Some of my readers are debating the question of whether JPII is a good or bad CEO

This is deeply ironic to me, since it is precisely because our bishops have conceived of themselves as CEO’s and not priests that we are in this jam. Lesson #1: if you want to try to comprehend JPII’s thinking (even if you disagree with it) you have to begin with the fact that he is trying to think with the Tradition and not merely applying secular templates. You may still disagree with his actions. But you will not even comprehend his actions or the motivation behind them if you don’t start there. From what I can see, JPII’s thinking is informed by his conception of what a priest is, by his theology of the cross, and by his faith in the grace of Holy Orders to convert the hard hearts and darkened minds of some of our episcopacy. In short, he is approaching this problem supernaturally and in an attempt to work with the Tradition. He is not asking the sorts of questions that have led our bishops to their present pass (“What will the lawyers advise? How will this play on the evening news? How’s my hair? What would Bill Gates do?”) As I say, the results are, so far, mixed. But I think the attempt to apply secular templates here is leading some “Restorationist Catholics” (who have a strong critique of the success of this approach) to adopt a schizophrenic view of JPII as a deeply compassionate man who doesn’t give a rip. I think he does give a rip and that he is attempting a very risky form of medicine by leaving these men to bear the scorn they bring on themselves by their CEO thinking until they stop thinking like Bill Gates and acquire the mind of Christ.

Whether that will be successful is, in my view, rather dubious. But I think we have to at least begin by understanding what is being attempted or we will not even be in a position to critique well. We’ll instead fall into precisely the secular categories that our bishops’ minds appear to inhabit when they conceive of their offices–the categories that got them where they are.

Homework assignment: Read the section on the critiques of John Paul’s papacy (particularly the section on the Restorationist Critique) in the epilogue to Witness to Hope by George Weigel. There are some sound Restorationist critiques, as Weigel acknowledges. But to keep “Restorationist” from becoming “Reactionary” it is important to understand what the wellsprings of JPII’s thought and action are. And to do that, it is absolutely necessary to break away from secular analytical templates and remember that he cannot be understood from the outside, but only from the inside–from a mind steeped in the Tradition and not in secular categories. Does this render him flawless in his governance of the Church? No. But it will make his mistakes more comprehensible and not simply the inexplicable contradiction of a compassionate/utterly uncaring CEO that secular analyses fall back on.


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