Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Ecumenical Council of Sarbanes-Oxley

I've had to research some material from orgs like the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management and the Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities. They do a lot of good work, drawing on the expertise of lay Catholics in the fields of management, finance, law and accounting. But their language is saturated with little more than Catholicism-as-our-business banality. It's already the dominant mold of Catholic apostolates in health care, education, and social service. Dioceses and parishes have been more resisitant, but they need to get with the times, the failure to do so being the material cause of the priest scandal, so we are instructed. It's telling how often they're constantly reminding themselves that "the Church is not a business." If we have to remind ourselves with self-referential slogans, then you know something's not right. They love talking about what the Church is not and never get around to what the Church IS, has been, and will be. Accountability and other virtues of good corporate morality reminiscent of ol' time Puritan religion are writ large like their shiny banners. It's almost as if the priest scandal was a Felix Culpa moment. Now the laity can assume their proper place of empowerment as corporate busybodies of the Church. Then Amy puts finger on it in her reflections on the hand-wringing over the "impact" of the papal visit:
Thousands of people. Good-hearted, faithful people. Challenging each other, not to go out and evangelize, but to revision, refashion, and think yet one more time about structures. Very anxious about numbers, about energy, about the Spirit, but totally blind, either through ignorance or a kind of bigotry, to the new movements and initiatives right under their noses which are drawing people to Christ through the Church, seeing all of these things, somehow, as problems instead of as good news.

It is so ironic to me that so many who have so much disdain for the institutional Church in terms of structure and even teaching function are fixated on structure and can’t seem to think about much else.

Circumstances in which sincere and well-meaning initiatives and movements to help people connect more intimately with Christ happened in a context that ended up leaving us more at sea, in many ways. There’s no blame - it’s just what happened. Perhaps it was even necessary. But the point is, when you take a rather urgent sense that perhaps there were some areas of Church life that were functioning as obstacles to Christ, rather than doors, combine that with Scriptural and historical studies which had the ultimate effect of casting doubt on the trustworthiness of anything we think we know about what the Scriptures or the Church tells us about Christ, and then combine that with ideological battles and then mix all of that up in a culture in which authority is a bad word, relativism reigns and the Catholic Church is not, to its great surprise, the only game in town…you have massive confusion as to why we are doing what we are doing and what we are doing at all.