The red hats move behind locked doors on Tuesday, March 12th, certainly by the Ides of March we will have a new pope.

My Sunday meditation on power and authority in the church: A reflection for popes, red hat cardinals, and lowly human being People-of-God types.


There are two different ways in which power and authority can be exercised in the church. The difference is between domination and service:

  • between wanting to be served and wanting to serve
  • between using power as an oppressor and using power as a liberator

We know the Spirit of God is moving in the church when church structures – that means of course church people – become more and more people and structures of real service and ministry, rather than structures of domination and control.

The temptation to dominate and control – often in God’s name – is an occupational hazard for church leaders.

Nevertheless, service, ministry, and liberation are God’s values. They are the values revealed in the life and ministry of Jesus. They must be papal values, episcopal values and People-of-God values.


No more comments from me until the new bishop of Rome is in place. I’m kind of poped-out for now…….

4 thoughts on “Last Sunday without a Pope: A Meditation on POWER and AUTHORITY

  1. As always, your words inspire. Sadly, I struggle to get past the picture of the red robes and the similarity in dress and total maleness to the scenes from The Borgias when the pope was addressing his cardinals. The conclave, the curia, the college of cardinals is all so medieval, so mysoginist, so lacking in any sense of representation of the People of God that whomever the next pope is I hold out no hope for real change. And believe me when I say that in my opinion simply putting women in the priesthood and in the red robes of the cardinals is not a step forward necessarily. If women simply buy into the structures as they stand there would be little difference in the church.

    Thank you for your blog.

  2. Your reflections on the last Sunday without a pope pulls me into the conversation. Any one of us when in a leadership position will be tempted to take the easy way to “control” the people we are sent to serve. It is just SO easy to criticize leadership and “those at the top”. We say we want to “hold them accountable” and that is fair enough, but as I serve on the board of AUSCP and occasional priests write critical letters to me about the board, I sometimes find them quite sad and discouraging, so I can’t help but wonder about others in leadership positions.

    I have no desire to dominate my brother priests, rather only to serve them well, but I find that fulfilling that desire is almost impossible because of the way that “the game” is rigged in the set-up of parish life. We are mostly kept “busy busy all the time” doing the littlest things with care, but inevitably we are thus awkwardly encumbered by overwork and unable to attend to many issues of justice and the need for structural reform in ministry. The raw truth here is that many of us are so swamped and overworked that we can’t help but imagine that it is rigged thusly by those at the top so that we will be too busy with elementary tasks and thus unable to question authority. I sense this may be the reason for some of the passive-aggressive letters of criticism. I can only imagine that it is more intensely so the “higher up” you go in any institution.

    The political infighting can be so intense and petty in any institution that one can become discouraged from dedicating oneself fully because people have no idea that you have just given them your “all” and they now want you to start over and give it to them again in a slightly different flavor. Sometimes I just want to quit, but I don’t give into that temptation. Because I know that we are not in this vocation just to be appreciated. Leadership is often a thankless job because people are so often locked into their own little worlds and cannot see out of them except for their special interests. One accepts this at first but then realizes later that if we leave that as the status quo there is no real vision for the Body of Christ. We are called to much more.

    Thus I think that many cardinals are indeed there to serve but the system does not always help us to understand their service with respect to their honest sacrifices. It is so much easier to accuse them of being as petty as we sometimes are ourselves. God bless the cardinals and guide them to vote for a man with an incredibly generous and humble heart, who can help us become more united as we renew our vision of church.

    Thus some thoughts after a busy Sunday. Fr. Bob Cushing

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