Saturday, June 10, 2006

Bureaucracy! What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing! Say it again!

(with apologies to the late Edwin Starr)

Such seems to be the basic argument of Catholic commentators of various stripes regarding bureaucracies at all levels in the Church. They claim that these staffs eventually turn away from the mission of evangelization that they were created to support and become entities that simply defend their own existence.

Writers as varied George Weigel and John Allen made such cases in their respective books God's Choice and The Rise of Benedict XVI, where both authors speculate that the current pope might make major changes to the Roman Curia in order to make the body more truly mission-oriented.

Closer to home, the U. S. bishops, who will be meeting in Los Angeles next week, may take an important step closer to a significant re-organization and reduction of the bureaucracy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sharply reducing the number of its committees from 35 to 14. Go here to read more about the plan.


One goal is to reduce the national operating budget at a time when many dioceses are feeling a financial crunch because of weak investment returns, rising insurance costs and a variety of other factors. The restructuring plan envisions a more modest, mission-driven role of the national conference in the work of the bishops.

But in this recent article from the St. Louis Review, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archbishop Raymond Burke is seen taking a positive approach to the archdiocesan staff that serves under him. We don't see him taking out the scalpel in order to make it more focused on evangelization.

I've done some searching and haven't seen reports about staff reductions in St. Louis. Perhaps it was relatively small or was relatively faithful to its orginal purpose to begin with.

In any case, the article in question shows Archbishop Burke meeting with some 250 employees, exhorting them to consider how they are called upon to participate in the New Evangelization, how they are to show Christ each day to those whom they serve.


The June 1 session at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury was the first of what Archbishop Burke and many members he met with — hope will be periodic meetings to discuss how the administrative staff can engage in "the new evangelization." That was a term often used by Pope John Paul II in encouraging people to live their faith with the spirit of the first disciples, Archbishop Burke said.

"This mission is not something new; it's the mission of Christ and his Church through the centuries," Archbishop Burke told the curia. "The way to accomplish the mission is also not new; it is Christ himself," the archbishop said, reinforcing his theme of allowing Christ to work through those who believe in him.


Archbishop Burke reminded those present that one of their functions was to serve the people in parishes.

"Our work should lighten their burdens, not increase them; our response to frustration should not increase the frustration," he said.


He spoke of the need for good stewardship of the archdiocese's resources in serving its people. And the archbishop spoke of the need for the curia’s members to serve "with humility and confidence."

He noted the need for them to take stock at the end of each day of what they have done. "If we are true to our calling and our work, we must ask ourselves each day, How have I brought Christ to others today?" he said.


Chris said...

Anyone who has watched the USCCB conference on TV or read a book or statement by one of it's commitees would have to be stupid not to realize it is way to bureaucratic.
As the USCCB gains more "business" oriented bishops and loses more "academic" oriented bishops maybe we will see a more nimble group that will be able to stay ahead of problems instead of being in perpetual response mode.

On another note

many dioceses are feeling a financial crunch because of weak investment returns, rising insurance costs and a variety of other factors

Would paying outrageous settlements to abuse victims be categorized under the former or the latter?

Anonymous said...

"Would paying outrageous settlements to abuse victims..."

What has the average settlement been?