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Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church

What Needs to be ImprovedAccountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church - What Needs to be Improved

The Catholic Church is many things: a sign and instrument of Christ; a gathering of flawed human beings; and a mystery. It is, in some ways, unlike any other organization in the world, yet it is, nevertheless, an organization: as St John Henry Newman observed, "it has developed according to the laws under which combinations of men develop". There are better and worse ways of structuring, and leading, organizations. Over the past century, a body of knowledge has developed about how to create "healthy", effective organizations. This volume applies this knowledge to the church-in a way that will be of great interest to all who wish to understand the church, as well as to students and practitioners of organizational development-and identifies flaws in its organizational life. The ways in which its leaders are selected, trained, supported, and directed, must improve. Options for constructive change are outlined. Things can, and should, change, if the church is to show the world the light within it.

"The present crisis in the Church, says Pope Francis, is the failure of accountability at crucial levels of leadership [...] Power has been tragically misused with little or no regard for the mission ofthe Church. Innocent and vulnerable people have suffered. Creative pastoral action has been stifled. Dive, a vastly experienced international manager, distinguished author and consultant, with a deep love of the Church, is eminently suited to evaluate what structures and leadership are needed so that the Church becomes truly an accountable Church."
Gerald A. Arbuckle, SM Author, Abuse and Cover-Up: Refounding the Catholic Church in Trauma (2019)

Brian Dive is an international manager, consultant and author with fifty years of experience in organization design, leadership development and transformational change. For many years, he was Global Head of Organization at Unilever, where he led around fifty organizational design reviews. He also served as Chairman of the New York Conference Board's Council on International Organization and Management for eleven years, working with thirty of the world's leading multinationals. He has written three books on organizational development: The Healthy Organization (2002), The Accountable Leader (2008)-rated one of the best business books in the US that year by Soundview Executive Books-and Mission Mastery (2016). In 2014, he was honoured with a Doctorate in Business Administration from London Metropolitan University, where he was a Visiting Professor and a Fellow oftheir Centre for Progressive Leadership.


Brian Dive has several decades of experience in large multinational organisations working in staff development and organisation design. In recent years, he has advised numerous large organisations and government departments about structure; how to ensure that those at each level in an organisation have sufficient empowerment to become fully effective and gain greater satisfaction. He has written extensively about these matters. In this book, he offers suggestions to the Church based on his experiences. Some might say, thinking of Matthew 28:20, that the Church has done well enough for a couple of millennia and has no need to embrace “new” thinking. However, in the twentieth century the Church readily adopted new technological breakthroughs to assist with its mission. In 1931 Vatican radio established only the sixth short wave broadcasting service in the world (assisted by Guglielmo Marconi). The Vatican website demonstrates an impressive mastery of twenty first century digital means of communication. And, according to recent comments from John W. O’Malley S.J.1 , the Vatican adopted microphones and amplifiers before the House of Commons and typewriters before the British Foreign Office. Furthermore, there is the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Vatican Observatory. Recent popes have made extensive use of the technological marvel we call international air travel to visit local churches all around the globe. The conclusion from these observations is that the Church does not turn inwards on itself but rather looks outward towards the world and utilises whatever useful modern ways of doing things come to hand. In fact, in Chapter 1, Dive quotes from comments made by Pope Pius XII in 1950: “The Church welcomes all that is truly human...[she] cannot shut herself up, inactive, in the privacy of her churches and thus neglect the mission entrusted to her.”

Given the above uptake of “new thinking” the book suggests, drawing on the fruits of a career spent in applying late 20th century understanding of organisations, possible steps towards the streamlining of existing Church structures and procedures. The book is very readable and the source of many surprising insights.

First, he thinks that the 5500 or so bishops scattered around the globe are hampered by lack of assistance from above as the gap between a bishop and the pope is too large. And anyway, is it reasonable to expect the pope to be able to engage effectively with this number of bishops? Ad limina visits are expected to occur every five years or so; that is about 20 bishops per week passing through Rome! (Recent reports indicate that Pope Francis has introduced some changes to way ad limina visits proceed.) It is clear to all that there is something seriously wrong with the process of appointing bishops. How can it be, even in cases where the incumbent is terminally ill, that there is still a hiatus of several months or longer after his death before a successor is appointed? A telling observation from Dive is that, in the organisations he has worked for, a significant amount of senior executive time is expended in assessing the potential of upcoming staff and, where appropriate, ensuring they have the correct experience to eventually take on senior roles. In the case of a retirement or death a list of appropriate candidates is at hand, and a new appointment is made promptly.

Second, Dive comes to the conclusion that, apart from electing a pope, there is no well-defined role for a cardinal! He suggests that an important task for each cardinal could be to interact with a small group of bishops to assist them in their work and to offer advice, and perhaps coordination, when needed. Perhaps a special task could be in assisting bishops promote the vision of the church being presented by the pope.

Third, Dive addresses the frequent comments and reports that somehow the Roman Curia seems not to function as a service to the remainder of the Church but rather is often seen as an obstruction. Pope Francis and his Council of nine Cardinal Advisors has embarked on a process to reorganise the Curia and apparently are in the process of putting these recommendations into place. But yet, the process of achieving buy-in and implementing genuine change remains unclear. The issues here are familiar to those involved in change management in any large twentieth- or twenty first-century organisation. Again, Dive can draw on extensive experience of managing such in the secular world. With these credentials, he has much to offer our Church.

Michael Pender, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, University of Auckland (and concerned Catholic layperson)
September 2019


Foreword   ix
By Michael Pender    
Acknowledgements   xi
Introduction   1
An Enduring Mission, An Evolving Structure    
Chapter 1   31
Principles for Constructing Healthy Organizations    
Chapter 2   63
The Parish    
Chapter 3   95
The Diocese    
Chapter 4   137
The Cardinals and the Curia    
Chapter 5   167
Reforming the Curia    
Epilogue   191
Bibliography   197
Index   203