Sunday, October 17, 2010

St. Paul-Minneapolis Catholic Archdiocese Releases New Strategic Plan: Who Was Consulted?

As a brief gloss on what I wrote yesterday about the growing trend of U.S. Catholic bishops to listen predominantly to corporate business leaders, as they chart the course of American Catholicism:

The archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, which is "right-sizing" by closing churches and merging parishes (even as the archdiocese engages in a hugely expensive, glitzy political video campaign against same-sex marriage) has a statement now on its website about the strategic planning process that supports the right-sizing.

This statement begins:

After 20 months of consultation, analysis, and prayerful consideration, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is announcing the Strategic Plan (pdf) that shapes the vision for the future of our local Church and restructures parishes to foster a more vibrant faith community. 

And as I read that statement, the obvious question that leaps out at me immediately is, consultation with whom?  Analysis involving whom?  Consideration for whom?

What process of consultation supports the new strategic plan of the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis?  Can that process have been wide, if there is so much shock and anger among many local Catholics?

When I click on the strategic plan itself, I see a slick media-driven advertisement for the "new" lean and mean archdiocese expected to arise from the ruins of the old.  I see, in other words, precisely the kind of image-management media kit I would expect to find when corporate leaders decide to "right-size" their operation, to bring in larger profits even as employees are cut and expenses at the bottom of the corporate food-chain are curbed.

Nothing in the glitzy media-oriented advertisement I see with this strategic plan assures me that the right-sizing in which the archdiocese is now involved--or the baffling decision to accept a huge sum of money from an anonymous donor to bash gays for political gain when the archdiocese was planning to close churches and merge parishes--depends on wide consultation of the people affected by the right-sizing process.

To the contrary, the tone of the media-driven strategic plan kit in and of itself tells me that the leaders of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese have listened predominantly, overwhelmingly to corporate leaders and their gurus as they have crafted their plan for right-sizing.

And I wonder why those folks are in the driver's seat in American Catholicism now, as we plan for the future.

(And as a p.s. to what I wrote yesterday about the overweening influence of lawyers and corporate leaders on the U.S. bishops now, I should note the very important work done by many lawyers who are also constantly trying to call the bishops to accountability in the abuse crisis.  Few people have done so much in that regard as Marci Hamilton.  And courageous lawyers like Patrick Wall have given their life blood to defend survivors of clerical sexual abuse.  Folks like these deserve to be celebrated by American Catholics interested in seeing our church have a viable future.)

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