Janet Hauter’s Column 2 for April 2016


With the recent release of the Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis is announcing an evolution (note: I did not say revolution) of thought and action. The document sets the stage for the re-branding of Catholicism. With its strong Vatican II foundation, he invites us to a reformation: personal, communal, regional, national and global. He’s provided the “recipe” to get there by calling us all to true encounter with one another, ability to speak openly and authentically in dialogue while accessing our consciences in the journey of life. This is not simply a “Francis project”, he has repeatedly called us to join him. It would be as impossible for Francis to do this single-handed, as it was for John XXIII to effect real application of Vatican II.

Francis wants to re-form the Church where respect for the People of God and their lives becomes top of mind and an institutional priority. He is calling us to join with him to re-construct a Church that levels the playing field, where there is a new respect for the faithful, their opinions as well as a new way for us to live. Francis has invited you and me to share in this transformative experience.

What an incredible time to be alive! There are so many opportunities for us in an age where the faithful are asked to leave their “pay, pray and obey” behavior behind and function like intelligent adults who have skill sets that the Church can access in this multi-year transition. As the structure is strategically changed, the hierarchical pyramid is slowly being disassembled. Career hierarchs are being invited to be true shepherds getting to know their flock and develop relationships as they journey together through life– basically calling them to be pastors first. This will be painful news for some clerics who enjoyed a royalty status by many Catholics and society in general.

If there ever has been a time to help this Pope, it is NOW! Here is my case–simply stated:

  • Francis has few real friends in the Curia. Curial reform was one criterion in his papal election but it’s clear they didn’t know what they were getting. Recognition of the politicizing, manipulation andcorruption that existed and increasing sabotage efforts around future roles and career goals were primary.
  • The Curia sees him creating too many new committees, doing too much on his own, and paring down the Curial structure itself causing concerns around loss of power, prestige, influence, career and income.
  •  “Conservative forces are counting on the Argentine pope getting worn out and on people getting tired of hearing his repeated exhortations. They spread the fear that Francis is constructing ‘a different church,’ veering off the rails of traditional doctrine.” (Pope Francis Among the Wolves, p. 210)
  •  “There is not, in the universal church, an organized movement of supporters of his revolution. Waves of fervent applause are heard on all sides, and meanwhile one observes an extreme inertia within the church. The associations of Catholic laity have scarcely budged, as if his innovations have left them in a state of shock and they are still trying to digest them…” (p. 209)
  •  He just turned 79 and while he is physically stronger and more lucid about strategic organizational design that many, he is moving slowly because his end goal is unity despite the circled wagons of dissenting forces around him.
  •  Rumor has it that Curial personnel speak among themselves that they would prefer Francis dead. While this is alarming on its face, the fact that this renewal could happen under Francis with our help is both realistic and feasible or we leave it to chance like when Vatican II occurred and it died an unnatural death under those who either called it a mistake or ignored it completely.
  •  Given Francis’ announcement that his papacy will be short, healthy assumptions believe 3-5 years assuming no harm comes to him. Perhaps he will remain a little longer if his health and ability to achieve culture change results by engaging the faithful to help accelerate the needed change.

Francis understands his path to make reform a reality; it is unclear if he has a clear vision of the outcome but Francis trusts the Spirit fully. He boldly invites us to the same kind of “intentional life”.  Conceptually it makes great sense so why have so few responded to the invitation? Rather, in the prototypical Catholic fashion, the faithful watch him do the heavy lifting– passive once again either because they don’t know what to do or believe that Francis has the “magic” to make this all happen.

Francis is slowly empowering the laity to speak their minds, to use their consciences and to recognize that they and they alone know the optimal moral path for them given the circumstances. Yet, he wants us to journey with our priests and bishops to talk about our lives and by doing so, our celibate brothers may learn more about the realities we all face in ways they simply cannot know without our interventions.

Amoris laetitia is, in many ways, is a document introducing an evolution of thought and action. It introduces new roles for the whole church, hierarchy and faithful alike, each with a unique path. In a way, he is turning the organizational pyramid on its head where doctrine, while an important standard must be tempered by human experience to become a loving norm. It is no longer one group making decisions for another group with no conception of the lives being led.

Those reading my columns recognize that I am a Pope Francis cheerleader and I am often asked why. The reason is simple (at least to me…). It’s because my academic background is in organization development, strategic planning and change management. I am a cradle Catholic who began to be interested in reform when the clerical sex abuse crisis was revealed. I have long recognized that the Church had a kind of salvific power over its people, i.e., “Do as I say and salvation will be granted you.”  Those days have ended with Francis.

So if you haven’t made up your mind yet or are challenged in knowing what to do specifically, let’s talk about this. Join a Listening Circle. Respond to my column. Call me—847-366-2761. Francis needs us now and we can begin and even accelerate the evolution to become a merciful revolution of individuals, of roles, of an identity that engages us all. We must, however, be mindful of consequences. When Francis invited us to “pester our pastors” I took him literally and now no leadership member in my parish wants to hear what I have to say. Is that the Holy Spirit telling me to dust off my sandals and find a welcoming, inviting, nurturing congregation to join?

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  1. Richard Walters
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The Curia has not changed. Canon law has not changed. When Francis dies or retires all things will resume as they were. This realization has lead me to join the Evangelical Catholic Church where I am in a loving community that simply follows the teachings of Jesus. We exclude no one and all are welcome to the Lord’s table. And we have no Temple Police!

  2. Ray Bernier
    Posted April 25, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Good article. Pope Francis has cracked the egg, so to speak, and one cannot uncrack an egg. What he has done is acknowledged without actually saying it that sensus fidelium has raised its head. There is no turning back for the church. I too am a cradle Catholic. I stepped aside from the formal church a number of years ago, waiting for a reason to go back. When I saw him walk onto the world stage the day he was elected wearing those clunky shoes, I said to myself “that man is a world changer”. He’s not done yet by a long shot. Let’s hope he stays around long enough to create a critical mass of reformers.

  3. C. R. Serra
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I believe Francis slowness of the evolution practices risks the loss of all his pastoral input as long as two things do not happen:

    1) the Episcopacy we have in its majority is St. John Paul and Benedict XVI appointed. His time to replace them globally is likely not enough to change it.

    2) If the formation programs of the Catholic seminaries are not changed, the new priests, at least the ones I know in my part of the world, reflect those two Popes dogmatic positions, clericalism, and little respect for the laity’s consciences.

  4. Lorraine Daly
    Posted May 4, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    What exactly is a ‘listening circle”? Your article rings true to me.

    • rrice
      Posted May 7, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your interest. If you go to our homepage, on the menu at the top, place your cursor on Projects. That should display a “drop down” menu. On of the items in the drop down menu is Listening Circles. You should find your answer as to what they are there.

  5. Evelyn Hunt
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I applaud you for your comments! I remember the Pope saying. Mercy is foundational. He will not step too heavily on the toes of. the present clergy or bishops or the curia but I think he will do some fundame natal changes while he can but not be too heavy handed with. them. But I think he will do a shaking of some of the more egregious practices especially of the bishops and cardinals. I hope it means real change.

    And he greatly appeals to young people!

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