John Flett wrote a good piece on LinkedIn recently on imagining better as an important precursor to business success. I agree with his assessment. However, I wasn’t to the end of the first paragraph when I began to think about the lack of imagination in the operation of the Church.
All I say within these “pages” should be understood to come from someone deeply committed to the one true, universal church. This attestation notwithstanding, I think it obvious that the humans are the problem. And humans in charge are the biggest problem.
The fact that the Catholic Church changes slowly is, on the one hand, a virtue. It demonstrates a two thousand year history of deep, thoughtful discernment (perhaps that is redundant). On the other hand, however, I have witnessed a significant reluctance to all change in the Catholic hierarchy over the years.
I’m not a theologian. So even if I thought that church teaching should change, I would be unlikely to advocate for it. I am, however, a strategist. And the kind of change most needed in the Church is strategic.
There is far too much sentiment from both the laity and the clergy that is reactionary; that says we should somehow return to practices of the past; that tries to hold tight to existing structure. This grip on the past has more downsides than up. Most importantly, it blocks our collective imagination. It breeds frustration.
A couple years back I wrote about the opportunity that Pope Francis is providing to the local Church (dioceses and parishes). The opportunity is for structural, methodological change- not dogmatic, theological change. Were we, at the local level, to follow the Holy Father’s lead, we would grow the faith dramatically.
Unfortunately, I have seen little evidence in the last two years that suggests that we are prepared at the local level to make those changes. We are lacking in imagination.