Patience, Resignation, Inertia
When the talk is about the problems in the Vatican – and within the Church at large – I understand we Catholic bloggers – from the obscure laymen like myself to the better known names on the Web – can be perceived a bit like armchair generals, ready to shoot from the security of their keyboards without having to actually carry the responsibility for such a complicated matter as to running a diocese, let alone the Church.
The argument doesn’t really stand.
If the blogger is a realistic one, he will not write things like “kick 90% of the bishops to Patagonia NOW”. It doesn’t work that way and anyone knowing a bit about the workings of complex organisations knows it. He will, though, write something that is at the same time highly realistic, and eminently feasible.
Many Popes in the past have been rather harsh. Pope Pius X was not a good diplomatic (he was, actually, dismal at that) but, crucially, he was good at doing things, rather than talking about them or complaining about the cruelty of the world, which refuses to adjust to his wishes without conflict. He was, besides being saintly, an eminently practical man: he identified a problem, and then he acted against it. He knew talking about it was not enough, and wishing the problem to go away would also not help. He also knew, I think, writing a new book whilst there were burning problems to be addressed would help the least.
Alas, we have a completely opposite situation now, with the last two Popes better at travelling the world, writing books and/or marketing themselves than at doing the hard, consuming, ungrateful, obscure, daily work of being the Pope. The one travelled around the world and kissed the earth when he arrived – the media loved it; I never understood whether he was really scared to fly, or sincerely worshipping the earth -; the other continued with his ambitious editorial programme whilst his hierarchy didn’t know how to spell “Williamson” (otherwise they’d have googled him, just for the curiosity), and his bishops couldn’t even stand a Christian like Monsignor Wagner to be made bishop. Who cares, as long as the airport fields are full.
How to get out of this? How to avoid the next Pope being another who thinks the most important organisation existing on earth simply does not need leadership? My suggestion is that when the times comes, the Cardinals put orthodoxy and leadership at the top of the requirements for the job; with personal saintliness, theological prowess, or media expertise way back in the list.
This is not about asking for the moon, or leaving in a dream. It’s about wondering whether among 120 Cardinals there is no one who unites a sincere orthodoxy to the desire to fight the good not in words – for too long words have been considered acceptable alternatives to deed; this grates me immeasurably – but in deeds.
It does not really take so much. To let the Vatican work is not a matter of magic, but of simple leadership. Leadership works, and it is not a matter of obscure voodoo. Send the first inept Cardinal in the wilderness, and no one will notice. Do it with a second, and many people will take notice. Follow up with a third, and you’ll see all others marching like toy soldiers.
The same with bishops. Does it need a genius to understand Archbishop Nichols is as Christian as my door handle? Why on earth was the chap in these photos made bishop? Who appointed him bishop? You don’t say!?
How on earth can a heresy explode in the heart of Europe whilst the Pope is… writing books? Should he not deal with the bonfires in his realm first? Am I asking too much? How many books before the same happens in Germany? Oh wait, we’re already there! Who would have thought it?
I hope and pray the next Pope will be a doer, rather than a talker or a writer. For Heaven’s sake not a genius, or someone thinking himself too clever and intellectually accomplished for something as vulgar and earthly as action. Someone with enough limited intellect to understand the basics of human behaviour: that people (yes! Even Cardinals!) eschew pain and seek pleasure, and if they run the risk of ending up somewhere in Zimbabwe they’ll obey all right or ask to be relieved from office. This is nothing new, nothing revolutionary, nothing that does not follow elementary principles applied in every company, even the badly run ones.
Pope St. Pius X demanded something very simple: accountability. One had to say which side he was on, period. Unthinkable? Hardly. Impossible? He did it. Please don’t tell me “oh but today is different”. Today is not different at all. The powers of the Pope have not changed, nor has human nature.
You punish one, and one hundred learn to behave. You refuse to punish, and anarchy ensues. It will be so for as long as there are human beings breathing.
I am sure I interpret the feelings of many readers when I say I ask for no revolution, and no miraculous works. Just a normal, pragmatic approach, like the one it is used every day even in badly run companies. An approach based on leading instead of talking, acting instead of complaining, punishing and if necessary kicking out the heretics instead of starting a dialogue with them. One thing is patience, another resignation, another still inertia.
We shall see. Don’t hold your breath.