Information Deficit

Why the church's hierarchy isn't working

Despite the fax machines and computers ubiquitous today in offices of the Roman curia, the institutional organization of the Vatican has not changed appreciably since the late eighteenth century. Perhaps the organization of the Vatican worked well enough one hundred fifty years ago. Yet the church stretches to the ends of the earth and is now responsible for the religious life of at least 1.2 billion people in a world of jet transportation and almost instant communication. Moreover, the modest reforms of Vatican II quite unintentionally destabilized the structures (what sociologists call behavior patterns and the supporting motivations) of the church and thus diminished the credibility of its leadership. Any attempt to govern with the same style that was effective in 1850 would be like the United States trying to return to the presidential style of Theodore Roosevelt who used to sit in a rocking chair in the “rose garden” at the end of the day and talk to federal workers as they walked home across the White House lawn.

To a relative Vatican outsider like myself, the church’s need for organizational change seems self-evident. Yet few bishops are ready to consider a drastic reform of the church’s internal operations. They do not comprehend that decision making is shaped by the information available to the decision makers, and that, in the absence of good information, serious mistakes are made.

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About the Author

Rev. Andrew M. Greeley is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is the author of The Catholic Revolution: New Wine in Old Wineskins (University of California Press), Priests: A Calling in Crisis (University of Chicago Press), and The Truth about Conservative Christians (University of Chicago Press), with Michael Hout.