Thursday, May 16, 2002

An Interesting Thesis

My correspondent in Texas (who really does need his own blog, lack of time or no lack of time) wrote in response to my Congregational blog below. But as he worked through it, he came up with this, regarding "The Situation."

Perhaps it began with the elevation of priests to the episcopate from the War generation. Some of them had been formed in heterodox seminaries beginning in the 1940s. More importantly, the titanic figures of the 1940s and 1950s Catholic culture began to die, retire, etc, and the old episcopate was replaced by men weaned on the genius of American Management Techniques as the Path to Order, and implicitly to Salvation. I think the resurgence of clericalism within the last two generations of bishops is traceable to that phenomenon in American culture. Even more insidious to the core of our faith than the sexual 'revolution', liturgical abuses, etc., was the wholesale acceptance that through "scientific management" man could progress through his own efforts to temporal perfection. Not a new idea, but applying it in a formalized, structured way is a legacy of the early half of this century when many of the titans of industry died off and were replaced by middle managers and the prototypes of consultants who tried to figure out a way to bottle the financial magic of Rockefeller, Morgan, etc.

The New Deal and the Second World War provided many people with the evidence they sought that scientific management and bureaucracy was the most efficient way to run any large organization. People couldn't be allowed to make decisions based on common sense, community standards, or moral principles. Experts had to be consulted. What happened in the post-war era was the institutionalization of this mentality all over America and the export of it to the world. No longer was Christ, fidelity to the Magisterium, or reliance on ancient moral precepts necessary. There were experts now who knew these things better than others, and this is the birthplace of the dissident theologians and professional (9-5 and no more) priests.

I don't totally buy it. For one thing, until Arthur D Little starting spouting Total Quality Management in the 80s, corporate centralization and a regimented hierarchical structure was THE American management model. But there's a lot in here I do buy, and I think Chris is on to something.


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