Servant of All?

Pleasanton’s Strategic Plan

I took a day off to have an extended email conversation with a parishioner from Pleasanton. Said parishioner sent along a scanned copy of the long-awaited Parish strategic plan, which I have reviewed. I had wanted to write a long screed on what I saw there, specifically what the document lacks and ultimately how disappointed I was with the effort. In the end, the parishioner and I agreed to leave my comments at that under the condition that the parishioner was going to take the matter up alone. This is after all this parishioner’s parish. The parishioner did agree to get back with me after their own internal conversations were complete.

Organization Charts?

I do want to briefly take up one portion of the document which, unfortunately has become all too common amongst churches in general these days. The strategic plan (as it were) contained an organization chart for the parish. On the surface, nothing really new there. The chart has the same pyramid shape, with the Pastor at the top and the parish below. Many of us have seen so many organization charts it is hard to think of an organization any other way. There is a very good reason that Catholic church insiders refer to the leaders of the universal Church as a “hierarchy”. One could almost be forgiven for publishing a document that stratifies clergy and laity into a hierachical reporting structure. I did say “almost forgiven” though.

First I would like to note that structurally the organization chart published by Pleasanton is canonically incorrect. The chart is showing what this Pastor thinks is operationally occurring and that is a bit dangerous. The chart shows the parish councils “reporting in” to the Pastor when in fact they do not (nor should they) have a subordinate or functionally submissive role. Parish councils, and specifically finance councils, have a consultative role. To properly show this in org chart parlance would have the councils in a “dotted line” relationship with the Pastor, at the same level. As shown, this organization chart at once diminishes and negates the consultative function these councils provide. This is an error.

Beyond that specific observation, my opinion is that Catholic organization charts with Pastors, Bishops and Popes in ever ascending levels of visual importance is rank clericalism. A pyramid shaped organization is the ego-produced product of someone who has taken ontological change to mean “operationally superior”—that is to say: clericalism writ large. This is definitively NOT the teaching we were given and I am constantly surprised how what we were taught was not, indeed has not been put into practice:

Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” (John 13:5)

So we learn from classic organization charts published by churches that in fact our pastors have not “understood hereafter”. A Jesus centric community is built on an organization chart that is an inverted pyramid, thereby visually attesting to the teaching that pastors, bishops and popes are in fact “servants of all”.

Show me someone publishing an organization chart like that and I will show you someone ontologically changed.

CCOP Organization Chart