Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Problem With Sheep In Shepherds Clothing.....

I got to thinking this morning about why there doesn't seem to be a real front runner amongst the cardinals and why they spent so much of their time in their daily meetings listening to canned speeches and not debating the issues.  I had this quiet stray thought suddenly pop in my head:  "Maybe it's because they were all trained to be sheep".  At first I laughed, thinking it was just another of my off the wall thoughts, but then I really thought about this and can see there is real truth in the observation.

I started to think back on my own childhood, raised in Catholic schools until I was twelve, and I too have to admit I was trained to be a respectful sheep.  None of us who went through this early formation were remotely trained to be effective leaders, unless that meant following the rules of climbing a leadership ladder and giving respectful obedience to those further up the ladder.  Which is why eventually, conditioned sheep who play the game well, wind up the shepherd.  The vast majority do not function well in this leadership role.  Pope Benedict was no exception.  What one usually finds, is these kinds of shepherds revert to their most competent level and lead from one perspective unable to see any other.

Right now Catholicism has a flock of cardinals without a shepherd, and they are acting like it.  They are all over the map unable to tell the wolves from true leadership.  They speak about issues that need addressing and hope to find the solutions in one man.  My fear is when they are all done running around in circles they will do what sheep do, and revert to a fall back position and we will have more of the same.  I don't find this at all surprising since the qualities they are looking for would be very hard to find in men who are where they are because of their qualities as obedient sheep.  Leadership is not a skill that is easy to learn on the job because it takes time for honest personal reflection.  This is the kind of reflection that identifies personal weaknesses so they can be compensated for in subordinate collaborators.  Pope Benedict doesn't seem to have done too much of this kind of reflection because he substituted personal loyalty for competence and created a reflection of his deficits and not a solution for them.

One way to circumvent early training as sheep is to have a life changing event that transcends the training.  Dom Jao Braz de Aviz is one such man. He still carries the buckshot.  Another way is to be raised in circumstances in which you are not seen as a sheep, Cardinal Schonborn, coming from the family he does, epitomizes that path.  And yet another path is to be unconcerned with the whole ego trip and just be what you profess as your faith, and that seems to be Cardinal Tagle.  These three men, in my opinion, would be the best choices for the papacy because they have the potential to be true leaders:  they have vision, they walk their talk, they value dialogue, they are not demagogues, and they don't seem to relish confrontation for the sake of confrontation--a cheap strategy frequently used by men who are really sheep.  People would follow leaders like these men because they are leaders.  They wouldn't have to rely on the mystique of the papacy, which really does seem to exist to prop up the authority of men who are really sheep.

My fear is that the cardinal wolves--those types who substitute predation for leadership-- will control the outcome for the other cardinal sheep and my hopes for the papacy will not be fulfilled.  However, there is always hope and one just never knows.  I do know that my three hopes are still in the running and the Holy Spirit can intervene in spite of the best laid plans of clerical wolves.  I'll keep praying and meditating and wishing and thinking, because the choice has yet to be made, and if enough of us do this praying meditating thing, it can have an effect on the outcome.  Why we might even wind up with a courageous wolf hunter in shepherd's clothing


  1. Very well stated, Colleen! I guess when "inbreeding" of yes-men is operative, sheep is all you get!

  2. Except for the predators TheraP, and then there are the rabid sheep. God save us all from the rabid sheep.

  3. Always, always remember Good Pope John XXIII!

  4. Haven't forgotten evagrius. Good Pope John had his share of life changing experiences and we were all the better for them.

  5. You reminded me of the Peter Principle "The Peter Principle is a belief that, in an organization where
    promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, that
    organization's members will eventually be promoted beyond their level of
    ability. The principle is commonly phrased, "Employees tend to rise to
    their level of incompetence."

  6. I find the the Peter Principle aptly named for the papacy, and that includes Peter himself. No question EPBXVI fit that profile. On the other hand, I'm not sure there is anyone alive who wouldn't be promoted over their competency level in this particular job. I actually wonder how many of these cardinals truly want to accept the position. I do know Cardinal Mark Ouellete has stated there are many men turning down promotion to bishop and that really bothers him because they are not getting the best and brightest to say yes.

  7. Inbreeding and BAD DNA!! Together with free will of the worst sort.

  8. And that reluctance for the best and the brightest to say Yes begins with whether or not to even train for the priesthood. Or remain for the priesthood.

  9. Church is too boring to bother with. I don't know why you care but I suppose you've got to have a hobby and this one makes you feel important.