Thursday, December 29, 2011


In the January 1, 2012 bulletin there's an unsigned article about new changes coming from our pastoral council. In an effort to improve communications with parishioners, council members will begin wearing name tags, will hold "periodic input sessions" open to parishioners, and allow parishioners to observe and comment at council meetings "during the open portion of the meeting."
Then there's the kicker:

"At times, when the subject matter is sensitive or potentially controversial, the Council’s advice is best given in a closed meeting so that members can give the most honest and candid advice without fear of being vilified or ridiculed, or having their input misquoted out of context or passed to other parish members inaccurately or prematurely."

Video taping the meetings and having them available on the new website would solve some of the problems, unlike statements like above that raise more questions than they answer. What in the world could be so sensitive or controversial that it can't be said in the light of day? This seems like a way of actually keeping council members separated from the parishioners. Council members are supposed to represent parishioners, right? What they have to say and advise should reflect the desires and intentions of those they represent, right?

So, on the one hand, these honest and good people are going to be wearing name tags so we can identify them, speak with them and finally be heard. On the other hand, when it comes down to the nitty gritty of decisions that affect the whole parish, they aren't allowed to speak freely, but must do it in closed session.

Something isn't right.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"I can worship anywhere!"

A narthex
Today it is common to refer to God's people as the Church while simultaneously dismissing as superfluous the physical structures we call churches. In a specific way this is illustrated by Christian groups that regularly meet in school gyms or malls to hold services. It is also very common to hear Christians say, "I can worship anywhere" without giving thought to what kind of worship one is able to do 'anywhere'.

To get specific, it is true that the Church is "A body of men united together by the profession of the same Christian Faith, and by participation in the same sacraments, under the governance of lawful pastors, more especially of the Roman Pontiff, the sole vicar of Christ on earth." (See here for a fuller definition.)

Another definition of the Catholic Church is found here by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. He says, "By comparison with Protestant definitions of the Church, Bellarmine explains that ours is radically different for one basic reason. 'All the rest require only internal virtues to constitute a person in the Church, and, therefore, they make the true Church something invisible. Whereas we also believe that in the Church are found all the virtues: faith, hope and charity, and the rest,' However, for anyone to be called in some sense a part of the true Church, of which the Scriptures speak, what is essential is 'an external profession of faith and communication of the sacraments, which can be perceived by the senses themselves. For the Church is an assembly of men, as visible and palpable as the assembly of the Roman people, or the Kingdom of France, or the Republic of the Venetians.'"

Ivory tabernacle (the Louvre)
It is also true that early on the Church began to define the word 'church' as "derived from the Greek kyriakon (cyriacon), i.e. the Lord's house, a term which from the third century was used, as well as ekklesia, to signify a Christian place of worship."

Additionally, the roots of the Catholic Church derive from the Jewish faith. When the Jews were wandering in the desert at the time of Moses, they carried a moveable tabernacle that was organized by God in very strict terms. This was the physical dwelling place of God with His people, and was called the Tent of Meeting. In the time of David and Solomon, a permanent structure--the temple was built, again according to detailed instructions from God. The red sanctuary lamp in Catholic churches, to give just one example, has its roots in the Jewish tabernacle.

Our Catholic churches are a visible presence in our communities. Their very architecture testifies visibly to Christ's presence with us. According to Fisheaters, "Catholic vision assigns symbolic meaning to the various parts of the church building, as it does to pretty much everything else in the world. The roof symbolizes charity, which covers a multitude of sins; the floor symbolizes the foundation of faith and the humility of the poor; the columns represent the Apostles, Bishops, and Doctors; the vaulting represents the preachers who bear up the dead weight of man's infirmity heavenwards; and the beams represent the champions of ecclesiastical right who defend it with the sword. The nave symbolizes Noah's Ark and the Barque of St. Peter, outside of which no one is saved. The direction of the East represents the Heavenly Jerusalem, and the direction whence the Messiah will return in glory; West represents death and evil."

According to the How-To Book of the Mass, "There is great symbolism in the doors of a church...Your church may or may not have ornate doors, but the symbolism of what the door signifies remains. Sometimes you will see the image of Christ holding a lamb on his shoulders painted or depicted in stained glass over the front of the doors of a church. This reminds us that Jesus said, 'I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.'" (John10:9).

According to Deacon Dean, the iconography of our churches, " a huge part of our Catholic tradition. It communicates our heritage and faith." See here, here, and here for his series of ongoing articles about the iconography of St. Mary's in the All Saints Parish church bulletin.

A Catholic church is simply not like the facilities of other Christians. Inside and out, top to bottom, and most importantly because in them Christ Jesus is present in the Eucharist, Catholic churches are set apart. Unless special circumstances warrant it (military situations, a destroyed church, etc.) according to canon law (932), mass is to be said in a Catholic church. That is the norm and expectation in the vast majority of cases. In fact, if a Catholic church has been desecrated, worship cannot go on there again until a penitential rite has been said (Canon 1211-1212).

The mass, as described by Lumen Gentium fromVatican II is "the source and summit of the Christian life." And according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch." (CCC 1324)

In short, you cannot go just anywhere to worship and receive the Eucharistic blessing that is bestowed on Catholics during worship at mass.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Abortion begats tyranny

What has nearly forty years of legal abortion done to the rule of law in this nation?

From Mark Shea's article at the National Catholic Register: 

The concern about abortion, since the beginning, has been not merely that the killing of unborn children itself is a grave evil (bad as that is), but that the rationale for doing this evil must and will surely become the rationale for oppressing and killing the weak at every level of society. As Mother Teresa said with characteristic simplicity, “If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?” Ideas have consequences. Once you declare that a human being’s right to live comes, not from the hand of God, but from the generosity of the state, you make all members of homo sapiens vulnerable to having their rights stripped from them by anybody with sufficient power to do it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


It is the third Sunday in Advent--Gaudete Sunday. The Lord is coming!

On a more sober note, Fr. Tony spoke of the evils of abortion in the homily this morning. You could hear a pin drop. I was grateful to hear abortion denounced from the pulpit. If you get a chance, thank Fr. Tony. The last time I heard it mentioned was a couple years ago when Deacon Dean gave a passionate sermon denouncing it. Needed then. Needed now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Culture War -- "Shut up and fight"

Boston College's Dr. Peter Kreeft recently spoke at Franciscan University in Steubenville. His searing critique of how evil has infiltrated the Catholic Church through 'PHONEYS' is eye-opening. If you possibly can, take the time to listen (it's about 45 minutes). Dr. Kreeft speaks in the persona of Screwtape, the character of a senior devil in C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. No one is spared Dr. Kreeft's exposé. Oh yeah, PHONEYS stands for 1) Politicization of the Faith, 2) Happy Talk, 3) Organizationalism, 4) Neo-worship, 5) Egalitarianism, 6) Yuppydom, and 7) Spirituality. H/t to

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Teen Angels flying!

The Teen Angels are working their holiday season good will again this year. Don't miss the opportunity to bless a local teen. The Teen Angels have a new fiscal sponsor this year. Read all about it here. You know what to do! All the info needed to get involved is included in the letter.

From the letter:

Our program has recently entered into an exciting venture. The Community Foundation is serving as our new 501c3 administrator and fiscal sponsor. We feel very blessed to have their support and look forward to growing under their care. If you feel inspired to support our teens, you may designate your check to “Teen Angels” or “The Community Foundation" ...In honor of the many, many angels who have supported our vision, we are no longer “Teen Angel”, but rather, “Teen Angels”.

And then there's a beautiful letter from a teen who is making Teen Angels his special project at school this year: 

"As many of you may know Teen Angel has been helping many of our local teens celebrate Christmas for ten years. There is a strong need for this program. Many national programs only supply gifts targeting children and not teenagers. It’s difficult to realize just how many kids in my school worry about not having gifts for the holidays. Teen Angel not only supplies hope but a sense of security for years to come."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Manifesto -- Part Seven

Chapter Four: Project Design
The fourth chapter of Effective Church Operational Systems maps out the implementation plans for the Strategic Way. It explains the bones of the program, summarized this way:
1.      “Implement an effective ministry operating system in a Roman Catholic parish.
2.      Implement the elements of the Strategic Way Process
a.       Establish a clear destination statement including mission, vision, values, outcomes,   summary, and slogan.
b.      Develop and document parish level strategy.
c.       For each parish ministry develop and document its objectives, metrics, and strategy.
d.      Develop and document activity procedures for ministries.
e.       Optimize the organizational structure of the parish.
f.       Match the right leaders to lead the organization in the right places.
g.      Establish a network of leadership teams throughout the parish structure.
h.      Establish an ongoing evaluation and improvement process for all ministries.
3.      Develop a process for creating a strong leadership team and learning culture.”
It is a complex implementation system that seeks to replace the existing parish structure with one that has little in common with the present structure of a typical Catholic parish. Deacon Dean writes, “The driving force of the tacit mission of the parish was providing sacraments and the liturgical year. Maintaining the existing ministries was the primary goal. Therefore, very early on team building was a fundamental objective.”

Apparently, the sacraments are no longer considered the "tacit mission" of All Saints Parish.The question is: If providing the sacraments and following the liturgical year is not the primary goal, what is?
Again, that word ‘transformation’ is at the forefront.
One of the most troubling aspects of Effective Church Operational Systems is the pointed emphasis on transformation. This transformation is not yet categorized or defined. General outcomes such as a “relationship with God” or “living Gospel values and principles” are used, but there is not an explanation of how Catholics, within the structure of the parish, attain holiness.
However, based on what is left out of the thesis, one can surmise that the desired transformation is more an ideological one, rather than a Catholic understanding of a deepening holiness based on the sacraments, Church teachings and the tried-and-true structure of Catholic parishes.
While lip service is paid to God and to Biblical principles, The Strategic Way focus is solidly man-centered. It involves copious implementation strategies, which translates as a massive amount of busy work—planning, organizing, strategizing, and assessing of the parish, parishioners, staff, and so on. This type of activity can easily delude individuals into thinking they are accomplishing much, when in truth, very little progress is being actualized. See Figure 17, above, from the thesis. Click on it to make it bigger.
This intricate web of an organizational structure graphically illustrates the intended reach of this new system.
Dean writes, “Making an accurate assessment of where a parish truly is, takes brutal honesty…To create a parish level baseline current situation assessment the staff will conduct a SWOT (listing Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. This is generated through conversations among the staff and with the Parish Pastoral Council (the principal advisory board to the Pastoral Administrator).” (Note: The SWOT assessment from June 2010 parish “Strategic Planning Rollout” can be found here. On page 18 of the 34 page Power Point presentation, 'sacrament' is listed as the sixth of seven values.)
He further writes, “The leaders must lay aside the assumption that the inherited organization is structured in the best way or that the existing ministries must all remain, that no more are necessary. Starting with a blank slate, the core leadership team designs the organization from the ground up in the most efficient way possible.”
Again, one can see the emphasis is on the complete overturn of the existing parish organizational structure, and its replacement with one that is foreign to a traditional parish. Through intensive training techniques, it promotes a form of lay clericalism. Instead of a proper understanding of the apostolate of the laity (see here for a correct explanation of the role of the laity as promulgated at Vatican II), it seeks to replace the ministerial priesthood with a ministerial laity.
This seems to be at the core of the desired transformation of both parishioners, and the parish organizational structure. Deacon Dean writes, “…church leaders can create the environments that cultivate transformation among individuals…the objective of personal transformation must be at the center of the mission of the parish.” He further states, “Personal transformation is the foundation of communal transformation. As people grow spiritually, they begin living Gospel values and principles. It transforms the culture of the community.”
Chapter four culminates with the idea that the “parish will intentionally cultivate a mindset for the leaders to see themselves in ongoing transformation as leaders, beginning with the paid staff. Reflective dialogue, especially during staff meetings and individual meetings among leaders, will be expected…as individuals learn and as the team learns, mental models change—the way we understand the world. As they use systems thinking, they begin to see the interconnectedness of the world around them and have a deeper understanding of the way things truly operate.”
Again, this is a quiet, yet aggressive technique of re-forming how a person thinks. It contains elements of group think (also, see here for a short video on group think.) Beginning with and concentrating on the leadership in the parish, this technique seeks to work from the top down to transform All Saints Parish, person by person, ministry by ministry.
Could this be a modern-day example of Pharisaism? Through a rigid system of guidelines, rules and behavioral modification, are parishioners being systematically steered towards a man-centered expression of unity, rather than the bond of unity in Christ?
Next: Chapter Five, “Outcomes,” is nearly 100 pages in length. It details the actual implementation of The Strategic Way in All Saints Parish.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In the Diocese of Black Duck

Fr. Z has written a belly-laugh of a post on, of all things, parish mergings.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Tyrannical 'Nice'

The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia, writes a column for First Things. Her latest is "The Shushing Tyranny of 'Be Nice!'"

The column has provoked some excellent comments on both sides of the issue. Here's a couple:

Maria says:
If you are not nice, then you are being judgmental. And being judgmental is the one unforgivable sin today. Unless of course you are judging someone about how judgemental they are, that's OK.
11.22.2011 | 11:22am
Mick Leahy says:
Recently (perhaps here) read a definition of 'political correctness' as: Peace before Truth. We should all know that The Truth will 'set us free'. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One Last Christmas

When you are thinking of giving this season, consider St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. It costs a million dollars a day to keep the hospital open.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A little housekeeping

Yes, a new website is coming, just not on my timetable. :-)

Also working on finishing up the review of Deacon Dean's Thesis "Effective Church Operational Systems, which has as a major goal the 'transformation' of parishioners.

This idea of transformation is also presented in the latest bulletin article titled "Transference versus Transformation". According to the article, transformation means spiritual growth, which is predicated upon nine points, including stewardship, evangelization, discernment, fellowship, conversion, and prayer and worship.

Regarding the New Evangelization, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan recently said church leaders must invite the world to see Christ and the Church as one. According to the article, Catholic Church must renew its appeal, Archbishop Dolan tells conference,  "The archbishop explained that the mission of the New Evangelization requires an authentic turn to the Lord. 'Jesus prefers prophets, not programs; saints, not solutions,' he said."

Prophets. Saints. Not programs. Not solutions.

When Blessed Pope John Paul II proclaimed the New Evangelization, he put in motion a movement that is continuing through Pope Benedict XVI. Here is a short explanation of the New Evangelization by then Cardinal Ratzinger in 2000, which has as its major points the following: The Church as the Structure of the new evangelization; the Method is to promote the Gospel through the Church; Conversion--realizing that we are in need of Christ; the Kingdom of God as the key proclamation of Jesus; Communion with Christ in the sacramental life; and finally, the knowledge of eternal life.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chust for nice

Have you read Fr. Longenecker's article on why the changes in the Roman Missal are 'chust for nice'?

Behold the Lamb: The Triumph of the New Translation

Just in case you didn't know, Father often uses the funny term 'chust for nice' on his blog. See here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

ASP has a new website

Check out All Saints Parish's new website. Wait a few seconds for the redirect.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The straight and narrow path

Testimony of a 'Cradle Catholic' from Cleansing Fire. A snippet:

And so I embarked on the journey that is the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. I learned to look at my life and my faith in a whole different perspective. That is, to do God’s will and not my own. I started to see that for most of the previous 4 years, I was more wrapped up in what I wanted the Church to be instead of what Jesus and the Holy Spirit had intended. I started to see the importance of rules, rubrics and the expectations of the member of the “body of Christ” as a means to an end, not a stumbling block.

As I thought and prayed about how I would answer Ben’s question, I began to rework the question in my mind. I do not think of myself as one who went from being a “liberal” Catholic to a “traditional” Catholic. I see myself as someone who has learned what it really means to be “Catholic”.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ya gotta watch

Something is happening down in El Paso, Texas. Parishioners are making their voices heard.

Watch here. And Then watch this second video regarding more of what is happening in El Paso.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Celebrating a decade

So our website redesign has run into a couple roadblocks. We're getting there, though. Hope to have it operational within a week.

In other news, All Saints Parish is celebrating a decade of existence.There will be a celebratory meal at the American Legion Hall on River Road (the bulletin says Park Avenue, but the invitations say River Road) at 1 p.m. on October 30.

The bulletin article says, "This is a means by which we can gather together to celebrate our similarities and our possibilities. The thrust of our celebration is to congratulate each other for moving forward , for persevering, and to remember our common heritage as we endeavor to be examples of our Catholic faith to the community in which we live."

The invitations in the pews include an RSVP ticket that you can drop into the collection basket. You can probably call the office too, 936-4689.

Friday, October 7, 2011



Now, if the natural law enjoins us to love devotedly and to defend the country in which we had birth, and in which we were brought up, so that every good citizen hesitates not to face death for his native land, very much more is it the urgent duty of Christians to be ever quickened by like feelings toward the Church. For the Church is the holy City of the living God, born of God Himself, and by Him built up and established. Upon this earth, indeed, she accomplishes her pilgrimage, but by instructing and guiding men she summons them to eternal happiness. We are bound, then, to love dearly the country whence we have received the means of enjoyment this mortal life affords, but we have a much more urgent obligation to love, with ardent love, the Church to which we owe the life of the soul, a life that will endure forever. For fitting it is to prefer the good of the soul to the well-being of the body, inasmuch as duties toward God are of a far more hallowed character than those toward men.

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The sparrow has found a house

Gen over at Cleansing Fire has written a beautiful reflection on the sacredness of churches.

It's Just a Building

She begins with a quote from Psalm 84, which happens to be in today's Morning Prayer: How lovely are your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! 3 My soul longs and faints for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God. 4 For the sparrow has found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones: Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God. 5 Blessed are they that dwell in your house, O Lord: they shall praise you for ever and ever.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Manifesto -- Part Six (A)

Chapter 3, “Literature Review,” of Effective Church Operational Systems is nearly 60 pages long. There is much in it that could not be reviewed in a few blog posts. However, overall it explains the leadership philosophy behind the plan to transform All Saints Parish.

Specifically targeted is the transformation of individuals in leadership positions. The chapter opens thus, “It is good that the Christian Church wants to be successful—God wants the Church to succeed. However, growth doesn’t necessarily mean that what is happening is good…Therefore, from a Christian perspective, growth alone is not the goal; creating healthy Christian communities that bring individuals to transformative Christian maturity is. It is not just about getting them “saved,” (getting them through the door—salvation), but also about making disciples who grow in holiness—sanctification.” (Emphasis added.) Immediately following is the goal of bringing individuals to a “transformative Christian maturity” of which holiness is a hallmark.

The inference is that once a Christian professes Christ he is forever saved and will automatically enter heaven upon his earthly death. This is the salvation doctrine of sola fide –faith alone (see here, here, and here). This does not seem to be a Catholic understanding of salvation.

Later in the chapter, Deacon Dean writes, “Fear of the implications that our mental models may be wrong can seriously close the mind of a Christian leader. For example, it was not long ago when large segments of Protestants and Catholics wrote each other off as condemned. To consider the alternative may challenge the very nature of how we understand salvation itself.” (Emphasis added.) It must be hoped that it is a Catholic understanding.

It is not clear from the text what “transformative Christian maturity” looks like. The chapter then moves to “Connecting with God,” “Connecting with each other,” and “Leadership that makes it all happen” as the three points of church growth and development. These are framed through the church’s purpose (“What are leaders trying to accomplish?” and “What is the vision and what is the mission?”) and systems thinking, a more business-like term for holistic theories of organization.

Pastor and author Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church, is used to illustrate certain principles guiding the changes at All Saints Parish. (On a side note, Rick Warren has caused a great deal of controversy within his own Christian faith tradition for promoting syncretism. See here and here for information on syncretism.)

According to Warren, there are seven influences in a congregation that leads to failure: Tradition, Personality, Finances, Programs, Buildings, Event, and Seekers.

Tradition is described negatively, as ‘perpetuating the past’ and ‘stagnation’. Buildings are understood to be standing in the way of progress: “Maintaining or building buildings is most important, often draining real ministry.” (Emphasis added.)

This points to one of three things: either the lack of a Catholic understanding of Tradition (and tradition), a rejection of them, or the thesis was aimed at an audience with little interest or belief in Catholic practices. What has always been of utmost importance to the Catholic faith—the worship of God through the Mass and the Holy Eucharist—is not addressed.

Next, Warren elucidates five purposes, each with eight components. The overriding emphasis is an inward one: My Witness, My Worship, My Relationships, My Walk, My Work. The ‘church’ provides such things as: A focus for living, a force for living, a family for living, a foundation for living, and a function for living. Nowhere are the sacraments mentioned.

Then the systems approach is again introduced, which is basically looking at an organization as a body, and putting the spotlight on each part and how it relates to the whole. If something is out of whack, systems thinking “looks at the patterns of behavior within the organization that may be impacting the behavioral dynamics and works to deal with these dysfunctional patterns.”

This type of diagnosing of an issue is very much in line with modern psychological methods. In fact, Deacon Dean states, “Within congregations, systemic thinking recognizes that managing the health (wholeness) of a congregation means managing the whole system of the congregation, especially the emotional systems.” He goes on to say, “Why has attendance dropped dramatically in Catholic churches over the past fifty years? Linear thinking might grasp at straws such as the implementation of Vatican II or the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. Either answer would be far too simplistic.” (Emphasis added.)

Systems thinking we are told, is able to see the issues from a far more intricate perspective, one that gets down to deeper levels to describe, diagnose, and then transform.

 The Borg
What is emerging here is a philosophy that looks upon individuals as parts of a system of being. Individual assumptions about right and wrong that drive the behavior of people are seen to be good as long as they are aligned with how the system as a whole thinks and acts. Those who cannot or will not dispose of their assumptions are seen to be a diseased element within the system. They either must transform their assumptions or be eliminated for the health of the system. Think Star Trek: The Borg.

This explains why there is such an emphasis on personal transformation. In order for a plan of ‘health’ to be implemented within an organizational system, the leadership must first gain personal mastery of the plan to be implemented, must fully agree with and integrate that plan into their belief system, and then initiate the rest of the organization’s individuals into the (belief) system. (Continued below.)

The Manifesto -- Part Six (B)


Generative Learning
To that end, an educative element of systems thinking, called ‘generative learning’, has been implemented in our parish. Generative is defined as a “style of learning that incorporates existing knowledge with new ideas based on experimentation and open-mindedness. This style of learning encourages individual and team creativity, resulting in a new way of viewing old methods. Organizations rely on the generative learning style to adjust to changes in the market, technology and society.”

Deacon Dean writes, “Generative learning occurs when we learn in a way that enhances our ability to be creative…Teams can engage genuine generative learning.”

The basis of generative learning is the process by which learners are guided to give up their mental models, their beliefs and assumptions in order to take on and assimilate the beliefs of the organization as a whole. This is a sophisticated technique of manipulation and control in order to gain a certain outcome. In fact, Edgar H. Schein of the MIT Sloan School of Management likens it to brainwashing.

In his essay, “Organizational Learning as Cognitive Re-definition: Coercive Persuasion Revisited,” Schein writes, “I would suggest that generative organizational learning puts most managers and employees into a situation comparable to the prisoner in a political prison. It is not a spontaneous joyful process to give up one’s beliefs, values and concepts in favor of untested and inimical new concepts and anchors for judgment. It is not a particularly comfortable situation to be subjected to re-engineering or culture change programs with the clear threat that unless one participates wholeheartedly one might lose one’s job.”

Schein goes on to say, “It may seem absurd to the reader to draw an analogy between the coercive persuasion in political prisons and a new leader announcing that he or she is going "to change the culture." However, if the leader really means it, if the change will really affect fundamental assumptions and values, one can anticipate levels of anxiety and resistance quite comparable to those one would see in prisons.”

He further states, “It remains to be seen whether the level of organizational change that is implied by "generative" learning can be accomplished without imposed culture change. And if such imposed culture change is involved we must accept the reality that learning may involve some painful periods of coercive persuasion. One of the most difficult aspects of this reality is that we cannot ignore that the same methods of learning, i.e. coercive persuasion or colloquially brainwashing, can be used equally for goals that we deplore and goals that we accept. In making organizations more competitive we may well resort to methods that under other conditions we would deplore.” (Emphases added.)

Understand what this gentleman is saying: that forcefully upending someone’s belief system in order to effect desired change is akin to coercion and brainwashing. Read Schein’s essay here.

This is not the way of Jesus Christ. This is not the way of the Catholic Church.

The Weakest Link
Explaining the rationale for targeted team building, Deacon Dean says, “Ideally, leaders want a team with no weak links, so when faced with weak links, leaders must either work to build up the weak links or eliminate them. People become weak links when they either do not want to move in the direction of the team, have a different value system that orients them in a different direction than the team, or they do not have the ability to keep up with the team. Values and volition are far more difficult to correct than abilities…” (Emphasis added.) The question is: What are the values, the beliefs of the organization?

Contrast the idea of body that St. Paul uses when describing the Church in 1 Cor. 12:12-17, Romans 12:3-8, or Ephesians 4:11-16. This body was not a mindless one-celled amoeba, this was a body with many different parts—Christians from many different points of view and personalities and economic circumstances, and so on. But the unifying factor is that the body is all one in Christ. The differences could be accommodated and worked through because of Christ Jesus. In fact, the differences and weaknesses are exactly what God uses to further His kingdom.

And compare the systems thinking organization with the twelve Apostles—men of differing careers, political beliefs, abilities, temperaments, weaknesses and strengths. They would hardly have survived a systems thinking organization!

Back to generative learning. According to Barbara Grabowski in “From Generative Learning, Past, Present, and Future,” “[A] learner is not a passive recipient of information; rather she or he is an active participant in the learning process, working to construct meaningful understanding of information found in the environment. The importance of asking the learner to generate his or her own meaning is clearly summarized...”  (Emphasis added.) This begs the question: What sort of information is in our parish environment? 

Self-assessment learning events have been implemented in All Saints Parish via such activities as the SWOT assessment presented last year (which can be a helpful process). Indeed, at a recent parish council meeting, members were engaged as a group in a self-assessment activity whereby they asked themselves self-generated assessment questions, which they answered together as a group and then graded their own progress.

As mentioned, some self-assessment tools can be helpful in a parish setting. However, they must always be measured according to whether they turn us to our Catholic faith, or away from it. The idea should not be to tear down our Catholic identity through subtle and persistent “correction” of our values and volitions, but rather to build up the Faith of our Fathers.

According to Wouter J. Hanegraaff, author of New Age religion and Western culture; esotericism in the mirror of secular thought, “In accordance with the ‘generative’ tendency…The idea of a universal process of evolution of consciousness, in which souls learn to evolve by learning self-designed lessons, is central to New Age beliefs about the meaning of existence…and ethics.” (Emphasis added.)

Furthermore, Hanegraaff says, “As for the essence of this New Age phenomenon, Melton has consistently claimed that the movement is held together by a generally shared concern with transformation:

The central vision and experience of the New Age is one of radical transformation. On an individual level that experience is very personal and mystical. It involves an awakening to a new reality of self—such as…the experience of a physical or psychological healing, the emergence of new potentials within oneself, an intimate experience within a community, or the acceptance of a new picture of the universe. However, the essence of the New Age is the imposition of that vision of personal transformation onto society and the world.” (Emphases added.)

Many well-meaning Christians, including Catholics, are unwittingly involved in New Age and syncretistic practices because they have been cloaked in ‘corporate speak’ or skillfully woven into a Christian narrative. In recent years, a New Age-y universalism (Rob Bell, The Shack and so on) has crept into the teaching and preaching of some high-profile Christian leaders, and there is a growing movement within Christendom to identify it and cast it out.

Team Development at All Saints Parish
According to Deacon Dean, Stephen Macchia’s book, Becoming a Healthy Team names the “defining measures” for building an effective team at All Saints Parish. According to Macchia there are five essential traits: Trust, Empower, Assimilate, Manage, and Serve.

On some levels, these traits and goals are good—as long as they reflect a truly Catholic understanding of the Church, the community and the organizational structure. However, when they stray into man-centered methods that focus on the process, an organization’s leaders can fall into a sort of inward hypnotic naval gazing. If the ‘who’ of a human team becomes the focus, it ultimately becomes about serving all the little ‘who’s’, rather than first worshipping and serving God, the ‘Who’ that should be the ultimate focus of a life of Christian service.

Deacon Dean writes, “Who is part of the team is more important than what the team is trying to accomplish.” Really? If nothing is more important than ‘who’ is on your team, I would posit that we have now left the realm of serving the Most Holy and His people, and have commenced a sports game of some sort—a fantasy football league, perhaps.

Later he writes, “Putting the “who” first also requires a willingness to let a person go who is not the right fit. Nevertheless, the time may come when a leader must bless an employee by releasing him or her to find their potential elsewhere…If an employee has been around for a significant period of time letting him or her go may also have negative repercussions in the congregation. However, it is worth the cost if employees cannot be part of a team.”

I can hardly imagine that the people who were ‘blessed’ by being released from employment at All Saints Parish felt blessed. In fact, the harm suffered by All Saints Parish when certain beloved employees were so ‘blessed’ continues to this day. (Continued below.)