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Benedict the Blogger?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Oct 16, 2008

At the Synod the other day, a lay participant suggested that Pope Benedict XVI start a blog with his personal reflections on the daily Scripture readings. Such a blog would undoubtedly be extraordinarily good, at least as good as the Pope’s brilliant impromptu responses to questions when he visits various groups of priests and seminarians. But good as it would be, no thank you.

The Pope is of course a public figure, and in the course of his many public appearances and meetings with various organizations, as well as his homilies and weekly audiences, he has ample opportunity to provide food for thought that is widely available through Catholic outlets (including this web site). But the Pope is also the head of a hierarchical organization, and the key principle of governance of any hierarchical organization (whether the Catholic Church, a government, a company, a non-profit organization, or a school) is that each level of the hierarchy must be concerned primarily with the quality of the level immediately beneath it.

In other words, the Pope’s primary task is to ensure a high level of quality and effectiveness in his bishops, the heads of religious communities, and the various agencies of the Curia. In exactly the same way, the top administrator of an educational institution needs to be primarily concerned with the quality of his immediate staff and faculty—and not with how popular or useful he appears to students. And the head of a company must make sure his top managers do their jobs well before he worries about anything else. When this fundamental principal of hierarchical governance is ignored, various levels of an organization end up out of sync, working against each other, ineffective or even completely out of control.

One has the impression that Benedict may understand this better than his predecessor, who found himself making up in other ways for a certain lack of administrative ability. True, most of those elected to the papacy have not asked to be made pope and, since grace perfects nature, once in office they must inevitably play to their own strengths. But there are at least a few signs (most notably in his preliminary dealings with religious orders and his work on the liturgy) that Benedict, despite being a scholar, has a deep sense of the importance of proper administration. How much ability he has, and how far he can get at his age, are open questions. But it would be very sad for the Church if any pope were tempted to expend critical administrative time on blogging.

Two other reasons not to blog come to mind as well. First, in general (though it is I who say it) great men and women don’t blog. They are very busy making an impact in more important ways, and a blog could only hurt their otherwise excellent reputations for substance and intelligence. Second, let me be perfectly frank: Those of us who do blog have a vested interest in keeping the general quality of the blogosphere at a fairly mediocre level, the better to be perceived as figs among thorns. So I put it to you as a reader possessed of fine discernment and exquisite sympathy: Which of us wants Benedict as competition?

Benedict the Blogger, indeed! Some suggestions are better left unmade.

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