Just How Round is the “Roundtable”?
[What is the NLRCM? The National Leadership Roundtable
on Church Management is an organization of laity, religious
and clergy working together to promote excellence and
best practices in the management, finances and human
resources of the U.S. Catholic Church by greater incorporation
of the expertise of the laity.]
Mary Heins is VOTF regional coordinator in Indiana.
Mary comments on her reading of the Roundtable report.
The full text is available
The National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management
produced a report “Church in America Leadership Roundtable,”
after a meeting held at the Wharton School in July 2004.
The 88-page report comes from a relatively new group
of Catholics and was distributed to the U.S bishops.
It draws on the expertise and experience of the participants
and comments on financial and administrative solutions
to the Catholic Church’s business problems. These are
CEO and top executive people who are not only qualified
to give such advice but also represent a wide range
of backgrounds and experience – women and men, religious
men and women, a former governor, the head of a major
banking firm, college professors, et al. Because of
their high profiles, expertise in business practices,
vast experience, and perhaps their power to withhold
or influence donations to the church, this group may
get the ear of the hierarchs.
At first glance, I was happy to see people with clout
(money) addressing the problem. Perhaps, I thought,
the bishops will listen to them. Later, I realized,
however, that this is the whole problem – the bishops
willing to listen to influential people, the privileged,
those with money and prestige. But, they are not willing
to listen to the voice of the common folks.
In addition, some in the church believe that “if the
feet of the current administrators of the Church can
be held to the fire and be forced to comply with what
the Roundtable is recommending, the third goal of VOTF
will be just about accomplished.”
Not at all, in my mind. This is not what VOTF’s third
goal is about. Our third goal, “to shape structural
change within the Church,” is not a primarily a financial
goal. Its purpose is, rather, to help establish a right
relationship between the laity of the church and the
clerics, and the bishops, in particular.
We in VOTF are struggling against an old, long-established
paradigm of Church governance in which clerics were
the rulers and laity were the sheep. This was the model
espoused by Pope Pius X . And, unfortunately, the Vatican
has recently buttressed that vision by saying that the
lines between the ordained and non-ordained “must not
If the Roundtable is successful in gaining the ear
of the bishops, but the bishops don’t recognize the
common person’s right to be heard, we will still be
ruled by the privileged. The time has come for the hierarchs
to admit, as Scott Appleby told them in Dallas in 2002,
that the future of the Catholic Church in the U.S. depends
on the laity.
There’s Hope – John Allen
excerpt from John Allen’s column “The
Word from Rome,” commenting on his recent
visit with the Long Island affiliate of VOTF.
these people are backing up their talk with their
time and treasure. I learned
Saturday that the woman who processed all the tickets
for the conference at which I spoke, Ileen Weidig,
did so from home while recovering from an appendectomy.
Meanwhile the woman who organized the speakers, Pat
Paone, also worked from home while suffering from
a case of the shingles so severe it left her blind
much of the time. Yet both soldiered on, unpaid,
because both believe something important is at stake.
a matter of fair debate whether VOTF's platform of ‘keep the faith, change the church’ is
ultimately adequate, given that some elements of
ecclesiastical structure are based on faith convictions
about Christ's will for the church. It's fair, too,
to ask whether there's enough spiritual depth, enough
sense of being part of a worldwide family of faith,
in the VOTF project in at least some instances. At
the same time, it's equally fair to observe that
VOTF members across the country have repeatedly reached
out to bishops in a spirit of collaboration and dialogue,
and sometimes they've been spurned. Pope John Paul
II said on Sept. 12, 2004, in an address to the bishops
of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, that ‘participation,
consultation and shared responsibility’ are an ‘intrinsic
requirement of the exercise of episcopal authority.’ The
experience of VOTF to date suggests the American
church still has some ground to cover to implement
All that, however, can be talked out
in dialogue with church authorities and other voices
in the Catholic conversation. The important thing
to note, it seems to me, is that the VOTF folk I
met in Long Island came across as decent, faithful
people trying to do something positive for the church.
that's something upon which one can build.”
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