Friday, 4 May 2012

Am I in deep trouble?...

I had a look at the Holy See's comments on the reasons for the crack down on the dissident American nuns (LCWR).

I was somewhat perturbed to see that particular mention was made of their booklet: An Invitation to Systems Thinking. This was not to be used any more, until it had been reviewed...

As the avid reader of this blog will be only too aware, I have referred positively to Systems Thinking on more than one occasion (here, here, and here for example).  Am I a fellow traveller with the LCWR?  Will the Holy See have to proscribe my blog?

So I decided to have a look at An Invitation to Systems Thinking.  Whilst poorly written in parts, the overview of Systems Thinking it presents is consonant with my understanding of it.  I was starting to get worried. Have I really fallen so deeply into error?

Then I started to read the Case Studies, and was relieved.  Here, I thought, was sufficient reason to suspend the use of the booklet.  It was not the theory, but the way it was being applied that was so questionable.

To give you a flavour, here is an extract from the first case study, discussing the different mental models of those on either side of a dispute about whether a Mass is a suitable way of celebrating their Founder's anniversary (imagine nuns even having that dispute!):


Not only the assumptions and needs, but also the values inherent in both of these mental models influence how we do theology and how we express spirituality. Generally speaking ”the Western mind” values orderliness, predictability, efficiency, continuity, productivity and a clear chain of authority. Theology stemming from this system influenced many of us during our most formative years. Grounded in this theology sisters believe that the celebration of Eucharist is the summit of worship and at the core of what holds us together as a group.
Generally speaking the “Organic” mental model values chaos, connectedness, process, inclusivity, relationship, and a non-linear expression of authority. Process, liberationist and feminist theologies develop in this kind of a milieu. Some sisters, schooled in these theologies and situated within this mental model, believe that the celebration of Eucharist is so bound up with a church structure caught in negative aspects of the Western mind they can no longer participate with a sense of integrity. 
What is even more disturbing is that the approach, as practiced here, outlaws making any judgement on either model.

In responding we intentionally created our own ‘disturbance.’ We wrote and spoke with many of those who expressed concerns. In our response we
1)  resisted the temptation to ‘fix’ the situation;
2)  provided information by sharing our understanding of what the planners had in mind;
3)  attempted to clarify both our own and the congregation’s identity at this time, by stating our belief that our current situation of differing understandings about the Eucharist and differing ways of celebrating Eucharist not only create uncertainty and frustration, but also offer new opportunities for the Spirit to lead us in life giving patterns of prayer;
4)  attempted to strengthen relationships by thanking the writers and at the same time voicing our support for allowing the planning committee to do its work as it saw fit;                              5)  tried to honor all the voices by receiving without judgment each one’s uncertainty and frustration around the Eucharist question facing the Congregation; and by affirming the desire in each of us to have the best possible celebration of our founder.
6)  invited a broader discussion of the Planning Committee’s proposal at our open representative
Governing Board meeting a month later where the tensions around the issue were aired, and the
authority of the Planning Committee was respected.
I am relieved to say, I find myself a very long way away from the LCWR after all... 

1 comment:

Mac McLernon said...

Not half as relieved as me... you had me worried for a while! However, a cynical attempt to spike one's stats is something with which I can sympathize. :-)