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February 17, 2013 10:44 pm
From Mr Duncan Reed.
Sir, I was very taken with John Plender’s analysis of the need to modernise the role of Pope in the context of Vatican governance (“Make Popes accountable in this life as well as the next”, Comment, February 15). He suggests that, while Benedict XVI and John Paul II ensured tight discipline on doctrinal matters, they were poor stewards both of the Church’s finances and of its reputation.
His logic surely supplies him with the obvious solution, which for some reason he failed to outline: split the role of Pope as spiritual leader and successor to Peter – God’s chosen one (or “chairman”) – from that of “chief executive” of the organisation of the Church. Many people are keener on the idea of faith than the idea of Church, let alone the difficulty of combining both roles effectively in just one person. After all, it appears that the burdens of the latter role may have contributed more to Benedict’s decision to stand down than the former.
This could also ensure that the cardinals in conclave would no longer need to struggle with what headhunters describe as an “overloaded job specification” – one that seeks to be all things to all men (and women) by including “kitchen sink requirements”. The result of this is typically that hardly anyone will ever hit all the elements of the brief, and the Church swings between Popes who are poor spiritual leaders but good managers of the Curia, to those who are brilliant theologians or pastors but poor leaders of a multibillion enterprise. (One hopes, by the way, that a reputable papal search company will be appointed to draw up the job brief and advise the “conclave committee” on questions of supply of suitable candidates and matters of contract.)
There are, of course, other areas of regrettable divergence between Holy Mother Church and the UK corporate governance code: notably, the requirement that the chairman should ensure effective communication with shareholders (unclear who these are – the Good Shepherd himself or his sheep?); that the chairman should, on appointment, meet the appropriate “independence criteria” (whoops); that no individual should “dominate decision-taking” (oh dear); and finally, that there should be an annual “evaluation” of performance (tricky, but could perhaps be rebranded an “interim day of judgment”), and that this include questions of “diversity, including gender” (null points).
Leaving these areas of Vatican “non-compliance” to one side for a moment, might one dare to suggest that Mr Plender’s analysis – though containing an element of truth concerning the problem of papal succession planning (ie no one is perfect) – is based on the false premise of approaching a spiritual matter from an entirely secular standpoint and, moreover, that that has been the besetting flaw in the media coverage of the events of the last week?
Duncan Reed, Director, Condign Board Consulting, London SW1, UK
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