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Monday, April 18, 2005

Assuming the Mantle of Renewal

As the cardinals prepare to process to the Sistine Chapel to determine the successor of John Paul the Great, it is clear that his shadow will figure prominently in the proceedings. There has been much said about the Holy Father's accomplishments, as well as the unfinished work that remains for the next pope and for us, the Church. One of the things demonstrated by this pontificate is that culture is the engine of history. This is true for changes in the world, as well as for changes within the Church itself. With this consideration we can see the secondary nature of the popular list of "issues confronting the Church" (containing the sex-abuse scandal, "coping with a chronic shortage" of vocations in the West, "halting the stream" of people leaving the church, "improving dialogue" with the Islamic world, etc.), as well as examine how John Paul the Great's pontificate fits in a broader arc.

Vatican II has been a disruptive change for the Church. As such it can be investigated similarly to disruptive changes in other areas, e.g., technology. In particular, the phases of change, which encompass the Second Vatican Council, follow a process, which is only about 70% complete, for integrating renewal that allows us to map the work of popes going back more than a century and identifies some of the characteristics of our next pope(s).

Integrating renewal includes the execution of two overlapping processes, evaluating renewal and introducing renewal. In very general terms the integration steps include:

Initiation: Provacative actions to spur the evaluation and decision-making processes for renewal
Aggregation: Identifying and analyzing options for renewal
Valuation: Options are given value with respect to their fruit, however, design details are not defined fully--this is the area of process overlap that is represented by Vatican II and the years following
Selection: Establishes the direction of renewal
Implementation: Exactly what it says--integrates the selected renewal into the fabric of the Church
If we look at the accomplishments of recent popes through this model, we can make a preliminary map of renewal by pontificate:

Initiation: Pius IX & Leo XIII
Aggregation: Pius X thru Pius XII
Valuation: John XXIII & Paul VI
Selection: John Paul I
Implementation: John Paul the Great thru ???

Parallel to these steps of renewal is a continuous process of context scanning of today and tomorrow, i.e., it emphasizes that the teaching of the Church flows both through and into the hierarchy. This is where much of what is discussed as the Church's issues today can be placed. George Weigel's assessment in a January speech is as good as any on this point and better than most. Without question, the next pope(s) will have to address these problems, but properly understood they will not define centrally the next legacy.

We can further break down the introduction steps beginning with the interaction of the selection and implementation steps and then moves to the iterative processes of sourcing, competence development, and re-evaluation. The key object of the selection process is a clear declaration of intent. Even though John Paul I's time was brief, his reputation as "the smiling pope," along with his anit-communism and orthodoxy, did meet this objective that John Paul the Great rightly ought to be considered the successor of John Paul I, rather than a re-try to succeed Paul VI as some had suggested early on.

The process of sourcing is the first stage of implementing renewal, and its objective is to identify a design based on common values that enables the integration of the selected direction for renewal throughout the organization of the Church. John Paul the Great did this by creating a rigorous philosophical framework founded on the dignity of the human person, which, despite the popular attempts to politicize his pontificate, is the proper prism through which to view his legacy. Furthermore, he introduced the New Evangelization as a means to build the network necessary to facilitate the renewal's next phase, competence development.

The challenge and legacy for the next pope(s) will be centered on enabling the knowledge sharing re the renewal and promoting the results of cooperation among the Curia, the episcopal hierarchy and consecrated religious, the laity, and particularly those intellectual developers working within John Paul the Great's framework by fulfilling, or appointing, the role of primary activist for the renewal. Moreover, the possibilities of renewal must be matched to their context on a continuous basis. The Church must continue to address the issues of the day, explicitly and implicitly, in terms of the renewal. He (They) can also be expected to have to make structural adjustments to better direct the available resources. In total, these point to the need for a certain type of organizational genius distinctly different from the call for a managerial pope that some are making today. That will come in the re-evaluation phase, but only once the organizational competence is raised and then after innovative measures (milestones) for the progress of renewal, or the development of new iterative management processes have been proposed.

The final phase of integrating renewal will standardize and make routine the management practices of continuous monitoring, valuation, and decision-making. The re-evaluation process is the means for ensuring authentic collegiality. Iterative adjustments and re-alignment activities are possible with such a process, but only if they are rooted with a focus on the human person will widespread solidarity be achieved.

It is a delicious irony that some today call for "a return to the spirit of Vatican II" when to return to the beginning of the Church's renewal, properly understood, would bring to the fore a process that was initiated by a re-assertion of papal authority more than 125 years ago. Yet that is the scope of the Church's current project. By recognizing this we can understand where the Church must be led and where its members can join the effort to, not only work out our own salvation, but bring it to the whole world.

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