The Edmond Sun

Opinion

August 19, 2013

Pope Francis needs to be more CEO, less of a pastor

LOS ANGELES — By any standard Pope Francis’ Brazil trip was a great success. Enthusiastic crowds clogged the routes of the papal motorcade and reportedly more than a million people were present for the pope’s final Mass on Copacabana beach. The media no less than Catholic pilgrims seemed enchanted by the new pontiff and his appeals for dialogue, conciliation and social justice.

For this pope, who presents himself above all else as a pastor and teacher, the achievements of this first international foray must be satisfying. Now, though, it’s time for Francis to put away his bags, step out of the international spotlight and tackle the job of administering the church of which he is the head. At this moment in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis can do more good working at his desk than waving from the popemobile.

For papal functionaries, the positive headlines from Brazil may have been especially welcome because they displaced several less edifying Vatican story lines. In June, Italian police arrested a priest working in the office responsible for overseeing Vatican properties and investments, charging him with conspiring to illegally move about $27 million from Switzerland to Italy. After the priest’s arrest, the director and deputy director of the Vatican bank resigned and became objects of criminal investigations by the Italian police. Next the media turned to reports that a Vatican diplomat, recently appointed to a senior post in the Vatican bank, dispensed favors to a Swiss army officer with whom he allegedly maintained an inappropriate relationship.

These stories are playing out against a background of persistent rumors of money laundering at the Vatican bank, of corruption in the award of contracts for various works and services inside Vatican City, and of vicious infighting among factions and cabals in the Vatican administration.

The problems confronting the Vatican have many causes, not the least of which is that for a long time no one has been minding the store. Although the modern papacy has never been the highly centralized, authoritarian, top-down organization of popular imagination, the “monarchical” model has been particularly discredited since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). The image of the commanding Supreme Pontiff has been replaced by that of the softer, gentler Holy Father. Ministry has displaced management in the papal job description.

Like his immediate predecessors, Francis prefers to be seen as a simple priest and confessor rather than a busy administrator. The problem is that the papal office is multifaceted and requires a pope to be many things, not only a simple priest. Whether he likes it or not, the pope is also the chief executive of an international organization, and perhaps it’s time that he start doing his job.

By forsaking their administrative responsibilities, recent pontiffs have allowed authority to flow down and out to the senior officials in the various congregations, councils, secretariats and commissions that make up the central administration of the Catholic Church and Vatican City. Without central direction, these offices have become semi-independent fiefdoms, each jealous of its powers and prerogatives. Without central oversight, they have evaded scrutiny and accountability.

If the Vatican is to be reformed and modernized, only the pope has the standing and the authority to make it happen. When the College of Cardinals met to elect a new pontiff, many prelates spoke on behalf of more transparency and accountability in the papal administration.

There are signs that Francis shares their concern. He has publicly commented on the need to reform the Vatican bureaucracy and, more important, he has moved, albeit tentatively, from words to deeds. In April he created a special commission of eight cardinals to advise him on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy. Right before the June arrests, he established a commission to review the activities of the Vatican bank and, in July, one to investigate the accounting practices of various Vatican offices. In the latter group, seven of the eight members are laypeople, including one woman.

Whether Francis has an appetite for the hard and often unpleasant work required to fix an entrenched bureaucracy remains to be seen. Commissions, after all, are well-known gambits to deflect attention and postpone action. The bigger question is whether Francis will be able to balance his roles as pastor and manager when the former role is, in many ways, so much more attractive.

It’s clear that if Francis wants to meet challenges to morality and justice, he doesn’t need to go on the road to find them. He can stay put at the Vatican and have his hands full. But will the Holy Father be willing to forsake the big stage, adoring crowds and fawning media for the lonely desk, stacks of files and constant meetings that today, more than ever, are an integral part of his responsibilities? If he can’t, he may go down in history as one of the most popular but least effective popes of the 21st century.

DAVID ALVAREZ is a professor of politics at St. Mary’s College of California. His latest book is “The Pope’s Soldiers: A Military History of the Modern Vatican.” He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
Undecided
     View Results