Daily Archives: May 29, 2012

Vatican Governance or: Where The Buck Stops.

No time for “committees”: Pope Pius XII.

On the usual Rorate Caeli (Good Lord! Where would we all be without them!?) a very interesting excerpt from an article dealing with issues of governance (or we would say: proper administration) in the Vatican.

I note in this article the mentality present in so many commentaries concerning the Vatican: the responsibility is apportioned pretty much everywhere, but where it belongs. Which is, of course, in flagrant violation of the very principles of governance that are discussed. Put in more simple words, the expression “the buck stops here” seems to be simply unknown in the Papal chambers, and never heard of in the Vatican corridors, or among Vatican commentators.

The first example of this unfortunate thinking is the “explanation” that after V II, the Vatican machinery has become more complicated, with the numerous “committees” now dealing with pretty much everything (and being effective in pretty much nothing) and the Secretary of State reduced to be an arbiter and “team manager” rather than a decider.

These discussions all forget a very important factor: reality. If the Vatican’s human dynamics  are in anything similar to every other government’s on the planet (which, make no mistake, they are), the committees are there exclusively in order to be perceived as doing something whilst doing nothing, and there is no way one can become I do not say Pope, but coach of the parish football team without understanding this very clearly.

The idea, therefore, the Pope be “prisoner” of a structure he has inherited is a typical example of bad governance: those responsible are exonerated from any responsibility, whilst the problems are considered as a given, or as caused by someone else.

This is even more evident in another rather enlightening phrase of the interviewed expert, Father Levillain, in the simple assumption that it be not possible today to do what the great Pope Pius XII once did, namely: to be at the same time Pope and Secretary of State.

This astonishing utterance completely neglects another great division in everyday life, self-evident to everyone who has worked in a halfway complex organisation: the one between the talkers and the doers. The talkers are those who create – or happily live with – the committees; the doers are those who are not afraid to take responsibility, and to let all the world know they (not a committee, that is: an alibi) are in charge, and will be answerable for what they do. Pope Pius XII, a doer as few others, was a classic example. This was a man not afraid of infallibly proclaiming a dogma, just think how much time he would have had for all the committees of the modern Curia…

Another – not very savoury – aspect of the interview is the rather questionable attempt – morally as well as practically – to apportion the guilt of the undoubtedly bad governance in the Vatican to… the dead.

Please realise John Paul II died more than seven years ago: this is a longer time than any of the two World Wars, and a time long enough to completely re-do the Vatican administration not one, but several times. Besides eluding the simple problem of…reality, the argument has a huge logical flaw: if it is not in the power of a Pope to change things, one cannot proclaim anyone guilt of the present problems. If – as it is logical – it is, then one cannot blame JP II without automatically apportion the greater blame to the one who has been in charge the last seven years. The reality is, few – and possibly: no one – men on Earth have the power of a Pope: not even a President of the United States could re-mould the entire structure of his government and state apparatus without need to get consent from every possible quarter, and not even the most ruthless Middle-Eastern dictator could do so without fear for his safety and life.  The Pope is the most powerful man on earth – and I mean here from a purely secular point of view – bar none, and his responsibility when the structures don’t work should be measured accordingly or, at least, not apportioned somewhere else.

The (alas: very human) reality is that whilst some are strong leaders, some saintly men and some good theologians, very few get to achieve excellence in all three fields. Pope Pius XII was an extraordinary man – a man clearly put by the Almighty in a very delicate position at a very delicate time – in that he was great in all three fields; but his successors were certainly – at least, those who lived long enough – clearly deficient in one or more of them.

Pope Benedict runs the risk of being remembered as the Pope who revoked the excommunication for Bishop Williamson without even knowing all the controversies the latter was involved in; who managed to have his most private drawers sniffed by those he trusted most; who continued to appoint extremely bad bishops to appeased the local hierarchies; and who discovered himself totally unable to act against openly heretical Bishops and/or Cardinals, because he had some sympathy for them. By all the merits of his pontificate (Summorum Pontificum comes to mind and, bigger still, the imminent reconciliation with the SSPX, certainly the crown of this papacy) one can’t say his was an example of good governance tout court, much less of strong leadership in the style of a Pius XII.

Mind, I am not saying he is a bad Pope. He is, in fact, probably as good as a Pope who lived the Council as a “conciliar father” could be. I merely find it more than vaguely questionable when it is simply assumed whenever something goes wrong the responsibility must be looked for pretty much everywhere – even in coffins – but where it most obviously lies.


Breivik Is Not Mad; Norway Is.

Make no mistake: he will laugh last.

I know the BBC is not what it used to be, but I read today if found sane the man risks, incredibile dictu, full twenty-one years in jail. That’s the same one gets in Italy for a “standard” homicide.

Now let us make some simple calculations: the man is around 33 now. Add 21 to the 33 and he has freedom at 55 as his worst case scenario. Best case is, of course, he is declared insane, spending his 21 years (or more) in some comfortable hospital, surrounded by creature comforts and an aura of heroism among those ready to see in him a paladin of some mad Nazi cause.

He will then, very probably, still be a free man in his mid-fifties, and his statistical life expectancy will be counted in decades; that is, a much longer time than the majority of his victims had lived. He will probably make some not inconsiderable money writing memoirs for the morbidly curious and the Neonazis; but even if he won’t, the Norwegian nanny state will throw further money on him allowing him to live in relative comfort out of the taxpayer’s purse.

If he has been in jail – which in a Country like Norway must be a radically different experience than, say, in the Guantanamo prison –  he will be, erm, hailed as a victim and a martyr by the other nutcases; if he has been in hospital, he will be celebrated as a smart guy who has outsmarted the system for many years and is preparing to do the same for the rest of his life.

He might, of course, stay in hospital indefinitely, but seriously: a) how likely is that, and b) would this be really so bad for him?

Clearly, people like Breivik have such an  inflated, deformed ego that the feeling of notoriety and admiration – make no mistake, this is what he will get from those nearly as nuts as himself – will easily compensate for the lack – for only a fraction of his life expectancy – of a freedom which must be to him less valuable than the desire of self-aggrandisement. Breivik got a kick for his ego to last him for the rest of his days; he knew that, and lucidly accepted to pay the price. 

Whilst this is obviously an ideological nut case, I can’t imagine him as mad. Evil is not mad, and can be very lucid. It is clear everything is going according to his calculations; he knew what expected him and is now going to ride the tsunami of social workers for the rest of his imprisonment/hospital days.

On the other side, we have the Norwegian justice system. A hugely expensive trial. A certainly controversial sentence. The alternative between a couple of decade in jail, surrounded by many comforts and the attention of countless taxpayer-financed social workers, and a possibly even longer permanence in a hospital,  surrounded by even more comforts and even more social workers. Years of confinement during which he will feel a hero, and after which he might get comfortably provided for.

This is, clearly, the result of a system which has a problem in even admitting evil can exist, let alone exist on such a scale, and is desperately trying to put Breivik’s behaviour within the usual comfortable box of an ill-guided person who can, of course, be reformed.

If the Norwegian public opinion decides the man is pure evil, they will have to wake up to the existence of evil, and confront their own ideological blindness.  If they decide the man is mad, they will make a mockery of themselves in front of the entire planet for, possibly, many decades to come.

All this is not surprising from a country which cannot even conceive the death penalty, and might give Breivik the ride of (literally) a lifetime, but is in the first line among the countries trying to impose abortion everywhere. This is what happens when a country reduces Christianity to a mockery, and starts thinking in a pure secular way. They have created their own Breiviks, and will now have to live with – and pay for – the consequences.

Take it from me: Breivik is evil, but not mad. He is, actually, rather smart, in the way a Himmler was smart.

The Norwegians, on the other hand, are certifiably insane.


Awkward Request

I always feel slightly embarrassed and a bit awkward when writing “please pray for this or that”.

Firstly, it has something sanctimonious, as one should actually already be aware that people do pray, particularly in case of events with vast media echo, without the need of anyone’s prompting; secondly, because every day is heavy with tragedies all over the planet, and it seems very media-driven to pick the tragedy which happens to be picked by radio and TV.

Still, as I am a human being and, as they say, my own toothache worries me more than the earthquake in China, I cannot avoid feeling more solidarity with the victim of today’s earthquake in Italy than I would with the other, unnamed and certainly even worse tragedies which have happened today.

Now, you might or might not have other toothaches, and you are very likely not to be Italian.

But I still dare to ask for a Hail Mary firstly for the victims, and secondly for those whose life has been affected by today’s events.


P.s. I personally am also reminded, in such cases, of the fact that much as we think technology, safety and doctors have everything under control, we still do not know the day or the hour. A sobering thought to carry with us by our night prayers.

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