Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Thank you, David Schütz

Thank you, David Schütz, for slogging through a document much referred to around St. Blog's a little ways back, when the LCWR was under the microscope for... well, for skulking around and acting guilty, basically.
I just couldn't manage “An Invitation to Systems Thinking”, a document developed by their "Global Concerns Committee," it was written in such leaden facilitatorese, but Mr Schütz has provided a comprehensible description and a representative example of the "Systems Thinking" advocated by the ladies.

Part of this document is a section entitled “Case Study: Congregational Issue”. The case study opens with a description of a conflict within a particular (unnamed) congregation of women religious:

Description of the Situation

Recently our leadership team has received individual and group letters expressing concern over a Saturday afternoon prayer service to be held at our annual congregational gathering seven months away. The prayer is the highlight of a weekend of celebration honouring our founder. The planners of the event, a congregational committee of three elected delegates and a few volunteers, have designed a Rite of Celebration for Saturday afternoon that is not a Eucharistic celebration. Sunday morning everyone is invited to participate in the two regularly scheduled Eucharists at our Motherhouse complex.

Concerns expressed by the sisters include:

1) a belief that the most fitting way to honour our founder is with a Mass because “That’s what she would want;”
2) an assumption that our unity can best be celebrated if all of us are present at one event, and that event should be a Eucharist since it is the sign of our unity;
3) a fear that a small group (the Planning Committee) is thursting something on the whole group; and a deeper fear that a small number of those who object to priest-led liturgies is determining how we worship;
4) and a hope that such a decision could be voted on by the whole community.

The issue appears to be how we as a congregation can worship together in a satisfying way at a major congregational celebration.

Actually, the issue appears to be around some of the sisters (those on the planning committee) objecting to the Eucharist because it is a “priest-led liturgy”, and other sisters (the letter writers) not standing for this kind of nonsense.

Anyway, the case study goes on to analyse the source of the conflict. What is identified (using “Systems Thinking Resources”) is that some of the sisters (those who want the Eucharistic celebration) are thinking with the “Western Mind mental model”, while others (the planning committee) are thinking with an “Organic mental model”. Apparently the former “values ordiless, predictablity, continuity, productivity and a clear chain of authority” while the latter “values chaos, connectedness, process, inclusivity, relationship, and a non-linear expression of authority.” Apparently:

With regard to theology and spirituality, many sisters move back and forth between the “Western Mind” and “Organic” mental models. They value beliefs and practices flowing from a stable world of fixed relationships characteristic of an earlier time, as well as the insights of process, liberatioist and feminist theologies grounded in a more organic model. For them, cherished beliefs about Eucharist co-exist with a haunting awareness of patterns of ecclesial exclusion.


The next couple of pages are spent analysing the “systems” in which the sisters live and work, the place of entry into these systems, and how they might want to “disturb” these systems. Finally, we are told what the leaders of the congregation did to handle the concerns raised by the “Western Mind” sisters about the “Organic” planning committee sisters:

In responding we intentionally created our own ‘disturbance.’ We wrote and spoke with many of those who expressed concerns. In our response we

1) resisted the temptation to ‘fix’ the situation;
2) provided information by sharing our understanding of what the planners had in mind;
3) attempted to clarify both our own and the congregation’s identity at this time, by stating our belief that our current situation of differing understandings about the Eucharist and differing ways of celebrating Eucharist not only create uncertainty and frustration, but also offer new opportunities for the Spirit to lead us in life giving patterns of prayer;
4) attempted to strengthen relationships by thanking the writers and at the same time voicing our support for allowing the planning committee to do its work as it saw fit;
5) tried to honor all the voices by receiving without judgment each one’s uncertainty and frustration around the Eucharist question facing the Congregation; and by affirming the desire in each of us to have the best possible celebration of our founder.
6) invited a broader discussion of the Planning Committee’s proposal at our open representative Governing Board meeting a month later where the tensions around the issue were aired, and the authority of the Planning Committee was respected.

So. Without wanting to be too judgmental, I would say this amounts to a psychologising away of the objective truth of the Catholic Faith. In this “system”, the Eucharist has become an optional extra for the good sisters

One cavil, though -- Mr Schütz, the calf-length flowered skirt is just as much the uniform of the unimpeachably orthodoxly Catholic home-schooling mother ;o)

Oh, one of his commentator nails the contradictions inherent in the approach of the Global Concerns Committee:
The pseudo-response said that “the authority of the Planning Committee was respected.” But I thought the Organic mind-model had “a non-linear expression of authority”!

In other words, “we do not value a ‘clear chain of authority’ unless it’s our authority.”

No comments: