizations are large and complex enough – be taking decisions of considerable gravity. The work of liaison and collaboration needed here cannot be carried out merely by committees. It is not unusual for organizations to have dedicated roles, focused on maintaining and cultivating relationships with allied external bodies, empowered to take decisions (within clear parameters) in important negotiations. Relations between the hierarchy and complex lay organizations connected to the “mission” of the church, have not always been harmonious (to put it mildly). John Allen Jr discusses the case of Germany which, owing to the “Church tax”, has an extensive network of lay organizations, involved in education, healthcare, social welfare, and charitable work. The Central Committee of German Catholics, a powerful lay organization, received $2.7 billion of funds from the church tax, funds channelled through the local bishops. In 2006 Archbishop Ludwig Müller refused to allocate these funds to the Central Committee, and suppressed a Diocesan Council of Laypeople and 33 other organizations.30 Whatever the 29

Christus Dominus par. 27, in Vatican II: The Basic Sixteen Documents ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996), 301. 30 Allen, The Future Church, 207.


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background to the conflict between the hierarchy and these organizations, such a move of suppression is symptomatic, to say the least, of a failure of effective liaison and collaboration. The conflicts that have arisen between the hierarchy and various lay organizations seem to involve many elements – concerns about orthodoxy, concerns about “control”, and concerns about “bureaucracy” (a feeling that, as Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne put it in 2002, the “structures, commissions, statutes and secretariats” serve merely as a “basis for the diffusion of endless debates”, resolving nothing, and potentially “obfuscating the faith”). With regard to the concerns about “bureaucracy”, it can be observed that, if there are “structures” that seem to make simply for “endless debates”, in which nothing constructive is decided, then this can generate a hostility to “structure” itself – a quasi-Romantic hostility to “structure”, a feeling that all “structure” makes for needless complication, an inclination to look for overly simplistic solutions – and this can be as harmful as the bureaucratic inertia to which it is a response. If the church is committed to a worldwide mission, then it cannot dispense with “structures”, or with the various forms of “lay” expertise needed to make those structures work. These structures may not be what is most vital to the existence of church, but that does not make them unnecessary. Some “debate”, and conflict, is inescapable, in any organization; what is important is that the “debate” should be concerned with the things that are of genuine significance, and that it should happen in a way that makes for constructive decisions. The solution to “structures” that are not working is not the abolition of structure, but the creation of “structures” that work, structures within which clear roles are assigned to individuals with the competence to carry out those roles effectively. At the parish level, various forms of collaboration between the clergy and the laity have emerged over the past fifty years. In most parishes, certainly in the global north, there are well established administrative roles that are carried out by laypeople. It is typical for laypeople to be involved in various programmes of catechesis. Priests are obliged by canon law to establish finance councils, which will involve lay specialists. Canon 537 states that “in each parish there is to be a finance council which is governed, in addition to universal law, by norms issued by the diocesan bishop and in which the Christian faithful, selected according to these same norms, are to assist the pastor in the administration of the goods of the parish.”31 Priests may, equally, establish parish or pastoral councils. They are not required, by canon law, to do so; but bishops are entitled to require that pastoral 31

Code of Canon Law,

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councils are established in parishes in their dioceses, and to require that those councils have a certain composition (for instance, that they should include specialists in law, in finance, and the like). A document issued from the Vatican in 1997, Instruction on certain Questions regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest declares that both finance councils and pastoral councils have a “consultative” relationship to the parish priest: they cannot require the priest to take any particular actions. Article 5, paragraph 2 states “Diocesan and parochial Pastoral Councils and Parochial Finance Councils, of which nonordained faithful are members, enjoy a consultative vote only and cannot in any way become deliberative structures.”32 Pastoral councils and finance councils have the potential to create forms of effective cooperation between clergy and laity, and to create certain “balances” in the life of the church. At present, these forums have no genuine authority. While a parish priest would be unwise to ignore the advice of his finance council, there is nothing to prevent him from doing so. While it might be unwise for a bishop to dispense with pastoral councils in his diocese, there is nothing to prevent him from doing so. If parishes are required to establish finance councils, then it seems fitting that they should be required to establish pastoral councils. Since, in fact, more than a few of the “financial” decisions taken in a parish are (or should be) concerned with “pastoral” matters – the pastoral priorities of a parish are shown by what the parish opts to put its resources into – then it might make sense for the “finance” and “pastoral” councils to be combined, into a single body, with members elected by a general assembly of the parish (perhaps for two-year terms). What is more, the members of the council should – if they are to exercise genuine oversight of the parish – have something more than a “consultative vote”. It could, and probably should, be a requirement that the lay chair of the parish council be a co-signatory with the parish priest on financial reports, on investments, and on the (annual) parish plan. What is more, it would make sense (to say the least) for it to be a requirement that parish councils be consulted on all appointments of new priests in the parish (assistant priests and parish priests). In many parishes, a variety of lay-led groups have been established, concerned variously with prayer, devotion, social welfare and hospitality, and charity, and parishes are often connected to broader Catholic organizations, such as the St Vincent de Paul society, Aid to the 32 Instruction on certain Questions regarding the Collaboration of the NonOrdained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest erdic_doc_15081997_en.html


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Church in Need, the Legion of Mary, and the like. Small groups of laypeople form in some parishes – often termed “basic Christian communities” – whose members gather, usually in the homes of members, to read the Scriptures, pray, and discuss matters of common concern. Aside from that, forms of lay ecclesial ministry are becoming increasingly common in the global north, due, in part to the priest shortage. Professional “pastoral” staff are increasingly employed – particularly in the U.S. – as are lay Eucharistic ministers. In parishes without a resident priest, some laypeople are taking on ministerial roles, leading some church services, and overseeing the running of those parishes (nominally “on behalf” of a priest who has formal responsibility for that parish). Such arrangements can seem, to some, to present the risk that confusion might arise as to the difference between such lay ministers and ordained priests. These are risks that can be minimised by proper catechesis, and by ensuring that the laypeople appointed to such roles have a clear understanding of the nature of their role and ministry. To appreciate the difference between lay ministers and ordained priests need not be to detract from the importance and worth of the pastoral work carried out by lay ministers. A culture of collaboration and mutual support, between laity and clergy, seems to be emerging in some parishes. Yet in any particular parish, the realization of such a culture depends very much on the disposition and attitude of the parish priest; and it depends, too, on the attitudes of the laypeople of the parish: some laypeople are, for a variety of reasons, simply unwilling to get involved in the life of the parish to which they belong. Priests can work, however, to invite all parishioners to get involved in way one or another, according to their talents and inclinations. What of the vocation to which the laity are summoned in Lumen Gentium and Apostolicam Actuositatem, the vocation to renew and to sanctify the world? At the parish level, the primary obligation of the parish priest is to make his congregation aware of that vocation, and of the universal “call to holiness”. The priest is not accountable for the particular decisions that members of the parish will take, in attempting to renew and to sanctify the world, in the various spheres of life in which they are engaged; those decisions will, in part, be informed by a particular knowledge of those spheres of life, a knowledge which the priest will not have; but the priest is there to offer counsel, to “furnish … principles and spiritual assistance”, to help parishioners reflect on the meaning and implications of their decisions. The priest, moreover, can encourage a culture of reflection about these things: he can foster the development of groups within a parish dedicated to reflection about these things. In urban areas, particularly, such groups might take on a life beyond a particular

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parish, gathering together laypeople with similar concerns, engaged in similar problems. (The “chaplaincy” principle could perhaps be extended somewhat, to create roles for priests ministering, across parishes, to particular lay communities, defined by types of professions, by states of life, or by particular “secular” concerns. It would be important, of course, to make sure that the members of these communities should continue to regard their primary allegiance as their allegiance to their parish communities.) There is, in truth, an enormous task for the lay “apostolate”, in terms of engaging with, and working out ways of living within, the circumambient culture. In the global north, there is, at the present time, an intensification of various forms of “secularization”. Belief in God, let alone in Christ, is decreasing; and there are many in the “post Christian” societies of the global north who entertain imaginative and intellectual presuppositions which make religious belief seem alien, incredible, unintelligible, absurd. The laity are called to address how to live “within” this culture – a culture that is “within” them, as much as it is something that they have to encounter – and this task, calling for creativity, courage, and wisdom, is not something for which there can be a clear “programme”. While various general approaches to addressing these challenges are discussed amongst Christians – ranging from accommodation of the wider culture to “strategic retreat” and the creation of something like a “parallel” Christian culture – the details of what these approaches might mean, for individuals in the here and now, need to be worked out by being lived out. The challenges presented by the cultural “climate” or “atmosphere” are not, of course, challenges for the laity alone; the clergy, at all levels, who are, after all, the denizens of modernity as much as anyone else, encounter these challenges. In this situation, relationships of collaboration, respect and understanding, between the laity and the clergy, acquire all the more importance. Parishes, at their most flourishing, can be places where these relationships are formed, and places where, through reflection, discussion and action, creative responses to the challenges of modernity are developed. A parish community is in many ways “thrown together”; its members need to work out ways of being together, living together, working as a community. The parishes that will flourish will be those in which challenges and problems can be honestly discussed; they will be the parishes in which a genuine community can arise, in which conflicts can be creative; they will be the parishes in which the community has the strength and the self-confidence to “go out”, offering hospitality, and solace, to all.


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3. The Clergy Within a parish, the three main clerical roles are deacons, assistant priests, and parish priests. All are roles in “major orders”, though only assistant priests and parish priests can perform the sacraments of Reconciliation, Healing and the Eucharist. The role of deacon is often taken on temporarily, by those who will go on to be ordained as priests, but the number of permanent deacons has been increasing of late. Deacons can marry; they participate in the liturgy, may preach homilies during Mass, and (like the laity) may perform baptisms, and carry out various forms of catechetical instruction. Deacons can carry out vital work within the parish, complementing and assisting the work of priests. Within a parish, the primary clerical role, however, is that of the parish priest. According to Lumen Gentium, the priest forms and governs the “priestly people”. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms and governs the priestly people; in the person of Christ he brings about the Eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people … The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests and deacons. While they do not have the supreme degree of the pontifical office and depend on the bishops for the exercise of their power, priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their priestly dignity. By virtue of the sacrament of Orders they are consecrated in the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest … to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Covenant. On the level of their own ministry sharing in the unique office of Christ, the mediator (see 1 Tim 2:5) they announce to everyone the word of God. However it is above all in the Eucharistic worship or assembly of the faithful that they exercise their sacred functions. Then, acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming his mystery, they unite the prayers of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ their head, and in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and apply until the coming of the Lord (see 1 Cor 11:26) the unique sacrifice of the New Testament, Christ offering himself once for all an unblemished victim to the Father (see Heb 9: 11-28). For the faithful who are repentant or all ill they exercise to the fullest degree a ministry of reconciliation and comfort, while they carry the needs and supplications of the faithful to God the Father (see Heb 5:1-4). Exercising, within the limits of the authority which is theirs, the office of Christ, the Shepherd and Head, they assemble the family of God as brothers and sisters animated by the spirit of unity, and through Christ in the Spirit they lead them to God the Father.33


Lumen Gentium par. 10, par. 28, 14, 39–40.

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Avery Dulles, in The Priestly Office, maintains that “priesthood” is characterized – in the history of religions – in “sacral” terms, as a matter of mediating between the community and the god or gods. This “sacral” dimension is retained in Catholicism. The priest is configured to Christ in order that Christ may act in him as an instrument. The church, as Christ’s mystical body, uses its priests not to pray or worship in its place but to be the organs through which it prays and professes its faith. The acts of the church and of Christ as its head cannot be performed except by those who are publicly and sacramentally qualified through ordination … The priest is an agent and representative of Christ himself. In order that the church may be effectively subject to Christ as its living Lord, it is necessary that there be persons and actions wherein Christ makes himself visibly and sacramentally present.34

Dulles observes that where the Council of Trent, in response to the challenge of Reformers – who contended that Christian ministry consisted merely in announcing the Gospel – stressed the “sacerdotal” aspects of the role of the priest, the Second Vatican Council sought to bring out the other, “prophetic” and “regal”, aspects of that role – declaring the word of God, and “shepherding” the people of God. The Second Vatican Council sought to stress, moreover, that it is in the bishops, rather than the presbyters – the order to which parish priests belong – that the “fullness” of priesthood resides (so that “episcopal ordination is itself a grade of the sacrament of order”, conferring on bishops the distinctive “pastoral” office of “presiding over the people of God”, and on the college of bishops “collective responsibility for the teaching and government of the church as a whole”).35 Priests exercise their ministry as associates of bishops, who assign them particular pastoral responsibilities.

4. Accountabilities of the Parish Priest If any accountable role in an organization can be characterized according to seven elements (see Chapter 1) – the purpose of the role, the resources to be used, the problem solving required, the changes to be instigated and managed, the internal networks to be harnessed, the external networks to be harnessed, and the timeframe by which results are to be achieved – then how might the role of a parish priest be characterized, when assessed according 34

Avery Dulles, S.J., The Priestly Office: A Theological Reflection (Mahwah, N.J: Paulist Press, 1997),14–15. 35 Dulles, The Priestly Office, 46.


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to those elements? I interviewed a number of parish priests, to get their views of the nature of their core responsibilities. All of them stressed, in different ways, the various aspects of the priestly role highlighted in the Second Vatican Council – the ministry of the word, the ministry of worship, and the pastoral ministry. According to the reflections of these priests, a rough description of the role of the priest, according to the schema of “components of accountability”, would look something like this: 1.) Purpose. A priest is assigned to a parish, and the role of the priest, accordingly, is a matter of ensuring the flourishing of a parish, as a place in which Christ is manifested. As the source and goal of the ministry of the priest is Christ, so the priest must be “conformed” to Christ, striving towards holiness, and maintaining a life of prayer, and a deep relationship to Christ. What “flourishing” might mean, in this parish, might be slightly different from what it might mean in that parish. Yet a priest should be working towards some ideal of a “flourishing” parish, an ideal agreed with his bishop, from which a number of particular “goals” would emanate, constituting “steps” towards that ideal. For instance, a priest might aim to improve the quality of catechesis provided in the parish; or a priest might aim to intensify the “missionary” efforts of the parish in the local area; or a priest might aim to improve the quality of religious education provided at a school associated with the parish, or to work, with the leaders of the school, to achieve a certain ethos at that school. One priest characterized his mission as “continuing the mission of Jesus in my parish by enhancing a community which cares for the least, the last, and the lost.” Another as providing the “welcome” and the “mercy” of Christ to all. Another as “accompanying” the members of the parish on their “path” to God. In forming this “ideal” for the parish, he should consult with, and secure the support of, his bishop, and he should articulate particular outcomes that would constitute “steps” towards the ideal. 2.) Resources. The priest preaches the Gospel, administers the sacraments, instructs and counsels the community, so that all within the community might be brought into contact with the grace of Christ, and so that all within the community might be formed to “go out” into the world, and bring others into contact with the grace of Christ. The priest leads other leaders within the parish, directing, counselling and developing them – assistant priests, deacons, leaders of spiritual groups, leaders of catechetical programmes – and is supported by a parish team in matters of administration and finance. The priest is accountable for the proper use of the finances of the parish, and must use those finances to further the ends of his ministry.

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The parish priest should be consulted in the selection of the assistant priests in his charge; and he is accountable for the mentoring and development of those priests. The priest is accountable for the recruitment of lay administrative and pastoral staff within the parish – having secured the necessary budget, and permission for hiring, from the bishop. The performance of those staff is his responsibility. Some ideas for parish initiatives derive from initiatives from Rome (such as the “Year of Mercy” or the like); and the priest is responsible for translating the aspirations of Rome into concrete parish activities. The “expertise” of the priest is another resource, of sorts. One form of expertise that one would expect a priest to have would be theological expertise: the ministry of the priest, after all, is directed towards ends that are properly articulated in theological terms, so one would expect the priest to have a clear understanding of those ends; and the priest is required, generally, to preach the Gospel, and to instruct and to advise parishioners, in a way that is informed by the Gospel – all of which requires theological knowledge. One would expect a priest, moreover, to be able to provide some “spiritual direction” to parishioners, or to be able to offer guidance with regard to the spiritual lives of parishioners – which requires that the priest himself have a prayer life. (It should be recognized that one of the difficulties that priests in larger parishes have, is that they are expected, by some parishioners, to be always “available”, always responsive – and this, when one has a “flock” of more than 2,000, is not always feasible. A priest can, however, in such circumstances, work towards ensuring that there is a “welcome” to all people in the parish, that someone is there to provide a “welcome”, and to provide support, to those who need it.) A priest might, moreover, cultivate a certain expertise with regard to the performance of the liturgy – something like a skill in ensuring that the liturgy is performed in a suitably reverent and beautiful manner (which would involve directing and counselling others involved in the “performance” of the liturgy – masters of ceremonies, altar servers, musicians, choirs, readers, and so on). At the core of the ministry of the priest, there is the administration of the sacraments – above all, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of reconciliation. The primary “means” by which the priest aims to manifest Christ are preaching, the administration of the sacraments, the performance of the liturgy, and the personal “witness” of a holy life. The “expertise” the priest will have, with respect to the administration of the sacraments – in particular, the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation – will be not simply a matter of knowing how to perform them correctly but it will be, moreover, a matter of preparing others to receive the sacraments, with due understanding, so that they


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experience them, properly, as mediating the grace of God, renewing and enriching their relationship with God. This is as much a matter of tact, insight, sensitivity to the attitudes and feelings of others, as it is a matter of “theological” knowledge (of what the sacraments are, and what they mean), though it requires theological knowledge. The priest can exert a significant influence on the life of his parish by virtue of who he is – through his personal virtues, his prayer life, his modelling of what a Christian should be. 3.) Problem solving. The work of a larger parish consists of a number of different “streams” of activity, led by a number of people, and the priest must ensure that those different streams of activity are harmonizing, and that they are all moving towards, and in accord with, a clear “ideal” for the future of the parish. He will need to ensure that the leaders of those streams of activity are competent, and that their aims, for their areas of responsibility, are in accord with his overall aims for the parish. The priest will be called upon to provide counsel to his parishioners, assisting them in their efforts to apply the Gospel to their lives. The priest is required to administer the sacraments, and sometimes this ministry can create unpredictable workloads (unexpected funerals, baptisms, visits to the sick, and the like) requiring that the priest figure out appropriate ways of fulfilling his obligations, and of prioritizing his most important obligations. 4.) Instigating and managing change. The priest should be able to ensure that he has the right “team” around him, that he might realize his aspirations for “how things should happen” in the parish. He should have scope to initiate new areas of activity – whether charitable enterprises, or devotional groups, or forms of evangelical “outreach” – within the constraints of the parish budget. Some change initiatives are instigated by the bishop, or even by Rome, and with regard to these, the priest is accountable for working out how to implement them, in his particular parish, and is accountable for implementing them successfully. There are certain things, evidently, that the priest cannot alter in any way – the doctrines of the faith, the essential forms of the liturgy, the forms of the sacraments. Yet there is much, with regard to “the ways things are done” in a parish that the priest can change. In this, he will be working with, and through, other leaders in the parish, some of them volunteers, and he will – if he is to be effective – make use of persuasion and influence, to instigate change.

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5.) Harnessing internal networks. The priest will form contacts with, and, where appropriate, work with, other priests in the area, to discuss various ways in which they can collaborate. Where there is a school associated with the parish, the priest will work with, advise, influence leaders at the school, on matters pertaining to education in the faith. He will liaise with key figures in the team of the bishop – who might have staff responsible for diocese-wide areas of activity, such as youth work, or the New Evangelization, and so on. Through his relationships with parishioners, he might form contacts with a variety of lay organizations, or movements, operating in his parish. He might attempt to contact leaders of lay organizations or movements operating in his parish. He might have orders of monks or nuns in his parish, “religious” communities, and, if so, he will attempt to form good relationships with these communities, and involve them in the life of his parish in various ways: the “religious” witness powerfully to the Gospel in the way they live; a parish priest will want his parishioners to encounter that witness. If a school is associated with the parish, he will form relationships – of advice, influence, and the like – with the leaders of the school. 6.) Harnessing external networks. The priest will form contacts with, and, where appropriate, work with, other organizations in the community that might have aims overlapping with those of the parish, or that might have an impact on the life of the parish – leaders of charitable organizations, or local governmental bodies. 7.) Timeframe. The work of the priest should be reviewed by his bishop, in some depth, each year – with the bishop looking, in particular, for indications of progress towards the “ideal” of the parish which the priest has articulated. The bishop should be able to consult with parishioners, and other parish leaders, in forming his assessment. It might take more than a year for some indications of progress to manifest themselves, and this should be taken into account. (Priests are often moved on, from parish to parish, every few years; and it is worth considering whether this is always appropriate, given the aims that some priests might have for their parishes: priests with aims that will take many years to realize should – provided that everything seems to be moving towards the right outcome – be given the time they need to do their work. They should, equally, attempt to work with lay leaders in the parish, and to delegate responsibilities to them, so that those lay leaders can continue projects initiated by the priest, and approved by the bishop, if the priest is moved on.)


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5. The Training, Support and Development of Priests The role of a parish priest is demanding – requiring a range of abilities, and involving weighty responsibilities. Priests will differ in their interpretation of how to fulfil the requirements of the role, and in their aptitudes for the different aspects of the role. It is a role centred on prayer, and on a deep personal relationship to Jesus Christ; and it is a role involving considerable leadership – whether that be a matter of advising parishioners directly, or of leading other leaders within the parish, such as other clergy, or lay leaders of parish programmes, or the like. The leadership responsibilities associated with the role will vary considerably from parish to parish: the priest of a small, rural parish, without much administrative support, has a leadership task differing from that of the priest of a large urban parish, with thousands of parishioners, and a large “team” of other leaders to direct, motivate, and support. The training and preparation that priests receive is fairly well established. It involves education in philosophy, theology, Scripture, canon law and liturgy and homiletics; and the programme of courses usually takes about seven years to complete. Seminarians are increasingly being given opportunities to “assist” parish priests, residing for a time in parishes, so that they might have some “practical” experience as a part of their training. A priest should emerge from his training with a solid understanding of the teaching of the church, enabling him to be a resident “authority” in his parish on such matters. A priest should, moreover, receive a thorough spiritual formation, acquiring habits of personal prayer, centred on a deep relationship with Christ. What is less evident, in the training that priests typically receive, is a due preparation for the task of leadership, and for the task of managing people, assets, and a “flow” of ongoing administrative tasks. Priests participate in the three offices of Christ – as prophet, priest, and king or shepherd – and it seems that, while they are given some preparation for their prophetic and priestly responsibilities, they are given much less preparation for their “shepherdly” responsibilities. Many of those who feel a call to the priesthood feel a call to a life of devotion to Christ, prayer, and of personal service to others. Some, on being thrown into the whirl of parish life, feel that, having been called to a life of spirituality, they are then consigned to the life of a small business owner. Some of the stresses experienced by priests, in this respect, could be reduced if they were better equipped, in their training, for the administrative tasks that are involved, inescapably, in running a parish. (Some of those stresses could, moreover, be reduced if the administrative machinery of the dioceses to which parishes belong were simplified.) James Mallon comments on the lack of training

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that most priests receive – for administrative tasks, and for leadership – in Divine Renovation. I was charged with leading a team of eight people, for a total of just over six full-time positions. It was at this point that I realized I did not know how to do it. No one had ever trained me for this kind of situation. I knew nothing about working with a team or how to lead a team. In addition, I had been charged by the bishop to bring … two very different parishes together to become one parish. I quickly realized that if I were ever going to be able to lead such a change with such a team, I needed to learn how to lead … I turned too the only source of knowledge of Church leadership I could find at the time, and that was from the world of Evangelical Protestantism, and the writings of Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church … I began to see clearly that much could be learned from the human art of leadership and that being spiritual was not enough to bring about the renewal of my parish.36

Mallon observes that “everyone has some degree of leadership ability”, that while “most priests have some natural leadership ability”, “a weak leader will rely on his title or office or official authority”, and “this type of leadership in today’s Church will not work.”37 The leadership expert Morgan McCall once remarked that “leaders are both born and made but mostly made”. Priests need some understanding of financial management, though they need not be expert in this, particularly as they can call on the advice of laypeople with more expertise in these matters; but they do need a solid preparation for leadership – including those aspects of leadership that involve managing a team (such things as assessment, coaching, grievance handling, and guiding the personal development of team members). One promising sign, in this respect, is that the Catholic University of America has recently created a Master of Science in Ecclesiastical Administration and Management (M.E.A.M), which seeks to enable priests to “take the best practices of secular management and businesses and apply them to … church, diocesan and parish life”, and which focuses on “the transparent management of financial resources”, “the good organization of human resources” and “effective communication strategies”, offering modules on “Strategic and Operational Leadership”, “Transparency and the Spirit of Enterprise”, “Ecclesial Budgeting, Accounting and Asset Maintenance”, “Financial Reporting, Controlling and Asset Management”, “Stewardship: Parish Fundraising, Capital Campaigns and Project Management”, “Communication strategies in the Digital Age, Information Technology and Outreach”, “Crisis Management and Accountability to the 36 37

James Mallon, Divine Renovation, 235–236. James Mallon, Divine Renovation, 235.


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Faithful”.38 Such courses address a significant “gap” in the training of priests, and are to be welcomed; but it is to be hoped that some of the elements of such courses become part of the standard training of priests. It is notable, moreover, that not many priests are comfortable with identifying “strategic” issues of long-term change, and with planning the appropriate steps towards realizing long-term change. The lack of preparation for leadership at the parish level becomes even more significant for those priests who will go on to become bishops. If a culture of excellent leadership is developed at the parish level, if priests are formed to become leaders, with their performance as leaders being assessed, then this not only provides a preparation for leadership at the diocesan level, but it becomes possible to assess the leadership performance of priests, when attempting to identify which priests have the potential to become bishops. Formal training – like that offered in the M.E.A.M. course – is useful, but what is of most importance, in the process by which leaders are “made”, is experience. If leaders are formed by experience, that need not mean that the necessary experience should be acquired at random. Well run organizations give considerable thought to how they can orchestrate a series of learning experiences for their leaders, identifying the strengths which individuals need to develop, and the kinds of experiences that should enable them to develop these strengths. Within any Catholic diocese, there will be a variety of parishes, of different kinds and sizes, presenting the priests who are responsible for leading them with a range of challenges. It would be possible for the teams running dioceses to identify the challenges, and learning opportunities, associated with the leadership of different parishes, and to identify which priests would be most suited to, and who would most benefit from, taking up those challenges. Above all, though, if the challenges that priests experience are to be beneficial to them, those priests need to be properly supported, by experienced leaders, who can coach and advise them. Evelyn Whitehead observed, decades ago, that there is “no better way to help priests grow professionally than to provide them with a competent supervisor or mentor who will evaluate with them their potential, their performance and the effectiveness of their work.”39 The most important source of support and advice for priests must be the bishop; but other forms of support can be established as well: experienced older priests, with a strong record of leadership, could be formally assigned as mentors to younger priests, and could be given the responsibility to provide support 38 .html 39 Evelyn E. Whitehead, ‘Accountability in Priesthood’, in D. J. Goergen, ed., Being a Priest Today (Liturgical Press, 1992)

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and counsel. At present, assistant priests often receive, or are expected to receive, mentoring and support from the parish priests in the parishes to which they are assigned; but too often it seems that a priest, on taking up a parish, does so without having structures of support in place around him. Christopher Fallon recently made an intensive study of the experience of priests in a UK diocese. One theme that emerged clearly from his study was that many priests feel that they do not get sufficient support: the priests Fallon interviewed “were almost unanimous in feeling the lack of any organised system of support and accountability.” One priest, asked about “structures of support and accountability”, remarked “well, there aren’t any really. Only what you make for yourself and no-one makes you accountable for anything unless you really screw up.” Another priest remarked that “we have to support each other but I am not sure we get support from above. We are really accountable to ourselves at the end of the day.” A priest, asked whether he had a close relationship with his superior, remarked “I don’t have one”. As to the appointment of priests, one priest observed that “I am not convinced there is any real thought in putting the right person in the right place”. Asked about collaborative processes for decision making, a priest observed that “collaborative decision making is a misnomer; it is more collaborative decision seeking perhaps but not decision making.”40 Too often, it seems, priests are left to themselves – unless, that is, they “screw up”. Some of the priests, formed by these experiences, will eventually become bishops; the experiences that so many priests have – of being assigned parishes, without a clear “brief”, and without much support – do not provide a proper formation for the tasks of supporting and mentoring others. As priests need support “from above”, so dioceses need to be structured in such a way that the bishops responsible for them are in a position in which they can offer this support. In a diocese containing hundreds of parishes, the bishops simply cannot form the relationships with priests that are necessary, if they are to support, advise, and direct those priests. A number of recent studies of the experience of priests have stressed the need for priests to have a better practical preparation for the tasks of leading a parish. Christopher Fallon makes a number of recommendations. Among his recommendations are the proposals that dioceses should:

40 Christopher Fallon, Who Do We Think We Are?: How Catholic Priests Understand Themselves Today (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015), 130–131.


Chapter 2 1.) Build on the existing system of ongoing formation for priests to provide specific formation in skills for a collaborative ministry, including training in the recruitment, motivation, management and retention of volunteers and in the processes of collaborative decision making 2.) Improve the systems of support and accountability for priests, including clear guidelines as to what is expected of them 3.) Encourage the involvement of laypeople in ministry and administration, including increasing the number of lay pastoral workers employed in pastoral areas.41

In 2012, at a meeting of Pastoral Area Leaders, or Deans, Fallon made five proposals, to be brought to the Council of Priests. 1.) The appointment of a Vicar for Clergy, whose responsibilities would include pastoral care of the active clergy; 2.) the establishment of an appointments board; 3.) The appointment of individual diocesan mentors for seminarians (in addition to their seminary-based supervisors) who will begin the mentoring relationship at the start of the long parish placement and will continue to act as mentors during the diaconal period and during the first five years of priesthood 4.) The reintroduction into the visitation process of a formal interview between the visiting bishop and each priest; and 5.) The revival of the confidential self-appraisal process which was developed in the 1990s by the Council of Priests, or an equivalent process.42 All of these proposals are sensible; but what is most striking is that they should need to be made at all – that “formal interviews” and “confidential self-appraisal” processes need to be established, or, indeed – more than that – that they need to be re-established, having been established almost thirty years ago, only to fall into disuse. One concern that is sometimes expressed, about bringing various forms of “leadership development” into the formation of parish priests, is that doing so might encourage a “careerist” mentality, in which priests set out to acquire power and status. A system designed to support, and to develop priests, so that they might be effective leaders in their parishes would be to the benefit, not of careerists, but of any priest wishing to improve in his “craft”. One important part of such a system is that it should enable priests and bishops to form closer relationships (and bishops can be trained to identify those with 41 42

Fallon, Who Do We Think We Are?, 207. Fallon, Who Do We Think We Are?,209.

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“careerist” attitudes). The aim of such a system would be, ultimately, to assist the bishops in getting to know their priests, in identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and in thinking through how to develop them, in ways that would further the “mission” of the diocese as a whole. One way of curtailing the influence of careerists is to ensure that those in authority have a good knowledge of those they lead, so that they are aware – if called on to identify potential successors – of those who are competent, rightly disposed, and truly dedicated to the mission of the church. The church owes it to all those it serves to develop the talents and capacities of its priests. Priests who aim at power and status are, evidently, not worthy of a position in the hierarchy; but priests who have a talent for leadership may, reasonably enough, have a desire to exercise that talent, in the service of the church, and its mission, and, for some, that would mean promotion to a position of authority. Such inclinations are not, in themselves, blameworthy; problems arise only where individuals seek to make of the church an instrument of their own aggrandizement. There is no doubt, though, that the church needs competent leaders, and the desire to serve as such, taking on the burdens of leadership out of a desire to further the mission of the church, should not be stigmatized.

6. Deans The term “dean” derives from the Latin “decanus”, a “leader of ten” (originally ten monks in a monastery). The term itself is not, it seems, used universally across different churches in the Catholic communion. The title “Pastoral Area Leaders” is used in some dioceses. Canon 374 of the Code of Canon Law grants to bishops the right to join together several neighbouring parishes into special groups, such as vicariates forane or deaneries. Canon 555 defines the duties of a dean. The dean is: 1.1. to promote and coordinate common pastoral action in the vicariate; 1.2. to see that the clerics of his district lead a life befitting their state, and discharge their obligations carefully 1.3. to ensure that religious functions are celebrated according to the provisions of the sacred liturgy; that the elegance and neatness of the churches and sacred furnishings are properly maintained, particularly in regard to the celebration of the Eucharist and the custody of the blessed Sacrament; that the parish registers are correctly entered and duly safeguarded; that ecclesiastical goods are carefully administered; finally, that the parochial house is looked after with care… 2.1 to encourage the clergy, in accordance with the provisions of particular law, to attend at the prescribed time lectures and theological meetings or conferences…


Chapter 2 2.2 to see to it that spiritual assistance is available to the priests of his district, and he is to show a particular solicitude for those who are in difficult circumstances or are troubled by problems. 2.3 … to ensure that [priests of the district who are seriously ill] do not lack spiritual and material help. When they die, he is to ensure that their funerals are worthily celebrated. Moreover, should any of them fall ill or die, he is to see to it that books, documents, sacred furnishings and other items belonging to the Church are not lost or removed. 2.4 … to visit the parishes of his district in accordance with the arrangement made by the diocesan Bishop.43

The role of the dean is, then, about ensuring that discipline is maintained amongst priests – in matters of life, of liturgy, and of theological study – and about providing various forms of support for priests – whether “spiritual” or “material”. The dean does not exercise formal authority over the priests of a district. The role is, as such, distinct from that of the “episcopal vicar” (which it otherwise very much resembles – and it is worth noting that the authority of the “episcopal vicar”, within dioceses, does not often seem to be strongly felt). The role of the dean is a primus inter pares facilitating role, supervising a group of parishes on behalf of a bishop. It usually has visitation responsibilities and is, as such, akin to an auditing role, supporting the bishop. If the role of the bishop were configured in such a way as to facilitate bishops in having more direct oversight of parish priests, then some of the “oversight” functions of deans would be taken over by bishops, and a question would arise as to whether the role of the dean would still be needed. It is worth noting, too, that deans do not always seem to be effective “presences” in the lives of parish priests. Some of the priests I interviewed informed me that they never encountered their deans. Even if, though, bishops were exercising a more direct oversight of their parish priests, there could still be a role for deans in providing various forms of support and counsel for parish priests. Deans could provide forms of mentoring, and counsel, for the priests in their areas. (For more on this, see Chapter 3, Section 4). If they were to take on this kind of “support” role, they should be chosen from among the more experienced, effective priests – from amongst those who would have some title to be regarded as “pastoral experts”. They could, as such, be tasked with ensuring that the priests in their area do not lack “spiritual and material help”; and they could, equally, 43 Code of Canon Law, Part 2, Section 2, Title 3: The Internal Ordering of Particular Churches (Cann.460–572) Chapter VII Vicars Foraine.

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be tasked with providing “professional help” to those priests. In having such a role, they could provide vital assistance to the bishop, helping him to fulfil his responsibilities to cultivate “talent”, and to develop the ministry of the priests in his diocese; and they could assist the bishop in identifying appropriate “challenges” – suitable parish assignments – for the priests in his diocese (though the right to determine who would be assigned where should be reserved to the bishop). It is worth considering, further, whether the Deanery might be developed, more, into a focal point for priestly “community” – whether more opportunities for communal life, communal support (consisting even in such simple things as regular communal meals) might be provided for priests, via Deaneries. Alongside such titles as “dean”, there are other titles in use amongst priests – such as “Monsignor” – which can cause a certain confusion as to the “authority” associated with them. Whereas there are clear responsibilities associated with the “dean” title (even if, in practice, these responsibilities are not always acted upon with the vigour one would hope for), this is less the case for some of the other priestly titles. These titles have more of an honorific function. There were, at one stage, fourteen classes of Monsignor. Pope Paul VI reduced the number of classes to three; and Pope Francis appears to be using only one (“Chaplain to His Holiness”), and conferring the title only on priests over 65. There are pros and cons, of course, with regard to the use of honorific titles. Such titles can be a way of recognizing distinguished service; but they can, equally, make for a preoccupation with status which is not beneficial. While it might be worthwhile retaining some, purely honorific titles in the church, it would be worth reviewing those that currently exist, simplifying them, and clarifying the “qualifications” that an individual would need to have to merit being considered for such a title.

7. Conclusion Priests are central to the life of the church. They lead parishes, which are the “spiritual homes” of most Catholics. They are often very influential in the spiritual lives of laypeople (with good priests providing great encouragement and consolation for laypeople, and bad priests causing some to leave their parishes, and even to question their faith). They are, equally, the group from which bishops are selected; so the lack of training they receive in leadership and administration has repercussions beyond the “parish” level (and while the pioneering work of priests such as Christopher Fallon and James Mallon points to ways in which this need for “leadership development” can be met, there is clearly much to be done in this area).


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There are many fine, devoted parish priests, who give generously of themselves to the mission of the church; and the church scandals of recent years have, clearly, been demoralising for some. In his letter to priests in 2019, Pope Francis acknowledged that many priests “have shared with [him] their outrage at what happened and their frustration that ‘for all their hard work, they have to face the damage that was done, the suspicion and uncertainty to which it has given rise, and the doubts, fears and disheartenment felt by more than a few’”, declaring, too, that he had been “comforted by my meetings with pastors who recognize and share the pain and suffering of the victims and of the People of God, and have tried to find words and actions capable of inspiring hope”; and he expresses the hope that “these present times of ecclesial purification will make us more joyful and humble, and prove, in the not distant future, very fruitful.”44 To help the ministry of priests in the church become more “fruitful”, priests must receive more support – in how they are trained and prepared for their responsibilities, and in the counsel and direction they receive from bishops (and in the mentoring they might receive from their more senior, experienced colleagues); and they need support through the creation of structures that require them to call on the expertise of lay collaborators, in addressing their pastoral challenges. There can always be new life in the church. Pope Francis declares, in Gaudete and Exsultate that it is a mistake to think “that there is no point in trying to change things, that there is nothing we can do, because this is the way things have always been and yet we always manage to survive. By force of habit we no longer stand up to evil. We “let things be”, or as others have decided they ought to be. Yet let us allow the Lord to rouse us from our torpor, to free us from our inertia. Let us rethink our usual way of doing things; let us open our eyes and ears, and above all our hearts, so as not to be complacent about things as they are, but unsettled by the living and effective word of the risen Lord.”45


Letter of Pope Francis to Priests, on the 160th anniversary of the death of the holy Cure of Ars, St John Vianney”, August 2019. 45 Gaudete and Exsultate, par. 137. _AND_PASSION


“There is no process for training bishops. A new bishop has about a month between notification of his appointment and his ordination ceremony in which to prepare himself. A month is about two years short of the minimum time required.” —Cardinal Thomas Williams1

1. The Bishop The Second Vatican Council sought, among other things, to proclaim a vision of the nature of the church and a vision of the nature of the role of the bishop. If the First Vatican Council was, in many ways, about defining the role and authority of the pope, the Second Vatican Council was about defining the role and authority of the bishop – elucidating that role in the context of an account of the whole church as the “sacrament” of Christ. Lumen Gentium (1964) declares that “in the person of the bishops … assisted by the priests, the Lord Jesus Christ, supreme high priest, is present in the midst of believers.”2 The fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred by episcopal consecration, and both in the liturgical tradition of the church and in the language of the Fathers of the church it is called the high priesthood, the summit of the sacred ministry. Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, the offices also of teaching and ruling, which, however, of their very nature can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college. Tradition, which is expressed especially in the liturgical rites and in the customs of both the eastern and western church, makes it abundantly clear that, through the impositions of hands and the words of consecration, the grace of the holy 1 Thomas Cardinal Williams, A Kiwi Cardinal’s Chronicles: Memoirs of Cardinal Thomas Williams, D.D. ONZ Archbishop Emeritus of Wellington (Laurie Williams: 2014), 80. 2 Lumen Gentium, par. 21, in Vatican II: The Basic Sixteen Documents ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996), 28.


Chapter 3 Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such a way that bishops, eminently and visibly, take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd and priest, and act in his person. It is for bishops to admit newly elected members into the episcopal body by means of the sacrament of Orders.3

The “order of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, and in it the apostolic college is perpetuated”, but that “college … has no authority … other than the authority which it is acknowledged to have in union with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head, his primatial authority over everyone, pastors or faithful, remaining intact.”4 The “collegial authority” of the bishops is expressed preeminently in ecumenical councils; but “there never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least accepted as such by Peter’s successor.”5 Where the collegiality of the bishops is expressed, then there is an expression of the (infallible) church: “the infallibility promised to the church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme teaching office.”6 The role of the bishop is set out in more detail in Christus Dominus (1965). “Individual bishops to whose charge particular dioceses are committed, under the authority of the supreme pontiff, care for their flocks in the name of God, as their proper, ordinary and immediate pastors, teaching, sanctifying and governing them.”7 Bishops “enjoy as of right in the dioceses assigned to them all ordinary, special and immediate power which is necessary for the exercise of their pastoral office, but always without prejudice to the Roman pontiff’s right, by virtue of his office, to reserve certain matters to himself or to some other authority.” Hence, “individual diocesan bishops have the power to dispense from the general law of the church in particular cases those faithful over whom they normally exercise authority. It must, however, be to their spiritual benefit and may not cover a matter which has been specially reserved to the supreme authority of the church.”8 One of the “principal duties” of bishops is “to proclaim to humanity the gospel of Christ”9 and they should aim to “show that worldly things and human institutions are ordered, according to the plan 3

Lumen Gentium, par. 21, 29. Lumen Gentium, par. 22, 30 5 Lumen Gentium, par. 22, 31. 6 Lumen Gentium, par. 25, 36. 7 Christus Dominus, par. 11, in Vatican II: The Basic Sixteen Documents ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996), 289. 8 Christus Dominus, par. 8, 287. 9 Christus Dominus, par. 12, 289. 4

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of God the Creator, towards the salvation of humanity, and that they can therefore make no small contribution to the building up of the body of Christ.”10 They should “present Christ’s teaching in a manner relevant to the needs of the times.”11 They should “be especially concerned about catechetical instruction”.12 Since “their task is to make people perfect, bishops should be zealous in promoting the holiness of their clergy, religious and laity according to the vocation of each individual, remembering that they themselves are obliged to give an example of sanctity in charity, humility and simplicity of life.”13 They should “be with the people as those who serve, as good shepherds who know their sheep and whose sheep know them.”14 Their “priests, who assume a part of their duties and concerns, and who give themselves to them daily so zealously, should be the objects of their particular affection. They should regard them as sons and friends. They should always be ready to listen to them, in an atmosphere of mutual trust, thus facilitating the pastoral work of the entire diocese.”15 They “should encourage courses and arrange for special conferences for their priests from time to time.”16 They should make use of “social research” to “be able to provide for the welfare of the faithful as their individual circumstances demand.”17 They should encourage “various forms of the apostolate” – that is, work oriented towards the realisation of the mission of the church. “Close collaboration and the coordination of all the apostolic works under the direction of the bishop should be promoted in the diocese.”18 They should attend to the needs of those whose circumstances mean that they are not served by the parochial system, such as “migrants, exiles and refugees, sailors and airmen, itinerants and others of this kind.”19 Bishops “enjoy as of right full and perfect freedom and independence from all civil authority”, so it is “unlawful to obstruct them directly or indirectly in the exercise of their ecclesiastical office or to prevent them from communicating freely with the apostolic see and other ecclesiastical authorities or with their subjects.”20 10

Christus Dominus, par. 12, 289. Christus Dominus, par. 13, 290. 12 Christus Dominus, par. 14, 291. 13 Christus Dominus, par. 15, 292. 14 Christus Dominus, par. 16, 292. 15 Christus Dominus, par. 16, 293. 16 Christus Dominus, par. 16, 293. 17 Christus Dominus, par. 16, 293. 18 Christus Dominus, par. 17, 294. 19 Christus Dominus, par. 18, 295. 20 Christus Dominus, par. 19, 295. 11


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Avery Dulles provides a succinct account of the how the vision of the role of the bishop, presented in the Second Vatican Council, implies a wide range of concrete responsibilities. “The Council exalted the episcopacy to an unprecedented peak of power and responsibility … [A bishop is expected to be] at once the chief teacher, the leading mystagogue, and the principal administrator for millions of Catholics, responsible for a huge array of parishes, schools, universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations. Bishops are also expected to be in constant consultation with pastoral councils and senates of priests. Within the diocese the bishop holds the fullness of legislative, judicial, and executive power. In addition to their tasks within their respective dioceses, bishops are regularly engaged in the deliberations and decisions of the national episcopal conference to which they belong and in some cases have assignments from one or more of its multiple committees. A number of them are also involved in the government of the universal Church. They occasionally serve on congregations of the Holy See, and take part in synods of bishops.”21

2. Accountabilities of the Bishop 1.) Purpose. The core purpose of the role of the bishop is to continue the work of Christ in the world – to be an instrument of the saving work of Christ as priest, prophet and king, sustaining the sacramental life by which the presence and work of Christ is carried on. The bishop has the “fullness of priesthood”; he can administer all the sacraments of the church, and can, as such, ordain priests, and, in communion with the other bishops, he can consecrate bishops. Bishops ordinarily administer confirmations (though they can grant to priests the right to administer them). The bishop is, as such, a crucial “source” for ecclesial life, and growth; and he has primary responsibility for the particular diocese with which he is entrusted. He is, himself, a pastor: celebrating Mass, and preaching. The bishop, in communion with the “college” of bishops, and the pope, is a successor to “the twelve”, the apostles chosen by Christ to proclaim and to work towards the Kingdom; he exercises authority over his diocese; and, in communion with the college of bishops, he partakes of supreme authority over the church as a whole. The bishop, then, is charged with “edifying” and “sanctifying”: with “feeding” those whom Christ has called to work towards the Kingdom. He must “feed” the “sheep”. He must ensure that, in his diocese, the word of God is proclaimed, the liturgy performed to the glory 21 Avery Dulles, “True and False Reform”, First Things August 2003.

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of God, and the sacraments rightly administered, and he is obliged to exercise a discerning and judging (or “shepherding”) role, in relation to all the public initiatives and works, undertaken by those within his diocese, which pertain to the proclamation of the word of God, and the sharing of the life of the Kingdom: encouraging, fostering and, where necessary, offering direction to, those works which seem, to him, to be “of the Spirit” (and in making these judgements, he must of course call on the counsel of others). Above all, though, his primary means of “feeding” the “sheep” consists in the priests who are his delegates and colleagues. He must ensure that his priests are properly prepared, equipped and supported, in the work that they undertake; he must, looking to the future, ensure that enough priests are being trained and readied to undertake that work; he must provide counsel and direction to the priests in his diocese, and assure himself that they are fulfilling their duties. 2.) Resources. The bishop is accountable for a diocese, containing a number of parishes of varying size. He is accountable for the priests who “run” those parishes. He has the discretion to merge parishes, where appropriate. (There seems to be very little consistency, throughout the church, in the sizes of parishes and of dioceses; and there is very little consistency in the approaches taken by different bishops to how or why parishes could or should be amalgamated.) A bishop is accountable for the clergy in his diocese – for the training of new priests, for the support and development of current priests. This means that he is responsible for developing the “talent” within his diocese, and he should be able to identify those priests who have the potential to become future bishops, and to plan out the “learning experiences” – the assignments – that will enable those priests to develop their capabilities. The bishop is responsible, equally, for disciplining those priests who are not performing well in their parochial tasks, or who are not living in accordance with their priestly vocation. It is noted in Christus Dominus that “the size of the diocesan territory and the number of its inhabitants should as a general rule be such that one the one hand the bishop himself, assisted perhaps by others, is able to duly exercise his pontifical functions and carry out his pastoral visitations in it”; and the bishop “should also be in a position to control and coordinate effectively all the apostolic activities in his diocese, and especially to know his priests and all the religious and lay people who are involved in diocesan activities.”22 Determinations of the proper size of dioceses should, according to Christus 22

Christus Dominus, par. 23.2, 298


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Dominus, be made by “the competent episcopal conferences.” One approach to the question of the appropriate “size” of dioceses is to think through what sort of “size” of diocese allows for bishops to form the relationships with their priests that would enable them to fulfil their responsibilities to their priests (and to those to whom those priests minister): the bishop needs to be “available” to his priests, to advise, counsel, support and direct them; he needs to get to know his priests – “to ensure an increasingly effective apostolate, the bishop should” according to Christus Dominus, “be willing to engage in dialogue with his priests, individually and collectively, not merely occasionally but if possible, regularly”;23 and a bishop cannot form these relationships if he is responsible for hundreds of priests. Some dioceses – in part to address this issue – have “assistant” or “auxiliary” or “area” bishops. This, in itself, makes for a certain blurriness of accountability, since bishops are not truly accountable for “auxiliary” bishops. At present, bishops are required, by canon law, to ensure that each of the parishes in their dioceses are visited every five years; but they are not required to undertake these visits personally. Canon 396.1 states that the bishop “is bound to visit his diocese in whole or in part each year, so that at least every five years he will have visited the whole diocese, either personally or, if he is lawfully impeded, through the coadjutor or auxiliary Bishop, the Vicar General, an Episcopal Vicar or some other priest.” Canon law allows for a situation, then, in which a parish priest is never visited by his bishop (but may be visited by a representative of the bishop every five years). What is more, it is not a requirement of a “visitation” that it involve a formal interview between the visitor and the incumbent parish priest.24 This is not a state of affairs that encourages a close “working relationship” between a bishop and his priests. Of course, bishops are not required to limit their interaction with their priests to the formal requirements of canon law; and some bishops seem to work more closely with their priests than others. Yet it would clearly be better if bishops were expected to establish close and supportive relationships with their priests, and if they were encouraged to see the forming of such relationships as a vital, central aspect of their role. The bishop is responsible for financial matters in the diocese. He is responsible for physical assets, properties, and the like. He is, equally, 23

Christus Dominus, par. 28, 302. It is telling that, among the proposals brought by Christopher Fallon to the Liverpool Archdiocesan Council of Priests in 2012, there was the recommendation that there should be a “reintroduction into the visitation process of a formal interview between the visiting bishop and the priest.” Christopher Fallon, Who Do We Think We Are?: How Catholic Priests Understand Themselves Today (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015), 209. 24

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responsible for ensuring that those finances, assets and properties are used in accordance with the primary “mission” of the church, and he must take a view on what the best use of those finances, assets and properties, at the present time, would be. The bishop should not take decisions, with regard to these matters, “in isolation”. (In the U.S. it is not uncommon for all diocesan property to be in the name of the bishop; this should be changed.) There should be financial disciplines in place throughout the church; one “instrument” of discipline might be a centralized “finance department”, overseeing, and advising, dioceses worldwide; another instrument of discipline in such matters might be a diocesan council: just as it would make sense for the “parish” or “pastoral” councils to have something more than a “consultative vote” in financial decisions (so that a lay chair of the council could be a co-signatory with the parish priest on financial reports, investments, and on the parish plan) so, at the diocesan level, the diocesan council – comprising clergy and laity of the diocese – should have more than a “consultative vote” in some financial decisions, and a (properly qualified) lay financial officer should be a co-signatory on financial reports, investments, and the diocesan plan). Christus Dominus declares that bishops should “be with the people as those who serve, as good shepherds who know their sheep and whose sheep know them.”25 This is a challenge for bishops – particularly those in very large dioceses. Bishops can be “with the people” in performing their duties as pastors – preaching, administering the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. They should, perhaps, carry out these duties at the different parishes in their dioceses, as a part of their visits to those parishes. They should try to take every opportunity to know something of the mood and feelings of “the people”. (Pilgrimages, where they can be together with “the people” of the diocese in a (relatively) informal way, can afford opportunities like this.) One area in which bishops need to achieve a balance is that, while they need to “be with the people”, time and energy devoted to “the people” cannot detract from the time and energy they need to devote to their priests, who are, after all, their main “delegates” to “the people”. 3.) Problem solving. The most important task for the bishop is to ensure that the priests in his diocese are competent, virtuous, and properly supported. He must, equally, ensure that the diocesan staff, generally, are competent, and that they receive the support and training they need to carry out their duties effectively. His most important duties, however, are his pastoral duties, and his energy should, accordingly, be focused on his “pastoral” 25

Christus Dominus, par. 16, 292.


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team, above all (though not exclusively) his priests; he must help his priests to develop as priests; he must sustain and energize the pastoral workers in the diocese, giving himself opportunities to get to know as many of them as possible. He must “set the tone” for the pastoral efforts in the diocese – setting out what the priorities for those efforts should be, and ascertaining what sorts of pastoral efforts are likely to be most beneficial. His own church might be a model for some of these initiatives. He must, equally, ascertain how the diocese can best contribute to society, and form a view on what sort of evangelizing activity, or what forms of social action, are most appropriate, encouraging and fostering those activities that seem most effective. In making these decisions, he must have a view of the life, and inner dynamics, of the diocese as a whole, and of its encounter with the wider world, and he must have a sense of which activities, in the diocese, seem to be most “fruitful”. In the sense he forms of the life of the diocese, and of its encounters with its surrounding culture (or cultures), he might have useful insights into the relationship of the church, generally, with that culture (or those cultures) – insights that might be of use to the universal church. These would be insights worth sharing with the wider church – with his fellow bishops, particularly. He might, then, within the wider church, function as an “expert” of sorts on certain sorts of pastoral challenges that are particularly important in his diocese, and might contribute to the thinking of the wider church on how to address those sorts of challenges. 4.) Instigating and managing change. Bishops, in leading their dioceses, need to have scope to make certain changes, where they judge these to be needed. Bishops already have scope to amalgamate parishes, where they feel this is necessary. (Often enough, it must be admitted, this happens as a response to declining church attendance, rather than as a means of stimulating something new.) While bishops do not have scope to change matters of “universal” doctrine, they need to determine how doctrine is to be presented, and proclaimed, in their dioceses. They need, moreover, to think about whether forms of ministry, additional to, and alongside, the ministry provided by the “parish” system, need to be developed within their dioceses. How can the Gospel be presented to all those who live within the territory of the diocese – churchgoers and non-churchgoers, believers and non-believers alike? What new forms of evangelization could be tried out, to “reach” those who may not have had much opportunity of encountering the Gospel? In supporting new initiatives, the bishops may be required to call upon the funds of the diocese. They may, equally, need to work with, to inspire, and to secure the commitment of volunteers.

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5.) Harnessing internal networks. Bishops need to collaborate with a number of other people – their fellow bishops, particularly (and episcopal conferences are a useful support for such collaboration) but, equally, anyone, within the dioceses for which they are responsible, who is engaged with them in presenting and living out the Gospel. They should establish contacts with lay pastoral ministers, to advise them, and to receive advice from them, on pastoral challenges. They should always be “on the look out” for new ideas for ministry and for evangelization to encourage and to promote in their dioceses; and they should aim to foster relationships with those who have expertise that could be of benefit to the life of the diocese. They should take the lead in certain types of fundraising – encouraging donations to support diocesan projects. (And they could encourage similar efforts on the part of the priests in their dioceses.) 6.) Harnessing external networks. Bishops represent the church to the wider world – they are key spokesmen (and it would be appropriate, therefore, for them to receive training in how to present themselves to the media). They need to work with local political figures, and in some cases, with national political figures. They need to work with the leaders of local community services. In these relationships, they should seek to ascertain how the church might work with these leaders, or agencies, in the service of the common good (and to share with those leaders, or agencies, the Catholic vision of the common good, seeking to enlist their support for that vision). They have a responsibility, equally, to work with representatives of other Christian traditions, and other religions, on matters of common interest. 7.) Timeframe. One would expect bishops to be planning at least a couple of years ahead. (Not all that many bishops, unfortunately, seem to develop formal “work plans” for their dioceses.) They should plan in a way that is informed by a diagnosis of current trends in the life of the diocese, and by efforts to identify new challenges, and opportunities, that make certain changes expedient (so that their plan would involve a rationale for those changes, and an identification of the “steps” towards those changes that need to be taken).

3. How are Bishops Selected? The ways in which bishops have been chosen for office have varied through the centuries, and there are still variations across different churches or provinces within the Catholic communion. In the first centuries, local bishops were chosen by the people. In the fifth century, Pope Leo 1 (440–


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461) declared that no-one could become a bishop unless elected by the clergy, accepted by the people, and consecrated with the agreement of the bishops (the candidate of the clergy would be presented to the people who would make known their acceptance by acclamation). St Ambrose, in the fourth century, had been (rather against his will) made a bishop by popular acclamation. Over time, Rome came to be increasingly involved in appointments, particularly when it was necessary to judge between rival claimants to episcopal sees. Even when, in later centuries, the selection of bishops came to be reserved to “higher” authorities, Rome tended to be obliged (in practice) to share the power to appoint bishops with various “secular” authorities. It was only with the 1917 code of canon law that the final decision on the appointment of bishops was reserved to the Pope; and it was still felt necessary, in the Second Vatican Council, to insist that the right of appointing bishops belongs properly to the competent ecclesiastical authority, and to request all civil authorities, who might still have certain rights with respect to the election of bishops, to renounce voluntarily those rights. In most of the Eastern or Oriental Catholic churches (twenty three particular churches in communion with Rome, sometimes called the Uniate churches) synods (formal gatherings of bishops) preside over the appointments process; in some of these churches, there are those who take the view that the right of the pope to reject a candidate proposed by the synod is questionable. For the most part, though, it seems generally recognized at the present time, throughout the Catholic communion, certainly in Latin-rite churches, that the ultimate right to select bishops resides with the Pope. This right was reaffirmed in the 1983 code of canon law (canon 377.1). How that right is to be prudently exercised, however, is properly a matter for debate. It is a right that, evidently, the pope can exercise only through significant “consultation” with others. Some of the general principles informing the process by which bishops are chosen are set out in the 1983 code of canon law. For a priest to be a potential candidate to become a bishop, he must have been ordained at least five years previously; he must be over thirty five; he must have a licentiate or doctoral degree in Scripture, theology or canon law; and he must exhibit faith, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom and virtue. Canon 377.2 sets out the requirement that, every three years, the bishops of each province are to compile a (confidential) list of priests whom they consider fit to become bishops or “episcopabile”. In the case of a vacancy in a diocese, canon 377.3 requires that the bishops of the province in which that vacancy has arisen make their suggestions for candidates to the papal nuncio for that region (a kind of “ambassador” of Rome). The papal nuncio must consider the suggestions of the bishops, and may, equally, consider the views of

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others – priests and laity – who might have knowledge of potential candidates. Then, the papal nuncio must submit a list of three possible candidates to Rome, together with a report on those candidates. The Pope, in making an appointment, is not obliged to choose from the names on that list. Canon law, then, outlines a process for selecting bishops whereby the bishops of a province, based on their knowledge of the qualities of priests in their province, make recommendations, via a papal nuncio (who seeks input not only from the bishops but from various sources) to the Pope, who is responsible for making the final decision. How do these requirements of canon law tend to be interpreted? How does the process work in practice? In the Latin church, the papal nuncio tends to take the initiative, and to control the initial phase of the selection process. He will usually consult with bishops or administrators, in confidence, to develop an initial list of names. He will, sometimes with the help of the retiring bishop, sometimes (though not often) with a public consultation of the priests and people of the diocese, prepare a report on the diocese, setting out how the condition of the diocese makes a certain type of bishop, with certain qualities, appropriate. He is required to submit a list of three names (a “terna”) and to obtain information on each of the proposed candidates. In forming an assessment of each candidate, the nuncio might send a questionnaire, in confidence, to twenty or thirty people who know that candidate, the questions being concerned with the personal qualities of that candidate. According to Thomas Reese, the questions about leadership qualities on one such questionnaire indicate the need for a bishop with “a fatherly spirit … the ability to lead others, to dialogue, to stimulate and receive cooperation … to direct and engage in team work”, with an “appreciation for the role and the collaboration of religious and laity (both men and women)” and with a “spirit of ecumenism” and an inclination towards “the promotion and defence of human rights”.26 The nuncio then finalizes the list of names to be passed to Rome, and prepares a report, supported by a dossier, setting out findings and recommendations. The list and report of the papal nuncio does not, then, pass directly to the Pope. It passes to the Pope via several Vatican departments. 1.) The list passes to the Congregation for Bishops or to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. There a “staff person” reads the report of the nuncio, and the dossier, and “makes sure that the dossier is complete and that the candidates are viable”. If there is an issue, 26

Quoted in Thomas Reese, S.J., Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church (Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1996), 236.


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the staff person will inform a superior (“if there is insufficient information about the candidate’s orthodoxy, the nuncio would receive a letter from the prefect asking for more information”). 2.) The names of the candidates are sent to the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for the Clergy “to see if they have any information on them in their files”;27 the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life would be involved if the candidate is a religious; and the Congregation for Catholic Education would be involved if the candidate had served as a seminary professor or a rector. All these dicasteries would check their files to determine if any of the candidates are “troublemakers” or “disloyal.” 3.) Then the staff person compiling the “book” on the candidates makes a “recommendation”, and discusses the appointment in a staff meeting attended by the prefect, the secretary, and the undersecretary. Thomas Reese quotes a curial official who claims that, at this meeting, the staff person “does have an awful lot of influence due to the nature of his job and the fact that his superiors cannot be expected to study the whole issue as thoroughly as that person has to.”28 4.) Once, on the basis of that meeting, the Cardinal Prefect has approved that all is in order, the more senior members of the congregation processing the applications (either the Congregation for Bishops or the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) are involved in the process. A book is assembled, from the report of the nuncio, together with other documents that “staff” see fit to include, and is given to each member of the congregation in Rome (the book is usually “about an inch thick”). These congregations have about 50 members, appointed by the Pope. The same book is sent to the Pope via the Secretariat of State. The Congregation for Bishops meets about nineteen times a year; the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, about nine times a year. The “ordinary meetings”, at which discussions of the selection of bishops take place, take about three to four hours. The Congregation for Bishops is involved in the selection of about 150 bishops per year; the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, about 50 bishops. Not all the members of these congregations reside in Rome. At meetings of the Congregation of Bishops, usually twenty or twenty five members of present; at meetings of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, even fewer are present, as members tend to be more geographically dispersed (some “may make an effort to come” if they feel they have a particular concern in an appointment, 27 28

Reese, Inside the Vatican, 238. Reese, Inside the Vatican, 239.

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though they are typically informed of the agenda for a meeting only a few weeks in advance). 5.) A summary of the book is created by the “relator”, a cardinal who is chosen for this task by the undersecretary of the congregation. The relator is required to present an overview of the book to the other members of the congregation; and, moreover, he presents his own view on which candidate would be most suitable. 6.) The members of the congregation, after discussing the appointment, vote. These votes are recorded, and, at the next stage of the process, presented to the Pope. Of these votes, Thomas Reese observes “often (some estimate 80 to 90 percent of the time) they follow the recommendations of the nuncio. This would especially be true if his views coincided with those of the local hierarchy. But sometimes the congregation recommends the nuncio’s second or third choice. Sometimes it rejects the terna altogether and tells the nuncio to present a new one.”29 7.) The pope is given a three to five page memo on the appointment, which gives background on the appointment, the recommendation of the nuncio, and the votes of each member of the congregation. The pope discusses this at his weekly audience with the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. The prefect gives his recommendation, and discusses any disagreements of opinion among the members of the congregation. Then, the Pope makes the final decision as to who is to be appointed. There are, unfortunately, many flaws in this process. One striking feature of the process is the extent to which there are so many “mediators” between the bishops of the province in which the appointment is to be made, and the pope; and these mediators seem to be in a position to exert influence (undue influence) over the process. Another is that the list of names that the bishops are required to compile, every three years, seems not to be taken into account. When it is judged to be time for a new appointment to be made, a process is started by the papal nuncio, who compiles his own “terna” with (or without) the advice of the bishops. One can discern, in the provisions of canon law (if one interprets them charitably) an attempt to bring two main elements into the selection process: local knowledge (represented by the recommendations of the bishops of the province in which the appointment is to be made) and some “independent” scrutiny (represented by the involvement of the papal nuncio, who is “independent” of the province). At present, the appointments process involves a number of bodies and agencies that are not mentioned in canon


Reese, Inside the Vatican, 240.


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law. What is more, the element of “local knowledge” and opinion is virtually disregarded in that process. Thomas Reese has commented on this. A system needs to be devised that gives greater influence to local bishops and local churches. For example, the priests’ council (or chapter) of a vacant see and the bishops of the province or region should be allowed to comment on the nuncio’s terna. This could be a first step toward the day when those bodies would actually draw up the terna. If Rome cannot trust the priests’ council of a diocese or the bishops of a province, then the state of the church is in serious trouble.30

It is not, in truth, clear why the “nuncio’s terna” is needed at all, if the bishops are creating their own lists every three years, and submitting them to Rome. Why could not the process of creating these lists involve some degree of “outside” or “independent” scrutiny? Why could not that scrutiny be provided by someone expert (in the way that papal nuncios, to be frank, are not) in the disciplines of selection? And why should not the process of creating these lists involve not only the bishops of the province, but the priests, and representatives of the laity too? On his retirement in 2016, Cardinal Lehmann complained, in his book Mit Langem Atem (With a Lot of Staying Power) about how the selection process for bishops involves “influences from the sides, which are not legitimate”.31 Cardinal Lehmann mentioned how, on several occasions – most frequently, under Pope Benedict XVI – a terna he had submitted to Rome was simply rejected, or ignored. “Influences from the sides” can affect the selection process from the moment the terna is submitted to Rome. In step 1., a “staff person” (an anonymous official) checks not only that the paperwork accompanying the terna is correct, but forms a view, on the basis of that paperwork, of whether the candidates are “viable”, involving a “superior” to request “more information”, if that is judged necessary. There seems scope, in this step, for a candidate to be blocked on the basis (or the pretext) of insufficient or incomplete “paperwork”. Since the “paperwork” involved in the process will cumulate in a “book” that is an “inch thick”, and since those who make the decisions in this process do so on the basis of “summaries” of that paperwork (summaries accompanied


Reese, Inside the Vatican, 242. Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, “A Candid German Cardinal Takes Stock on His Eightieth Birthday”, La Croix International May 11, 2016.


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by recommendations, on the part of those who make them), then this step seems to add little that is constructive. In step 2., a number of Vatican dicasteries are involved, who check their “files” on the proposed candidates, for information to be included in the “book” that is to be submitted to the congregation that will vote on which candidate is most suitable. Why should consulting “files” in the dicasteries be felt to add anything to the process, unless it is expected that those files might contain items of information that the bishops, and papal nuncio, making the initial recommendations, are not aware of? And why should the Vatican have “information” on the priests of a particular province that the bishops, responsible for the priests of that diocese, do not have? If the Vatican is aware of anything to the discredit of a particular priest, then the bishops responsible for that priest should be aware of it (and, in simple justice, the priest should be aware of it too). Perhaps what is intended is a kind of independent “check” on “local” corruption – preventing a state of affairs in which bishops, despite being aware of certain things to the discredit of a particular priest, recommend that priest anyway (for nefarious reasons). This is not, however, the best way to introduce such an independent “check” into the selection process. This “step” seems to present all kinds of opportunities for (unaccountable) “side influences” to intervene in the selection process. Step 3 involves yet another “side influence” in the form of the “staff person” who has been overseeing the compilation of the “book” on the candidates, and who, on the basis of the “knowledge” of the candidates acquired thereby, makes a “recommendation” to the Cardinal Prefect, in a meeting at which the Cardinal Prefect must determine whether the process is to continue to the next stage. Here, it would appear, an anonymous official is presented with the opportunity to deflect the recommendations of the bishops and the papal nuncio, and to prompt the Cardinal Prefect to require new recommendations. The Cardinal Prefect seems, moreover, to have the option to deflect those recommendations himself, should he wish to do so. In step 4, the paperwork passes on to the congregation that will vote on which candidate is to be favoured. It is questionable whether the amount of time these congregations can devote to the process is sufficient for truly considered judgements to be made. What is more, the members of those congregations who take the most active part in this process are those who are resident in Rome; and Thomas Reese has observed that “a candidate who has studied in Rome has an advantage with these cardinals.”32 That is, rather than providing a kind of “check” on “local knowledge” (and local 32

Reese, Inside the Vatican, 239.


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influences), the congregations might introduce another kind of “local” influence into the process – a Roman “local” influence. The members of the congregation are appointed by the pope, and they do not, accordingly, tend to provide a view that is a balancing “alternative” to that of the pope. It is not at all clear why some appointments are overseen by the Congregation for Bishops, and some for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Are they are looking for very different types of bishops, suited for different types of situations? If so, why do they seem to observe identical processes? What is more, the rationale for how different territories are assigned to each congregation is not clear: Australia and New Zealand are countries with very similar cultures; but where the appointment of bishops for Australia is carried out by the Congregation for Bishops, the appointment of bishops for New Zealand is carried out by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Those who belong to these congregations may have the best and most honourable motives in assessing candidates for episcopal roles, but they are, necessarily, for the most part, working not with an intensive knowledge of the candidates, but they are, rather, working from paperwork, from a book “an inch thick” (if they choose to consult it), or, more likely, from the “summary” presented by the relator – in step 5 – who will, moreover, make, in presenting this summary, a recommendation. The relator emerges, then, as another important “mediator” in this process. As the relator is chosen by a vote among the members of the congregation, the relator is unlikely to provide an “independent” perspective on the views of the congregation (and if appointment to that role is determined by vote, then one can take it that definite qualifications for the task of assessing candidates are not are a pre-requisite for being appointed to that role). Having heard the views of the relator, and discussed them, the congregation then – step 6 – vote on which of the candidates seems best. These votes cannot, of themselves, determine anything, except that the congregation have the option of rejecting all the candidates on the terna, and requesting new names. (Voting is not a method favoured by most organizations in determining appointments. Where there are meetings to determine appointments, the more usual practice is to work towards a consensus, which will then be binding. Where a consensus cannot be reached on a particular candidate, then that candidate will not be appointed.) In step 7, a summary of the process is presented to the Pope by the Cardinal Prefect of the congregation, who then proceeds to give his own view on which candidate is to be preferred, and to record any dissenting views. There is scope, in this, for the view of the Cardinal Prefect to predominate – in the way in which he presents a summary of the

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deliberations of the congregation – over that of the members of the congregation. What is striking about the process by which bishops are selected is that most of those involved in the process have little or no direct, personal knowledge of the candidates being considered, and have not witnessed them “at work”, carrying out their pastoral duties. Opinions are gathered from a variety of figures who function as “influences from the sides”, whose views are, at best, “second-hand”, or based on “paperwork” (or, potentially, affected by rumour), and who have not been trained in how to identify and select people. What is more, those involved in the process do not seem to be working with a clear, definite idea of what sort of qualities – in particular, what sort of leadership qualities – a good bishop should have. The papal nuncio solicits opinions, via a questionnaire, on whether a particular individual has certain “leadership” qualities. That questionnaire does not seem to be informed by a clear, rigorous idea of what leadership is (it mentions “a fatherly spirit … the ability to lead others, to dialogue, to stimulate and receive cooperation … to direct and engage in team work”);33 and, even if the questionnaire did itemize clearly a set of leadership qualities, reflecting a clear notion of what leadership is (which it does not) those whose views are being solicited are not necessarily qualified to recognize those qualities in particular individuals. One crucial point, with regard to the kind of leadership qualities required of a bishop, is that there is, evidently, a difference between leading a parish, as a priest, and leading a diocese, as a bishop. That a particular individual has performed well as a parish priest does not guarantee that that individual will perform well as a bishop. At no point in the selection process is there a gathering of information relevant to this – a gathering of information on whether a particular individual has demonstrated some of the qualities and capabilities that would be required to exercise leadership as a bishop. The move from parish priest to bishop is a move from “operational” to “strategic” leadership, and this move is one of the most difficult that leaders can make.34 The selection process for bishops does not involve a gathering of information, independently verified information, on whether particular individuals have shown the capability to make that move. The difficulty of this move, moreover, is such that those who undertake it need to be properly prepared and supported, before they undertake it. The requirement of canon law that a “papal nuncio” should be involved in the selection of bishops seems intended to introduce a certain 33 34

Quoted in Reese, Inside the Vatican, 236. See Brian Dive, The Accountable Leader (London: Kogan Page, 2008).


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“independence” into the selection process – or, at least, a kind of check on the influence of the bishops of the province in which the appointment will be made. Another way of ensuring this is for a certain independent “check” to be introduced into the process by which the bishops, every three years, submit lists of names of potential bishops, “episcopabile” priests, to Rome. Those lists – which seem, at the present time, to be simply disregarded – could provide the basis for appointments. (And – one might ask – why are only three names included on each list? Why should not bishops be asked to identify anyone “episcopabile” in their regions? That might amount to only one person; it might amount to ten. Why foreclose this by requesting three names?) I was once the People Director looking after 100,000 people across 55 countries. There were 6,000 leaders with responsibilities comparable (in complexity) to those of parish priests, and 300 with responsibilities comparable to those of bishops. The quality of the 300, and the identification of their potential successors, was a prime responsibility for myself, and for others in the corporate head office. As People Director, it was therefore important for me to meet as many of these individuals as possible, and to have opportunities to see them at work “in the field”, so to speak – to gather enough insight into them to be able to make an assessment of them (based on my knowledge of other individuals in comparable roles). Assessments of these individuals were made by their colleagues as well, of course – those working for them, their peers, and their bosses – and a key responsibility for me was to satisfy myself of the reliability of these assessments. The bosses of those individuals were required, moreover, to make an assessment of their potential, and they did so according to a schema that was informed by a clear, well defined account of key “leadership competencies”: those making these assessments of potential would need to provide evidence that the individuals being assessed had displayed, in the work they had done, certain abilities. I would need to assure myself that the various local assessments had been carried out properly, and fairly. It was the responsibility of the boss of the bosses of these individuals to ensure that the list of individuals with high potential was maintained, and to approve the names on that list. Individuals with high potential could be identified in a number of ways, over the course of their careers; but, importantly, the attempt to assess the potential of employees would begin from the moment they were employed: new entrants would be subjected to a rigorous initial assessment, designed to identify signs of potential for senior leadership positions. On the basis of the ongoing work of assessment carried out by “line” and “support” staff, producing lists of high potential staff within various regions, the organization always had a comprehensive list of “high potential” leaders, who were identified as suitable for certain types of roles

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(and this assessment of which roles they would be suited to was based on a consideration of their wishes and training needs, and of what sorts of roles would be likely to present them with the right opportunities to develop). When a role became available, it was always possible to consult this list, to identify potential candidates for the role. A selection panel would be formed, in which the line manager for that role, and the manager of that manager, together with “support” staff such as myself, would then engage in deliberation about the potential candidates, to identify the likeliest “fit” for the role. It would be necessary for the panel to arrive at a consensus, before a candidate would be invited to an interview. That candidate would then be interviewed by the line manager of the role being applied for, and that line manager would have the final decision on whether the candidate was to be appointed. In this system, the “support” roles were there to ensure the assessments that were taking place were fair, and of a sufficiently high quality, but decisions about which individuals were to be appointed were made by those who would be managing those individuals. I would suggest, with regard to the selection of bishops, that the production of the lists of “episcopabile” priests by the bishops of a province should involve this sort of discipline, whereby the bishops (and selected priests and laity) of the province would work with an independent party (the “support” role), properly trained in matters of assessment, to identify episcopabile candidates; and the final list should arise from a consensus between the bishops (at least) and the independent assessor. These lists, devised through a robust process, used consistently throughout the church, would ultimately produce a general, comprehensive list of episcopabile priests, to be consulted whenever appointments needed to be made. One notable feature of the current process by which bishops are selected is its secrecy. Secrecy is observed in the selection process, it is claimed, to prevent “outside” influences from impinging on it, and corrupting it; and it is claimed, again, that secrecy is observed to prevent individuals from “campaigning” to become bishops, seeking to influence those who make the selection decisions. These concerns are, certainly, legitimate; but if some degree of secrecy is needed, to prevent undue external influences from affecting the process, too much secrecy will mean that decision-making, in the selection process, is confined to a small group of individuals who will, necessarily, have a limited knowledge of the candidates amongst whom a choice is to be made. The church needs to do more – as Thomas Reese has acknowledged – to ensure that the insight, and knowledge, of “local bishops and local churches”, plays into the selection process. It is reasonable, certainly, that the final list of three names should not be made public – though surely those on the list should be aware of


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being on it. It is usual, for instance, in well run organizations, for the wishes of a candidate for a particular role to be consulted, early on in the selection process; this prevents a situation in which a role is offered to an individual who, for some reason (say, health) is unable to take it up. More generally, it would make sense for those who are identified as “episcopabile” to be made aware of this, and to be prepared, early on – through training, mentoring, and the like – to take on the responsibilities of a bishop. All too often, individuals in the church are installed as bishops with scarcely any prior notice, and with virtually no preparation. The transition from parish priest to bishop is extremely arduous; and to make the transition without prior preparation is extremely disorienting and stressful. If the secrecy involved in the selection process can present difficulties for the individuals being selected, it can, equally, present inconveniences for those who are associated with those individuals. A religious superior general of my acquaintance, responsible for a religious community, was put out by this approach, because it interfered with his own “manpower planning”: he would plan a posting for a member of his community only to find, at the last moment, that the individual was to be appointed as a bishop, so would not be available for that posting. He asked the dicastery responsible that he be consulted, or at least forewarned, when members of his community were being considered for appointments as bishops. The dicastery – eventually – replied that they would do so in future. Some time later, he received a phone call: “the Holy Father would like your opinion on so and so and he would like it today.” The superior general replied “I don’t have my full council available today, whom I would naturally like to consult”; but the caller repeated, “it must be today.” So, after a quick discussion with those whom he could reach, about the suitability of the individual in question, he rang back, later in the day, to pass on his opinion. Over breakfast the following morning he read that the individual in question was to be appointed as a bishop; his name was published in Observatore Romano, which had been prepared for printing some days before… Another feature of the selection process, connected to its secrecy, is that at no point is anyone actually interviewed. While interviews are not a sufficient means of determining whether an individual is suitable for a particular role – there are, after all, some people who are “good at interviews” without being good at much else – they are, nevertheless, an extremely useful element in the process of trying to ascertain whether an individual might be suitable for a role. An interview can sometimes clarify matters that days of amassing “paperwork” (even paperwork “an inch thick”) cannot. If interviews are to be useful, however, those conducting

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them need to be trained in how to conduct them. The individuals charged with interviewing potential candidates for a role should be trained not only in what to look for, and how to look for it, but in how to conduct an interview “panel”, involving a number of interviewers (a difficult matter, requiring considerable skill). Who might conduct interviews? At the very least, when the bishops are compiling their lists of “episcopabile” priests, there should be interviews of the priests who are identified as having the potential to go on those lists. The bishops of the dioceses where those priests reside should know them already (one would hope), so bishops from other dioceses should interview them, alongside some “independent” assessors (one of whom might be the papal nuncio, though others, with some expertise in matters of selection – why not properly qualified laypeople? – should be involved as well). What, then, are the key observations to be made about the current process by which bishops are appointed in the Latin-rite church? 1.) The pope, who has the ultimate decision in making appointments, is unlikely to know the person he appoints (who will be one of about 400,000 priests). He relies on advice, for the most part, from nuncios and curial officials, who are equally unlikely to have much personal acquaintance with that person. 2.) In the process by which bishops are selected, the curia, a staff or support function, usurps, de facto, the “line” accountability of the bishops and the pope 3.) Those involved in the selection process are not trained in how to assess and select people. 4.) Those involved in the selection process are not working with a clear idea of the qualities and leadership capabilities required in bishops. The (significant) differences between what it is to be a good parish priest, and what it is to be a good bishop, do not seem to be properly recognized. In the absence of a clear model of what sort of leader a bishop should be, features such as academic attainment, or a personal acquaintance with members of the curia, or orthodoxy in certain points, can assume an outsize importance. (This can be to the advantage of mediocrities whose main qualification is that they have never publicly stated anything that might displease a “staff person” in the curia (to be duly recorded in the curial “files”). Those who have moral courage, those who are intellectually creative, are not usually the favourites of bureaucrats.) 5.) No one interviews anyone at any stage in the selection process.


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6.) There is no consistent discipline (other than a kind of paperwork “procedure”) in the process by which individuals are identified as “episcopabile”, and then appointed as bishops, across the church. The process by which bishops are selected in the Latin-rite Catholic church is, then, wholly inadequate; it in no way conforms to established norms of “manpower planning” or leadership development. In organizations where the process of selecting senior leaders works well, what supports the ongoing assessment of leaders within an organization, and the forming of “lists” of viable candidates for senior roles, is an ongoing effort to “develop” leaders – a work to which an organization needs to commit considerable time and energy – whereby leaders are assessed, their needs and capabilities are identified, and they are provided with the support, mentoring, counsel, and the practical opportunities they need to develop as leaders. How is this work carried out in well-run organizations, and how much of this work does the church currently carry out? Key elements of this work should be carried out by the bishops. What, currently, do they do?

4. How are Bishops Formed and Developed? “Talent management”, the fostering and development of the capacities of individuals within an organization, is one part of the “planning” work of an organization, and “planning” does not, generally, seem to be a major priority, or skill, for many bishops.35 “Talent management” is, in well run 35

I have lived in several dioceses, in several countries, over the years. The first time I came across a bishop presenting a “strategic plan” to the people of the diocese was in 2018. The bishop invited members of the diocese to a series of deanery meetings, to present the plan; and, prior to forming this plan, he had initiated a consultation process, soliciting the views of members of the diocese, clergy and laity, on what their key areas of concern were, and on what they thought the plan should address. All of these moves were commendable. The plan itself, however, was a little exiguous. What was presented by the bishop at the deanery meetings did not contain much in the form of “hard” information about the financial status of the diocese, or about things like trends in Mass attendance. It did not present much of a vision about the “state” of Catholicism in the region, about the issue of decline, about opportunities for evangelization, or the like. A clear overall picture was not presented as to whether, in the view of the bishop, the state of the diocese was healthy or unhealthy. The medium-term aims of the bishop for the diocese were not articulated. Considerable time was spent, in the presentation, on the issue of how retired priests are to be looked after (a problem, as church collections are declining). This is a significant concern, of course; but perhaps the issue of declining church

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organizations, a major concern of the most senior leaders. The top leaders of such organizations spend about 15% of their time (often more) on the assessment and career planning of their best leaders.36 What do the best organizations do, with regard to “talent management”? What is the “gold standard” in this regard? 1.) The best organizations take a long-term view of their best talent, identifying roles for them that will present them with opportunities for genuine challenge and learning, so that they develop in a manner fitting them to take up, in time, the most senior roles. 2.) These organizations have a carefully thought out and formalised approach to talent assessment, which is used consistently throughout these organizations to identify talent. Top leaders are trained in the approach. 3.) Talent management throughout the organization is “owned” at the general management level by the most senior leader, with support from the People Director. 4.) Managers who might have potential for top roles and general management are sought out and identified early in their careers.

collections could have been “opened up” more, to identify wider issues in the diocese, issues which would have been likely to have been of more urgent concern to the members of the diocese. There were, moreover, a number of issues that were simply “taken off the table”, and not discussed. For instance, a number of members of the diocese, clergy and laity, had expressed concern about the “priest shortage”. Some had asked about possible solutions, such as married priests. The bishop began the meeting by saying, in effect, “these things I cannot do anything about”. It is true of course that the bishop, on his own authority, could not authorize things like married priests; but he could have responded more “constructively” to the concerns of the members of the diocese. He could have tried to explore the concerns that were “behind” the desire, on the part of some members of the diocese, for the Church to consider the option of allowing priests to marry. He could have talked through the position of the Church on married priests; he could have talked through various “alternative” solutions to the shortage of priests (augmented roles for deacons, say, or new ways of organizing parishes, and so on). To say “this is something above my authority, so we will not discuss it” is not, in truth, leadership. 36 This was a finding in the twentieth CEO survey by PwC (in 2017). 77% saw the availability of key talent as their biggest threat/challenge. In 2018 Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria felt the time spent on “people and relationships” was nearer 25%. Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria “How CEOs Manage Time”, Harvard Business Review July–August 2018, 1–19.


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5.) The progress of individuals with high potential is tracked, and appropriate experiences for them are identified (for instance, they are given international experience early on, if possible). 6.) Formal learning is provided in certain skills relevant to senior leadership (preferably outside the “home base” of the individuals receiving the training). 7.) Efforts are made to ensure that individuals from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures are identified as having high potential (and that there is not a systematic “bias” in the process by which those individuals are identified). Care is taken to assess how individuals engage with, and manage, individuals of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, when assessing their fitness for senior leadership positions. 8.) The process is well understood throughout the organization. Individuals identified as having high potential are consulted in discussions concerning possible career plans for those individuals, and their wishes and aspirations are solicited. The aim is that the organization and the individual work out a plan for that individual which he or she subscribes to. 9.) At the heart of the process is the relationship between the “high potential individual” and his or her boss. The boss of that individual is central to his or her mentoring and development, and is tasked with providing a detailed (evidence-based) assessment of his or her growth and potential. Popes and cardinals should be devoting considerable time and energy to deliberation on the performance, personal development, and “professional” development (for want of a better word) of bishops (and of those identified as their most “high potential” successors). Bishops should be devoting considerable time and energy to the mentoring, assessment, and professional development of priests in their dioceses, particularly those whom they judge to have the potential to become bishops. This would entail, for bishops, a methodical pattern of “field visits”, in which bishops spend time in a parish (meeting not only the priest but other key parish staff) and in which bishops discuss with the incumbent parish priest his plan for the parish. It is striking how rare such visits seem to be. (It is equally striking how rare parish “plans” seem to be. St John Paul II insisted that every parish and every diocese have a plan; but it is not really enough to insist on something, if one does not train and support those one would task with delivering it.) Personal coaching of parish priests by bishops scarcely ever happens. One challenge here, of course, is that some dioceses have a very large number of parishes; but this is, in truth, a reason to review the size of

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dioceses, rather than to abandon the idea that bishops should properly mentor and support their priests. The process of leadership development usually involves what is sometimes termed a “performance management system.”37 The essence of such a system, when it is put into practice properly, is to encourage the development of the individual by assessing and supporting that development, in relation to the pursuit of goals that benefit the organization. The starting point for such a system is that the individual, with his or her boss, agrees on certain goals which need to be achieved within a certain period; the process of reflecting on, and agreeing, these goals, should involve a proper consideration of the capability of the individual to achieve them, and a recognition of how the capability of the individual to achieve them might be strengthened by certain forms of training. What is more, the strengthening of these capabilities should be considered as part of the “story”, or career plan, of the individual: e.g. “it would make sense for you to get some experience in this area, if you are to acquire the ability to take on job X in a couple of years, and to do this, you might need more training in ABC.” The progress of the individual, in attaining the goals set out in the discussion with his or her boss, and in strengthening certain personal capabilities, should be discussed annually. Bishops should visit parishes each year, and, in the course of their visits, they should help their priests to reflect, honestly, and carefully, on their goals, on how they have been faring in their efforts to attain those goals, and on what sort of support they might need (whether in the form of training, or of additional resources) in attaining those goals. What of the spiritual life of priests? Each year, Jesuits carry out a process of reflection with their superiors called a “manifestation of conscience”. This is, in many ways, a much more searching and intimate exercise than the kind of “performance management” used by secular organizations: the individual Jesuit “manifests”, reveals, the state of his 37 “Performance management” – i.e., a clear, formalized setting of goals, and a tracking of progress towards goals – only happens in some organizations when individuals seem to be failing at their jobs: it becomes a way of gathering evidence on the poor performance of a particular individual, which will ultimately provide a rationale for removing that individual from his or her job. “Performance management”, so used, becomes largely a disciplinary measure. Sometimes the aim in employing this sort of “performance management” seems to be to give the “performance managed” individual notice of what is coming – i.e., a likely dismissal – so that they can start making their own arrangements to leave. “Performance management”, in these contexts, acquires (and deserves) a bad name. That is not what I have in mind here.


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conscience, and his spiritual life – his doubts, his challenges with prayer, his sins, his virtues, his aspirations for the future – to his superior, and, though this “manifestation of conscience” is not, strictly, a form of confession (it is not a “sacramental” act), the superior to whom these things are revealed is bound to keep everything revealed to him wholly secret, and cannot act on the information revealed to him; the role of the superior is to counsel the one who has revealed his “conscience” to him, so as to assist his spiritual development. There is, perhaps, something of a parallel to this in the “supervision” process observed by psychologists. Most psychologists have a supervisor assigned to them, with whom they meet fairly regularly to discuss matters relating to their practice as psychologists. They discuss matters of technique, but, more than that, they discuss personal and emotional matters: the one being supervised might discuss his or her relationships with patients, colleagues, and so on, and how these affect his or her practice as a psychologist; or, he or she might discuss particular emotional challenges he or she is experiencing, in carrying out his or her practice. These conversations are confidential. One thing worth noting is that most psychologists think the supervisory relationship should be separate from the “line management” relationship: if a psychologist has another psychologist as a boss, that boss should not be his or her “supervisor”. In the church, a dean might be in the position of having a supervisory relationship with the parish priests in his area, and the “manifestation of conscience”, as practiced by the Jesuits, could be a model for how this relationship would work. One would hope, of course, that a parish priest would be able to have a conversation with his bishop about the sorts of things that would be discussed in a “manifestation of conscience”, but, if “manifestations of conscience” were to become mandatory for parish priests, it might make sense for deans (if properly trained) rather than bishops, to conduct these. Bishops, however, should make themselves available for such conversations; they should try to cultivate relationships with the priests in their charge, and in their care, in which such conversations would naturally occur. They need to nurture their priests. Christopher Fallon, on interviewing a number of priests in the UK, was struck by how little support those priests claimed to receive “from above”, from their bishops. Most of those interviewed expressed concern about “perceived failures in the management and supervision of priests” and about the “absence of an organized system for support and accountability” (though a minority declared that they “would not welcome closer supervision or support”).38 Fallon himself notes that there is “a real need to encourage 38

Fallon, Who Do We Think We Are?, 205–206.

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greater reflection among the priests, some of whom appear to be simply getting on with meeting the immediate needs presented to them rather than thinking strategically about how they may be called to serve the mission of the Church in this part of the world and at this particular time.”39 Fallon maintains that it is necessary to “improve the systems of support and accountability for priests, including clear guidelines as to what is expected of them.”40 If priests were to receive certain kinds of “supervisory” support from deans, that would not release bishops from their obligation to assess, counsel and mentor their priests, to provide them with “clear guidelines as to what is expected of them”, to support them in developing clear plans for their parishes, and to help them to reflect on their progress in working towards their plans, and on what sort of support they might need in realizing them. The size of dioceses can be an obstacle to the establishment of close, supportive relationships between bishops and the priests of that diocese. Dioceses vary considerably in this respect – the Archdiocese of Munich and Friesing has 747 parishes, whereas the diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand, has 28 (which the bishop there is currently reducing) – and there does not appear to be any definite, received notion in the Church of what sort of diocese size would be “ideal” (or of how one might determine this). One important consideration for working towards such an ideal is that bishops should be in the position to support their priests. Adam A.J. De Ville offers some reflections on what might be a suitable “size” for dioceses, based precisely on this sense that bishops should be able to support, and to foster close relationships with, the priests in their charge. First, any diocese currently large enough to require auxiliary bishops should automatically be divided into smaller units, and those auxiliaries made diocesan bishops of new territories. Second, any diocese where it is impossible, due either to geography or demography, for the bishop to visit all his parishes in one calendar year should be divided. Thus we may arrive at a rough rule of “one visit by one bishop in one year”. There would be some flexibility here, allowing a diocese to vary in size from 52 to 104 parishes. The logic here is human: if I am to sustain relationships, then I must see people from time to time, and a visit of once per year seems the bare minimum necessary to sustain a relationship. This rule of 52–104 would allow a bishop to visit two parishes, and no more, on a given Sunday. If Latin clergy are permitted normally no “binate”, that is, to celebrate no more than

39 40

Fallon, Who Do We Think We Are?, 206–207. Fallon, Who Do We Think We Are?, 207.


Chapter 3 two Masses on a day, then this rule of diocesan size follows from that. We might call this the “binate-bilocate” rule.41

These reflections are sensible – though one would add that the visits of bishops need not be confined to Sundays. One would hope that bishops might stay for a day or two on a “working” visit, and that they would, generally, try to make themselves available to visits from their priests; they should be in communication with their priests all the year round, not just on one day per year. Bishops should be able to exercise some discretion about how they get to know and support the priests in their dioceses; but they should make sure that they do it. One concern that is sometimes expressed, with regard to efforts to introduce more in the way of genuine “talent management” into the church, is that doing so will, perhaps inadvertently, make for a “careerist” mindset amongst priests. Young, energetic priests – so the theory goes – will become concerned more with their own “progress” in an ecclesiastical “career” than with their primary duties – to “feed their sheep”, to bring Christ to others. There is no doubt that this sort of “careerist” mentality should be avoided in the church. A priest embarks on a vocation, not a career. His mindset is, or should be, quite different from an ambitious young professional, seeking to advance in his or her career (though it should be noted that some organizations seek, in identifying those with high potential, to distinguish those who are well disposed, and genuinely talented, from those who are merely ambitious for their own “advancement”). Pope Francis, when speaking to young seminarians, set out what he would expect of those aspiring to the priesthood. You are not preparing for a career or to become functionaries in a company or bureaucratic organization. Too many priests have travelled only halfway on their vocational path and are little more than bureaucrats, which is not good enough for the Church.42

Certainly priests should not be “little more than bureaucrats”; but to introduce certain “talent management” practices is not to turn priests into “bureaucrats”; the aim of all such practices would be to assist priests in becoming better priests, and to enable bishops to cultivate relationships with their priests such that they could help them to grow as priests. Once these 41 Adam. A. J. De Ville, Everything Hidden Shall be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power (Brooklyn NY: Angelico, 2019), 20. 42 From a speech to seminarians on 14 April 2014, quoted in The Vatican Past and Present, issue 17, May–July 2014, 52.

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relationships have been established, bishops will, moreover, be in a position to identify those priests who have the potential to become bishops. These need not be the “best” priests. An individual might be an outstanding parish priest, but might not have the particular aptitudes that would fit him to become a bishop. That need not mean that such an individual should receive less support, attention, or the like from his bishop. The care and attention of a bishop should be determined by the needs of his priests, and different priests will have different needs. For some priests, that might mean helping them overcome certain deficiencies which hinder them from being the priests they could be; for other priests, that might mean enabling them to cultivate their talents for certain kinds of work in the church – including, work as a bishop. If a bishop is providing this support for all of the priests in his charge, he should be in a position to identify those who would make effective bishops. While the assessment of the performance of an individual in a role can be straightforward (though it is not always so), the assessment of the potential of an individual to carry out a quite different role is less so. All too often, when organizations are trying to ascertain whether an individual is suitable for a promotion, they look at the wrong things. If an individual is being assessed for a particular leadership role, that assessment should be informed by a clear notion of what the difference is between his or her current role, and the role for which he or she is being assessed, and by a clear notion of the primary capabilities that are required in the role for which he or she is being assessed. Then, the assessment should be focused on attempting to gather evidence on whether the individual, in the work he or she has done, has exhibited any of those capabilities. (If the individual has not been given the chance to exhibit those capabilities – has not taken on work that would present opportunities for them to be exhibited – then this would suggest that, as a matter of professional “development”, the individual should be assigned work of that kind.) One approach to identifying “episcopabile” priests would be to clarify – using the schema of the seven elements of “accountability” – the prime differences between the role of the priest, and the role of the bishop, and thereby to identify the key competencies that bishops, as contrasted with priests, need to have. (These are competencies that would differentiate “effective parish priests” from “effective parish priests who show signs of having the potential to be effective bishops”.) Once these competencies have been identified, they could be the basis for identifying “potential” in priests. All bishops should be trained in making use of this “competency framework” in assessing the priests in their dioceses. No such framework exists at present. It should be noted that, were such a framework to be created, it should not become an


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occasion for yet more “paperwork”: if the framework is well designed, and well used, it is possible to set out a “competency” assessment on just one page. What is more, it should not become something that hampers the judgement and good sense of the bishops – it should not become a formalized exercise, which the bishops are obliged “to go through”, but which has little to do with the insights and judgements that are the proper means by which it is ascertained that a priest is episcopabile. It certainly should not – worse still – become an exercise in which bishops can feel compelled to approve an individual who “ticks the boxes”, even when their better judgement would make them hesitate. It should, in truth, be a guide to “what to look for”, precipitating the insights and judgements that will be a means of ascertaining whether a priest is episcopabile. Bishops of good judgement should, then, be involved in the development of such a framework. The “elements of accountability” schema could be combined with prudential insights from good bishops – from bishops who have shown, in the way they have carried out their episcopal duties, that they have a good understanding of what a bishop should be. A framework of this kind is not meant to be a substitute for good judgement; it is meant to focus the attention on those matters about which a judgement needs to be made, when assessing potential, and to provide some principles that will inform that judgement. At present, canon law specifies that, for a priest to be eligible to become a bishop, he must have a licentiate or doctoral degree in Scripture, theology or canon law (though this requirement can be waived in particular cases). With regard to the competencies that are, in practice, favoured in the church, as marking suitability for high office, it seems worth considering whether undue stress is put on “academic” proficiency. Good leaders are usually intelligent, but the kind of intelligence required for effective leadership – a matter of having the practical wisdom to identify solutions to concrete problems, the insight and the humility to build up and to motivate a team, and so on – is not the same as “academic” intelligence. It is true that bishops do need to have the competence to explain and to expound doctrine; but, then, this is a competence that priests need to have as well. For matters, about which bishops need to make decisions, for which “deep” theological expertise is relevant, why should not bishops have an expert (a peritus of sort) supporting them, or even a number of such experts, in “support” roles? (The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith could regard as part of its “mission” the provision of support for bishops, on practical issues to which “deep” theological expertise might be pertinent – not simply as declaring certain things to be “impermissible” or “erroneous”, but as helping bishops identify solutions that would be acceptable – in much the same way that

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“experts” function in most organizations today.) Be that as it may, it seems that the church sometimes puts too much of a premium on purely academic attainments, in choosing its leaders. What is more, those who have carried out considerable academic studies in Rome tend to have an undue advantage over those who have not, because they gain opportunities to get to know the curial officials – in the Congregation for Bishops, or the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples – who are the de facto decision-makers with regard to episcopal appointments. How are competency frameworks used in well run organizations? To start with, all senior leaders are trained in how to make use of them, and in the thinking behind them. The frameworks are used throughout the organization, and “support” staff ensure that they are being used in the same way in different parts of the organization. In a particular country, the most senior leader in that country would chair a meeting to discuss the leader assessments in that country, paying particular attention to the question of “cover” for his or her direct reports (i.e. – whether the leaders reporting to him or her have identified successors for themselves). The country leader would, then, need to test whether the assessments informing the identification of those potential successors were sufficiently robust; and that leader would be charged with approving (or not) those assessments. Support staff would be able to advise that leader on whether those assessments have been carried out properly; but, more than that, that leader would be expected to make an effort to form some definite personal views of the individuals being assessed, by making time to “see them at work”, and to form some acquaintance with them. There is an important principle at work here, which is: potential is proposed by the direct boss (the “parent”) but it is approved by the boss of that boss (the “grandparent”, or the manager-once-removed from the individual being assessed). At a meeting to determine assessments of potential, the “grandparent” would chair the meeting, and the “parents” would discuss, as a group, their assessments. Individuals could only be rated as having “high potential” if there were a consensus among all the “parents”. The “grandparent” would have the right to approve, or not to approve, that rating, and might defer that approval until such time that he or she could form his own view of that individual. One challenge, in the Catholic church, is that there is not really a role, at present, that can take on the position of the “grandparent” (i.e. – the pope cannot really take on this role in relation to “episcopabile” priests, for the simple reason that there are too many of them). This is one reason why it is worth considering the creation of a properly accountable leader role above the bishops. At present, cardinals are not in this position: they do not have accountability for bishops. One vital function of this role would be to ensure that priests with the potential


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to become excellent bishops, within a particular region, were being recognized as such, and were being given experiences conducive to their development. In a secular organization, a senior leader in a “grandparent” position must continually monitor succession “cover” across various “categories” (geography, function, types of expertise, and so on). For instance, if there were a hundred jobs needing successors, a percentage cover target would be identified, related to typical “wastage” (from retirements, from expected “turnover” of individuals leaving the organization, and so on): if these hundred jobs had 15% “cover” at present, but if probable “wastage” was at 22%, then this would be identified as a “succession problem” and ways of improving the “cover” would need to be worked out. In the church, at the present time, succession problems abound, owing in large part to the dwindling supply of priests. Priests and bishops are, more and more, being asked to serve beyond their retirement age. The official retirement age of bishops is, increasingly, being disregarded: there is not a definite expectation, in practice, that bishops will retire at that age. Yet that age should be the basis for plans to identify successors for currently serving bishops. Too often, at present, when a bishop retires, or dies, no successor has been identified; sees remain vacant while the paperwork for appointing a successor makes its way through the curial departments. With regard to the problem of the “supply” of priests, there seems to be little proactive thinking in the Catholic church as to how to address this problem.43 In leading international organizations, the processes of leadership development and talent management are well designed, well understood by individuals at all levels of the organization, and are treated as a priority by top management, taking up a significant amount of their time and attention. Senior leaders are trained in how to set work goals, appraise performance, identify training needs, coach, mentor, and identify potential. Individuals who are put onto high potential “lists” are told about it. They are engaged in discussions about how to realize that potential, through training and through different work experiences. The potential of individuals is assessed independently of whether there are senior roles available, into which they might be promoted. Career planning, accordingly, needs to span at least three to five years ahead, as the availability of senior roles is often unpredictable (this is less of a problem in the church). The military is particularly proactive in supporting and developing its leaders; and it is acutely aware of the need to provide “cover”, since in situations of combat, 43

One example of proactive thinking in this area is provided by the Anglican Church, which recently raised the allowable age for entrants to seminaries, resulting, over two years, in over a hundred new trainees.

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many officers may die, and it must provide ways of maintaining leadership, and order, when leaders are lost. Many military officers regard their roles as a kind of vocation, as an act of self-dedication to the service of their countries; at the same time, their “progress” is not something that happens at random,44 nor is the aspiration to take on senior leadership roles – in those fitted for it – stigmatized: it is not unrealistic to think (even allowing for suspicions about the libido dominandi) that someone might aspire to lead as an act of service. In short, then, the church is lacking with regard to proper “talent management” and leadership development. Part of the trouble is that some of the key “roles” that would support these disciplines – i.e., “grandparent” roles, above the bishops – do not exist in the church. What is more, a proper “support” structure is not present. For good disciplines of talent management and leadership development to be established, “line” leaders need to be supported by “support” staff (who have some expertise in these disciplines). The “support” staff are concerned with the integrity of the disciplines, but they do not take the actual decisions which those disciplines are oriented towards – i.e., decisions to recruit, to reassign, to promote, and the like: so, for instance, an HR “partner” might support a “line” leader conducting an assessment process, but would not be responsible for the assessment rating given by that “line” leader, as the outcome of that process. What is happening in the church, however, is that all of the assessment of individuals, pertinent to whether they might be appointed as bishops, seems to be carried out, in practice, by curial departments (who do not, in fact, have any expertise with regard to the disciplines of talent management and leadership development); these departments, however, should be geared towards “support”. They are, at present, usurping “line” accountabilities, and they are not providing the “support” (the maintenance of sound disciplines) that they should be providing.

5. How are Bishops Supported and Guided? Bishops receive very little support or guidance. On being appointed as bishops, they receive little, if any, preparation, before taking up their roles. Some training for bishops is provided at Rome, once per year, and newly appointed bishops can receive this; but the training does not seem to amount to a rigorous preparation for leadership. With regard to the more effective, and less formalized “training” or “experiential learning” that flows from good “talent management” – from giving an individual a series of work 44

See Mission Mastery (London: Springer, 2016), 127–30.


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experiences that will prepare him or her for more senior leadership – almost nothing of this kind seems to happen in the church. Some roles seem to be regarded as offering a kind of “preparation” for episcopal office, but there does not appear to be any concerted, disciplined effort to ensure that individuals are assigned these roles as a way of preparing them for such office. Most importantly, bishops do not have a “boss” who is in the position to guide, mentor and counsel them: the pope obviously cannot take on such a role for ~5,300 bishops. A bishop is expected to go to Rome once every five years for an “ad limina visit” with the pope. A bishop would be fortunate, on such a visit, to get fifteen minutes with the pope. Sometimes all the bishops from a country, or a region within a country, visit the pope together. The best that could be hoped for from such meetings would be an emotional experience of “communion”, and this is not without importance or value. But, evidently, such meetings cannot afford scope for addressing any practical problems in any detail – no actual “work” could get done at them, so to speak. Nor could they provide much of an opportunity for the pope to form a genuine acquaintance with the bishops. There are indications that Pope Francis has been attempting to make his ad limina encounters with bishops more substantial – that he has been devoting more time to these meetings – having, instead of brief one-on-one discussions, longer group discussions – and that he has been encouraging frank discussions.45 Nevertheless, while such moves are to be commended, meetings of this kind, however well conducted, cannot provide the kind of ongoing support and leadership that is required. Another feature of these ad limina visits is that bishops usually meet representatives of a number of the Vatican dicasteries. In advance of these meetings, the bishops are sent certain questions by the dicasteries (via the papal nuncio) to which they are expected to prepare a substantial response; they gather together their responses to these questions into a dossier, which they take with them to a series of meetings with representatives of the dicasteries. The bishops, then, do not set the agenda for these meetings; and while some might take the opportunity, at these meetings, to ask some questions, the overall dynamic of these meetings is that the bishops are expected to answer questions put to them, to report back, in effect, on various things they have been doing, or to gather information on matters of interest to the dicasteries. These meetings are not, in short, an 45

“The pope has changed the formats of meetings with bishops during ad limina visits, scrapping pre-prepared speeches and short one-on-one meetings, and instead having group meetings designed to foster a sense of collegiality and communion.” Tablet news item, June 2019.

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opportunity for bishops to work through, and to receive counsel on, some of the problems that they might be trying to address, in running their dioceses. While these meetings can be sometimes helpful, they seem, in truth, to be arranged principally for the benefit of the dicasteries, rather than for the benefit of the bishops; the bishops do not receive from these meetings the counsel and guidance in addressing the problems they are encountering, in running their dioceses, that they need – counsel and guidance that would, itself, support them in their development as leaders. At present, to be consecrated as a bishop in the Catholic church is to enter into a “leadership void”. A bishop is, in many respects, on his own. Advice from above (other than via papers) is non-existent, for practical purposes. No one is held to account for the performance, growth, and leadership development of bishops. Training is minimal at best. The formal “boss” of the bishops, the pope, is, in practice, inaccessible. There is probably no lonelier job within an international organization than that of a bishop in the Catholic church. Sound leadership development in the church would require the bishops to support their priests, and to be supported “from above” in their turn. One challenge, in this area, relates to “spans of control”. The “span of control” of a leader consists in the number of individuals directly “reporting to” that leader: i.e., a leader with a team of ten people, reporting directly to him or her, has a “span of 10”; a leader who leads ten leaders, who in their turn lead teams of ten, would have an overall team of 110, but a “span of 10”. There are no fixed rules, which can be mechanically applied, in determining what “spans” are suitable in a particular case. There are a number of considerations that are relevant to any judgement on this. With regard to priests, one might observe that priests are expected to be dedicated, and in many respects “self-moving” – not requiring intensive supervision. The span of a bishop can, in this regard, be fairly high. Yet the bishop needs to be able to get to know the priests in his diocese, and to make himself available to them – to offer counsel, support, and direction. There does not seem to be any received wisdom, in the church, about how frequently bishops should visit their parishes, or how those visits should be conducted. Nor do “working visits” seem to be generally regarded as an important duty of a bishop. (One priest I spoke with, who was in a parish in a small diocese, was installed in his parish without any brief directly from his bishop – he was told merely that the parish needed “turning around” – and without being visited once by his bishop in five years.) One working visit per year would seem to be a sensible “minimum”. It does not seem unreasonable, all things considered, for bishops to have a span of ~75 parish priests. There are, at


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present, 221,700 parishes around the world.46 If bishops were, on average, to lead ~75 parishes, then ~3000 bishops would be needed to lead all the parishes worldwide. (There are, at present in the Church, ~3000 bishops leading dioceses, and another ~2000 active bishops, in “auxiliary” roles – i.e. auxiliary bishops, helping other bishops run large dioceses.) If these bishops were to have leaders, whether called “pastoral Cardinals” or whatever, how many of these leaders would be needed? If there were 125 of these leaders, then each would be able to lead 24 bishops. A configuration of 75 parishes to each bishop, and 25 bishops to each “pastoral Cardinal” would – prima facie – be workable. It should be noted at once that this is a prima facie assessment. Careful work would need to be done on how many parishes a bishop could, ideally, lead; and, then, on what sort of configurations of dioceses would be feasible, given geography, custom, and the like. Yet these reflections on “spans” are meant to highlight, primarily, the “gap” that exists in the structure at present; and they are meant to highlight the need for careful reflection on how dioceses are configured, so that they are configured in ways that are “workable”, in ways that enable bishops to lead the priests in their dioceses, and to receive the support, counsel and direction that they need.

6. Collegiality: Councils, Conferences and Synods Councils, of one sort or another, have been a feature of the life of the church since the earliest times. As early as the second century, bishops met in councils, or “synods” (modelled, broadly, on the Roman senate). These councils dealt with doctrinal and with disciplinary matters.47 Some councils of bishops – those recognized (subsequently) as “ecumenical” – have been taken to represent the authority of the “universal” church: the declarations of councils such as the first council of Nicaea (325) are taken to be binding, in perpetuity, on the faithful. (Most of the main Christian denominations – Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox – recognize, in one form or another, the authority of at least the first seven ecumenical councils.) The first council of Nicaea organized the church into dioceses. The calling of councils is, then, a longstanding tradition of the church. Alongside the calling of “universal” or “ecumenical” councils, different churches, or regions of the church, have called councils for a variety of purposes. Bishops frequently 46

CARA Georgetown University 2015 statistics. Brian Daley “Structures of Charity: Bishops” gatherings and the See of Rome in the Early Church” in Thomas Reese S.J. ed. Episcopal Conferences: Historical, Canonical and Theological Studies (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 1989), 25-28 47

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called “provincial councils” (gathering together bishops of a certain region, presbyters, and often laity) to address the various challenges that they had to resolve. The Council of Trent (1563), in an attempt to strengthen church discipline, and the authority and effectiveness of the bishops, mandated the calling of provincial councils every three years; but this was changed in the 1917 code of canon law, which required that they meet only every twenty years, and limited their authority.48 The changes of the modern era were such that bishops still felt the need to meet, to agree approaches on matters of common concern – particularly relating to social or political issues. “By calling these gatherings conferences rather than councils, the bishops bypassed the restrictions imposed by canon law.”49 These gatherings did not claim authority over internal church matters; they were more a means by which bishops could collaborate to find ways of addressing, in a concerted, coherent manner, the challenges presented by the wider world. By the time of the Second Vatican Council, these “conferences” had become, in many parts of the world, well established; and they were seen, by many at the council, as potential vehicles for introducing reform. Their precise status and authority were not determined at the council, but it was recommended that they be established throughout the church, worldwide. The 1983 code of canon law, and Apostolos Suos (1998) would envisage the status and authority of conferences as rather minimal: these documents, concerned, it seems, to avoid encroaching on the authority of the pope, and the authority of individual bishops, sought to define the status of conferences in a way that would prevent them from becoming an authority “in between” individual bishops and the pope. They are not, these documents suggest, to be seen as an instrument or expression of the “collegiality” of the bishops, by which, when in communion with the pope, bishops possess supreme authority in the church. (Whether these documents are to be taken as the final, ultimate judgement of the matter is another question – perhaps a question for a universal council to resolve.) The conferences of bishops, around the world, are represented by the synod of bishops, to which they send delegates.50 The synod of bishops was established after the Second Vatican Council. It represents the “college” of bishops, worldwide, and it has an “advisory” relationship to the pope (unless he explicitly grants it certain powers). It does not, as such, have 48 JH Provost, “Title II: Groupings of Particular Churches” in eds. James A. Coriden, Thomas J. Green and Donald E. Heintschel The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary (Mahwah NJ: Paulist Press, 1985), 356 49 Thomas Reese, Inside the Vatican, 31. 50 The word “synod” comes from the Greek synodos meaning “assembly” or “meeting”, and it is synonymous with the Latin word “concilium” meaning “council”.


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the kind of function that synods have in the Eastern churches – where they are deliberative assemblies, in which all the orders of the church, clerical and lay, are represented.51 The synod of bishops, in the Catholic church, is conceived of as an advisory body; the pope calls a synod, specifies the issue to be discussed, determines its agenda, presides over its sessions (in person or through a delegate) and can suspend or dissolve it; the synod cannot determine or rule on anything without his approval. It includes representatives of the bishops conferences, representatives of the Union of Superiors General, patriarchs and metropolitans of the Eastern Catholic churches, and representatives of the curia (about thirty heads of curial offices); and, in addition, the pope elects another fifteen percent of members (mostly bishops). Thomas Reese observed that the effectiveness of the synods is somewhat limited by their meeting for such short periods, without having had much time to prepare; and he suggested that “dropping the curial officials from synod membership would emphasise the synod’s role in representing local churches.”52 He noted, too, that the “advisory” function of such synods can be somewhat limited when the bishops take an overly deferential attitude to the pope, and when the pope tends to elect only bishops favouring his own views: popes, in such circumstances, are unlikely to get challenging, unexpected advice. Reese suggests that the “synod of bishops” could be more representative of “local churches” if the “curial officials” ceased to attend it. It could be even more representative of those churches if: 1.) the conferences of bishops included presbyters and lay members; 2.) if there were lay delegates, as well as clerical delegates, of those conferences, at the synod. It would be feasible, one would think, for diocesan councils – the councils of individual bishops – to include lay delegates of parish councils; and then, for those diocesan councils to send lay delegates to the episcopal conference. Adam A. J. De Ville sets out a vision, in Everything Hidden Shall be Revealed of how “synodality”, as practiced in the Eastern churches and – in somewhat attenuated form – in the Eastern Catholic churches, might be incorporated into the governance of the Latin-rite church; and De Ville stresses how “synodality”, in the tradition of the church, involves the participation of “laics” in church governance. Pope Francis approved new constitution for the synod in Episcopalis Communio, in 2018, aiming to create “a permanent central body, outside the dicasteries of the Curia, which would be apt to demonstrate, even outside the solemn and extraordinary form of the Ecumenical Council, 51 52

For more on synods, see Adam A. J. De Ville, All that is Hidden Shall be Revealed Reese, Inside the Vatican, 64.

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the solicitude of the College of Bishops for the needs of the People of God and communion among all the Churches.” Episcopalis Communio primarily strengthens the council, the secretariat and above all the General Secretary; the secretariat is to have control over selecting the items for the agenda (from among those proposed by the bishops); it is to be a permanent body in Rome – distinct from the curia. Episcopalis Communio maintains in Article 18.2 that when “expressly approved by the Roman Pontiff, the final document [produced by the synod] participates in the ordinary Magisterium of the Successor to Peter.” There seems to be an attempt, here, to underline the “collegial” authority of the synod; yet the statements of the synod are only an expression of “the ordinary Magisterium” when “expressly approved” by the pope. Episcopalis Communio stresses, moreover, the importance of “consultation” – of the need for the bishops to “consult” the laity, to attend to “to the sensus fidei of the People of God”. Laypersons may be invited to attend the synod, in various capacities, and even as voting members; but it is not a requirement that any laypersons be present. The great question – with respect to whether the synod, as constituted under Episcopalis Communio – is to be a genuine expression of “collegiality”, is how much the strengthened secretariat will function in a way that represents the “voice” of the bishops. Will the strengthening of the secretariat, and council, as entities distinct from the curia, enable the bishops to have an “instrument” of their own? One reason for concern is that, in a couple of the synods that have occurred during the papacy of Francis, some members of the synod complained that the secretariat, in its compilation of synod documents, was not accurately representing their views. Then again, one weakness in previous synods that some observers have identified, is that the lack of a stable council and secretariat has meant that there has been insufficient preparation, and coordination, for the synods, preventing the bishops from deliberating effectively, and from formulating properly considered views. The synod is a developing institution; time will tell whether the new constitution will assist the synod in becoming a fuller expression of “the solicitude of the College of Bishops for the needs of the People of God and communion among all the Churches.” Cardinal Basil Hume proposed, I have been told, the creation of a “senate” of leading cardinals, and heads of episcopal conferences, to work with the pope, to move forward certain “unfinished” matters from the Second Vatican Council – among them, the question of “collegiality”. While that Council introduced into the mainstream of Catholic thought the notion of episcopal “collegiality”, it did not provide a clear definition of what “collegiality” is: it reached “a formulation broad enough to satisfy the


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various factions and ambiguous enough to allow further clarification.”53 (The Hume idea of the “senate” has some resemblance, perhaps, to the Council of Cardinal Advisers (the C9) created by Pope Francis.) If the “collective” structures in the church are somewhat underdeveloped, perhaps this is connected to a prevalent uncertainty about “collegiality” itself, and its theological meaning. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger maintained that “episcopal conferences have no theological basis: they do not belong to the structure of the church.”54 Cardinal Avery Dulles maintained, though, that “divine law does give the hierarchy the right and duty to establish the structures that are found helpful for the exercise of their divinely held mission as individuals and groups.”55 It seems, then, that the “collective”, representative bodies of the church – which, at the present time, primarily represent the bishops – have not developed as fully as they might have. Their functions are primarily advisory, and their effectiveness, even in carrying out these functions, are regarded by some as questionable. The synod of bishops has not tended to serve (as liberals hoped) as a counter-force to the curia; it is still uncertain whether the recent “re-founding” of the synod in Episcopalis Communio will enable it to do so. There is much talk of “synodality” in the church at the present time, but little agreement on what “synodality” means, or what its proper, concrete expressions – other than a full ecumenical council – might be. How much might collective bodies make for greater accountability amongst the bishops? Accountability itself is a feature of individuals rather than collectivities. Klatt, Murphy and Irvine propose that accountability “is neither shared nor conditional … is meaningless without consequences (rewards, sanctions) … applies to individuals … is a statement of personal promise, both to yourself and the people around you, to deliver specific defined results.”56 Collective bodies, such as synods, could exercise an important function of a “judicial” nature: serving to determine guilt, in questions of individual misconduct that might be brought before them (with sentencing being reserved to the “chairs” of those bodies). They cannot, however, take on all the “executive” work that is involved in the administration of the church. There are a great many decisions that bishops 53 Patrick Granfield, The Limits of the Papacy: Authority and Autonomy in the Church (New York: Crossroad, 1987), 80. 54 Joseph Ratzinger and Vittorio Messori, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), 59. 55 Quoted in Granfield, The Limits of the Papacy, 100. 56 Bruce Klatt, Shaun Murphy and David Irvine, Accountability: Practical Tools for Focusing on Clarity, Commitment and Results (Stoddart, 1999), 48-49.

The Diocese


need to take, in the course of their ministry – decisions about particular situations, particular individuals, particular actions – for which they cannot seek counsel from a “collective” body, and which cannot be adequately assessed by a collective body. A synod could be of great value in setting general “policies”, and, perhaps, in judging particular cases of conduct (where those cases are of an order of significance that would merit its attention) but it cannot determine how those policies might be implemented in the particular situations of life, and it cannot determine what ought to be done with regard to matters for which no “policies” have been devised: a synod cannot guide or direct the day-to-day ministry of the bishops. An individual bishop, in engaging with the particular realities of his ministry, can receive such guidance, direction and counsel only from another individual.

7. Conclusion The role of the bishop in the Catholic church is vital to the life and wellbeing of the church; yet the church lacks the disciplines that would ensure that it has bishops who are properly suited to the role, properly prepared for the role, and properly supported, once installed in the role. The church needs to develop sound ways of selecting bishops. It should be expected that bishops, as part of their ongoing support for the priests in their dioceses, should identify those priests who are “episcopabile”; and they should identify episcopabile priests in a manner informed by a clear, definite framework, picking out the competencies that such priests need to have (and it would be best if there were a common framework in use throughout the church). What is more, the views of bishops, as to which of the priests in their dioceses have the potential to become bishops, should have more “weight” in the processes by which bishops are selected; and, while some independent scrutiny from the “centre” is needed, to ensure that the selection process is being conducted properly, and fairly, it is, in truth, doubtful whether this scrutiny should be provided by papal nuncios (rather than, say, something more like a central Human Resources function). If “pastoral cardinals” – accountable for bishops within a certain region – were created, they would play an essential part in the process by which priests were developed to become bishops, and selected. The selection process that currently exists is such that, when priests are selected to become bishops, they (ordinarily) get very little prior notice that they are going to be selected; they get very little time to prepare, and, once appointed, they get very little in the way of training oriented towards preparing them to exercise leadership. What is more, once appointed, bishops receive no real oversight or direction. The


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curia purports, in some respects, to direct the bishops, but it is not properly fitted to doing so, and that is not its proper role. Bishops can, and do, support one another in various ways; and episcopal conferences can provide opportunities for bishops to counsel one another. Yet collective bodies cannot exercise the sort of oversight, or provide the sort of counsel, that a bishop would require in the day-to-day exercise of leadership, involving particular judgements about concrete issues – the sort of counsel that a leader, accountable for the work of that bishop, would be fitted to, and would be called upon, to provide. Of all the “organizational” challenges that the church currently has, one of the most urgent is the need to provide sound ways of selecting, training and supporting bishops.


“We know well that even in this Holy See…abominable things have happened…We plan to use all diligence to reform the Roman Curia.” —Pope Adrian VI, 1523

1. The Role of the Cardinal Cardinals are not set “above” bishops. Bishops and archbishops do not report to them, and are not answerable to them. Cardinals do, however, exercise one very important function in the life of the church: they elect popes. At the conclaves at which popes are elected, all cardinals under eighty – except for some cardinals in the curia – are eligible to vote (unless prevented by various circumstances – such as ill health, or inability to attend the conclave). Cardinals, in addition, are expected to advise the pope, on matters of importance for the life of the universal church. Cardinals have, in this regard, a distinctively international or “universal” role (though bishops are, equally, expected to have, and to act on, a proper concern for the universal church). One cardinal I interviewed described his role as a matter of being an “advisor”. The role is international within the church. It has no bearing on the running of the diocese and does not add to my authority there, and there is no jurisdiction or authority over other bishops. I am not the head of the country’s bishops. We are advisors to the Holy Father: I have been appointed to a congregation for one topic, a council for another and a particular synod for yet another. So there is plenty to do and opportunities to work with other cardinals.

These “opportunities to work with other cardinals” are, equally, opportunities to get to know the other cardinals, and, in doing so, to form of view of whether any of them might be fit to become pope. The origin of the college of cardinals is somewhat obscure. The college began to elect popes in 1059. The electoral process has evolved over


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time. Eamonn Duffy observes that “popes in the past have been appointed in a bewildering array of ways – elected by assemblies of clergy and people, hailed by acclamation at the funerals of their predecessors, nominated by local gang-bosses, appointed by emperors.”1 As Duffy makes clear, the laity have, for most of the history of the church, been involved in the election of popes. In 1914, Pius X abolished the princely right of veto, possessed by the Holy Roman Emperor. Lay involvement in the election of popes only become impossible in 1917, when it became a requirement in canon law for a cardinal be a cleric. In 1962, John XXIII determined that cardinals had to be bishops. Thomas Reese sets out the origins of the role of “cardinal”. Originally the term “cardinal” referred in any diocese to a cleric (deacon, priest or bishop) who was incardinated to a new position as opposed to the one for which he was originally ordained. In Rome, cardinal deacons were deacons who had been moved and put in charge of social services for the eighteen regions of Rome. Originally, cardinal priests were priests temporarily incardinated to certain shrines or basilicas for special liturgical services. The same was true for the bishops from the seven dioceses surrounding Rome when they came for special liturgical services in St John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome. Since it was normally the more talented or trusted who were assigned these duties, it was natural that these clergy became important advisers to the pope.2

The advisory function of these “cardinals” in Rome gradually become their primary function. Cardinal priests and cardinal deacons delegated their pastoral responsibilities, as priests or deacons, to others. (Cardinal bishops retained their pastoral responsibilities – despite being resident in Rome – until 1962, when John XXIII determined that cardinal bishops would no longer have jurisdiction over their dioceses.) Leo IX, in the eleventh century, started to appoint prelates from distant lands as cardinals, who were obliged to reside in Rome and to advise the pope. This group of cardinals – who were essentially senior advisors – was known as the consistory. (The term “consistory” originally referred to the hall in which the Byzantine emperor met with his imperial council.) From the twelfth century, the consistory began to take over the advisory role that had formerly been carried out by provincial councils – gatherings of bishops, largely from the 1 Eamonn Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001), 118. 2 Thomas Reese, S.J., Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church (Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1996), 66–67

The Cardinals and the Curia


Italian peninsula. The college of cardinals came to be regarded as a kind of senate of the church. By the thirteenth century, the college of cardinals in consistory was being consulted three times a week, on matters of doctrine, discipline, and politics. During interregnums between popes, the college would govern the church. Its electoral nature meant that it could increase its powers by bargaining with candidates for the papacy (though newly elected popes were prone to renege on deals made prior to their election); this bargaining would eventually be prevented by a law that no promises made by any papal candidate, prior to his election as pope, could be binding. The college came to regard itself as the successor of the college of the apostles.3 From the sixteenth century – an age of absolutist monarchs and centralizing states – the popes gained in power over the college of cardinals. So many issues had to be dealt with, that the consistory system could not address them all; committees of cardinals, “congregations”, were created to examine particular issues, and to report back to consistory. When the Council of Trent required bishops to be resident in their dioceses, cardinal bishops could not be present at Rome for regular consultation; and consistories, as a form of consultation with the pope, were abolished by Sixtus V in 1588.4 The number of cardinals has varied over time. Between the twelfth and the sixteenth centuries, the number was usually between twenty and thirty. In 1586, Sixtus V set the maximum number at seventy. From the mid nineteenth to the mid twentieth century, the usual number tended to fluctuate between sixty and seventy, though at the death of Pius XII there were only fifty-five cardinals. John XXIII ignored the limit, and in his time the college grew to eighty. Paul VI reformed the college, taking the number of electors to one hundred and twenty (and determining that cardinals over eighty years of age could not be electors).5 Paul VI seems, moreover, to have contemplated introducing lay persons into the college of cardinals; he wished, at one stage, to make the philosopher Jacques Maritain a cardinal (but Maritain dissuaded him from doing so). When Angelo Roncalli was made a cardinal, he “reminded himself that being a cardinal was an honour but not another sacrament.” 6 The composition of the college of cardinals has changed over the past century. It has become, from the time of Paul VI onwards, increasingly international, and less dominated by Italians (though Europe is still 3

Reese, Inside the Vatican, 68–69. J. F. Broderick, “The Sacred College of Cardinals” Archivum Historia Pontificiae, Vol.25, 1987, 20. 5 Reese, Inside the Vatican, 67. 6 Peter Hebblethwaite, rev. by Margaret Hebblethwaite, John XXIII: Pope of the Century (London, Bloomsbury: 2000), 115. 4


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somewhat overrepresented); and it now has fewer “curial” cardinals (that is, cardinals who have roles within the curia). It is, in these respects, more representative of the “college” of bishops. The consistory, as a forum for counselling the pope, was revived by John Paul II in 1979. This was something of a surprise, since that advisory function was already considered to be a prime function of the synod of bishops. What is more, the cardinals, by this time, were all bishops. John Paul II, when reviving the consistory, maintained that the difference between the synod of bishops and the consistory of cardinals was that the consistory was to be concerned with matters “more closely linked with the ministry of the bishop of Rome than … [those that are] the subject of bishops”, but he conceded that “it is obvious here that one cannot speak of any obvious demarcation.”7 The pope can call two types of consistories – “extraordinary” or “ordinary”. Extraordinary consistories are attended by all the cardinals; ordinary consistories can be attended by all the cardinals or by only those resident in Rome. Ordinary consistories tend to be called for acts such as the creation of new cardinals, or canonizations. Extraordinary consistories tend to be called for a broader variety of purposes. They are announced only two or three months before the meeting, and no consultation with local churches needs to happen beforehand. There is no secretariat or council for the consistories, and any preparatory documents are not made public. The format of these meetings is that they tend to involve some initial speeches, usually by the pope and some senior cardinals; then there is some discussion in smaller groups; then, spokesmen from these groups report back to the general assembly, and, after a discussion of the assembly, a report is prepared for the pope. Cardinals have a month, after the meeting, to submit to the pope any afterthoughts they might have. The proceedings of these meetings are kept secret, and their effects and functions are not always clearly apparent. Consistories in 1991 and 1994 discussed issues relating to threats to human life, and these discussions had some influence on the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, issued in 1995. John Paul II held a number of extraordinary consistories, to address the question of how the curia should be reformed. The reforms to which these gave rise – in the 1988 Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, setting out the structure and the “norms” of the curia – were fairly minimal. Pope Francis created a smaller advisory body of cardinals, the Council of Cardinals, comprised of nine members, one month after his election in 2013.


Quoted in Reese, Inside the Vatican, 70.

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The core purpose of this Council was to introduce reforms of the curia (in particular, to update Pastor Bonus). Cardinals have elected popes, in conclave, since the eleventh century. For most of the history of the conclave, it has been necessary for a two-thirds majority to be reached, before any pope could be elected. This was changed by John Paul II, in Universi Dominici Gregis, 1996, who decreed that if, after thirty three ballots, a two-thirds majority had not been attained, an absolute majority of the conclave participants may change the rule that a two-thirds vote is required for election to a lower threshold: thereafter, it would be possible for a pope to be elected by an absolute majority, rather than a two-thirds majority. In 2007, Benedict XVI restored the requirement that a two-thirds majority would always be required in the election of a pope; but, after thirty-three ballots, only the two candidates with the most votes in the preceding ballot can be voted for. The “twothirds” rule is considered to make for compromises between ideological factions in the church. Cardinals, then, have two primary roles: 1.) advising the pope on matters pertinent to the “ministry of the bishop of Rome” (this seems to be interpreted, sometimes, to pertain to his “ministry” as oriented towards the needs of the universal Church); and 2.) electing popes. Since 1962, all cardinals have been bishops; and this, therefore, raises questions about how the consistory of cardinals relates to the synod of bishops; the members of the consistory are taken from the same “constituency” in the church as the members of the synod, but they are chosen directly by the pope. With regard to the most important role of the consistory of cardinals – the election of popes – the “overlap” between the synod of bishops and consistory of cardinals is such that Thomas Reese has suggested that the role of electing popes might be taken on by the synod of bishops. Election of the pope by a synod of bishops … would imitate the practice in many Eastern-rite churches, where synods of bishops elect metropolitans and patriarchs. The easiest system would be to recall to Rome those bishops whom their conferences had elected to the most recent ordinary synod of bishops. This would avoid potentially divisive elections and campaigns, although as a pope got older or became sick, the election of synod delegates would have more to do with the succession and less with the topic of the synod. Curial officials would not attend since their membership in a synod is based on holding offices that they lose when the pope dies. Nor would there be any papal appointees since the pope would be dead. Such a synod would be more representative of the local churches than the current college of cardinals.8 8

Reese, Inside the Vatican, 102-103


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If the synod of bishops were to take on this function, in the way Reese suggests – and it is not an unwise or impracticable suggestion – the college of cardinals would have no unique function within the life of the church.

2. Problems of Accountability with the Cardinal Role: Some Examples There is no clear authority “above” bishops, other than the pope. This can, evidently, create confusion, and problems. In September 2007, Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba of Australia was informed, in an unsigned memorandum dated 28 June, from the Congregation of Bishops, that he should resign over a doctrinal issue. Over the next year or so he was mandated to meet with three cardinals in Rome – Arinze, Levada and Re – to discuss how and when he would resign. His quite natural response was to question the authority of these commands. When he asked to see the pope to discuss the matter, he was told by the cardinals “yes, when you resign”. The cardinals took minutes of their meetings with Morris which they refused to let him see. He was not permitted to see the report written on him and his diocese by an American “Visitator” from Denver “who had never done this before” and who told him that the “cardinals did not like being treated as equals”. Morris felt, not unnaturally, that he was being subjected to mistreatment from spurious authorities, that he “was deprived of natural justice and was in no way able to appeal the judgements or decisions that were made in these circumstances.”9 According to Morris, his experience was a matter of being subjected to the actions of individuals who had arrogated an authority not truly theirs; and they could do this because there was no proper authority in place, attending to his case. He found himself, by his account, in a kind of accountability vacuum. One might note that the circumstance of a bishop receiving an unsigned memorandum, dated several months prior to the date of its being received, informing him that he should resign, does seem to attest to such a vacuum. If the existence of an accountability vacuum “above” bishops can make for the emergence of pseudo-authorities, claiming to “fill” that space, it can make, in addition, for a lack of proper accountability in some bishops. In April 2003, the Pontifical Academy for Life organized a three-day conference on the “Abuse of Children and Young People by Catholic Priests and Religious”, in which eight non-Catholic psychiatric experts were invited to address representatives of almost all the Vatican curial 9

William M. Morris, Benedict, Me and the Cardinals Three (ATF Press, 2014), xiii.

The Cardinals and the Curia


departments. These experts identified several factors contributing to failure of church authorities to respond properly to cases of abuse. 1. The failure of the hierarchy to grasp the seriousness of the problem 2. An over-emphasis by church authorities on the need to avoid scandal 3. The use of treatment centres for abusive priests or religious (intended to “cure” abusers, and to certify their “cure”) run by individuals who were not properly qualified 4. A misplaced willingness to forgive 5. A lack of accountability One might add – and perhaps it is implicit in the claims that the hierarchy failed to grasp the seriousness of the problem, and that church authorities were overly concerned with “scandal” – that there was a basic failure of “natural justice”, a failure to seek proper redress for those who had been victims of abuse. The primary duty of the bishops was, and is, to those victims. When a bishop learns that a priest in his charge has committed a heinous crime, it is his first duty to ensure that justice is done – that the crime is punished, that the victims of the crime receive proper redress. Time after time, proper redress for the victims of abuse simply has not happened. The “lack of accountability” here is not simply a “lack of accountability” on the part of those who perpetrated abuse, and who were never made accountable for their crimes; it is a “lack of accountability” on the part of bishops. One Catholic priest recently wrote in to the U.S. journalist, Rod Dreher to observe that “I have come to believe that the real root of the problem isn’t the priests, it is and always has been the bishops and their unchecked power.” The only limit on a bishop’s power today is liability, however this problem is passed on to the priests and laity. So, the people and clergy are treated like potential liabilities because bishops won’t and haven’t been responsible. The reason priests probably won’t speak out … is because they fear reprisals … from their own bishops. Because their bishops see it as unfaithful to ever criticize any other bishop or the church as a whole. If a priest were to speak out he would be immediately seen as suspect and problematic, unhappy with his priesthood, unhealthy or “troubled”. The culture that is promoted is to be a company man and not deviate. If you do, you get screwed.10


Rod Dreher “Uncle Ted and the Grand Inquisitor”, The American Conservative.


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The abuse crisis has many dimensions, and causes, but one important dimension has been the “unchecked power” of bishops. The case of Boston was the first that became widely known. Under Cardinal Law of Boston, the cases of more than a hundred priests who had perpetrated abuse were, in effect, covered up. Confidential “settlements” with the victims of priestly abuse were made, and the priest abusers were “moved on” (to perpetrate more acts of abuse). The archbishops of some dioceses typically, as a matter of custom, are made cardinals; and Boston was one of those dioceses. (Though a cardinal, Law was, in effect, in much the same position as a bishop.) One thing that is notable about the response of Law to the cases of abuse that he was made aware of is that he sought a secret “resolution” to those cases – avoiding “scandal” by arranging confidential “settlements” with victims – and that he seemed to operate, in this, largely in secrecy, without making known to other bishops, or cardinals, the approach he was adopting. Law seemed to have been largely a free agent in certain matters of expenditure – resembling, in this, many bishops in the U.S. The funds at his disposal were, through his opting for “secrecy”, put at the disposal of none too honourable lawyers who seemed to offer him a “solution” – a Faustian bargain. A proper audit of the diocese, by someone in authority above him, would have unearthed the problem, and could have enabled proper action to be taken. A financial audit, for instance, would have detected large amounts of money going to lawyers; and a quick check would have revealed that the money was being put into fees, and into settlements. “Settlements for what?” Aside from proper supervision “from above”, it is evident that there must be auditing, safeguarding and support structures “to the side” of the bishops. It is intolerable that there should be a situation in which priests feel they cannot “speak out” because they “fear reprisals … from their own bishops”. It is, equally, intolerable that bishops should be without proper support and advice.

3. The Curia The word “curia” means “court” in Latin. The curia, originally – like many of the institutions of the church – was a copy of secular structures of rule. After 773, the responsibility of the pope for the Papal States meant that all the standard administrative forms used in “secular” governments were introduced into the church. Until the time of Pius X, “curia” referred to the whole administration headed by the Pope – that connected to the “temporal” government, as well as that connected to the government of the church. Since that time, the term has been reserved to refer to those assisting the

The Cardinals and the Curia


pope in the governance of the universal church (rather than those running Vatican City, or the diocese of Rome). The curia in this sense has its origins in the emergence of certain “congregations” created, in the sixteenth century, to assist the pope in implementing the reforms mandated by the Council of Trent. The Universal Inquisition was established in 1542, to address issues of doctrine and of heresy (it would become the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith); the Congregation of the Council was established in 1564, to implement the decrees of the Council of Trent (it would become the Congregation for the Clergy). More congregations would be established over the course of the sixteenth century – ten were created to address church matters by Pope Sixtus V; and, over the next few centuries, new departments would be created, dissolved, merged, and so on, in response – for the most part – to ad hoc needs. The core of the current structure of departments was established under Pius X in 1908, and it has, since then, been tinkered with under several popes. Paul VI instituted several reforms of the curia after the Second Vatican Council; John Paul II set out a lightly reformed structure for the curia in Pastor Bonus; and Pope Francis will set out more reforms in Praedicate Evangelium. From the sixteenth century onwards, then, a number of departments were created, to “assist” the pope in the governing of the “universal” church – with these departments taking over, in certain respects, some of the functions of the consistory of cardinals. In the same period, there emerged a “diplomatic” structure in the church. Leo X established apostolic nuncios – diplomats – who reported to the chief secretary, who headed the part of the Apostolic Chancellery that dealt with secret, primarily diplomatic, correspondence. The chief secretary, or secretary of state, emerged as an important role in the seventeenth century, to become, in effect, a kind of prime minister of the papal states. Even after the fall of the papal states, the secretary of state remained an important figure; and the Secretariat of State now has two sections, one concerned with papal correspondence, the other with relations with states. The structure of various departments that emerged from the sixteenth century onwards has evolved in an ad hoc way. It consists of three tribunals, and a number of departments, which are, for the most part, classed as “congregations” or as “councils”. The term “dicastery” has tended to be employed as a generic term for all the departments in the curia (i.e. – “congregations” and “councils” are both “dicasteries”); though pope Francis has somewhat changed this, by creating three new departments (for the Laity, Family and Life, for Integral Human Development, and for Communications) which are termed merely “dicasteries”. The tribunals are the Apostolic Penitentiary (concerned with excommunication cases) the


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Rota (concerned for the most part with annulments) and the Apostolic Signatura (the supreme court – concerned with resolving disputes of jurisdiction between other tribunals, or with hearing appeals). Most of the departments of the curia are termed either “congregations” or “councils”; and there are, in addition, “pontifical commissions”, which tend to be linked to congregations. The distinction between the “congregations” and “councils” is not clear cut. “Congregations” are regarded as somewhat more authoritative; they tend to have more senior staff, and more “jurisdictional” powers; but “councils”, equally, may have senior staff, and jurisdictional powers. Departments tend to have a field of concern that relates to either: 1.) particular groups within the church (such as the Congregation for the Clergy, or the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life); 2.) types of church (such as the Congregation for the Oriental Churches); 3.) particular issues (such as the Dicastery for Integral Human Development); or 4.) aspects of the universal life of the church (such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments). Some departments have “jurisdictional powers” (for instance, the Congregation for Clergy can determine that a particular bishop has acted in relation to his clergy in a way that contravenes canon law); some have no “jurisdictional” powers, but are supposed to research matters of concern to the universal Church, provide expertise, and to carry out educative functions. Each department has a committee which meets periodically to discuss issues, take decisions, and make recommendations to the pope. In congregations, these members are all bishops; in councils, they may include laity. Many, though not all, of the members of the committees are from within the Vatican. What is more, a number of cardinals – particularly those who are heads of particular departments – sit on the committees of several departments. The key roles in these departments are: the head of the department (termed “prefect” in the congregations, and “president” in the councils), who is usually a cardinal; the secretary, in charge of the everyday running of the department, who, in a congregation, is an archbishop, but who, in a council, may be a priest; and the undersecretary, who supports the running of the department. Some departments have, further, adjunct secretaries. These roles are designated the “superiors”, and all documents emanating from the departments require the signature of at least one of them. The departments have, in addition, professional staff (mostly clergy) and support staff (mostly laity), and they have support from a network of experts (many based in pontifical universities in Rome). The departments vary considerably in staff numbers – some have very few staff. Many of the staff regard

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themselves as generalists, required to work on a range of issues, rather than experts. There are – for what are small departments – surprisingly many “ranks”: beneath the “undersecretaries” there are (to mention only the more “senior” ranks) capi ufficio, minutante, aiutante di studio, addetto di segreteria. It is difficult to avoid the impression of a minutely graduated scale of “seniority”, involving a profusion of “ranks”, which does not correspond to substantive differences in “accountability”. Often enough, particular issues engage the attention of more than one department, and this can make for tensions between departments. Sometimes working groups are created, where members of different departments work together on issues perceived to be relevant to those departments; sometimes, senior figures from one department, sitting on the committee of another department, are expected to represent the views and concerns of their department at that committee, to ensure that different departments work harmoniously together. There is no central “executive” authority in the curia. The Secretary of State is sometimes regarded as the most “senior” and influential role in the curia; but it does not possess genuine authority over, or accountability for, the dicastery “heads”. There are, throughout the curia, networks of “influence”, in which senior figures, sitting on the committees of a number of departments, have considerable scope to shape the work of those departments, and to determine what is, and what is not, discussed, or acted on. Some of the influence of those figures may, further, be related to the perceived “importance” or “weight” of the departments they lead. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, for instance, as the Head of the CDF, a department considered to be the “guardian” of doctrine, exerted a considerable influence on many other departments. The documents of a number of departments were, as a matter of course, “vetted” by the CDF. The lack of clear, explicit coordination between dicasteries makes for conditions in which a “tightknit elite” can dominate. Ian Linden has remarked, of the impression made by the curia as a whole, that “the Vatican and its curia, at times, looked for all the world like a living proof of Weber’s theory of bureaucracy: power sustained through a mastery of information flows, through secrecy and arcane structures, and controlled by a tight-knit elite of officials.”11 There are certainly habits of “secrecy” in the curia, but one might question how much of a “mastery of information flows” there is: the curia, with its jostling departments, and its networks of personal prestige and influence, seems to operate in a semi-chaotic manner. John Thavis gives another impression of 11 Ian Linden, Global Catholicism: Towards a Networked Church, (London: Hurst and Company, 2012), 295.


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the curia: it is, he suggests, “a patchwork of departments, communities and individuals bound by a sense of mission but without comprehensive management or rigorous oversight … where each agency jealously guards its turf, where the little guys and the big shots may work at cross purposes and where slipups and misunderstandings are common.”12 Though the curia lacks an executive “centre”, the Secretariat of State has a certain pre-eminence. It exercises this in ways that go against proper modes of accountability, however: it has a certain responsibility for “personnel”, but it exercises this by controlling appointments to dicasteries. The “head” of a dicastery, then, might find himself or herself being presented with a member of staff by the Secretariat of State, without being able to veto the appointment. This is completely contrary to genuine “managerial” accountability: leaders need to be able to determine who they have in their teams, if they are to be accountable for the performance of their teams. Sometimes, if an individual has not been performing well, the senior members of the dicasteries to which those individuals belong arrange a “promotion” for them that is a way of “getting rid” of them. The dicasteries to whom these individuals are “gifted” – those, perhaps, with leaders who are less “well connected”, less able to influence matters at the Secretariat of State – are not able to decline the gift. Sometimes “promotions” happen to spare the feelings of individuals who have signally failed in a particular role. Things like this can occur in other organizations; but they occur hardly at all in organizations where leaders, supported by proper recruitment disciplines, are empowered to select the members of their teams. There is little, in the core documents of the Second Vatican Council, about the curia. Christus Dominus has a paragraph about the curia. In exercising his supreme, full and immediate authority over the universal church, the Roman pontiff employs the various departments of the Roman Curia, which act in his name and by his authority for the good of the churches and in the service of the sacred pastors. It is very much the desire of the Fathers of the sacred council that these departments, which have indeed rendered excellent service to the Roman pontiff and to the pastors of the church, should be reorganized in a manner more appropriate to the needs of our time and of different regions and rites, especially in regard to their number, their titles, their competence, their procedures and how they coordinate their activities. It is also very much their wish that the functions


John Thavis, The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church (London: Penguin, 2013), 5.

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of papal legates be more precisely determined, keeping in mind the pastoral role proper to bishops.13

Christus Dominus articulates a mandate for reform of the curia – a mandate that has been taken up in various ways, by pope Paul VI, pope John Paul II, and now pope Francis. That, on the election of pope Francis, reform of the curia was regarded as one of his primary “tasks”, indicates how little the sort of reform indicated in Christus Dominus – making the curia “more appropriate to the needs of the time” – has been realized. In 2005, the cardinals urged reform of the curia as a priority,14 but, under Benedict XVI, despite this clear mandate, the situation seemed to deteriorate further: the Vatican was beset with scandals, with infighting, and the like – so much so that some speculated that the resignation of Benedict XVI was motivated by his recognition that he was not capable of making the reforms that needed to be made. (Whether or not these speculations were correct, the fact that some were inclined to attribute the resignation of Benedict XVI to the problem of curial corruption indicates how severe the problem of curial corruption was perceived to be.) If Christus Dominus articulates a mandate for reform, it equally articulates the sort of authority that the curia may claim: it acts in the “name” and “by” the “authority” of the pope. If it acts “by” the “authority” of the pope, however, that does not mean it should take over the functions of the bishops. There is a difference between acting in the “name” of the pope, in a specific, defined area of competence, and “running” the church. If the curia acts “by” the authority of the pope, moreover, it should do so “in the service of the sacred pastors”. It is not unusual, for instance, in secular organizations, for certain “support” departments or functions – say, a quality assurance function – to act with the “authority” of the CEO, in accordance with clearly specified guidelines; but these departments do not detract from the authority or accountability of “line” managers: a quality assurance function might require a factory to close, temporarily, if certain quality standards are not being met; it would not take over, from the manager of that factory, the task of diagnosing what had caused this lapse in quality, and of identifying potential solutions to the problem; and it would not take over, from the manager of that manager, the task of determining whether that manager in charge of the factory was competent to run that factory. (It would not – for instance – send the manager of the factory an unsigned memorandum, ordering the manager to 13

Christus Dominus par. 9, in Vatican II: The Basic Sixteen Documents ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996), 287. 14 George Weigel, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church (New York: Basic Books, 2013), 250.


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resign, and then inform the manager – should the manager query that order – that he or she could speak with his or her manager after resigning.) There is a “blurriness” about the accountabilities of the curia. There is a blurriness about how the different dicasteries relate to one another – there is no central “executive” authority to coordinate such matters – and there is a blurriness about how the dicasteries relate to the wider church. The curia, moreover, seems to take upon itself certain functions of a kind that should not be carried out by “central” departments (functions such as the selection of bishops). What, then, are the key structural problems with the curia, in general? 1.) The curia wrongly fills the accountability gap between the pope and the bishops 2.) The curia lacks “single-point accountability” – i.e., a single person “in charge”. This means that particular dicasteries can become “laws unto themselves”, or that the influence of particular, forceful individuals, across a number of dicasteries, has little to counteract it. 3.) Though there is no genuine “single-point accountability” in the curia, the Secretariat of State has a certain pre-eminence, but it exercises this in ways that are not appropriate: it controls appointments to dicasteries in ways that abrade the accountability of dicastery leaders. 4.) The curia has been the key means of “centralizing” power in the church – particularly from the nineteenth century onwards. It retains a mindset that would regard itself as the prime “source” of universal initiatives in the church. It seems hostile to any initiatives from “elsewhere”. The curia regards itself as uniquely entitled to “run” the church.

4. Problems of Accountability with the Curia: Some Examples Some of the hostility felt towards the curia, in many quarters of the church, is connected to the “witch hunts” it is considered to have instigated against a number of theologians.15 One phase of these “witch hunts” occurred under Pius X, who anathematized “modernism” in Pascendi Domenici Gregis (1907) and who instituted, in 1910, the anti-modernist oath, to be sworn by all clergy, confessors, religious superiors, and seminary teachers. Uncertainty about what precisely “modernism” was – critics of the oath claim – made 15

See Gerald Arbuckle, Refounding the Church: Dissent for Leadership (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1993), 67–97.

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for a paranoiac atmosphere, in which legitimate theological speculation and reflection was stifled, and creative thinkers were regarded with undeserved suspicion. A return of this atmosphere under Pius XII, it is claimed, initially poisoned the reception of the work of the nouvelle théologie school of theologians, comprising thinkers such as Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Yves Congar, Marie-Dominique Chenu – a school that would, in the event, exert considerable influence on the Second Vatican Council. The experience of Yves Congar is illustrative. Congar had taught at Le Saulchoir until 1939; he would become a chaplain in the French army, and, on being captured by the Germans in 1940, would remain a prisoner-of-war – despite numerous escape attempts – until 1945. He would return to Le Saulchoir, and then, as he put it, “from the beginning of 1947 to the end of 1956, [he] knew nothing from [Rome] but an uninterrupted series of denunciations, warnings, restrictive and discriminatory measures and mistrustful interventions.” During this period, Congar was considered so dangerous he was banned from entering any House of Formation where he might “corrupt young seminarians and monks”. In exile, he would sit on the wall of St John’s College, Oxford, opposite Blackfriars Dominican House, forlornly eating his lunchtime sandwiches, “so that the young Dominicans across the road could continue their training uninterrupted and uncorrupted.”16 In 1960, however, pope John XXIII would invite him to serve on the preparatory theological commission for the Second Vatican Council; and he would go on to exert considerable influence on the drafting of a number of conciliar documents. One would think that cases such as that of Yves Congar might have had a somewhat chastening effect on the curia, encouraging it to take a somewhat more cautious approach in its treatment of theologians, but, in the period after the Second Vatican Council, things do not seem to have improved all that much. (Matters were certainly not helped by a certain amount of acrimonious disagreement amongst the nouvelle théologie theologians themselves – symbolized by the opposition between the journals Concilium and Communio, representing different “parties” amongst those theologians.) In the eighties, James Provost would claim that “there has been an ongoing harassment of theologians, without a consistent purpose which often attempts to appease influential minorities.”17 Much of the “harassment” has been, Provost observes, carried out anonymously. In the late nineties, Thomas Reese would claim that “the relationship between 16

Linden, Global Catholicism, 25. James Provost, “The Papacy, Power, Authority, Leadership”, 189–215, in Bernard Cooke ed. The Papacy and the Church in the United States (New York: Paulist Press, 1989), 205. 17

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theologians and the papacy is worse today than at any time since the Reformation.” The number of theologians investigated, silenced, or removed from office is at an all-time high, even exceeding the numbers during the modernist crisis … A breach between the intellectual and administrative leaders of an organization is, of course, a recipe for disaster.18

One aspect of the problem here is, certainly, the way in which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has conducted itself. In attempting to adjudicate the “orthodoxy” of theologians, the CDF operates as prosecutor, judge and jury. Theologians may come “under suspicion”, and be put under investigation, for all sorts of reasons. The individual being investigated is not informed of the investigation until it has reached stage thirteen (of eighteen stages). The defendant is not permitted to choose his or her defence counsel, is not allowed to know the identity of his or her defence counsel, and is not given access to the material underpinning the allegations against him or her. No publicity of any sort is permitted during the investigation, and there is no right of appeal. The process is carried out, from beginning to end, by the CDF, which is not obliged to offer any account of how it conducts the process. There appears to be no system of governance: there are no public reports of its activities, no records of its proceedings, no summaries accounting for its judgements – nothing that might be retrospectively scrutinized or audited. It operates in a manner that seems to be wholly unaccountable. Without attempting to solve the problem of how the CDF should conduct itself in the modern age – an age in which a disorienting variety of philosophies and religious views has emerged – it seems evident, at least, that this sort of process is altogether unsuitable. The conditions in which this sort of process can emerge are those in which there are “gaps” in accountability – in which, in default of a clear, accountable, and effective leadership structure above the bishops, there emerges a department which, operating in the “name” of the pope, “disciplines” individual theologians, in a secretive and unaccountable manner, creating the opportunity for anonymous “staff persons” to issue “an uninterrupted series of denunciations, warnings, restrictive and discriminatory measures and mistrustful interventions.” What is at issue here is not so much whether something like the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is necessary: after all, the church needs to have some faculty for determining what is, and what is not, sound 18

Reese, Inside the Vatican, 260.

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doctrine. What is at issue is the way in which the CDF conducts itself; and many of the deficiencies in the way in which the CDF conducts itself proceed from the accountability “vacuum” that exists in the church. If something like the CDF is needed at all, it is needed to assist the pope, and the college of bishops, in resolving theological issues that have become matters of widespread contention and debate, jeopardizing church unity: issues on which some kind of ruling from the “centre” has become unavoidable. Many theological issues could, and should, be resolved before any intervention from the “centre” might be needed. As St John Henry Newman observed, “many a man has ideas, which he hopes are true, and useful for his day, but he is not confident about them, and wishes to have them discussed. He is willing, or rather would be thankful, to give them up, if they can be proved to be erroneous or dangerous, and by means of controversy he obtains his end. He is answered, and he yields; or on the contrary he finds that he is considered safe. He would not dare to do this, if he knew an authority, which was supreme and final, was watching every word he said, and made signs of assent or dissent to each sentence, as he uttered it. Then indeed he would be fighting, as the Persian soldiers, under the lash, and the freedom of his intellect might truly be said to be beaten out of him.”19 If the sort of “controversy” which Newman suggests is necessary is to take place, there must be healthy, independent and orthodox “schools”, presided over by individuals who have genuine intellectual authority; and those who enter into the “controversy” must have the right spirit – and be “willing” to “give up” ideas which the controversy might show to be “erroneous or dangerous”. (Not many of the church controversies that have taken place over the past few decades would, in truth, correspond – in spirit – to the sort of “controversy” that Newman has in mind.) Newman suggests that there must be intermediate authorities: an individual confronted by a “supreme and final” authority “watching every word he said” is “under the lash”. The intermediate authorities he is thinking of are, primarily, the “schools” – he is thinking of the authority which rightly conducted argument possesses in and of itself; but his insights are pertinent to the wider issue of “centralization” in the church: authorities other than the curia could, and should, be engaged in stimulating debate about theological ideas which might be “true” and “useful for” the “day”; and there is scope for useful interventions from “intermediate” authorities, where issues of doctrine are concerned. An excessively interventionist “centre” tends to demoralise, to


John Henry Newman, Apologia pro Vita Sua (London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1908), 267–8.


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disempower, other authorities (let alone the individuals against whom its interventions are aimed). One might observe, further, that where the CDF does engage with the work of theologians, it tends to do so, not only from the centre, but “in” the centre, on its “own ground”, so to speak. During the controversies about “liberation theology” over the course of the 1980s, it does not appear that any officials from the CDF visited Latin America, where most of the liberation theologians of consequence were doing their work. A greater awareness of the conditions in which those theologians were working, gained by experiencing something of those conditions, meeting those theologians (rather than carrying out an eighteen-stage process of “investigation”) might, perhaps, have helped to resolve certain misunderstandings. In its Romebound mode of operation, the CDF resembles other curial dicasteries. In most international organizations, central management would be expected to undertake “field visits”, to get an understanding of the difficulties being confronted by local managers in particular regions, so as to work productively with those managers: central management might present certain challenges to local management, but it would do so with a proper understanding of the overall situation within which local management was operating. The curia, by contrast, does not go out to visit the bishops: it expects the bishops to visit it. Unsurprisingly, the curia has often been accused of having too “Eurocentric” a mindset, of failing to grasp the particular dynamics at work in different local churches. It has, equally, seemed signally unappreciative of bishops whose work has been oriented to those particular dynamics. To take an example: the work of Bishop Dennis Hurley of Durban, chairman of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, in challenging the system of apartheid, seemed to be regarded rather coldly by the curia. Hurley drafted the first of a number of groundbreaking pastoral letters in which the bishops denounced apartheid as a “blasphemy” and as “intrinsically evil”. Though he was chair of the Bishops Conference, and bishop of Durban for almost fifty years, he was never made a cardinal. His successor is a cardinal. He received great recognition from elsewhere, however: France made him a chevalier de legion d’honneur, and Italy a member of the Order of Merit; he was the recipient of numerous academic honorary awards. During the period where communism was collapsing, and where the church might have provided considerable leadership in a number of countries undergoing radical social change, the curia, and the CDF in particular, was bound by its legalism, its focus on “unsound” individuals, its reactiveness, its insensitivity to pastoral challenges and opportunities, its lack of interest in the distinctive challenges of particular regions, in ways that prevented it from engaging with, and

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influencing, the debates about social justice that were happening in those countries – debates in which the church, with its well developed “social doctrine”, could have played a pivotal role. When bishops are called to Rome, they do not seem to be given much opportunity to provide a full account of the situation in which they are carrying out their work. One senior churchman I interviewed described to me his experience of being called to Rome for a visit. His invitation consisted of a missive from Rome saying “where are you?” This was, it turned out, a question about why the churchman had not yet arrived in Rome for an ad limina visit that year; it had been five years since his last, and he was, apparently, expected. Yet the he had believed that he was dispensed from the five-year rule, as he was operating in “mission” territory. Explaining this, he received the reply “have you not read the new code of canon law?” Hardworking pastoral leaders are not always inclined to read every part of the code of canon law. (Curial officials tend to study it, though: it can be a useful weapon.) He duly made arrangements to travel to Rome, and presented himself. He then attended the required series of meetings with curial officials. At most of these, he was presented with an account, by these officials, of what an excellent job they were doing. Very few seemed particularly interested to hear about, or to discuss, any of the challenges he was grappling with. A handful were attentive, helpful, and gracious hosts; but they were the exception. Several reprimanded him about the province and its priests. Not only was this galling, but it was a complete surprise: the picture of the province that they presented to him did not correspond, at all, to his own knowledge of how things actually were. When he pressed them as to their sources for their picture of things, they were exceedingly reluctant to discuss them with him. He then had to make his own enquiries – meeting up with individuals in Rome he knew well – to find out how the curial officials had come to be so misinformed. It turned out that a papal nuncio – a papal nuncio who, by all accounts, had been less than competent – was the source; he had gathered complaints from a handful of discontented individuals, put together a negative picture, and this was treated, by the curia, as unassailable truth. They had not sought any confirmation from anyone else – or from the churchman himself. They had simply reprimanded him. The question presents itself – how often does this occur? The “information flows”, about which the curia are so secretive, seem all too likely to be – often enough – “misinformation flows” which, kept secret, become impervious to correction. One might observe, generally, that the CDF has tended to be averse to open, public debate on church matters generally. Cardinal Ratzinger argued in 1985 that criticisms of the church ought not to be made too


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publicly, lest this damage the trust of the faithful, “beginning with the poor and the most vulnerable”. Gerald Arbuckle observed of this: “I think this is rather an insult to the “poor and most vulnerable” as my work in Third World countries has shown me such people are particularly attuned to the weaknesses of their priests and bishops.”20 In 1990 the CDF released an Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, maintaining that if theologians have any difficulties with church teaching, they should not discuss them publicly, but go instead to the magisterial authorities, to be counselled by them. Arbuckle pointed out that “there are simply no structures in the Church to permit this type of informed dialogue to occur.”21 This advice is, in fact, the reverse of that of Newman, who felt that “controversy” was the proper “means” for testing out “ideas”, and for determining whether they might be “erroneous or dangerous”. It is, Arbuckle notes, at odds with the vision of the church presented in the Second Vatican Council; Gaudium et Spes (1965) proclaimed “let it be recognized that all the faithful, clerical and lay, possess a lawful freedom of inquiry and of thought, and the freedom to express their minds humbly and courageously about those matters in which they enjoy competence.” It did not specify that the “competence”, legitimating this expression of thought, was to be determined by the curia. Of the Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, Arbuckle has remarked that “the consequence of this [vision of how theology is to be practiced] is to make theology a “privatized” discipline … reduced to a gnostic-like science or a secret to be shared by the hierarchical magisterium and a docile group of theologians.”22 There must, surely, be a proper “mean” between theology as a chaotic freefor-all, uprooted from tradition, and theology as a “gnostic … secret”. If the curia has not shown much inclination to “go out” to the regions, to understand what is happening “on the ground”, and the particular challenges being addressed by different local churches, it has, equally, shown a marked disinclination to empower those churches to address those challenges. From the mid-eighties, the curia has required Conferences of Bishops, prior to their meetings, to submit the proposed agendas for those meetings for approval. It is not unusual for items to be removed from those agendas, and, even, for items to be added. While Conferences of Bishops were commended in the Second Vatican Council, their precise status, power and function has never been altogether definite, and documents such as Apostolos Suos (1998), purporting to clarify these matters, have been taken, 20

Arbuckle, Refounding the Church, 75. Arbuckle, Refounding the Church, 77. See also Ladislas Orsy “Magisterium and Theologians: A Vatican Document”, America Vol. 163(2), 21 July, 1990, 30–32. 22 Arbuckle, Refounding the Church, 76. 21

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by some, as efforts to restrict and to nullify these Conferences. Apostolos Suos insists that collective, “territorially-based” episcopal bodies cannot encroach on the “competence of each diocesan bishop”, that the decisions of such bodies are valid only if attained by a two-thirds majority, and, further, if approved by the pope, and it insists that the “territorially based exercise of the episcopal ministry never takes on the collegial character proper to the actions of the order of bishops as such, which alone holds the supreme power over the whole Church”; the “power of the College of Bishops over the whole Church is not the result of the sum of the powers of the individual Bishops over their particular Churches” – not, say, a representation of those bishops – but it is a “pre-existing reality in which individual Bishops participate.” This “pre-existing reality” does not – Apostolos Suos implies – become manifest or active in Conferences of Bishops. Those who regard documents such as Apostolos Suos as betraying a certain animus to Conferences detect, in the curia, an animus against any “independent” initiative on the part of the bishops, a sense that such initiative can only “get in the way” of the curia, as it carries out the proper work of “running” the church. Adam De Ville has noted that, even where Apostolos Suos indicates certain “issues” to which Conferences might address themselves, those issues have been taken up by the curia, which has made its own interventions. De Ville comments on the text of Apostolos Suos as follows (his comments are marked in square brackets): It escapes no one that issues which currently call for the joint action of Bishops include the promotion and safeguarding of faith and morals, the translation of liturgical books, [except for Rome intervening with, e.g. Liturgiam Authenticam!] the promotion and formation of priestly vocations, [except for Rome intervening with, e.g. Pastores Dabo Vobis], the preparation of catechetical aids, [except for Rome getting a “universal” one published first in 1992] the promotion and safeguarding of Catholic universities and other educational centres, [controversially covered in 1990 by Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesia and, before that, the 1979 constitution, Sapientia Christiana, both treating Catholic faculties and universities], the ecumenical task, [governed by canons in the CIC and the Ecumenical Directory produced by Rome in 1993] relations with civil authorities, the defence of human life, of peace, and of human rights, [covered by the Roman Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which was, in 2016, rolled into the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development] also in order to ensure their protection in civil legislation, the promotion of social justice, the use of the means of social communication, [governed by Roman bodies and special documents


Chapter 4 published each year on World Communications Day, a modern invention by Rome] etc.23

If the “external” relations of the curia – the relations of the curia to the rest of the church – seem far from optimal, what of its “internal” life? Much of that life is secret, concealed, of course: it is difficult to assess the working practices of the curia when clear records of those practices are not available. There are a number of indications, however, that all is not as it should be. One indication is that there seems to be no formal approach to recruitment to curial roles: appointments seem to happen, primarily, through personal contacts and recommendations. What is more, managers do not have control over who they recruit: “since the Secretariat of State must approve hirings, it can impose someone on a reluctant prefect.”24 Another indication is that a number of the “heads” of dicasteries sit on the committees of other dicasteries. It is claimed that this enables better “coordination” between the dicasteries; but this is, equally, something that could make for the emergence of a de facto “elite” of important individuals, exercising influence in unaccountable ways. It would be better to have a genuine central “executive” authority – an individual “in charge”, formally accountable with ensuring coordination between departments – and a clearer overall structure, where the “competence” and “authority” of particular departments is well defined (at present, it seems that there are too many dicasteries, with briefs that are too restricted). If one adds to the presence of a de facto “elite”, habits of “indirection”, “implication”, “secrecy”, amongst curial officials, then there is scope for all sorts of misunderstandings (misunderstandings that might be all to convenient for some). Thavis describes the Vatican as a place where “the little guys and the big shots may work at cross purposes and where slipups and misunderstandings are common.” He mentions the “little guys” and the “big shots”; one wonders where the “bad guys” figure in the picture (there are certainly one or two of those, “little” or “big” – there always are).25 There seems, certainly, to be 23 Adam. A. J. De Ville, Everything Hidden Shall be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power (Brooklyn NY: Angelico, 2019), 96. 24 Reese, Inside the Vatican, 157. 25 My focus in this book is on matters of organizational design. I have confined myself, therefore, to focusing on issues of structure, and of specifically organizational discipline, and have refrained from commenting on the moral failings of church officials and leaders. I am not unaware of these failings, however; any reasonably attentive reader of the Catholic press, and, indeed, the international press, over the past decade or so, must have become aware of them. Those who would learn more about moral corruption in the curia, in particular, could do worse than to start with a London Review of Books article by Tim Parks, “The Passion of

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an ethos of loyalty to the pope in many members of the curia, and a spirit of self-dedication and self-sacrifice in some of the members of the curia. Yet, are those who are dedicated to the “views” or “intentions” of the pope always presented with the right account of those “views” or “intentions”? Thomas Reese observes, of the members of the dicastery committees, that “since the members as a group never sit with the pope to discuss issues linked to their dicastery, they must take signals from Vatican officials about what is appropriate and what is not.”26 It seems evident that “signals from Vatican officials” – variously interpreted by various committees – should not govern the church.

5. Papal Diplomats The papal “diplomatic” service has its origins in the eighth century, emerging as a part of the process by which the papacy acquired “temporal” power. It was, as such, a means by which the papacy, as a state power, interacted with other state powers. The evaporation of the temporal power of the papacy in the nineteenth century did not result in the disappearance of the diplomatic service. Leo XIII “greatly increased the role of papal nuncios and apostolic delegates, insisting on their precedence over local hierarchies and other ambassadors of the Holy See.”27 They became a means of bringing about a “centralization” of the Church – a means of contract between the “centre” and the local churches, controlled by the centre (bypassing “local hierarchies”). It is perhaps unsurprising that papal nuncios are regarded by some, to this day, as essentially (in the words of one person I interviewed) “papal spies”. In the modern world, in which forms of communication have developed considerably – in which a bishop in Papua New Guinea can communicate directly with curial officials, face-to-face, via the internet, with the greatest of ease – one cannot but wonder whether an elaborate “diplomatic” structure in the Vatican continues to be necessary.

the Bureaucrats” (LRB 38(4) 18 February 2016), discussing a couple of recently published books, Avarizia: Le Carte che Svelano. Ricchezza, Scandali e Segreti della Chiesa di Francesco by Emiliano Fittipaldi and Merchants in the Temple: Inside Pope Francis’s Secret Battle against Corruption in the Vatican by Gianluigi Nuzzi. In 1976, when I first visited Rome, a saintly Marist brother, who had, by that time, some experience in dealing with the curia, said to me “this place will either make or break your faith.” I begin, decades later, to have some inkling of what he meant. 26 Reese, Inside the Vatican, 125. 27 Duffy, Saints and Sinners, 317.

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The starting point for an “elite” career for priests in the Vatican civil service is in attending the Ecclesiastical Academy of Graduates. Students are recruited by the Secreteriat of State, usually from the pool of those already studying in Rome, via recommendations from curial officials, usually in the diplomatic corps, from bishops, or from rectors of colleges. Students there, over four years (or two, if they have a doctorate in canon law or theology) study languages, international law, diplomatic history, ecclesiastical diplomacy and diplomatic writing. (Note: nothing on leadership, on strategic planning or work planning, on how to identify talent, on how to assess performance, on how to handle disputes or grievances, or how to conduct an audit.) Students are, moreover, expected to absorb something of the ethos of the diplomatic service, a sense of how things are done. They are, after formal training, then sent to live in a nunciature, to work as an assistant to a nuncio. Ordinarily, to become a nuncio, it is necessary to go through a series of three-year postings, moving between countries, progressing through the ranks – attaché, to secretary (first second class, then first class), to auditor, to counsellor or nuncio – over a period of fifteen to eighteen years. “Promotion within the diplomatic service is principally through seniority unless a person messes up.”28 (Very small mistakes, however, can be fatal.) Personal connections with significant officials can be important in securing progress; family connections can be important too. Senior diplomatic staff are expected, as a matter of course, to be made bishops. Some of those who progress successfully through the ranks return, eventually, to Rome, to work in the curia, where they are expected to provide insight into events in countries they have served in, and into the situation in local churches, and sometimes to interpret communications from nunciatures in those different countries and churches. They can, as such, exert considerable influence on how events are understood, and acted on, by the “centre”. The diplomatic service, with its cadre designated as an “elite”, with its “promotion … through seniority” (rather than through performance) or through personal connections, is a prime source of “careerism” in the church.

6. The Challenge of Reform Pope Francis has described curial reform as being “like cleaning the sphynx of Egypt with a toothbrush”. This description has a proverbial ring; its meaning seems (worryingly) close to other proverbial phrases like “tilting at windmills” or even “getting blood from a stone”. If, though, one has the 28

Reese, Inside the Vatican, 152.

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task of cleaning the sphynx, then one has the option, one would think, of using something other than a toothbrush. It is unsurprising, perhaps, that the image of the “sphynx” came to mind for pope Francis, when thinking about the curia – the sphynx, in the mythological tales, being an ancient creature, an unlikely farrago of other creatures, posing riddles which must be solved, lest one perish. (When Oedipus solved the riddle of the sphynx, it threw itself into the sea. It is tempting, but perhaps unfair, to think that pope Francis, dealing with a difficult, enigmatic curia, could have had that story in mind, as well.) Pope Francis is not the first to have encountered difficulties in attempting to reform the curia. Leaving aside Pope Adrian VI – who, after declaring “we plan to use all diligence to reform the Roman curia” in 1523, died very shortly afterwards – the task of reform has been taken on by a number of popes since the Second Vatican Council. The centralisation that created the powerful curia that exists now occurred, for the most part, over the course of the nineteenth century. The mandate for a reform of the curia emerged with the Second Vatican Council – a council that several powerful members of the curia did not wish to take place (if one regards oneself as ruling the church, the bishops of the worldwide church are likely to seem something of an inconvenience, and a gathering of those bishops, nothing less than a nuisance). John XXIII, the pope who called the council, observed that he was regarded, among many in the curia, as merely a figurehead; it was widely believed, he noted in his diary, that “Angelo [Dell’Aqua] reigns, Carlo [Confalonieri] spies, Alfredo [Ottaviani] keeps watch, Domenico [Tardini] governs and John merely blesses.” Once the council began, several curial officials sought to exercise control over proceedings. (They took upon themselves such matters as the drafting of key documents; and when the bishops rejected those drafts, and set out to produce their own, certain members of the curia were less than pleased. The bishops had important support, however, in this, from a curial official who would eventually become pope – Giovanni Montini.) Pope Paul VI took on the task of curial reform: he increased the number of cardinal electors (while determining that only cardinals below the age of eighty could vote); he sought to make the curia more “international” – bringing in staff from around the world, so that the curia might be more representative of the wider church. He has, however, been criticised for increasing, as a result, the number of curial officials.29 Some have criticised him, moreover, for giving to the curia too


H.J.A. Sire, writing as Marcantonio Colonna, claims in The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy (Regnery Publishing 2018) that the numbers of curial officials shot up from 1,322 to 3,150. Thomas Reese, in Inside the Vatican in


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much of the task of “implementing” the changes mandated by the Second Vatican Council: there was little likelihood of the curia reforming itself, or of supporting the creation of a more “decentralized” church, in which bishops, and conferences of bishops, would be more empowered. Pope John Paul II introduced, in Pastor Bonus (1988) a new “constitution” for the curia, but the changes to previous structures and forms were fairly minimal. After the papacy of Benedict XVI, in which the parlous state of the curia became increasingly apparent, Pope Francis was elected with a mandate, from the cardinals (and, indeed, from public opinion in the wider church) to instigate significant reform of the curia. As a means to that end, Pope Francis created the “C9”, the Council of Cardinal Advisers, composed of nine cardinals. (Of the “C9”, one might ask – why were only cardinals appointed? Surely there are many well disposed lay experts who might have been employed in such a reform effort? Is there apparent, in this, the ethos of the “gifted amateur”, or a wish for “clerical control”, or a mistrust of nonclerical “outsiders”?) Three of the C9 cardinals have, since the creation of this advisory body, resigned, two of them mired in grave scandal: Errázuriz Ossa, Archbishop emeritus of Santiago, was investigated by civil authorities for allegedly protecting clerical abusers of children; George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and former Archbishop of Sydney, has been convicted by an Australian court of sexual abuse of a minor. Prior to his arraignment, Pell had been working on matters of financial reform, and had taken on the accountancy firm PwC to conduct an audit of Vatican finances. At one stage, Pell announced that his team had discovered “some hundreds of millions of euros … tucked away in particular sectional accounts [which] did not appear on the balance sheet.”30 The PwC probe was ended, without explanation, after only four months. Then, the auditor general, Libero Milone, was forced to resign; he was, by his own account, “presented with charges of espionage and embezzlement, and … compelled to sign a resignation letter on the spot.”31 (He was subsequently cleared, by the Vatican police, of those charges.) Then, Pell was accused, and convicted, of child abuse; and some commentators, who consider the evidence against Pell questionable and the case against him implausible, have wondered whether 1996, put the number of curial officials at around 2,370 (including the staff of Vatican Radio, the Vatican printing office, and Osservatore Romano). 30 George Pell, “The days of ripping off the Vatican are over”, Catholic Herald 4 December 2014. 31 Claire Giangravè, “Vatican”s ex-auditor ready to return, says it”s “not too late” for reform”, Crux, July 28, 2018.

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his downfall might be connected to his efforts to uncover financial wrongdoing in the curia. That some speculate in this way is itself an indication of how murky, how pervaded with mistrust, the situation is. In 2019, Pope Francis published a moto proprio, Vos Estis Lux Mundo, setting out norms for how reports of sexual abuse should be addressed in the church (to be established “ad experimentum for three years”). It requires that “Episcopal Conferences … Synods of the Bishops of the Patriarchal Churches and the Major Archiepiscopal Churches … the Councils of Hierarchs of the Metropolitan Churches sui iuris, the Dioceses or the Eparchies, individually or together, must establish within a year from the entry into force of these norms, one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports, even through the institution of a specific ecclesiastical office.” It requires that “whenever a cleric or a member of an Institute of Consecrated Life or of a Society of Apostolic Life has notice of, or well-founded motives to believe that [a crime of this nature] has been committed, that person is obliged to report promptly the fact to the local Ordinary where the events are said to have occurred or to another Ordinary among those referred to in canons 134 CIC and 984 CCEO”; and it notes that “any person can submit a report”, and that “can also be acquired ex officio”. Reports concerning bishops are to be investigated by metropolitans; reports concerning a metropolitan, a Patriarch, a major archbishop, or a bishop of the other Eastern Catholic Churches are to be “forwarded to the Holy See”. Ordinarily, metropolitans are to be appointed as chief investigators, within thirty days, by the relevant dicastery (usually the CDF – though five other dicasteries might be responsible, depending upon the person accused); and they may appoint suitable individuals to carry out the investigation. In conducting the investigation, the “Metropolitan, if requested by the competent Dicastery, informs the person of the investigation concerning him/her, hears his/her account of the facts and invites him/her to present a brief in defence. In such cases, the investigated person may be assisted by legal counsel.” (That is, the metropolitan informs the accused of the investigation only “if requested by the competent Dicastery.”) The investigation should be completed within ninety days (though the metropolitan may request an extension). The metropolitan then submits the results of the investigation to the relevant dicastery, which “unless it decides to provide for a supplementary investigation, the competent Dicastery proceeds in accordance with the law provided for the specific case.” It is noted that “these norms apply without prejudice to the rights and obligations established in each place by state laws, particularly


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those concerning any reporting obligations to the competent civil authorities.”32 According to the norms set out in Vos Estis Lux Mundo, the bishops, or, rather, metropolitan bishops, subject to the direction of a patchwork of dicasteries, have primary responsibility for conducting investigations of abuse. They can appoint whomever they choose, to carry out these investigations. They are not required to make the outcome of the investigations public. There is no independent structure in place to oversee and conduct these investigations (though conferences and synods are required to, at least, establish “systems for the submission of reports”); and, at no stage is there any requirement that any laypeople be involved: Christopher Altieri has noted that “the reform law does call on reporters to comply with reporting law in civil jurisdictions that have them, but the system itself is designed by Churchmen for Church leadership;”33 and Adam De Ville has characterized these norms as marred by “clericalism”.34 An initial version of the proposals of the C9 for curial reform, a draft of the document setting out those reforms, the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, has been leaked to the press. The main changes that have been outlined in the draft appear to be: the distinction between “congregations” and “councils” is being done away with, and all departments are to be classed as “dicasteries”; the dicastery for the Evangelization of Peoples is being accorded more importance, and is to take a certain pre-eminence over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; the Secretariat of State is – in what is seen as a “centralizing” move – to be given greater power, though it is to lose its control over some of the main organs of communication (Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio, and the Vatican Television Centre). A “de-centralizing” move seems to be hinted at in one of the articles in the draft: article “69.1, … recognizes that the episcopal conferences, in protecting the faith from error, have a “primary

32 Vos Estis Lux Mundo 33 Christopher Altieri, “What’s (not) in Pope Francis’s new accountability measures”, Catholic World Report, May 11, 2019. 34 Adam A. J. De Ville, “Pope Francis denounces clericalism, but his new motu proprio enables it”, Catholic World Report, May 16 2019.

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responsibility” that “also includes a certain authentic doctrinal authority,” as Pope Francis affirmed previously in Evangelii Gaudium 32.”35 Aside from article 69.1, which hints (tentatively) at a “decentralizing” move, Praedicate Evangelium does not appear to shown signs of a radical re-thinking of the overall function of the curia: it seems to work from the assumptions according to which the curia currently operates; it retains the current framework, merely re-distributing power within that framework. Thomas Reese, one of the most insightful of commentators on the structures of the curia, has claimed that the initial draft of Praedicate Evangelium has some significant flaws. While he approves of how the “document stresses that the Curia is in service to the pope and the college of bishops, not just the pope … [in] an attempt to stop the Curia from seeing itself as a power between the pope and the bishops”, he notes that merely “putting it in writing will not make it happen.” Reese contests the vision, set out in Praedicate Evangelium, that the curia should be an “instrument of evangelization”. “The Curia, which is a bureaucracy, is not an instrument of evangelization. It should support others in their work of evangelization.” Reese proposes some alternative reforms, all worth considering: 1.) strengthen the Secretariat for the Economy (responsible for finances), so that it can impose proper accounting and business practices; 2.) create a Human Resources office supporting all involved in church ministry (clerical or lay); 3.) consider creating offices in different continents: “each continent could have its own office to deal with its countries” national bishops” conferences. The continental offices would have the authority to grant exceptions to general laws and to permit experimentation in local churches”; 4.) consider whether the core “product lines” (word, sacraments and charity) need to be controlled by central dicasteries, or whether regional offices might take more of a lead; 5.) create an office for innovation, “research and development”, an office for “liaison and dialogue with government officials and leaders of other churches and religions”, and a “department of justice to investigate and prosecute financial and sexual abuses by bishops, priests and others.”36 In sum, Reese suggests creating proper Finance and HR structures, and delegating some matters, currently controlled at the centre, 35 Sandro Magister, “All sides oppose Pope Francis”s upcoming reform of Vatican bureaucracy”, Life Site July 15 2019. 36 Thomas Reese, “If leaked draft for Curia reform is for real, the Vatican is headed for disaster” National Catholic Reporter, May 1, 2019.


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to “regional” offices; and his last suggestion for a “department of justice” could be addressed, in part, by creating structures of “independent audit” alongside the diocesan structures. One vital issue that is not addressed in Praedicate Evangelium, an issue which is directly relevant to the question of how the curia is to be reformed, is the issue of the “gap” in accountability in the “line” from priest, to bishop, to pope. The curia should – as Reese notes – be a “support” to the hierarchy; it should “stop … seeing itself as a power between the pope and the bishops”. Merely adjusting the structure of the curial departments will not address, however, the main cause of the curia “seeing itself as a power between the pope and the bishops”, which is that the line of accountability, between the pope and the bishops, is faulty: the pope cannot exercise direct oversight of the bishops, so the “communication link” between the bishops and the pope is “taken over” by the curia. That link could, however, be established through the creation of a “pastoral cardinal” role, accountable to the pope for the bishops in a certain region. (Pastoral cardinals, in a certain region, might be supported by a curial regional “office”, of the kind Reese outlines.) Pope Francis was elected with a mandate to reform. He was elected at a time when the “moral authority” of the leaders of the church had been severely damaged. He has insisted on the need for the church to pursue its “evangelizing” mission, and, in pursuit of that mission, to avoid being overly attached to inherited structures: all ways are to be tried, in proclaiming Christ. He has pursued curial reform, but the indications are – to judge from the draft of Praedicate Evangelium – that the reforms currently being envisaged are not extensive enough. More can be done.


‘To the Curia change is anathema. It suggests that the existing situation is not perfect, and to the Curia the church is perfect.’ —Desmond Fisher1

1. Challenges and Options The church, considered from an “organizational design” perspective, is deficient in three main respects: 1.) The “line of accountability”, from parish priest to pope, has a “gap” in it: the pope has too many “direct reports” (he cannot directly lead and manage the bishops who “report” to him) 2.) Owing, in part, to this “gap”, departments that should serve a “support” function (namely, the curia), assisting the pope in the governance of the church, have taken on “line” functions (so that they regard their role as, in effect, to “run” the church, and they act accordingly, with impunity) 3.) Areas which one would expect to be the purview of sound “support” departments, maintaining certain “disciplines” throughout the organization – such as financial disciplines – are virtually non-existent in the church. It is tempting to summarize the situation by saying that, as the curia has sought to control everything, without being equipped to do so (and, indeed, “controlling everything” is an unattainable goal) the upshot is that everything is out of control; but such a summary would be too simplistic. Whatever the reasons for the current structural faults in the church, it is evident that they make for significant problems in the life of the church. They are not the cause of all the problems that the church is experiencing, 1 Desmond Fisher, ‘Curial horror greeted John XXIII’s announcement of ecumenical

council’ National Catholic Reporter, Jan 25 2012.


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but they are the cause of more than a few of them; and, most importantly, perhaps, they stultify the capacity of the church to respond creatively and effectively to the problems it is experiencing. I will attempt, in this chapter, to discuss options for changes that would redress some of the most significant structural faults of the church. 1.) An accountable role, to which the bishops would “report”, could be created, which might be termed a “pastoral Cardinal” (what the role is called does not matter particularly – what is important is the function that it would serve) 2.) The structure of the curia could be transformed: a full review – abstracting from everything that exists now – could be undertaken, to think through what departments are needed, what their functions should be, what their staffing needs would be, and where they might be located (e.g. – determining what needs to remain in Rome, and what could be located in different regions). These two changes (which each imply a multiplicity of subsidiary changes) should, ideally, happen in tandem: the creation of an accountable role “above” the bishops would happen in conjunction with a review of the “support” functions carried out by the curia. It would be possible, however, even now – even before the creation of an accountable role above the bishops – to conduct a full review of the curia, identifying the proper functions or “briefs” of curial dicasteries (starting from the question “what is the purpose that the curia needs to serve?”) determining which dicasteries might be needed, and which not (and even which dicasteries ought to be created) and ascertaining what sort of staffing they would require to carry out their proper functions.

2. Some Objections to the Pastoral Cardinal Role Before discussing what the “pastoral Cardinal” role might be, and how it might work, it is worth considering a couple of objections that might be presented to the idea of any role “above” the bishops. 1.) The church has more than enough “hierarchy”. Why introduce another layer of hierarchy? 2.) There is no theological justification for such a role To consider objection 1.) – why introduce more hierarchy into the Church? – one might observe that hierarchy – in the sense of a structure of roles

Reforming the Curia


“reporting to” each other, where more “senior” roles are accountable for those reporting to them – is something that arises, inevitably, out of the nature of organizations. As organizations take on greater, more complex tasks, requiring them to confront larger, more complex aspects of “reality” itself, so they need to establish the capacity to take decisions, and to coordinate activities, in relation to those larger, more complex aspects of reality; and the creation of this capacity involves the construction of a hierarchy of roles. A leader is useful to his or her team when that leader takes decisions – committing and risking resources – that proceed from a view that is wider and more complex than that of the team reporting to that leader. The leader is required to “take into account” that wider view; and is useful precisely as taking it into account, and orienting the work of the team accordingly. If an organization does not create roles that exist to take account of, and to take decisions in relation to, certain realities, then it will be, in effect, “blind” to those realities (and will be at risk of being blindsided by them). Something of the feeling behind the reaction “not more hierarchy” is related to the experience of living in (or with) a church that feels very hierarchical. There is an excess of ranks and titles in the church, and there is, particularly in clerical circles, and particularly in Rome, something of an obsession with status (so much so, that, in some curial meetings, the order in which individuals speak is determined by their perceived “seniority”). Those with “senior” titles frequently arrogate to themselves considerable authority, or, at least, an air of considerable authority (enough to get others to do what they want). Another feature of the life of the church at the present time is that the formally appointed “authorities” of the church – most notably, the bishops – have been widely discredited – not least because of the “abuse crisis”. Some might comment – “The bishops have been guilty of all kind of lapses, and misuses of power, and now you want to create a role that would be a kind of “super-bishop”? Would that not be like trying to put out a fire with gasoline?” What is more, some of the more egregious church scandals, over the past few years, have arisen from the conduct of cardinals: in the U.K. and the U.S., there have been the recent cases of cardinal Keith O’Brien, and cardinal Theodore McCarrick – guilty, both, of predatory sexual conduct, involving an abuse of their positions of power. “What if you get a McCarrick placed in authority over a number of bishops?” This is a fair question, and a couple of comments are worth making in response to it. 1.) I propose not only creating a role “above” the bishops, but, in addition, creating a stronger support and auditing structure “to the side” of the bishops (which would, ultimately, report in to a department “head” in Rome). While


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the role “above” the bishops would, in part, help to restrain irresponsible and unaccountable conduct on the part of the bishops, that role would, equally, have to the “side” of it an auditing function, which would be there, in part, to “check” and “supervise” certain areas of activity for which that role would be responsible. That is, there would be structures in place to detect corruption and wrongdoing on the part of “pastoral Cardinals”. 2.) There are a great many reasons why the bishops have performed so poorly, in carrying out their duties. To mention a few, some of these reasons have been to do with a mindset of “entitlement”, with a kind of “clericalism”; some to do with a flawed system for selecting bishops (such that more than a few of those appointed have had a “company man” mentality, and have been signally lacking in courage and independence). Among these reasons, not the least important is that the pope cannot directly oversee the work of more than 5,000 bishops. The pope could, however, have a clearer “sight” of the work of 100 or so “pastoral Cardinals”: he could meet them, spend time with them, get to know them, and discuss with them some of their challenges. Not every day, but often enough. He would, moreover, have good reason – owing to the importance, and prominence, of the “pastoral Cardinal” role – to attend closely to the performance of these individuals (and to any questions about their moral character, and moral conduct). Something of the feeling behind the reaction “not more hierarchy” may, further, be related to the culture, and atmosphere, of the Western world at the present time, a culture giving high importance to equality, diversity, and the like (and retaining certain inflections of the “rebellious” mentality of the sixties, which involved a certain hostility to everything “institutional” and inherited). Hierarchy can seem to “mean” things like: stultifying uniformity; authoritarianism; empty formality; excessive control. It can seem inimical to things like creativity, freedom, honesty, authenticity, spontaneity and warmth. These preconceptions are often reinforced by the experiences many have in their working lives – experiences of working in over-layered, lethargic organizations, in jobs without clear purpose, under autocratic, unsympathetic managers of questionable ability. It is a piece of received “management” wisdom that “flat hierarchies are good”. It is rare, though, for managers to have a sense of “how flat” their hierarchy should be: “flatter than what we have right now” is often the prevailing feeling (particularly in the case of managers under pressure to reduce costs); and it is, often enough, justified. Yet this feeling can, equally, make for excessive “cuts” in hierarchy; and removing too many leadership layers, or removing the wrong layers, can be as damaging to an organization as adding too many. If the church were to add one more layer of leadership, then, even with this new additional layer of “pastoral cardinals”, it would, with its

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leadership cadre of over 5,300 bishops, and ~600,000 priests – and therefore three layers of leadership – have the flattest hierarchy of any international organization in the world. It would be able to cope with being so “flat” because the leadership required would be more “light touch” than that which is required in other organizations. With regard to objection 2.) – that there is no theological justification for such a role – Avery Dulles, who is surely orthodox in his ecclesiology, observes, in Models of the Church, that “the New Testament … does not impose the three-tier hierarchical system (bishop, presbyter, deacon) today familiar to us. Theologians are coming to admit, in increasing numbers, that these hierarchical distinctions are of human institution, alterable by the will of men.”2 If this is so, then these distinctions can be altered, added to, if necessary. Dulles adds, with regard to the sorts of changes that might be made to the “hierarchical system”, that “any restructuring of the Christian ministry should be something more than a reflection of the contemporary Zeitgeist. It should take full cognizance of the biblical roots and of the special mission of the Church.” The case presented here for the “pastoral Cardinal” is based, not so much on an account of the “biblical roots and … special mission of the Church”, as on a perception of “natural” need (“grace building on nature”): on a sense of the needs of the church as an organization, akin to other organizations (even if, in certain crucial respects, quite unique). Yet it could be maintained, certainly, that a regard for natural “need” is in accord with the “biblical roots and … special mission of the Church”. The biblical account of the early church presents an institution that was at once ordered, and open to change in response to practical needs. There are no provisions in canon law, at present, for a “pastoral Cardinal” role, but canon law is not the ultimate “authority” in the life of the church. The code of canon law set out in 1983 flowed, in part, from the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, representing the determinations of the college of bishops, in communion with the pope. With regard to what Newman termed the “regal” dimension of the church, it is the pope who has ultimate authority over all in the church that is of “human institution”. It is, therefore, within the power of the pope to create a new role in the hierarchy.

3. Outline of the Pastoral Cardinal Role 1.) Purpose. The core purpose of the pastoral cardinal would be twofold: 1.) to advise popes and to participate in the election of popes; and 2.) to oversee 2

Avery Dulles S.J., Models of the Church (New York: Image Books, 2002), 155.


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a number of dioceses, paying particular attention to the performance, and development, of the bishops leading those dioceses – ensuring that the church, in the region for which the pastoral cardinal is responsible, is pursuing its “special mission”, and manifesting Christ. The pastoral cardinal would need, in this, to reflect on how the “special mission” of the church might need to be inflected, in the particular region for which he would be responsible, so as to be most effective. He would not, in this, be expected to be the source for all the ideas about what “tack” the church, in his region, should take – ideas about where efforts should be focused, what new ventures should be undertaken, what inherited practices should be phased out – but he would be accountable for which overall approach is adopted, and for what commitments, and investments of time, effort, and finances are made due to the adoption of this approach. In this area of more strategic decision-making, the pastoral cardinal would work with conferences of bishops. The pastoral cardinal(s) with bishops belonging to a particular conference might sit, alongside an individual elected by the bishops, as a “co-chair” of the conference. 2.) Resources. The pastoral cardinal would be accountable for the flourishing of a group of dioceses in a particular region. He would, above all, be accountable for the performance of the bishops reporting to him. He would, as such, be responsible for assessing the performance of those bishops, and, equally, their potential, identifying their training and development needs and recommending them for particular assignments, as appropriate. Where necessary, he would discipline bishops. He would visit each diocese, and each bishop, once a year; and he would, in addition, visit a few parishes, and a few diocesan institutions (hospitals, care centres, universities). If a particular diocese had a seminary, he would visit it, and undertake a careful assessment of the calibre of the teaching staff, and of the seminarians. In these visits, he would follow a clear agenda, reviewing the performance of the diocese, and its current operating plan (attending in particular to the financial, and “personnel” aspects of that plan). He would assess the “succession pipelines” for parish priests and bishops, across the region for which he would be responsible. He would aim to meet, and to form a view of, those priests identified as having the potential to become bishops. He would be accountable for the property portfolio in a particular region, and would have the scope to merge certain institutions (e.g. seminaries) within that region, to reallocate property to new functions, or to make new property investments. (He might work, in making some of these decisions, with “expert” staff, reporting to “central” departments.) He would provide an annual account of the state of his region – covering all key

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planning and staff decisions – to the pope. He would have the discretion to look at how certain key resources – such as seminaries – might be “shared” across the dioceses in his region; and he would – subject to the approval of the pope – have scope to make adjustments to the boundaries of the dioceses in his region. Bishops are expected to have extensive qualifications in theology or canon law (though one might question whether these qualifications are as important or as necessary as they are often taken to be). Pastoral cardinals would be selected from among the bishops, so would have these qualifications. They would need, in addition, the formal knowledge and practical experience required to undertake the “planning” activity – strategic planning, manpower planning, and financial planning – that would be an essential part of the pastoral cardinal role. They would need, further, considerable “personal” gifts and virtues: above all, the capacity to move, and to lead, the bishops in their region, so as to galvanize them into providing a sound witness to Christ in their leadership of their dioceses. They would need to orchestrate whatever “expertise” might be available – from a variety of disciplines, ranging from theology to accountancy – to assist them in the task of determining the right strategy, and plan, for their region. Orchestrating this “expertise” might be a matter of calling upon the counsel of experts, when required; it might require having some “expert” direct reports (clerical and lay). Certain “auditing”, “checking” functions would report “to the side” of the pastoral cardinal, and would not report directly to him. However, should those functions identify problems within his region, they would report these problems to him (and to the centre), and he would have the responsibility to resolve them, or to ensure that they were resolved. It would, for instance, be the responsibility of the pastoral cardinal to discipline bishops who had responded inadequately to problems in their dioceses. He would, in this, have the scope to remove bishops who were failing from active ministry. 3.) Problem solving. The main question to which the pastoral cardinal must find an answer is: “how is Christ to be proclaimed in this region?” In this, he must develop an approach, and a plan, for the dioceses in his region. At this level, even more than is the case for bishops, he must form a view about how the Gospel is to interact with a culture (or a variety of cultures) and a society. In this, he would review the wide variety of activities and initiatives taking place within the region for which he would be responsible, looking for signs of life, “signs of the times”, signs of growth. He would attempt to identify successful initiatives, happening in one place, which might be


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replicated elsewhere. He would, moreover, be required to make sense of, to diagnose, cases of success or failure, as indications of deeper social or cultural currents, so as to form a view on “how is the church to engage with this culture, this society?” His reflections might lead to the view that something radically innovative should be tried; and he should be accorded the resources, and freedom, to try out innovations in forms of ministry, or in forms of charity. Again, the cardinal would not be expected to be the sole source or originator of innovative ideas, but he would be accountable for the committing of church time, effort, or funds to the support of any such ideas. One key area of responsibility for the pastoral cardinal would be in ensuring that the faithful, in his region, had good “shepherds”. He would, as such, have prime responsibility for ensuring that seminaries were well run, and that newly ordained priests were being provided with proper support and guidance. He would, moreover, have responsibility for working with his bishops to identify which priests might have the potential to become bishops. In this – if things were properly set up in the “centre” – he might have access to expertise from the centre, and to approved “methods” or approaches for assessing whether particular priests might be “episcopabile”. He would receive training in how to conduct such assessments. He, and his fellow pastoral cardinals, would be responsible for working with the “centre” to ensure that these methods and approaches were fit for purpose – reviewing and, where appropriate, making changes to them. He would, above all, have a crucial role in approving particular individuals to become bishops; in this, he would take over the role, currently carried out by the Congregation of Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, of proposing “episcopabile” candidates to the pope. Last, he would be expected, in an annual “review” meeting with the pope, to identify bishops who might have the potential to become pastoral cardinals; and, in this regard, he would expect to be called upon by his fellow pastoral cardinals, on occasion, to review their assessments of the “potential” of the bishops in their regions. 4.) Instigating and managing change. The pastoral cardinal would be continually reviewing the disposition of “resources” across the region for which he would be responsible. He might make changes to those resources (e.g., closing down a seminary in one place, expanding a seminary in another place); and he might even – subject to the approval of the pope – adjust the boundaries of dioceses. Certain features of the life of the church have tended, in the past, to be governed from the “centre”, albeit with input, sometimes, from episcopal conferences or the synod of bishops. There are,

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further, certain features of the life of the church which cannot be altered. One would expect pastoral cardinals, however, to be able to exercise discretion and judgement in ascertaining and determining “how the Gospel is to be proclaimed and lived out in a particular region”: scope to approve forms of devotion, or rules of life, for instance. One would not expect a pastoral cardinal, on his own authority, to be able to approve a new translation of the Mass, for instance; yet he might permit or promote the use of certain forms of devotion in his region, or he might approve the establishment of new sorts of religious communities (all of this being subject to a primary responsibility to ensure that the faith, witnessed by the apostles, transmitted through the ages, be proclaimed and manifest with accuracy and clarity). 5.) Harnessing internal networks. Cardinals, at present, have a primarily “advisory”, “universal” orientation (though more than a few are, equally, responsible for running dioceses as well). The “pastoral cardinal” would retain this “advisory”, “universal” orientation, even if the prime focus of the role would be on ensuring the health and vitality of the church in a particular region. Some pastoral cardinals, with a deep expertise in a particular area, might have a “double-hatted” responsibility – a responsibility for a particular region, and a “lead” role in relation to a particular aspect of the life of the universal church. (A pastoral cardinal who had been particularly successful with respect to one aspect of the mission of the church in his region might be called upon to share his insights – with regard to this – with his fellow pastoral cardinals.) Pastoral cardinals, generally, would expect to work together on matters of common concern – particularly those responsible for regions adjacent to one another. These pastoral cardinals would constitute an important “network” across the church, oriented towards solving international issues. The body of these cardinals might, further, be called together as a kind of “senate”, to advise the pope on certain pastoral matters. The opportunities these cardinals would have to work together would, further, be opportunities to assess the capabilities, and personalities, of their colleagues; future popes would be expected to emerge from this body of cardinals; so the cardinals, in getting to know their fellows, would also be attempting to form a view on whether any might be fit to become pope. These cardinals would be expected to be the key “liaison” for international Catholic organizations, or lay movements, operating within their regions. For Catholic bodies that operate across many regions, particular pastoral cardinals might be appointed as the “lead” liaison figure,


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with scope to establish agreements, resolve disputes, and lead in all significant negotiations. 6.) Harnessing external networks. The pastoral cardinal would be the main “spokesman” for the church in his region. They would, further, be expected to liaise with international bodies (such as Unesco) and national bodies (government officials) within their regions. They would lead, and set the tone for, inter-denominational and inter-religious relations in their regions. They would attempt to establish relationships with a variety of agencies – in the charity sector, in the state sector and in the worlds of business and industry – and a variety of individuals of “good will”, working for “integral human development” and the “common good” in their regions. They would determine the overall approach taken to “evangelization” in their region, fostering or initiating a variety of efforts to proclaim and to promote the Gospel. One important question, relating to the “external” liaison responsibilities of pastoral cardinals, would be how much pastoral cardinals could take over the external liaison functions currently carried out by papal nuncios. At present, papal nuncios function as the primary “interface” between the church and secular governments. They function, too, as a link (improperly, in my view) between the Vatican and the local churches (even having the prime role in the selection of bishops). Pastoral cardinals would certainly “take over” the role of nuncios, in providing a “communications” link between local churches and the Vatican. Could they not, equally, take over the role of nuncios as representatives of the church, liaising with secular governments? 7.) Timeframe. The planning horizon of a pastoral cardinal would need to be at least five years ahead; it might take even longer before a full assessment could be made of some of the initiatives begun by pastoral cardinals. This is a planning horizon for major, significant change initiatives; so, needless to say, pastoral cardinals would be expected to make changes, to identify new ways in which the Gospel might be presented to, and might encounter, the wider world.

4. Sizes of Pastoral Cardinal Regions One way of thinking through how many “pastoral cardinals” would be needed in the church is to reflect on how many priests, and bishops, these cardinals could be expected to lead. There are currently ~5,300 bishops, and ~600,000 priests in the church. To consider this in terms of parishes, and

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dioceses, though, there are currently 221,700 parishes, and, if bishops were to lead, on average, about 75 parishes, then there would need to be about 3,000 bishops in “pastoral” roles. If there were one pastoral cardinal for every 24 of these bishops, then there would need to be about 125 pastoral cardinals. (These cardinals would, further, have responsibility for any bishops in their “regions” who were not in charge of dioceses). This way of addressing the matter abstracts, of course, from a great many salient factors: from questions of geography, of cultural and linguistic groupings, of traditional diocesan boundaries, and the like. One may assume that, where these factors are taken into account, in plotting suitable “regions” for pastoral cardinals to lead, some pastoral cardinals might have more than 24 dioceses, some might have fewer. (It would be important, in this regard, to identify a feasible “maximum” of how many dioceses a pastoral cardinal could be expected to lead effectively. A feasible maximum – for a culturally and linguistically unified region – might be around 30. In the UK, for instance, the church in England and Wales has 22 dioceses, and the church of Scotland, 8 dioceses, at present. One pastoral cardinal might be able to lead these. Then again, some of these dioceses seem excessively large; so a re-design of the dioceses might suggest that two pastoral cardinals might be needed for this region. It is, in any case, traditional for there to be a cardinal for the church in Scotland and a cardinal for the church in England and Wales.) One might expect, then, that there might end up being slightly more than 125 pastoral cardinals, but one would not expect there to be more than 150. It would not be impossible for the pope to get to know, and to counsel, ~150 pastoral cardinals; though they would need to be capable of acting with independence, and without continual direction “from above”.

5. An Outline for a Curial Reform Process There is widespread agreement that the curia is in need of reform. What sort of reforms might be needed? One failing of the curia that is frequently commented on is that its “culture” is felt to be, in certain respects, dysfunctional: excessively political; excessively secretive; rumour-ridden; self-regarding and self-important; overbearing and arrogant; overly attached to the wrong sorts of traditions; and so on (not to mention the forms of corruption that are attributed to some curial officials). One important, imaginative change, which needs to happen, is in the mindset of those curial officials who seem to envisage themselves as being at the “centre” of a kind of “empire”; whereas Christus Dominus defines their role is being one of “service” to the “pastors” of the church. How, though, is a “culture” to be changed? The actions of the most senior leaders are, often, among the most


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important means of changing a culture – particularly those actions where leaders show a costly commitment to certain values. (Deliberately “symbolic” actions can be somewhat effective, too; but the actions that are most significant, and influential, with regard to effecting cultural change, are those in which something is risked, put at stake, or sacrificed.) Having senior leaders who are truly committed to a new way of doing things, who show, in their actions, their commitment to certain values – this is vital to cultural change; but it is not sufficient. My own experience suggests that a sound organizational architecture – involving clear accountabilities, linked to a clear mission – is a vital support for good leadership, and that sound organizational architecture and good leadership are vital supports for a healthy culture. In this regard, culture is a vital “pillar” in the life of an organization, but it exists alongside other, arguably even more vital “pillars”. This would suggest, then, that unless the true mission of the curia is clarified, and a properly accountable structure developed, and unless that structure is staffed by appropriately trained professionals, then the culture of the curia will continue to be dysfunctional. The curia has an important role in supporting the pope in his leadership of the church – not in running it. It needs to be de-Romanised. Careerism, my experience suggests, does not tend to be a widespread problem among the parish priests and diocesan bishops of the church; it seems to be an issue, more, amongst the denizens of Rome. (This is not to claim, of course, that there are no ambitious clergy in the dioceses, or that everyone in the curia is a careerist.) At present, all senior officials in the curia tend to be made bishops, or cardinals. Why? Why do the individuals leading dicasteries have to be bishops and cardinals? Some of this seems to be a legacy of the decision of Pope John XXIII to make all senior Vatican officials bishops. (Why he did this, I do not know. Perhaps he felt that the curial officials would be more open to any moves to “empower” bishops if they were bishops as well. If so, they seem, subsequently, to have taken the line that “some bishops are more equal than others.”) It certainly seems needless for all senior Vatican officials to be bishops. The curia is best envisaged as a support function, or service, positioned “alongside” the “line” of accountability comprising priests, bishops, and the pope. That it is located in Rome, that its senior officials should be bishops or cardinals – these things are not essential to its true function, but are matters of (human) tradition, which admit of being questioned. What, then, might be a suitable approach to the designing of the “organizational architecture” of the curia? It is important, in any organizational design process, to “abstract away from what currently exists”. If one begins the process by reflecting on

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existing organizational charts – particularly existing organizational charts that show the people currently occupying roles making up those charts – then the design thinking tends to be overly constrained. (If existing organizational charts are used in the design process, then those tasked with doing the design work tend, in spite of themselves, to end up designing roles for the people they already have – reflecting the strengths and capabilities of those people – based on the sorts of roles that already exist. The improvements achieved in this way are usually fairly marginal.) What is needed is a “greenfield” approach. A “greenfield site”, in the construction industry, is an as yet undeveloped site: construction work on that site does not need to take account of, or fit with, previous construction work. The term “greenfield process”, used figuratively to describe an organizational design process, describes a process of thinking out a structure “from scratch”, abstracting from structures that currently exist, and devising a structure that is suitable given the core mission and strategy of the organization that is being designed. It begins from asking “what is this organization for, and what is the ideal structure that would fit it to achieve this?” Having developed, in the “greenfield” phase, an ideal structure, one is then in the position to look at what currently exists, to ascertain what would need to change in the existing structure to realize that ideal, and to make judgements about the practicability, and the timing, of those changes. The initial phase must involve reflection on the “top structure” of the organization, addressing questions like “should the structure be organized by function, by geography, by “professional competence”, by “product”, or whatever?”. (The church currently – like many organizations – has a somewhat “mixed” structure: the diocesan structure is geographical; but there are parts of the curia that could be characterized as “functional” (the CDF has the “function” of “guarding” or “authenticating” sound doctrine); parts that could be characterized as concerned with “professional” type (the Congregation of the Clergy is concerned with a “professional” body within the church); parts that could be characterized as concerned with something like “products” (if it is not too irreverent to characterize it as such, the liturgy – under the care of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments – might be deemed akin to a “product”). Sorting out a “top structure” involves thinking out “what is the organization for?”, “what are the things of most importance, that require particular attention?”, “how best are those things to be realized? – i.e., is a central “department” for them necessary, and, if so, what sort of relationship should such a department have to the “line” of accountability, from priests to bishops to pastoral cardinals to the pope?” Once the top structure is sketched out, one can then build up the rest of the organization, starting from the “front-line”, on the


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principle that only one layer of leadership is needed for each “level” of accountability: each leader, within the structure, should have accountabilities that are qualitatively distinct from the accountabilities of his or her team. (One could ask, at this point, for instance, how the role of “sostituto”, or deputy secretary of state, is qualitatively distinct from the role of secretary of state. Titles with “deputy” can sometimes be a marker of blurred or unclear accountabilities. One would need to address questions like “are there two roles here where there needs to be only one?”, or, “are there two roles here which are both needed, but are of equal “weight” or complexity, such that the secretary of state is not a genuine, value-adding leader to the “sostituto”, and the sostituto should not report to the secretary of state?”) One would expect this process to make for the designing of new departments, the abolition or merging of some of the older departments, and a clarification of the relationship of these departments to the “line”. The “greenfield” phase, then, would involve abstracting away from “what exists now”, and identifying certain “givens”, which will inform the shaping of the ideal “target structure” – givens like “what is the core mission of the curia?”, “what are the essential activities that the curia must perform, in the service of that mission?”, and so on. Who might be involved during this phase? A genuine “central executive” authority for the curia would need to be appointed – a “CEO” of the curia – who would then, working with the pope, identify a core team who would be involved in the “greenfield” design discussions. Some of the members of this team would consist of individuals who might become the “heads” of the departments designed through this process; they would, as such, designing departments which they might be responsible for (which should, one would hope, focus their minds on ensuring that those departments had the right kind of design to deliver their commitments effectively). Some of the members of this team could, moreover, consist of senior representatives from the “line” (for instance, pastoral cardinals, and senior bishops), who would be interacting with, and receiving support from, the curial departments. It would be important, moreover, for the deliberations of this team to be supported by the input of “expert” advice (from organizational design consultants, experts in finance, and the like). A “greenfield” process would not be possible, in the curia, unless a genuine “CEO” role were created. A review of this kind could not be carried out until a CEO were appointed, directly accountable to the pope, to run it. This CEO would be responsible for ensuring that the review be done well, and, even more importantly, that its requirements be implemented. Once a design for the “top structure” had been agreed, it would be necessary to identify the individuals who could lead the various

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departments. This would be the prerogative of the pope, who would work, in making these selection decisions, with trusted advisors, and (ideally) with support from recruitment experts. (What kind of support could such experts provide? Once the “top roles” in the different departments had been defined, and the accountabilities of those roles clarified, then it would be possible to identify the capabilities that the incumbents of those roles would need to have, to discharge their responsibilities. Once the capabilities required for the roles had been identified, then it would be possible for experts to provide independent assessments of individuals, to ascertain whether they have those capabilities.) One surprising feature of the curia, as it is at present, is that very few of the prefects or presidents have much expertise in the areas with which their dicasteries are concerned. The department heads do not tend to be experts in the fields which their departments focus on. (One notable exception was Joseph Ratzinger, a theologian who headed up the CDF; though some took the view that his involvement, as a theologian, in certain theological disputes, interfered with his “impartiality” as an umpire of theological disputes.) While it is true that, at more senior levels in an organization, deep expertise tends to be less important than “general management” ability, nevertheless, it seems that the curia tends to be overly attached to the ideal of the “gifted amateur” administrator. The “gifted amateur” or “generalist” tends to be present not simply at the most senior levels of the curia, but throughout. One of the advantages of a “functional” structure can be the provision, and development, of “deep” expertise within an organization. Why organize the curia into channels of expertise if those channels are to be staffed with non-experts? An organization, for instance, with a finance function would not, ordinarily, put an engineer, or a general manager, in charge of that function. Once the curial “top team” had been established – comprising the head of the curia, and the heads of the different departments – that team would then need to work together to design the structures of those departments. Guidelines about appropriate levels of accountability, layers and spans would be agreed, at the outset, to guide the design process. An appraisal and performance-management approach would, moreover, be agreed in advance. (The current approach of career progression through “seniority” tends to make for an unhealthy, hierarchy-heavy structure, with a culture preoccupied with titles and status, rather than performance. It makes for “bureaucracy”, in the sense which that term has in everyday parlance – an organization that is consumed in its own processes, and that has lost any connection with its mission and with those it is supposed to serve.) The team would then build up a design for the departments, working together, “building up” from the “front-line” of each department, and then


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identifying what layers of management would be required, to direct the activity of the department. Once the roles of the head of the curia, and of the dicastery heads, had been established, another key role, which would need to be introduced, would be that of a “Programme Director” or “Transformation Director” (and why not a layperson?) who would report to the head of the curia, and who would drive the implementation of changes to the curia. Those engaged in a “greenfield” review of the curia might want to consider a number of questions, about what could be changed in the curia. One important question would be – how much of the curia needs to stay in Rome? The church is global, though it varies considerably by continent. While much of its legacy is European, the presence of the church is no longer predominantly in Europe. Might it make more sense to organize the curia, in part at least, on geographical lines, with offices located in different regions, rather than Rome (while supporting global functions, particularly those requiring deep expertise, might continue to be located in Rome). One could envisage a curia organized around four major regions – the Americas, Europe (including Russia) and the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific – or more, if one wished to put more stress on growth areas. It would make sense for the regional office to be located in a city within that region. The “regional head” would report to the new post of “curia CEO”. The aim would be to encourage the “decentralization” that pope Francis has avowed to be one of his aims. These regional offices would provide important support in such matters as the selection of priests and bishops; and some matters currently dealt with by the centre (such as the education of priests, or even some aspects of the liturgy) might be delegated to these offices. It might, further, be feasible for some offices to have a “lead” role in relation to certain matters of the “universal” church (for instance, if some interreligious dialogues and relationships are particularly important in a region, then it might be empowered to set “universal” policy with regard to them). The re-organization of the current financial management of the Vatican merits a separate “greenfield” process all of its own; and it is clear that it ought to be conducted by properly qualified professionals (which means, in effect laypeople). The current structures are, evidently, unworkable, and, more than that, vulnerable to corruption. It seems clear that – instead of the arrangement that exists at present, where there are a number of distinct bodies controlling financial matters – there needs to be a single, unified finance “department” or treasury, a single, unified body for “property” matters (probably subsidiary to the over-arching finance department) and a clear “auditing” structure. A proper overhaul of existing arrangements would probably take several years.

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It is worth mentioning two more vital elements of any change process: training and communications. There would be, for any reform of the curia, creating new roles, the need for significant training and development of those chosen to take up those roles. The process would begin through a careful selection of the best people available (and it would be worth taking considerable time over this); but it would be supported by the establishment of sound “talent management” and “leadership development” processes, providing individuals throughout the church with the kind of assignments and experiences needed to enable them to grow as leaders – with the experiential learning that is so essential to the development of leadership capabilities. Effective communication would, equally, be an essential part of the change process – outlining what the change is, why it is needed, and what it would involve for different constituencies throughout the church. The task of weaving of these various strands of activity together – re-design, training, communications, and so on – would be extremely arduous; and it is the complexity and challenge of this task, among other things, that would necessitate the creation of a senior “Transformation Director” role.

6. A Lever for Change? One challenge, in making structural changes to the church, is to create a legitimate, authoritative way of initiating, and approving changes – an “instrument” or “lever” for making changes. If the detailed work of curial reform requires the creation of a “CEO” and a “Transformation Director”, how is the creation of those roles to be mandated? How, too, might the creation of “pastoral cardinals” be mandated? One option, of course, is for the pope simply to initiate such measures; another option, though, would be to create an authoritative, and representative “body”, to define and to approve the appropriate measures. Such a body would not only bring into play the collective wisdom of the church, but it might be a form in which something of the “collegial” authority of the episcopate might be expressed. Cardinal Basil Hume, I am told, proposed that a “senate” be created – comprised of leading cardinals, and of selected heads of episcopal conferences – to carry further the work of the Second Vatican Council in defining “collegiality”, and in creating structures that would be expressions of collegiality. There are 113 episcopal conferences, worldwide, and 12 synods or councils of the Eastern churches, so inviting the heads of all of them would probably not be appropriate. What is needed is a group that is small enough to function as a cohesive “working group”, but that can, equally, be in some way representative of the wider church. There are, in


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addition to the episcopal conferences, “international meetings of episcopal conferences”, in which a number of conferences from a particular geographical region are represented, and in which the Eastern Catholic synods and councils are represented. There are 14 of these “international meetings”. If each were to elect one representative, to become members of a “change group” (a kind of “steering group”) and if the pope were to appoint another three members of that group, then there would be a small, hopefully representative “body”, working with the mandate of the pope, with a clear “brief” to initiate organizational change. What would be the essential elements of the “brief” that such a group might have? They could be asked: 1.) To develop a “roadmap for change”, setting out what might be expected to change, and by when 2.) To develop guidelines for “ideal” parish sizes, and ideal sizes of dioceses, and to review the current arrangement of dioceses, in the light of those guidelines 3.) To define the role of a “pastoral cardinal”, and to identity (on the basis of step 1.) how many pastoral cardinals might be needed 4.) To ascertain which of the responsibilities of papal nuncios would be “taken over” by pastoral cardinals (and to determine whether, or in what form, papal nuncios would continue to be needed) 5.) To identify suitable forms of “leadership” training for priests and for bishops 6.) To establish guidelines for bishops to use in assessing the performance of priests, and in identifying priests with the capability to become bishops 7.) To provide training for bishops – in accordance with those guidelines – in the identification of “episcopabile” priests, and in suitable ways of developing the capabilities of those priests 8.) To review, and to reform, the procedures used in selecting bishops (making the “pastoral cardinal” a key figure in the selection process) 9.) To oversee the reorganization of the Curia – defining the “CEO” and “Director of Transformation” roles, and appointing individuals (with the concurrence of the pope) to those roles 10.) To reflect on the notions of “collegiality” set out in the core documents of the Second Vatican Council, and to review current “collective” episcopal structures (conferences, and synods) in the light of that reflection, proposing possible reforms to the pope

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11.) To initiate ad hoc studies of matters of general “discipline” (such as the question of whether priests should be permitted to marry, or whether women might be permitted to become deacons). Many change efforts in large organizations fail. Some research suggests that as many as 70% of change efforts fail;3 other research suggests that as many as 80% fail.4 One crucial factor, making for success, is a clear, publicly articulated “road map” for change, indicating the phasing of major changes, to which “senior” leaders publicly declare their assent (and to which, in their conduct, they show themselves to be committed). Another is that there should be stability in the “team” that is tasked with orchestrating the change. Often enough, those who are resistant to change simply wait, passively, for “everything to blow over” – they wait for new leaders to come in, not particularly committed to the change plans, who can be persuaded to “drop” those plans. An unending series of “consultation meetings” can, for those resistant to change, be a useful way of delaying things. Having a stable, solid “steering group”, working with some key “senior” staff (the curia “CEO”, the “Director of Transformation), which can remain in place through different papal reigns, and which can – as a representation and instrument of the bishops – have a certain independence of the curia – having this, would be a powerful support to any change efforts. The changes envisaged here might require such a group to be in existence for ten to fifteen years. There is no doubt that any change programme takes vision, will, considerable effort, and political adroitness. Machiavelli made the (perennially valid) remark that “there is nothing more difficult to arrange, more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to carry through than to initiate a new order of things. The innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order and has only lukewarm support from all those who would prosper under the new.”5 The instincts of the church are, rightly, conservative; indeed, one of the main functions of the church is to “conserve” something – the deposit of faith. A revelation – presenting something that could not be known by the unaided intellect – can, after all, only be kept in the world by “conserving” it, by “handing it down” (there is 3

Jeff Klein and Gregory Shea, ‘Successful Change: the Challenge for Leaders’, Podcast at [email protected], 1 July 2013. 4 Paul Strebel, “Why do employees resist change?” Harvard Business Review, May– June1996. 5 Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, VI trans. George Bull (London: Penguin, 1961) 51.


Chapter 5

no chance of “discovering” it, should it be lost). The church, equally, is ever changing, possessing the changeableness that is a mark of life. Pope Francis has observed that “the Second Vatican Council presented ecclesial conversion as openness to a constant self-renewal born of fidelity to Jesus Christ.”6 St John Henry Newman once remarked that popes should, in fact, be detached from all “traditions” other than those deriving from the Apostles: “a great Pontiff must be detached from everything save the deposit of faith, the tradition of the Apostles, and the vital principles of the divine polity … The Popes have never found any difficulty, when the proper moment came, of following out a new and daring line of policy … of leaving the old world to shift for itself and to disappear from the scene in its due season, and of fastening on and establishing themselves in the new.”7

7. An Energized Church Why might a “new and daring line of policy”, with regard to the organizational dynamics of the church, be appropriate? It is worth noting, first, that making constructive organizational changes is something that is always appropriate: healthy organizations are always reviewing, and developing, their structures; such change is needed as organizations grow, and it is, as such, a mark of life. Change of this kind – to judge from the Acts of the Apostles – was a feature of the early church, as it is of any vital community. More than that, though, there are times, in the life of organizations, when the need to address organizational flaws can become particularly urgent, times when the problems arising from those flaws are such that they cannot be simply “lived with” any longer. The church, at the present time, is experiencing a crisis of authority. Some of this, certainly, is related to wider cultural changes, particularly in the post-Christian West – changes where the authority of “religion”, generally, is swiftly ebbing. Some of it is related to the ignominy that has fallen upon the bishops of the Catholic church, owing in large part, though not solely, to the “abuse crisis”. More generally, the ministry of the bishops does not seem, at the present time, a source of inspiration, energy or encouragement for most Catholics. The Second Vatican Council presented a high vision of the ministry of the bishops, as a source of life for the People of God. Yet most Catholics encounter their bishops as “smiling public men”; or they encounter almost 6 Evangelii Gaudium par. 26. 7 John Henry Newman, Historical Sketches, Vol.3 (London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1909), 134.

Reforming the Curia


surreally horrifying news reports of the incompetence, or the corruption, of those “smiling public men”. One core problem, in the life of the church, is that bishops are not properly accountable for their ministry. In the Meeting on the Protection of Minors that occurred in 2019 (otherwise called the “sexual abuse summit”) there was a clear recognition, on the part of the church, that “accountability” is a problem: day one, of the four day meeting, was devoted to “responsibility”, and day two, to “accountability”. The meeting resulted in new norms – set out in Vos Estis Lux Mundo (2019) – concerning how cases of sexual misconduct, amongst the clergy, are to be reported and investigated. It did not, however, issue in organizational changes that would make bishops clearly accountable, as a matter of course, for the conduct of their ministry. Back in 2003, in an article on “True and False Reform”, Avery Dulles remarked that “as a prime structural problem … I would single out for special attention the episcopal office. What can be done to restore the priestly and pastoral ministry of bishops to its position of primacy?” Dulles intuits that something with the configuration of the role of the bishop is amiss; the bishops are overburdened. He wonders whether some of this may be due to how the Second Vatican Council “exalted the episcopacy to an unprecedented peak of power and responsibility”: “no normal individual is capable of being at once the chief teacher, the leading mystagogue, and the principal administrator for millions of Catholics, responsible for a huge array of parishes, schools, universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations”, obliged to “be in constant consultation with pastoral councils and senates of priests”, and called to take part in the (onerous) work of “episcopal conferences” or curial “congregations”. While, Dulles observes, the configuration of the role of the bishop is too burdensome for any “normal individual” (perhaps – though Dulles does not say this – any individual), the problems associated with the “episcopal office” are exacerbated by the fact that the “supply” of individuals to the episcopate is not resulting in the selection of exceptional individuals: “many of the candidates being elevated to the episcopate, it would seem, are men of ordinary abilities, kind and hardworking, but incapable of measuring up to the almost superhuman responsibilities of the office.” Dulles, in short, identifies two key problems with the “episcopal office”, at the present time: the “supply” of “candidates” (and, one might add, the preparation and training of candidates); and the configuration or design of the role. If, though, bishops were properly selected and trained (and this would require bishops to be actively engaged in the identification, development, and preparation of “episcopabile” priests – which would require bishops, more generally, to be “close” to the priests in their dioceses, present to them as leaders, guides and counsellors); and if,


Chapter 5

moreover, bishops were properly supported “from above”, by “pastoral cardinals”, empowered to lead, counsel, and, if necessary, discipline them; then this would go a considerable way towards resolving the problems that Dulles identifies. What is more, Dulles recognizes that “the relationship between clergy and laity may need some reconsideration.” It is evident that lay expertise is relevant to the administration of the “huge array of parishes, schools, universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations” for which bishops are responsible. At the parish and at the diocesan level, lay members of councils have only a “consultative vote”; it would make sense, particularly with regard to financial matters, for there to be a lay cosignatory on key documents. Dulles observes that while the prime responsibility of the laity “is to apply the gospel to the circumstances of the marketplace, the professions, and political life”, that of the clergy is “doctrinal teaching, pastoral governance, and liturgical leadership.” It is evident, equally, that insights derived from “the marketplace, the professions, and political life” – particularly from the attempt to realize, in accordance with Apostolicam Actuositatem “the proper scale of values in the temporal order and to direct it towards God through Christ” – are pertinent to the challenges of administering a diocese. What might be hoped for, if some of the organizational changes, proposed here, were to be introduced into the church? There would not, needless to say, be a return to Eden. (The doctrine of the fall should make Catholics immune to any utopianism.) There could, though, be a concentration of energies that, at the present time, are dispersed. If priests were thoroughly trained to lead their parishes, and were encouraged and supported – by their bishops, above all – in an ongoing reflection on their ministry, striving always to become better priests, more devoted to God, more effective in bringing God to others; if priests led parishes that were the right “size”, so that they could form a personal acquaintance with their parishioners; if priests were expected and required to call on lay collaborators, in the pursuit of their mission, that they might make use of the talents of those collaborators in supporting their own “care of souls”; if priests with the capacity to become bishops were carefully identified, trained, formed, to prepare them for episcopal responsibilities, according to solid disciplines of “talent management and leadership development”; if the right people were consulted when bishops were selected – namely, those with a clear understanding of the capabilities needed for episcopal office, and a personal knowledge of the candidates; if bishops led dioceses that were the right “size”, so that they could know, and be available to, their priests; if bishops took their responsibility to form and support their priests to be a central part of their role; if bishops were properly supported and

Reforming the Curia


directed – not least, by “pastoral cardinals” with the vision to relate the work of those bishops to the needs of the region, and of the universal church; if the ministry of the clergy – priests, bishops and cardinals – were supported by a curia that understood itself to be “in the service of the sacred pastors”, and that was structured to provide such a service; if the “pastoral cardinals”, leading the bishops, were themselves led by the pope, such that the pope could exercise an oversight of their labours, and counsel and direct them; if all this were to occur – then it would make for an energized church – not an “activist” church, of frenetic activity, but a church with greater confidence, zest, and hopefulness, a church conscious that it has much to offer the world – confident enough to resist the malaise of a world where “ignorant armies clash by night”, and confident enough to work with “whatever truth, goodness, and justice is to be found in past or present human institutions.”8


Gaudium et Spes, par. 42 in Vatican II: The Basic Sixteen Documents ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996), 210.


‘He seems deeply interested in Church matters. Are you quite sure he is right in the head? I have noticed again and again since I have been in the Church that lay interest in ecclesiastical matters is often a prelude to insanity.’ Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall

In an article on ‘True and False Reform’, Avery Dulles, while indicating that some organizational dynamics relating to the ‘episcopal office’ might need to be altered, observes that ‘no social reorganization will be able to overcome the human tendency to sin and error. The most perfect structures, in the hands of incompetent or selfish administrators, will only make things worse. But where people are motivated by faith and generosity, even deficient structures will be tolerable.’ He quotes the remark of Henri De Lubac that ‘I do not believe that structural reforms, about which there has been much debate for some years, are ever the main part of a program that must aim at the only true renewal, spiritual renewal. I even fear that the present-day inflation of such projects and discussions furnishes an all-tooconvenient alibi to avoid it.’1 Concerns of this kind are prevalent in the church, at the present time. Pope Francis warns, in Evangelii Gaudium, against an ‘insidious worldliness’ which can ‘lead to a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations whose principal beneficiary is not God’s people but the Church as an institution. The mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present; closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes who thirst for Christ.’2 (Of course, the use of ‘management, statistics, plans’ and the like need not be solely for the aggrandizement of the ‘Church as an institution’: these things are means, which need to be directed to the right ends.) In his Christmas address to the Roman curia in 2014, Francis warned against ‘the disease of excessive planning and of functionalism. When the apostle plans everything down to the last detail and believes that with perfect planning things will 1

Avery Dulles S.J., “True and False Reform”, First Things August 2003. 2 Evangelii Gaudium, par. 95.



fall into place, he becomes an accountant or an office manager. Things need to be prepared well, but without ever falling into the temptation of trying to contain and direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is always greater and more flexible than any human planning (cf. Jn 3:8).’3 Concerns about an excessive concern with ‘administrative’ machinery are, in fact, deeply rooted in Western culture. In 1829, Thomas Carlyle complained in ‘Signs of the Times’ of how his age had become an ‘age of Machinery’ in which ‘not the external and physical alone is now managed by machinery, but the internal and spiritual also’, in which ‘any society of men [with] a truth to speak, a piece of spiritual work to do … can nowise proceed at once and with the mere natural organs, but must first call a public meeting, appoint committees, issue prospectuses, eat a public dinner; in a word, construct or borrow machinery, wherewith to speak it and do it.’ Carlyle laments that ‘Men are grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in hand.’ They have lost faith in individual endeavour, and in natural force, of any kind. Not for internal perfection, but for external combinations and arrangements, for institutions, constitutions, for Mechanism of one sort or other, do they hope and struggle. Their whole efforts, attachments, opinions, turn on mechanism, and are of a mechanical character … How did Christianity arise and spread abroad among men? Was it by institutions, and establishments and well-arranged systems of mechanism? Not so; on the contrary, in all past and existing institutions for those ends, its divine spirit has invariably been found to languish and decay. It arose in the mystic deeps of man’s soul; and was spread abroad by the “preaching of the word”, by simple, altogether natural and individual efforts; and flew, like hallowed fire, from heart to heart, till all were purified and illuminated by it; and its heavenly light shone, as it still shines, and (as sun or star) will ever shine, through the whole dark destinies of man. Here again was no Mechanism.4

Pope Francis has expressed the worry that an attitude taken up with the mechanical can make for a mechanical ‘administering’ of the sacraments. ‘In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization.’5 To those taken up with a mechanical vision of things, even the outflowing of divine life, in the sacramental rites, 3

Pope Francis, ‘Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia 2014’, par. 4, a-francesco_20141222_curia-romana.html 4 Thomas Carlyle, ‘Signs of the Times’ in ed. Tim Fulford, Romanticism and Science Vol. 3 (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 157. 5 Evangelii Gaudium, par. 63.

Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church: What Needs to Be Improved


can become something routinized, mechanical. That the sacramental rites can become mechanical does not mean, however, that they should be done away with; what is needed is a recovery of the right spirit, the right way of administering them. Pope Francis has declared that the ‘primary reason for evangelizing’, the source of the energy with which the church ‘goes out’ to encounter the world, is in the encounter with Christ, through the word, and the sacraments. The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence. Standing before him with open hearts, letting him look at us, we see that gaze of love which Nathaniel glimpsed on the day when Jesus said to him: “I saw you under the fig tree” (Jn 1:48). How good it is to stand before a crucifix, or on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament, and simply to be in his presence! How much good it does us when he once more touches our lives and impels us to share his new life! What then happens is that “we speak of what we have seen and heard” (1 Jn 1:3). The best incentive for sharing the Gospel comes from contemplating it with love, lingering over its pages and reading it with the heart. If we approach it in this way, its beauty will amaze and constantly excite us. But if this is to come about, we need to recover a contemplative spirit which can help us to realize ever anew that we have been entrusted with a treasure which makes us more human and helps us to lead a new life. There is nothing more precious which we can give to others.6

Without this spirit, this ‘hallowed fire’, the projects of the church will be lifeless. My aim in this book has been to consider the church as an organization – on the basis that the church, as Newman remarked, ‘though not of this world, yet is in the world, and has a visible, material, social shape’: insights pertinent to the structuring of ‘visible, material, social’ bodies can be pertinent to the ‘organization’ of the church. My aim has not been to present a ‘Mechanism’ to cure all ills, or to serve as substitute for the ‘hallowed fire’ of faith, hope and charity. There is, of course, more to the life of the church than its ‘visible, material, social shape’: to take ‘social reorganization’ as sufficient – in bringing about the ‘spiritual renewal’ that is needed – would clearly be a mistake. Yet, it is worth noting that, just as 6

Evangelii Gaudium, par. 264.



the ‘inflation of … projects and discussions [of structural reform] furnishes an all-too-convenient alibi to avoid’ spiritual reform, and renewal, so the fear that ‘social reorganization’ can substitute ‘Mechanism’ for ‘Spirit’ can be an ‘alibi’ for refusing to engage with organizational issues, of pressing importance. It is a mistake, I would maintain, to regard these matters in terms of ‘either or’ – ‘either’ organizational reform ‘or’ spiritual reform. There is nothing to prevent both organizational and spiritual renewal being sought. Just as ‘spiritual’ faults are not to be amended by ‘organizational’ means alone, so ‘organizational’ faults are not to be amended by spiritual means alone; and the church is, among other things, an organization, susceptible of flaws, and admitting of change. The church has, moreover, given rise to institutions that exemplify those principles that make for the ‘health’ of organizations: the essential principles or ‘pillars’ of effective organizations – a clear mission or purpose, sound organizational design, good practices of leadership development, a commitment to continual training and experiential learning, a vibrant culture – were put in place by St Ignatius of Loyola when establishing the Jesuits. These principles are in no way alien to the spirit of Catholicism; they are not, as the example of the history of the Jesuits shows, alien to a profound spirituality. The church is, at present, undergoing several crises – making for a loss of authority, a loss of credibility. It is encountering ever more determined (and confident) opposition, throughout the world. It is worth recalling, perhaps, that the church was not promised worldly ‘success’; but, lest gloom take hold, it is worth recalling – as Newman reminds us – that the church, in its history, has encountered more than a few difficulties and troubles, and yet, ‘contrary to our expectation, Truth has somewhat rallied.’ In truth the whole course of Christianity from the first, when we come to examine it, is but one series of troubles and disorders. Every century is like every other, and to those who live in it seems worse than all times before it. The Church is ever ailing, and lingers on in weakness, “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in her body.” Religion seems ever expiring, schisms dominant, the light of Truth dim, its adherents scattered. The cause of Christ is ever in its last agony, as though it were but a question of time whether it fails finally this day or another. The Saints are ever all but failing from the earth, and Christ all but coming; and thus the Day of Judgment is literally ever at hand; and it is our duty ever to be looking out for it, not disappointed that we have so often said, “now is the moment,” and that at the last, contrary to our expectation, Truth has somewhat rallied … Thus much of comfort do we gain from what has been hitherto, – not to despond, not to be dismayed, not to be anxious, at the troubles which encompass us. They have ever been; they ever shall be; they are our portion. “The floods are risen, the floods

Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church: What Needs to Be Improved


have lift up their voice, the floods lift up their waves. The waves of the sea are mighty, and rage horribly; but yet the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier.”7

The trust that ‘the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier’ makes for a will not only to endure what must be endured, but to try to change what should be changed.


John Henry Newman, The Via Media of the Anglican Church, Vol. 1 (London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1901), 354–5.


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Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church: What Needs to Be Improved


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abuse crisis 17–19, 94, 142–3, 163–164, 169, 186–187 Vos Estis Lux Mundi 163–164 accountability 17 and authority 16, 28 and obedience 15–16 and responsibility 27n components of 41–42 definition of 27–28 line accountability 33 support accountability 36–37 and organizational health 27, 34 Adrian VI, Pope 137, 161 Allen, John Jr 21, 48, 75 Apostolicam Actuositatem 68, 70– 75, 78, 188 Apostolos Suos 131, 156–158 Aquinas, St Thomas 31–2 apostles 7, 11–15, 96, 98, 139, 175, 186 Arbuckle, Fr Gerald S.M. 156 Aristotle 32 Augustine of Hippo, St 7 Barron, Bishop Robert 21–23 Benedict XV, Pope 53 Benedict XVI, Pope 4, 6–7, 65, 108, 134, 141, 147, 149, 156– 157, 162, 181 on episcopal conferences 134 on ‘hierarchy’ and sacrament 6–7 opposition to mentality that would see church in terms of power structures 4 Summorum Pontificum 65

bishop accountabilities of 17–19, 35, 43–44, 98–103 ad limina visits of 128–129, 155 capabilities required of 45–46 challenges of 45 conferences of bishops 131, 156, 183–184 dismissal of 142 leadership development of 21– 23, 116–127 role description according to the Second Vatican Council 45, 95–98 selection of 21–23, 103–116 ‘senate’ of 133 support and direction of 21–23, 35, 127–130 synod of bishops 131–2 titles of 15 qualifications needed by 104– 105, 124–125 Borromeo, St Charles 52 boundary moves definition of 26, 49 examples of 51–57 types of 49–50 cardinal accountabilities of 26, 137, 141 C9 (Council of Cardinal Advisers) 140–141, 162– 163 consistory of cardinals 138 history of role 137–141 ‘pastoral cardinal’ role description 171–176

204 careerism 24, 90–91, 122, 160, 178 Carlyle, Thomas 192 Chenu, Marie-Dominique, O.P. 151 Christus Dominus 74, 96–97, 99– 101, 148–149, 177 church bureaucracy within 76, 165, 181 difference from other organizations 4 definitions of 10–11 layers in hierarchy of 34, 170– 171 mystery of 10–11, 166 organizational flaws of 4–5, 23–26, 34–35, 107–116, 150, 167–186 organizational reform brief for 184–185 ‘Petrine’ and ‘Marian’ aspects of 43 potential benefits of organizational reform of 186–189 collegiality 130–135 conferences of bishops 131, 156 Congar, Yves O.P. 151 councils 130–135 curia 144–159 accountabilities of 37, 148–149 as support function 37, 166, 178 departments of 145–148 ethos of 158–160, 177–178, 181 failings of 24, 37–38, 147–148, 150–159 historical development of 144– 145 lack of central executive authority 147–148, 180 Pastor Bonus 140, 141, 145, 162 Praedicate Evangelium 164– 165

Index processes and disciplines of 148, 158 ranks within 146–147 reform of 149, 160–166, 177– 186 Rome-centrism of 154–155, 182 role in selection of bishops 105–107 Universi Dominici Gregis 141 curial dicasteries Congregation for Bishops 105, 106, 107, 110, 125, 142, 174 Congregation for Catholic Education 106 Congregation for the Clergy 16, 19, 106, 145, 146, 179 Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments 146, 179 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 6, 34, 106, 124, 145, 146, 147, 152– 156, 163, 164, 179, 181 Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples 105, 106, 110, 125, 174 Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life 106 Congregation for the Oriental Churches 146 Dicastery for Communications 145 Dicastery for Integral Human Development 145, 157 Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life 68, 145, 146 dean 91–93, 120 deacon 66, 80 de Gaulle, Charles 54 de Lubac, Henri S.J. 151 de Ville, Adam A. J. 132, 157–158 diocese see also bishop size of 99–100, 121–122 planning within 101, 103, 116n, 118–119

Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church: What Needs to Be Improved? Dreher, Rod 18, 143 Duffy, Eamonn 138 Dulles, Cardinal Avery S.J. Models of the Church 9–11, 66 on the episcopal office and its duties 45, 98, 187–188 on the possibility of changing the hierarchical system of the church 9 on the office of the priesthood 8–9, 81 ‘True and False Reform’ 45– 46, 187–188, 191 Ecumenical Councils First Vatican Council 95 Second Vatican Council 7, 8, 9, 17, 44, 51, 68, 72, 73, 81, 82, 95, 98, 104, 131, 133, 145, 148, 151, 156, 161, 162, 171, 183, 184, 186, 187 Trent 52, 81, 131, 139, 145 Eliot, Thomas Stearns 1 Episcopalis Communio 132–133 Evangelii Gaudium 14, 15, 19, 64, 65–66, 72, 73, 74, 165, 182, 186, 191, 193 Fallon, Fr. Christopher 89, 90, 93, 120–121 on the need for priests to receive more support 89, 120–121 on the talent management of priests 90 First Vatican Council 95 Fisher, Desmond 167 Francis, Pope 14, 15, 19, 24, 25, 35, 60, 64, 65–66, 72, 93, 94, 122, 128, 132, 140, 145, 149, 160–161, 165, 182, 186, 191, 192, 193 Episcopalis Communio 132–133 Evangelii Gaudium 14, 15, 19, 64, 65–66, 72, 73, 74, 165, 182, 186, 191, 193 Gaudete et Exsultate 94


on curial reform 160–161 on ‘excessive planning’ 191 on the discouragements experienced by priests 94 on the ‘insidious worldliness’ of a ‘business mentality’ 191 on the mission of the laity 72 on the parish 64 on the priestly vocation 122 on the ‘reason for evangelizing’ 193 on the ‘spirit of exclusivity’ 65–66 on the spiritual ‘diseases’ of the curia 24–25 Praedicate Evangelium 164– 165 Vos Estis Lux Mundo 163 Gaudete et Exsultate 94 Gaudium et Spes 156, 189 ‘greenfield’ structure reviews 179– 180 Gregory VII, Pope 26 Hanvey, Fr James S.J. on experience as forming leaders 46 on ‘participative leadership’ 40–41 on the ‘soul’ of organizations 20 hierarchy and sacraments 6 as a distribution of accountabilities in layers 6, 33, 168–169 ‘common’ priesthood and ‘hierarchical’ priesthood 7–9, 67–68, 81 historical development of church hierarchy 9, 11–15, 171 opaque structures 15–17 Hume, Cardinal Basil 133 Hurley, Bishop Dennis 154

206 Jesuits ‘manifestation of conscience’ in the 119–120 pillars of organizational health in the 29, 194 talent management in the 120 training of 50–51, 57–60 John Paul II, Pope St 118, 140, 141, 145, 149, 157, 162 Apostolos Suos 131, 156–158 Pastor Bonus 140, 141, 145, 162 Universi Dominici Gregis 141 John XXIII, Pope St 13, 51–57, 138, 139, 151, 161 development as a leader 51–57 Mater et Magistra 39 Pacem in Terris 39 Kerr, Fergus O.P. 31 Knox, Ronald 63 laity 68–79 challenges of secularity 73–74, 79 lay ministers 66, 78 lay organizations 71, 75–76, 78–79 mission of, according to Second Vatican Council 68–72 participation in ecclesiastical decision-making 5, 70, 73, 76 –77, 101, 188 relationship to clergy 5, 7, 8, 45, 69–79, 133, 188 participation in life of dioceses 101–103 Law, Cardinal Bernard Francis 144 leader definition of 33, 36 value of 6 leadership ambition and 122–123, 124 capabilities for 47–48 examples of 51–57 experience and 26–27, 46, 48

Index leadership development 44–51, 60–61 examples of 51–57 identifying potential leaders 23–24, 25, 47, 57, 112–113 in the church 23–26, 116–127 in the military 126–127 role of support staff in 112– 113, 127 supporting leaders 35, 57, 127– 130 Lehmann, Cardinal Karl 108 Leo I, Pope 103 Leo IX, Pope 138 Leo XIII, Pope 38, 40, 56, 159 Rerum Novarum 38, 40 Linden, Ian 147 line roles see also support roles 36–37 Lowney, Chris 50 Lucie-Smith, Fr Alexander 35 Lumen Gentium 7, 8, 10, 66, 67, 68–70, 72, 74, 75, 78, 80, 95–96 on the bishops 95–96 on the church as a sacrament 10 on the distinction between the common and hierarchical priesthood 8, 68 on the mission of Peter and the Twelve 8 on the mission of the laity 68– 70 on the ‘people of God’ 67 on the priesthood 80 Mallon, Fr. James on accountability in the church 28–29 on leadership development in the church 44, 87 on the ‘maintenance’ mentality 64–65 Martin, Fr James S.J. 50–51 McCall, Morgan 48, 49, 87

Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church: What Needs to Be Improved? McCarrick, Cardinal Theodore 18, 169 Meisner, Cardinal Joachim 76 Montini, Giovanni see Paul VI, Pope St Morris, Bishop William 142 Müller, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig 75 Newman, St John Henry on the church as an organization 1–2 on the detachment of popes from human traditions 186 on theological controversies 153 on the relationship of the ‘regal’ to the ‘prophetical’ office 3 on the ‘troubles and disorders’ of the church 194 Nouvelle Theologie 151–152 nuncio 15, 54, 56, 104–115, 128, 159–160 career path 160 history of role 145, 159–160 role in the selection of bishops 104–115 organization design and ‘soul’ 20 and transformation programmes 182–186 legitimacy of applying organization design thinking to the church 3, 31–33 potential value for the church 3–4 O’Brien, Cardinal Keith 18, 169 ‘pastoral cardinal’ role accountabilities of 171–176 benefits of creating 125–126 objections to 168–171 in leadership development 172–174


parish 63–67 clergy and laity within the 66, 76–77, 78–79 challenges of 65–66 flexibility of 64 lay ministers within the 66, 78 parish priest accountabilities of 43–44, 81– 85 ‘common’ priesthood and ‘hierarchical’ priesthood 7–9, 67–68, 81 leadership development of 44, 87–90, 99, 118–119, 124 support and mentoring of 88– 89, 92, 99, 118–119, 120 talent management of 123 training of 86–91 Pascendi Domenici Gregis 150 Paul VI, Pope St 26, 50, 93, 139, 145, 149. 161 Pell, Cardinal George 162–163 ‘people of God’ 67–68 ‘pillars’ of organizational health 29 Pius X, Pope St 52, 56, 138, 144, 145, 150 Pascendi Domenici Gregis 150 Pius XI, Pope 38–39 Quadregesimo Anno 38–39 Pius XII, Pope 32–33, 39, 56, 139, 151 planning coping with failures of 26 ‘excessive’ planning 24–25 required of every parish and diocese 118 within dioceses 101, 103, 116n, 118–119 Praedicate Evangelium 164–165 Provost, James 151 Quadregesimo Anno 38–39 Ratzinger, Joseph see Benedict XVI, Pope

208 Reese, Fr Thomas S.J. 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 113, 132, 138, 141, 151, 159, 165–166 Rerum Novarum 38, 40 responsibility 27n Roncalli, Angelo Giuseppe see John XXIII, Pope St Rowland, Tracey 4 Second Vatican Council 7, 8, 9, 17, 44, 51, 68, 72, 73, 81, 82, 95, 98, 104, 131, 133, 145, 148, 151, 156, 161, 162, 171, 183, 184, 186, 187 Apostolicam Actuositatem 68, 70–75, 78, 188 Christus Dominus 74, 96–97, 99–101, 148–149, 177 Gaudium et Spes 156, 189 Lumen Gentium 7, 8, 10, 66, 67, 68–70, 72, 74, 75, 78, 80, 95–96 Sipe, Richard 18 Sixtus V, Pope 139 spans of control definition of 34, 129 in the church 34, 129–30, 176– 177 of the pope 34 staff roles see support roles subsidiarity 38–41 and ‘decentralization’ 39 and organization design 31 and participative leadership 40–41 support roles 36–38

Index synod of bishops 131–2 synodality 132 talent management 116–118 accountable roles and 27–28 and careerism 90–91 and ‘cover’ 126 designing career plans in 57, 118–119, 126, 177 identifying potential leaders via 117–118, 123 identifying training needs via 119, 123 in the Jesuits 120 line and support responsibilities in 125, 181 ‘performance management’ and 119 performance ratings as distinct from competency ratings 123 training leaders in 125–126 Tedeschi, Raidini 51–52, 53, 55, 56 Thavis, John 147 Trent, Council of 52, 81, 131, 139, 145 vocations crisis 20–21 Von Balthasar, Hans Urs 43, 151 Vos Estis Lux Mundo 163 Waugh, Evelyn 191 Whitehead, Evelyn 88 Williams, Cardinal Thomas 95