OPEN LETTER TO THE NEXT POPE
I should probably use the term “Holy Father” as a greeting, but that term leaves me cold and should be scrapped along with some of the other trappings of royalty and empire I am about to mention. It’s so retro and so emblematic of how much the Church is out of touch. Sorry for starting off on such a negative note. But there’s more to come.
First, before I go on, if you believe that your first priority is to double down on the conservative agenda that John Paul II and Benedict XVI gave us over the last decades, then we have nothing to discuss. You can stop reading right here and toss this letter in the wastebasket. Have a good Papacy.
However, if you agree that the Church is in need of some changes – we can always talk about the extent of change later – then I would like to offer the following suggestions. Let’s start with the easy stuff first, the cosmetic stuff. The tougher stuff can wait.
· Get rid of those silly Gucci slippers. They’re embarrassing. So are the capes and the robes and the funny hats. Bag them. Send them to the Vatican museum or to Ringling Brothers Circus. Man up and get real men’s clothes. Make the Swiss Guards get rid of their costumes, too. They look like clowns.
· And, talk about embarrassing; please outlaw the silly genuflections and kissing of the Papal ring. Some will continue to insist on it. If they do, tell them your ring is in your back pocket. That should stop their bowing and scraping.
· All this embarrassing folderol just reinforces how outdated the Church is. All right, okay, I agree, there are some principles and creeds that the Church cannot and should not change. But, they’re not as many as Popes have led us to believe.
· And now moving into more substantive areas. Do something with that embarrassing infallibility doctrine. Educated people know how that developed. A naked power grab, it was. I’d like to see you repeal it, but you probably couldn’t get away with that, at least not right away. At the very least, clarify its extremely limited scope. Recent Popes have left the impression that everything they said was an ex cathedra infallible statement.
· This next one if crucial to the management of your Papacy. Get an early hold on the Curial bureaucrats or they will eat you alive. If any of these lock-step John Paul II look-alikes start telling you what progressive step you can’t make, ship them out to very unpleasant places or defrock them. Without a hearing or appeal; just like they dealt with dissident theologians. They’re a menace.
· Presumably, they’re in place right now to help you run the Church, but that’s ridiculous on the face of it. Trying to run a worldwide organization of 1.2 billion members from a centralized perch on the Tiber is ludicrous. Any basic management book will give you a quick primer on span of control.
· Dig out the documents from Vatican II and re-read the sections on collegiality and distributive leadership and management of the Church. To do that right, though, make sure you have the right people in place to run the Church at the diocesan level and that means a lot of heads will roll. Now, you’ve got too many “moral cops” on the beat with an agenda limited to abortion, contraception, and gay-marriage. That’s embarrassing. Besides, even the majority of Catholics aren’t buying.
· If you get the right people in place at the local levels, you can decimate the Curia. You don’t need all those nay-sayers hanging around seeing what theologians they can summon to Rome for a thuggish brow-beating or excommunication sentence.
· And, by the way, while I am at it: Tell the curial thugs to lay off the nuns. You, too. They’re an easy hit – or at least used to be. Yet, they’re the best thing the Church has going for it. Continuing to make nuns a scapegoat is a real loser for you guys. They’ve got credibility; you guys don’t.
· Oh, yes, before I forget it, any Cardinal, Archbishop, or Bishop who participated in a cover-up of priestly pedophilia should be removed from his position immediately and should be turned over to the civil authorities. The fact that some actually ended up getting cushy jobs in the Vatican and actually participated in the recent Conclave is mortifying beyond measure. So, get rid of these people forthwith.
· And finally down to more basics. Make sure you and your top people understand the concept of servant leadership. There’s a good book on the subject: It’s called the New Testament and the central character in the book exemplifies and embodies servant leadership.
· Management gurus in the private sector have caught on to servant leadership in a big way. Most of them have long realized that in many sectors of society the command and control model of leadership simply doesn’t work. Is sure hasn’t worked in the Church except to swell the ranks ofx-Catholics.
· And a reminder: the Church is not about you and a centralized corporate leadership. It’s about us, the people who are out here on the front lines trying to live according to the Good News trying to help the poor and disadvantaged along the way. We could use your help. But, you must learn how to listen.
· We can do without you guys – and have for decades – but it’d be nice to have you with us, on the same page singing the same joyful love poem about God’s love and forgiveness that some of you and your entourage seem to have forgotten.
Enough for now. Good luck, and I mean that. We’ll be following events with great interest. More later.