Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy and his name choice

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2011!

My last blog posting reflected upon Pope Benedict XVI’s Urbi et Orbi address where he spoke about the world’s suffering while dressed in ermine trimmed wraps.  According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website, the pope chose the name Benedict inspired by St. Benedict, the founder of Benedictine spirituality in addition to Pope Benedict XV’s example as a peacemaker and reconciler.

So far, in the “reconciler” category, the pope has some successes, making small steps reconciling with clergy abuse victims.  However, thus far in his papacy, I see an increase in tension with other religions due to things like the pope re-instating a holocaust denying bishop and making gaffs about Islam.  I see a decrease rather than increase in Catholic unity.  I see a decrease in dialogue between differing opinions within the church and an increase in hierarchical assertions, commands and judgments.  Consequently, I see an increase in neo-Pharisees believing their piety rituals and dogmatic barking on a few issues make them better than others and make their sins less severe than others.  I see an increase in arrogance and false pride about Catholic identity and a decrease in humility, compassion and service.  Are these signs of peace and reconciliation?

I am reading a book about St. Benedict’s spirituality, specifically about the Rule of St. Benedict.  When I learned of the pope’s speech made while dressed in fur-trimmed robes, I was reading the chapter on humility.  In his rule, St. Benedict outlined 12 degrees of humility.  Briefly, the degrees are:
1.  Fear (love) God.
2.  Love not your own will.
3.  For love of God and in denying self-will, submit yourself to a human superior.
4.  Be patient and meet difficulties, contradictions and injustice without growing weary or running away.
5.  Confess everything; hide nothing.
6.  Be content with the worst and poorest of everything.
7.  Consider yourself lower and lesser than everyone else.
8.  Follow the “Rule” and the advice of elders.
9.  Restrain your tongue and keep silent.
10.  Don’t be quick to laugh lest you make folly of something serious.
11.  Speak in few but sensible words.
12.  Maintain humility inwardly and outwardly, in heart and external appearance.

I struggle seeing a connection between St. Benedict’s directions on humility and his papal namesake’s actions as well as the greater church’s tone set by Pope Benedict XVI.  In particular:

  • How would St. Benedict view infallibility doctrine and its use to justify one’s opinion, in light of the 1st, 3rd and 7th degrees of humility?
  • How would St. Benedict view the hierarchy’s indignation over cries for bishop accountability, in light of the 4th, 5th, 7th and 12th degrees of humility?
  • How would St. Benedict view demonizing the press for airing stories about clergy abuse, in light of the 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th degrees of humility?
  • How would St. Benedict view handling of clergy abuse, enshrouded in secrecy, in light of the 1st and 5th degrees of humility?
  • How would St. Benedict view the absence of women from church hierarchy and governance structures, in light of the 7th degree of humility?
  • How would St. Benedict view threats and use of ex-communication to try controlling other people’s behavior, in light of the 4th and 7th degrees of humility?
  • How would St. Benedict view using an ermine-trimmed cape and related clerical fashion trends, in light of the 6th, 7th and 12th degrees of humility?
  • How would St. Benedict view prolific writings and the establishment of a foundation to promote one’s own theological thought, in light of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 11th and 12th degrees of humility?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Perhaps more people would “know and hear” the pope’s voice as a shepherd if he dressed more like one?

I don’t usually write multiple blog postings in a day.  Today I must make an exception after reading the following passage about Pope Benedict’s Christmas 2010 papal address, Urbi et Orbi (Latin for “To the city and the world”).   His address focused on Christian suffering around the world due to recent violent attacks on Catholics in places like Baghdad, as well as China’s church and state conflict. 

“Bundled up in an ermine trimmed crimson cape against a chilly rain, he delivered his assessment of world suffering from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.” 

Likely the pope also wore his red shoes, cobbled by his personal shoemaker.

How credible does a multi-millionaire author with his own personal shoemaker seem discussing world suffering while dressed in ermine (a fur costing $30,000 - $60,000), standing on a balcony, in a walled city, 1,800 miles from the sufferings in Baghdad and over 5,000 miles from the strife in China?

Vatican City is one of six remaining absolute monarchies in the world.  The others are Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Swaziland.  That’s an interesting list of countries sharing similar governmental structures.

Vatican City’s 2008 annual revenues were approximately $351 Million, averaging well over $425,000 for each of its 826 citizens.  This compares with the U.S.’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $14.834 Trillion or an average of about $48,000 per its 307 million citizens.  The U.S.’s material blessings pale in comparison to that of the Vatican.

Perhaps more people would “know and hear” the pope’s voice as a shepherd if he dressed more like one?  Perhaps people would more easily see Christ in him if he conducted himself more like Jesus, a homeless, itinerant preacher who lived amidst the world’s sufferings, rather than as a monarch with his own city-state, fleet of private vehicles, personal shoemaker and fur wraps who must schedule appointments periodically to gain exposure to the world’s sufferings? 

Granted the pope does donate some of his book royalties to charity, his own foundation, "Vatican Foundation: Joseph Ratzinger - Benedict XVI".  The foundation’s, “goal is to promote the study of Joseph Ratzinger's theology and spirituality, propagating his ideas in the Church and society, and ensuring they are absorbed.”  Maybe people would find the Vicar of Christ more credible if his foundation’s stated goal focused on theology in the “spirit of Christ” instead of himself?

Can we and should we model our families after the Holy Family?

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family.  In a few hours I will attend Mass and likely hear again from an unmarried, childless priest how I should model my family after the Holy Family.  My question today simply is, why?

In marriage preparation I learned the foundational elements of marriage include husband and wife sharing common views on faith, family, finances, sexuality and child-rearing.  Let’s examine what scripture actually tells us of the Holy Family’s views in these areas.

Mary and Joseph raised their son in the Jewish faith.  The 2009 U.S. Bishops’ pastoral letter “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan” acknowledges and extols Jesus being raised in the Jewish tradition.  Should I follow Mary and Joseph’s example and raise my children in the Jewish faith tradition, one lacking a Magisterial authority? 

As an aside, if you are not familiar with the aforementioned pastoral letter it is a 60 paged treatise on marriage written by the U.S. bishops.  I found the bishops’ marital advice very reflective of their context as unmarried, childless men, detached from family constructs and often lacking intimate interpersonal relationships, especially with women.

Anyway, we know little of Mary and Joseph’s views on family and child-rearing:
1.  Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth during their pregnancies.  However, Jesus and John the Baptist’s unfamiliarity upon meeting as adults might indicate a weak familial bond. 
2.  Mary and Joseph traveled to Jerusalem with relatives annually for Passover.  When traveling, my parents ritually “counted noses” to ensure they retained all nine of their children.  However, Mary and Joseph once traveled unconcerned for an entire day without missing their one child (LK 2:41-52).    
3.  At the Wedding of Cana, Jesus told his mom that his hour had not yet come when she correctly instructed him to perform his first miracle (John 2:1-12).  
4.  Jesus once denied his mother and brothers an audience (MT 12:46-50). 
5.  Their child was sinless and the son of God.  Mine are not; neither are anybody else’s.

There’s not a lot there upon which to model my family’s views on family or child-rearing. 

We know even less about Mary and Joseph’s views on finances.  Joseph was a carpenter so on a low economic rung.  Mary and Joseph seemed to respect civil tax law, going to Bethlehem for census enrollment.  They also paid for the modest temple sacrifice of two turtle doves.  Again, there’s not a lot upon which to model my family’s views on finances.

This brings us to Mary and Joseph’s views on sexuality.  The Catholic Church believes Mary remained ever-virgin.  It also teaches that conjugal love is essential to marriage for the purposes of unity and procreation.  Most of the 60-paged pastoral letter focuses on this.  Furthermore, doctrinal writings such as Humanae Vitae teach that the faithful should do nothing to render conceiving children impossible.  Thus the church considers physical intimacy a marital duty, not a privilege or optional activity.  It is considered so critical to marriage that refusal to have marital intimacy or to conceive children are grounds to nullify a marriage.  

Should Catholic couples really model their sexuality after Mary and Joseph by never having sexual relations?  Never having sex seems to interfere greatly with conceiving children. The only child they welcomed into their union was conceived out of wedlock.  Therefore, does the church consider Mary and Joseph’s marriage invalid since they never embarked upon their marital duty for purposes of unity or procreation? 

When you strip away romanticized, idealistic folklore inferred about the Holy Family, I see little practical example to follow and some examples to not follow.  Rather than chasing an idealized image of what God called somebody else to do, shouldn’t we focus on discerning what God actually calls each of us to do?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Was it through an umbilical cord that God intermingled with humanity?

Merry Christmas!  At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation, remembering when Jesus was born fully God and fully human. 

Being all-powerful, God could have just whipped up a god-man without involving the human biological processes of conception, pregnancy or neo-natal development.  But both the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds speak of Jesus being conceived through the union of the Holy Spirit with Mary.  The Nicene Creed further emphasizes human biological processes by adding the phrase “genitum non factum” or, “begotten not made”. 

The process of Jesus being “begotten not made” is so pivotal that Catholics weekly profess this belief while reciting the Nicene Creed.   Therefore, Catholics firmly believe Jesus was born because Mary’s egg was fertilized by the Holy Spirit, implanted into her uterine wall, nourished by Mary and grew into a baby over a normal nine-month human pregnancy.  Anything else would be “made not begotten” rather than “begotten not made”.

Catholic tradition also asserts Mary is the “Ark of the New Covenant”.  In the Old Testament, the ark housed the stone tablets containing the covenant and manna (bread).  Furthermore, the presence of God overshadowed the ark.  Because the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and her womb carried Jesus, the new bread of life and new covenant, Catholics refer to Mary as the “Ark of the New Covenant”.  This title is intended to be very respectful of Mary and her special role.

Referring to Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant dates back to at least the 3rd century A.D. Gregory the Wonder Worker (c. 213 – 270) in his “Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary” called Mary, “the ark of thy sanctuary”. 

Athanasius of Alexandria (c.296-373) also wrote of Mary, “For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word?  To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin?  You are greater than them all O Ark of the Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold!  You are the ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides” (Homily of the Papyrus of Turin).

Though early theologians’ understanding of human reproductive biology (begetting) rivaled a toddler’s comprehension of nuclear physics, today’s Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2676) borrows words from these early writers. "Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is ‘the dwelling of God . . . with men’”.  To church leaders, Mary’s motherhood is as a “dwelling place”.

My questions arise when I consider a mother’s role in neo-natal development versus an ark’s role as a detached, inanimate box, a “dwelling place”.  Mary wasn’t an inanimate object nor was she detached from the child she carried.  That’s because a mother doesn’t just “carry” her child.  She contributes to the child: 50% of its DNA and 100% of its in-utero physical development.  The child she nurtures is literally a part of her. 

Not only does the mother nourish the child through the umbilical cord, her body will nourish her growing child first, leaving whatever nutrients remain for her own body.  If nutrition falls short, the mother will suffer first and the most.  Jesus fed the world but first he was fed by Mary.

Therefore, to me, it is degrading to Mary, motherhood and women to reduce her pregnancy to that of a passive receptacle, a “dwelling place”.   Detaching Jesus from the integration and intimacy between him and his mother that occurred during pre-natal development also seems to dehumanize Jesus. 

This teaching provides insight into church leaders’ views on women and their role in pregnancy.  They fixate upon the uterus passively housing a growing child and overlook the life-giving umbilical cord actively connecting mother and child, actively feeding and forming the child.  Perhaps it seems a subtlety, lost to someone who has never been pregnant, such as the entire Magisterial body of church hierarchs.  But a mother knows she actively interacts with and contributes to her in-utero child.  She is not a “dwelling place”.

Why do church leaders reduce Mary’s pregnancy to a passive “dwelling place”?  The Ark of the Covenant contributed nothing to the covenant itself yet Mary contributed significantly to Jesus, albeit all things she gave originated from God.  Why do church leaders seem to ignore the umbilical cord feeding Jesus from Mary’s own body?  Was it through the umbilical cord that God truly intermingled with, versus resided within, humanity during Jesus’ pre-natal formation?

A dwelling place is dispensable and replaceable because the living body inside the dwelling place surpasses it in importance.  Do church leaders believe women are dispensable, replaceable dwelling places of lesser importance than their in-utero children?  Have they reflected upon what it means to be “begotten not made” in light of modern understanding of human biology?

Thank you to the readers from all 16 countries that follow this blog.

Merry Christmas! 
Glædelig jul og godt nytår! (Danish)
Fröhliche Weihnachten! (German)
Joyeux Noël!  (French)
Prettige kerstdagen!  (Dutch)
Meri Kirihimete me ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa!  (Maori)
Karisama te nawā sāla khušayāwālā hewe! (Punjabi)
Maligayang Pasko, Manigong bagong taon (Tagalog)
С Рождеством Христовым (Russian)
Selamat Hari Natal (Malay)
聖誕快樂 新年快樂 (Chinese)
Christmas matrum puthaandu vaazthukkal (Tamil)
Vesel božič in srečno novo leto (Slovenian)
Geseënde Kersfees  (Afrikaans)
jeulgeoun seongtanjeol bonaesigo saehae bok manhi bateusaeyo (Korean)
Schöni Wienachte (Swiss German)
Buon Natale (Italian)
Legreivlas fiastas da Nadal (Rumantsch)
Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda (Welsh)
Nollaig chridheil agus bliadhna mhath ùr (Scottish Gaelic)
Feliz Navidad! (Spanish)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Have delusions of self-virtue blinded church leaders from recognizing Jesus’ selection of a female apostle whose reputation resembles the early apostles’ … and their own?

My last blog post discussed logic fallacies used by the church, one of which was the “Red Herring” or introduction of irrelevant information into debate.  I cited this Red Herring used by church leaders: “Because Jesus didn’t appoint his mom, the most virtuous woman in history, as an apostle, he never intended any female apostles.” 

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, accepting this Red Herring as relevant to the female ordination debate requires one to ignore Jesus selecting males who were despised (Paul and Matthew), denied him (Peter), disobeyed him (all of them) and betrayed him (Judas).  In that article, I forgot to mention he selected men who doubted him (Thomas, Nathanael), repeatedly misunderstood him (all of them) and were revolutionaries (Simon the Zealot).  He also selected men who were deluded with their own self-importance (James and John).

I think church leaders’ introduction of this Red Herring may provide insight into their opinion of themselves.  They assume that if Jesus appointed a female apostle, he would have chosen an extremely virtuous woman.  Do they believe themselves extremely virtuous men, to the point that only the most virtuous woman in history could be their equivalent?  This might lend some insight into church leaders’ true sense of humility.  Do they believe they are so “humble” as to equate themselves with the Virgin Mary’s greatness of humility, obedience, grace, perfection and purity? 

That might explain their indignation rather than abject humility as the world cries for their accountability.  It might explain their ruling and commanding like royalty rather than teaching as humble equals and servants.  It might explain decline in vocations as the truly humble might be repulsed by their attitudes and actions.  It might explain their unwillingness and inability to listen to the laity, especially women. 

Keep in mind the Apostle Paul was hated and feared by early Christians because he systematically, relentlessly and vigorously persecuted them for straying from orthodoxy.  In the eyes of early Christians, Paul’s character fell far below their standards. In a way, he represented the antithesis of Mary.

There is no male or female comparison in today’s society for someone as dangerous to Christians as Paul was in his day.  Perhaps Jezebel in the Old Testament is the closest to a biblical female version of Paul as she systematically, relentlessly and vigorously persecuted the prophets of Israel (1 Kings 18).  In the New Testament, the early apostles have a background more akin to Mary Magdalene, a reformed sinful woman than to Jesus’ mother Mary. 

Therefore, perhaps Jesus would have chosen to send as a female apostle someone more resembling Mary Magdalene than the Virgin Mary.  Oh wait, he did send Mary Magdalene with the most important news in salvation history: tidings of his resurrection.  However, church leaders choose to discredit this example of Jesus directly commissioning a female apostle by labeling her with the non-descript apostleship of “apostle to the apostles” (Mulieris Dignitatem).  Why?

Have delusions of self-virtue blinded church leaders from recognizing Jesus’ selection of a female apostle whose reputation resembles the early apostles’ … and their own?

Friday, December 17, 2010

If barring female ordinations fails the test of thinking with heart and mind, why does this practice continue?

Church leaders tell the faithful to think with hearts not minds.  Many faithful indicate their hearts say excluding women from the priesthood is unjust and un-Christ-like.  At that point, church leaders turn to reason, trying to construct a logical argument to defend their practices.  However, their argument commits at least twelve fallacies of formal logic.  Here are church leaders’ assertions with logic flaws noted:

·       1. "The church lacks authority to ordain women because Jesus never intended it” commits the logic fallacy of circulus in demonstrandi or “circular logic”.  This logic fallacy uses that which is trying to be proven in the proof.  Church leaders’ logic flows thusly, “We say we interpret scripture correctly, Jesus never said to ordain only men but we inferred it, we say we inferred correctly and can’t alter our inference, therefore we are correct and can’t change”.  More simply stated, “We make the rules, we made a rule that we are correct and can’t change, therefore we are correct and can’t change”.  

·         2.  "The church’s tradition has never acknowledged female apostles and therefore we can’t have any now” commits the logic error of argumentum ad antiquitatem or “the argument to antiquity/tradition”, saying something is "right" because we've always thought it was right.  Though incorrect, for 17 centuries the church said it was heresy to believe Earth orbited the Sun.  Historic error does not make something correct or justify its continuation.

·         3. Doctrinal writings Mulieris Dignitatem and Inter Insigniores commit the logic flaw of dicto simpliciter, “over simplification or sweeping generalities”.  These documents say sacramental validity requires symbols used in the sacrament carry a “natural resemblance” to what the sacrament recalls.  Since church leaders say priests act in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) sacrificing the Mass, priests must carry a natural resemblance to Jesus and that resemblance must be in gender.  It is dicto simpliciter to say only men remind people of Jesus.  A poll of just my family refutes that assertion; they readily see Jesus in numerous women.

·         4. “Tradition contains no evidence of female apostles therefore there weren’t any” commits the logic errors of circular logic and argumentum ad ignorantiam, “arguing to ignorance”.  Argumentum ad ignorantiam says if something hasn’t been proven false, it must be true.  Another example of that logic fallacy would be, “Since scripture doesn’t say Jesus went to the bathroom, he never did.”    

      Church leaders assert tradition does not refer to female apostles.  Yet, Jesus himself sent Mary Magdalene (the definition of "apostle"), the New Testament refers to female apostles (Romans 16:1, 3, 7) and archeological evidence indicates female priests and bishops.  Therefore, this also uses circular logic.  Church leaders say, “We decide what credible evidence is, we reject the evidence presented that proves us false, we choose to see no evidence ourselves, and therefore there is no evidence.”

·          5. Closely related to the previous example, church leaders assert that because Luke’s gospel indicates Jesus prayed the night before naming the original twelve apostles, they are correct inferring that God explicitly directed Jesus on apostolic gender.  In addition to using other flawed logic, this argument uses a sprinkling of the flawed logic post hoc ergo propter hoc, “after this, therefore because of this.  This asserts that because “B” happened after “A”, “A” caused “B”.  Because Jesus talked to God the night before naming twelve men, they must have discussed apostolic gender.  
·          6. Church leaders use the flawed logic appealing to “nature” constructing the following analogy: "Christ marries the church; the Church says the nature of marriage requires one male and one female, so a male must act as Christ to wed the female church lest nature be violated."  An “appeal to nature” argument says straying from something’s intended nature or use is wrong.  For example, “appeal to nature” logic would say a shoe's nature is to protect the foot; therefore pounding nails with a shoe is wrong because it violates nature.  

      Please note that church leaders violate their own “appeal to nature” logic because multiple male priests marry the one female church, making the church a polygamist with thousands of husbands.  Furthermore, male priests marry the “female” church whose only official voice is the Magisterium, an all male-body. This could be construed as placing the church in a homosexual polygamist union.

·         7. The marriage analogy also uses the flawed logic,“Slippery Slope”, trying to inject fear rather than address ideas: if we adopt “A”, this dreadful thing will happen.  Though God is untiring in forgiveness, church leaders say ordaining women unravels salvation history because it would severely violate the nature of marriage.

·         8. “The Magisterium says women can’t be ordained; the Magisterium is the authority; therefore it is correct that women can’t be ordained” commits the logic error of argumentum verecundium, arguing to authority.  This flawed logic says that if entity “A” makes statement “b” and “A” is an authority, “b” must be true.  The church uses this logic fallacy a lot.

·         9. Like a broken record, church leaders repeat their same flawed logic committing yet another logic flaw of argumentum ad nauseum, arguing repeatedly.  Repetition doesn’t make something correct.

·         10. Groups like the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter use the flawed logic cum hoc ergo propter hoc, (with this therefore because of this) which draws causation from correlation.  I recently received a mailing from this organization that seems to suggest, due to coincidental timing, society’s ills stem from church changes such as more inclusiveness of women and departure from Latin liturgies.  Thus, this priestly society reasons we need to return to the tradition of marginalizing women and Latin Mass to countermand things like divorce, abortion, loss of virtue and disillusionment with the church. However, there is no demonstrated cause and effect.

·         11.  Church leaders’ justification for barring female ordinations uses many “Red Herrings”, a logic fallacy of injecting irrelevant pieces of information.  For example, they say that because Jesus never appointed his mom as an apostle, he didn’t want any female apostles.  One might ask, “Why would Mary’s status have a bearing for all women?”  Church leaders reason that if Jesus wanted any female apostles, he would have chosen his mom because she was the most virtuous woman in history.  Since he didn't, he must not want any female apostles.  Accepting that Red Herring as relevant information requires forgetting that Jesus appointed males who were despised, denied him, disobeyed him and betrayed him, hardly pinnacles of virtue.

·         12. Those who defend the church’s stance often commit the logic fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, attacking the character of the opposition versus addressing the ideas the person stated.  I have endured that from some people for writing this blog. The grave delict against ordaining women is an institutional example of this logic flaw. 

If barring female ordinations fails the test of thinking with heart and mind, why does this practice continue?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Do church leaders expect to be held to a lesser standard than teenagers serving them coffee in a fast-food restaurant?

My last posting discussed putting the newspaper next to the Bible in order to live the gospel, serving people in their present condition.  Part of people’s present condition is their job environment.  What is the predominant business culture people experience and how does this culture influence people’s relationship with the church?

Statistics from the U.S.’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) indicate services contribute 63.4% of the world’s GDP as compared to 30.6% from industry and 6% from agriculture.  Consequently, most people work in jobs providing services.  For example, 84.6% of jobs in the U.S. are in the services sector. 

It is safe to assume most Catholics also work in service related jobs since countries with the ten largest Catholic populations mirror this trend:
  • The U.S., Brazil, Italy, France, Spain and Poland have economies where services contribute higher percentages of their GDP than the world average
  • Mexico and Argentina are just barely below the world average at 62.8% and 62%
  • The Philippines and Colombia are significantly below the world average but still see services contributing more than 50% of their national GDP at 55% and 53.5%
Not only do people deliver services, they consume services.  Thus, the general population is becoming more service savvy.  Granted, secular services have room for substantial improvement.  Nonetheless, many people are learning key service concepts.  For example service workers understand that successful services depend upon teams of people, flexible processes, resources, and partnering with resource suppliers rather than on heroics of one saintly soul.

At work, many people are learning methodologies and frameworks for continually improving services.  They are learning about organizational dynamics required to support this.  Tenets of their occupation include:
·         Thou shall listen so as to understand needs of those you serve
·         Thou shall be open to process improvements to offer better service
·         Thou shall not blindly obey but shall think critically to identify broken processes
·         Thou shall hold no process as sacred hiding behind “tradition” lest it not serve optimally
·         Thou shall not presume you know but gather data and make decisions based on facts
·         Thou shall communicate openly and honestly
·         Thou shall be held accountable for your role in the process
·         Thou art a team member and shall value ideas from your teammates
·         Thou shall deliver and accept constructive criticism without becoming defensive
·         Thou shall seek people of diverse backgrounds so as to serve diverse people

However, at church people have practically no voice as either a service consumer or provider.  In many parishes, parish councils are supposed to represent people’s needs.  However, pastors tend to select their supporters to serve on those councils.  Therefore parish councils charged to be conduits for learning people’s needs, instead often become mutual admiration societies.  The result is that many people believe the church sub-optimally serves the community’s needs. 

If people raise concerns or offer improvement suggestions as is encouraged in their work culture, they often find themselves dismissed, patronized, pushed to the fringes of their parish, removed from teams or in extreme cases demonized by priests or priest-groupies.  Unlike in their job environment, blind obedience is preferred over critical thinking.  

If they act like a full member of the team, offer criticism, or hold leaders accountable, they are told they lack humility.  If they try to communicate openly, they are told they lack charity and understanding.  If they identify gender discrimination, they are told they just don’t understand God’s plan in the differences between men and women.  Instead of being co-creators in their church as Vatican II suggests, they become pawns, moved to the strategic advantage of church leaders.

Some parishes have tried to embark on process-based thinking but more often greatly lag secular service organizations in understanding process methodologies.  Frequently they also choke on the egalitarian nature of service improvement.  A friend of mine once was hired by a monarch to help his country become more democratic.  Upon realizing that being democratic required him to accept election results even when he didn't agree, he fired her.  In a similar vein, some pastors trying to embrace service concepts stop short when they learn their "pastoral discretion" must humbly yield to data, facts and insight from multiple knowledge workers. 

In their jobs, Catholics learn about service, service quality and service improvement.  They also drank the “Jesus Kool-Aid” about serving others and assume Christian service should far surpass what’s expected of them in their secular service work.  Instead, they see many church leaders who are internally rather than externally focused, emphasize serving them rather than others, ignore or neutralize rather than seek lay voices, marginalize rather than embrace diversity, presume rather than ask, work in secrecy rather than openness, rebuff rather than desire criticism, fear rather than seek continual improvement, and skirt rather than face accountability.    

As has happened throughout history, secular and sacred cultures again intersect with great dissonance.  Even teenagers flipping hamburgers in a fast-food restaurant sense the dichotomy.  However, this time, their secular jobs seem to understand service better than their church. Do church leaders expect to be held to a lesser standard than teenagers serving them coffee in a fast-food restaurant?

People working in secular service-industry jobs know that when their organization renders poor service, people leave.  Should the church expect any different reaction?