Burning Down the House

Recently, the world’s attention was riveted on the catastrophic Notre Dame Cathedral fire. A few but determined sparks set off a conflagration that left the hulk of a noble structure that barely survived total destruction.

Perhaps this is a fitting analogy to the imminent implosion of the institutional Roman Catholic church, which finds its structure and current functioning falling in on themselves—a true implosion in every sense of the word.

As this commentary articulates, the burden of a clerical, hierarchical and poorly managed institution is weighing in on itself with destructive results. Turning away from the immoral and corrupt institutional functioning of the church hierarchy requires Catholics to consider how the church can restructure or, better yet, reimagine itself to be the true church God intends.

Having worked with many types of organizations facing significant problems that interfered with their purpose or mission, I’m glad to see a focus here on the systemic nature of a crisis of the hierarchy’s own making. Real change is systemic, and of course, the most painful.

It is evident that the Spirit is dragging Catholics beyond the mental models trapping us into only one vision of church “order,” based on a celibate, male hierarchy with an autocratic leader with absolute authority. Models of collaborative polity are out there for us to learn from.

In my experience, organizations that successfully recover from their failures enlist courageous and transparent leaders, like Marie Collins, who can coalesce the “folks” around a desired future state and enlist commitment to real change, as painful as that might be.

Out of the ashes, there is rebirth. Perhaps the moment is upon us for a groundswell of prophetic voices of the faithful to start the work, right now, whether the institution is ready or not.

Christopher Pett
President, DignityUSA

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