OPENING THE WINDOWS

By Janet Hauter               February 18, 2016 

When John XXIII announced Vatican II with a theme of reconciliation, it was news for two reasons: there hadn’t been an ecumenical council in nearly 100 years and the theme caused consternation among the bishops.  A “missionary mandate” was challenging terminology setting the stage for opening the “fortress Church” to a modern world.  The faithful, enchanted by the constructs and decisions made at the Council, while the clerical culture resisted and did all in their power to reverse the spirit and effects of Vatican II by “reinterpreting it” for the people and calling it a “mistake”.  Pope John XXIII spoke about the need to “open the windows and doors of the Church” to bring in fresh air to a living faith.

Pope Francis on the other hand brought Vatican II to the fore in his Pontificate.  The power of this papacy is to recognize the people, getting them to better understand their relationship to the Church in the context of our presence in the world.  As a trained scientist, Francis recognizes our relationship and responsibility to the cosmos (Laudato Si), to one another and interdependence of the faithful to the whole.

Both popes recognized the difference between closed and open systems and the kind of culture that each creates.

Closed Church SystemsOpen Church Systems
Isolated from the world around it. Totally internally focused and accepts no information from outside itself. Does not process information from outside itself.Interactions thrive between the elements of the organization and the environment as a whole. Interaction with the environment around it is commonplace.
Static. Unchanging. A determinist focused. Rules, rigid, black and white systems and structure prevail and laws prevail. Systems have boundaries that separate it from the outside world.Fluid, dynamic. Sensitive, responsive and influenced by a meaningful environment, the signs of the times and the people served within the dynamics of both the past and the future.
No or minimal relationship with the people served. Listening but rarely hearing the people.Relationships matter and consultation with the constituency served---responsive and sensitive to the needs of others.
Hierarchical structure where the power lies entirely at the top with no real voice to the people served.Flatter structure fully open to information from outside with a focus on communication (dialogue) and relationship building (encounter).
Problems solved and decisions made by consultation with the rules, not the needs of the people.Problems and decisions brought to the people in a collaborative, consultative manner for consensus, where possible.
God is a loving judge. God is LOVE and calls us all to be merciful and compassionate to one another and the Paschal Mystery.

Pope Francis is modeling The New Evangelization without using words.  The Catholic identity is changing and we are all called to change with it.  He is developing an open system Church by working on a model of decentralization so that bishops will be making more local/regional decisions rather than moving all decision making to Rome as has been the tradition.  This transition alone will test our bishops’ patience, skill sets and support of Pope Francis.

Francis must move slowly in his individual reforms and must move strategically in order to “convert” his own bishops on connecting to the signs of the times and honor the faithful as a respected source of lived experiences that must be addressed.  We commend his ability to see the whole picture and the effects of change on the Church institutional and personal.

 

 

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