Action Alert!

Jockeying for position, in Rome and at home

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 04, 2012

The continuing Vatileaks problem should surprise nobody over the age of about thirty-five; in other words, nobody who has significant experience working within groups of highly-committed people.

As one of the founders of Christendom College, I was certainly deeply committed to the Faith, and I can safely say that I was surrounded by colleagues who were every bit as committed, or perhaps more. And yet we experienced many conflicts which I should not care to have made a matter of public record. I can identify four simple reasons:

  1. Finite minds perceive the truth, and the problems involved in shaping any project according to the truth, only partially and under different facets, which are also colored by our personalities.
  2. No two people have exactly the same vision of perfection in any enterprise. Each one sees the ideal family, the ideal business, the ideal community, the ideal school or even the ideal Church slightly differently.
  3. In a small group of like-minded people, such differences emerge as extremely important. It is precisely the points of difference that occasion disagreement and require one choice or another to be made, one course or another to be followed.
  4. Our fallen nature exacerbates these challenges. Even without falling into significant sins, we constantly manifest our own imperfections in ways that create confusion and widen gaps. Rash judgment, intemperate speech, and factionalism make things still worse.

Especially in the early years of our new college, before institutional patterns were fully settled, there were many important things to quarrel about. We sometimes became so polarized that we thought we were lying to each other, though hindsight reveals merely case after case of strong convictions coupled with significant differences of perception. In any case, all academic environments are noted for their wrangling. The structure is ready-made for it: Lots of chiefs; few braves.

Now, if these problems exist among faculty who have taken heartfelt oaths of fidelity to the Magisterium, how much more must we expect to find them among the princes of the Church, drawn as they must be from a far more diverse group of backgrounds and personalities!

Yes, there will be divisions, harsh conversations, sharply-worded memos, strategies and counter-strategies—all efforts to put allies in a good position and keep opponents at a disadvantage. Moreover, the devil will seek to exploit all of these things, poisoning our righteousness, appealing to our vanity, rubbing salt in the inadvertent scratches until they become festering wounds.

And yet there is no cause for alarm and certainly no cause for fear. If we have any sense, we will definitely not look on in shock and horror. No, we will take this as nothing more than a simple reminder to more closely examine—one more time!—how we conduct our own affairs.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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