By Bill Keller, The New York Times

Bill Keller, NYT

Bill Keller, NYT

Behold a global business in distress — incoherently managed, resistant to the modernizing forces of the Internet age, tainted by scandal and corruption. It needs to tweak its marketing, straighten out its finances, up its recruiting game and repair its battered brand. Ecce Catholicism Inc.

Yes, the business of the church is saving souls, but it is nevertheless a business: a closely held conglomerate with a work force of more than a million, 1.2 billion more-or-less regular customers, 10 times as many outlets as Starbucks, more real estate than Donald Trump dreams of and lobbying clout to rival that of any secular industry. Now its C.E.O., physically and mentally depleted at age 85, is stepping down, creating an opportunity for a serious relaunch.

Catholicism is mostly a service industry — Canyon Ranch for the spirit, if you will — and its deliverables have stood the test of millenniums: instruction in how to live a good life, sacraments to consecrate major milestones, comfort in times of distress, the cleansing therapy of confession, penance and absolution, a sense of place in the universal order and the promise of a celestial payoff. The fundamental problems are not in the catalog. There is still a robust market for the faith. The problem — evident in the waning confidence of the customers as well as the rising market share of evangelical start-ups and none of the above — is with the management.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

What do you think? Is it useful to think of the Church as a business?


Pope John XXIII was elected pope in October 1958.

Pope John XXIII was elected pope in October 1958.

No Pope has abdicated since 1415, and that was due to an extraordinary time in church history. The Great Western Schism lasted from 1378 until 1417. During that period of time two and then three men claimed to be the one legitimate pope. England, the Holy Roman Empire, and most of Italy supported the pope residing in Rome. France, Scotland, Sicily, and Naples supported the pope in residence at Avignon. Finally, Pope Gregory XI called The Council of Constance and resolved the issue by resigning his position. One of the other claimants fled and the other was deposed.

The Pope who was deposed was John XXIII.

When Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was elected Pope in 1958, he took the name of the deposed Pope. His purpose in taking the disgraceful name was grounded in his desire to stand for exactly the opposite of what the name had represented in the history of the church. He would be a reconciler, a leader who sought to foster the unity of the church, the servant of the servants who would open the church to the movement of the Holy Spirit, wherever it would take us. He was the first pope since the Reformation who acknowledged frankly that Catholicism had its share of responsibility for the sandal of a divided Christianity and stood in need of reinvigoration and reform. He wanted to put aside the hostilities of the past and “bring the church up to date.” He called for the Second Vatican Council. We know the story and it moved the faithful as much as it surprised and thrilled. Read More…

By Jason Berry

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY — Sister Pat Farrell and three other nuns crossed St. Peter’s Square through the fabled white columns, paused for a security check and entered the rust-colored Palace of the Holy Office.

It was April 18, 2012, and on entering the palazzo, they were aware of its history, that in this same building nearly 400 years earlier Galileo had been condemned as a heretic by the Roman Inquisition for arguing that the earth orbits around the sun.

Today, the palazzo houses the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Vatican office that enforces adherence to church teaching. As president of Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), Sister Farrell and her executive colleagues had an appointment with the prefect, Cardinal William Levada, about a CDF investigation of their group by the forces that control the Vatican, who viewed the nuns as somehow going ‘off the reservation.’

They were walking into what Hans Küng, the internationally renowned theologian who had his own battles in the palazzo, calls “a new Inquisition.” Read the full story at Global Post.



Blindfolded child draws name of new Coptic Pope

Coptic Christians do not meet in secret to make the final selection of their new leader, nor release smoke signals to indicate the completion of the task. Rather, the names of three favorite candidates (reduced from seventeen names through an elaborate election process) are written on slips of paper, each inside its own crystal ball.  These balls are sealed with wax and placed in a vessel on the altar.  

A blindfolded altar boy, chosen from among fifteen boys, reaches in to select one of the balls.  While some outsiders and reformers view the blind drawing as an element of chance or an act of theatre, many in the Coptic Church view it as a way to leave room for God in the selection. Read More…