Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Church Leadership

In God's creation all life begins as a small seed and grows from the bottom up.

The role of those who are called to act as spiritual leaders and pastors in the life of the Church cannot be understated whenever they speak with the voice of the Spirit. Never before in the history of the church have had so few accepted a calling so vital to the life of those it attempts to serve.

One cannot possible imagine what it must be like to interpret complex Church teachings, couched in difficult archaic clerical language, on such modern ethical questions as homosexuality, same sex marriage, sexual abuse, stem cell research, abortion, etc. against the real pain and suffering of those our clergy hope to serve. Why do some of these taxed individuals find it necessary to take refuge behind rigid and impersonal Church rulings? The Vatican in trying to deal with a fear filled world, frequently avoids Christly compassion and healing in favour of stern warnings. In failing to deal with its own internal struggles could it not be said that the Church is moving toward a more self destructive form of leadership.

An isolating and separating form of administration cannot be expected to bring necessary compassion, healing and understanding among the faithful masses. Yet, this seems to be the course which some of our Church leaders want to take.

Many leaders speak of the need for dialogue. However, within the Catholic Church, little has been forthcoming and as a result little real trust has been established between laity and clergy.

Leadership within the Vatican Church today, despite efforts by Vatican II to introduce change, remains purely hierarchical, male dominated and top-down. This follows the ongoing efforts of Pope Benedict XVI to centralize the institution politically. However, even in his efforts to control the attacks from the media regarding his involvement in the cover-ups of the sexual abuse cases Benedict has been unsuccessful in co-coordinating a successful plan of defense.

In my previous blogs 'Religious Liberty' and 'A Church in Crisis' I have tried to link comparative leadership styles prior to and after Vatican II as a possible catalyst for the church's escalating problems. Pope Benedict beginning with his role as Cardinal in charge of the CDF* was quite clear about his views on Vatican II. His influence on subsequent Church teachings and the formation of political appointments are obvious.

Pope Benedict XVI's rulings and relationship with other religions has led him frequently in conflict not only internally but also externally. In January of 2009 the Agency France-Presse released the following article under the title 'Pope's diplomatic woes pile up'. Readers will have to make up their own mind as to how it relates to Benedict's independent leadership role.
* Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Agence France-Presse 01/29/2009 11:49 PM

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI, drawing fire over allowing a Holocaust denier into his flock, has found himself in similar hot water with Muslims, native Indians, Poles, gays and even scientists during his nearly four years as pontiff.

The German pope is struggling to mollify Jews after he brought a breakaway ultra-conservative faction back into the fold of the Roman Catholic Church by rescinding the excommunication of four bishops, including one who insists that no one died in Nazi gas chambers.

Memories are still fresh of the fury Benedict unleashed in the Muslim world with a speech in September 2006 in which he appeared to endorse the view of an obscure 14th-century Byzantine emperor that Islam is inherently violent.

The academic lecture at the German university where he once taught theology sparked violent protests in several countries as well as attacks on Christian targets including a nun who was killed in Somalia along with her bodyguard.

The pope initially said he was "sorry" for having provoked reactions through a "misunderstanding."

But it was not until he travelled to Turkey later in the year that Muslims began to forgive him, after he stood in prayer alongside Istanbul's grand mufti, facing Mecca, at the landmark Blue Mosque.

Benedict made waves again the following year when he travelled to Brazil. Discussing the Christianization of the country, he said the indigenous people had been "silently longing" for Christ, asserting that European colonizers had not imposed their faith on them.

Ten days later he sought to make amends with a Vatican statement recognising that "unjustifiable crimes" had been committed during the European conquest of Latin America.

In Poland, homeland of Benedict's media-savvy predecessor John Paul II, the pontiff had to make a speedy about-face after he picked a former collaborator with the Polish secret police, Stanislaw Wielgus, to head the Warsaw archdiocese in December 2006.

The pope was forced to accept Wielgus's resignation a month later.

More recently, gays were up in arms over the pope's suggestion that homosexuality is as much of a threat to the survival of the human race as climate change.

Asserting that gender theory blurs the distinction between male and female, the pope called for "an ecology of the human being" to protect mankind "from self-destruction."

Gender theory explores how society designates fixed roles to people based on their gender, and many gay groups say it promotes tolerance and understanding.

The pope's remarks followed hard on the heels of the Vatican's refusal to join a UN appeal for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality. More than 80 countries have laws against homosexuality.

Other controversies have erupted from incidents that cannot be considered outright papal gaffes, but avoidable all the same.

In January 2008, the pope cancelled a planned speech at Rome's Sapienza University after science professors and students protested that it would violate the secular university's autonomy.

Many scientists fault the intellectual, tradition-minded pope for a series of positions he has taken that they say subordinate science and reason to faith.

In particular, opponents to his visit recalled a 1990 speech in which the pontiff, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and head of the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, seemed to justify the Inquisition's verdict against Galileo in 1633.

It is with Judaism, however, that Benedict has had the most frequent unfortunate brushes.

During a visit to Auschwitz in May 2006, he portrayed his compatriots not as knowing accomplices in the Holocaust but as victims "used and abused" by the Nazis, whom he labelled a "ring of criminals."

Last year the pope defended the memory of Nazi-era pope Pius XII at a mass to mark the 50th anniversary of his death and urged his rapid beatification -- a step along the path to sainthood.

He later put the controversial pope's dossier on hold.

Also last year, Benedict authorized the use, in certain conditions, of the old Tridentine mass in Latin that was mothballed by the reforms of Vatican II in the 1960s. The tradition's Good Friday liturgy includes a prayer for the conversion of the Jews.

Responding to the ensuing controversy, Benedict did not eliminate the prayer, but rather modified it to implore God to "enlighten (Jews') hearts so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the saviour of all men."

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