Leadership and USCCB

After much thought, research, consultation and PRAYER, we have decided to proclaim the obvious, namely, that United States Catholics need a leader, a Senior Cardinal of all US Catholics, if you will. This Senior Cardinal needs to be a full-time head of the all US Catholics. We do not have one now. Our current President of the USCCB is part time and also Archbishop of a very large Archdiocese. He simply cannot do justice to both 1)our vision of what the head of all US Catholics should be doing and 2)managing a large archdiocese. WE MUST DEMAND A FULL TIME LEADER! He needs full authority over all Church matters in the USA, including making new Bishops, etc. We know, of course, that our real leader is Pope Francis, but he can hardly be expected to execute the type of leadership responsibilities needed to solve the US Church’s problems and provide the day to day management of the Catholic Church here in the United States. Also, it is very naïve to expect the USCCB, in its present form, to provide the type of leadership and management needed. The USCCB cannot even agree on our Mission (see above). There is no way we can make the changes needed to solve the Church’s problem without such a leader.

                As best we can determine, the current management of the USCCB is done in a very collegial manner with each bishop having virtually full and final authority over everything in his diocese. Consider what the Catechism says:

                “As Christ’s vicar, each bishop has the pastoral care of the particular Church entrusted to him, but at the same time he bears collegially with all his brothers in the episcopacy the solicitude for all the Churches, though each bishop is the lawful pastor only of the portion of the flock entrusted to his care, as a legitimate successor of the apostles he is, by divine institution and precept, responsible with the other bishops for the apostolic mission of the Church.”[1]

                This Senior Cardinal should most likely come from the current six Cardinals heading up Archdioceses and serve for up to two, maybe more, terms of five years each. But if none of the Cardinals have a burning desire and the ability to solve the US Catholic Church’s problems then we should look to one of the 33 Archbishops and even a Bishop if necessary. This should easily be a full-time job. There are 32 offices, 23 Committees, and 20 subcommittees within the USCCB. We do not have access to an organizational chart, if one exists, so it may be possible that there is more organizational structure than appears based on just the USCCB’s web site. Details of the Senior Cardinal’s authority and responsibility would be spelled out in the Church’s new by-laws or equivalent. The Pope must have the authority to ratify any such election or even make the appointment himself and remove the Senior Cardinal at any time and for any reason.

                Following are just a few of the many likely suggestions for change that are needed-

  1. The USCCB needs to reinvent itself. Maybe even the name should be changed to something like United States Catholics, Inc. (USCI).
  2. There is a need to reorganize and modernize management techniques of USCCB. We do not know everything about how the USCCB is managed but based strictly from reading the USCCB web site and talking to some members of the clergy here are some suggestions. These are obviously not complete. It would require some independent consultants to come up with a comprehensive listing of everything that is needed.

1). There are some 200 dioceses in the US. Some are very large and some very small. If the USCCB wants to exercise any kind of control, management or influence over these dioceses, they should consolidate some of the smaller ones and form “regions” of some kind, maybe by grouping certain states. It is difficult to imagine the need for more than 5 to 10 regions.

2). The USCCB should have some kind of “by-laws” to operate under. This should establish clear lines of authority and responsibility within the USCCB and for the Senior Cardinal recommended above.

3). The USCCB has revenue of approximately $250MM annually and over 100 employees. There are 32 offices(departments), 23 committees and 20 subcommittees. How are they organized? They need to be grouped into some sort of categories that have similar missions.

4). It appears that there is a very comprehensive diocesan financial management guide to “best practices” prepared in 2014. This guide contains information relating to parish financial management as well. We have no way to know how well this guide is being followed, but based on comments from several clergy, they say it is not being followed by very many, if any, dioceses or parishes. There needs to be “best practices guides” for all aspects of diocesan operations.

5). As part of how the new senior Cardinal manages the US Church he needs to have the equivalent of “internal audits” or maybe “peer reviews” of all dioceses every two or three years to determine level of compliance with “best practices” developed in 2. (d) above.

  • The Senior Cardinal needs to be extremely articulate, charismatic, fearless, strong, etc. and the proactive spokesperson for all US Catholics on all of the major moral issues facing us US Catholics. He needs to be the moral compass for us all. He needs to employ an excellent PR/media relations person. He would appear on major TV shows, be interviewed by major interviewers in the country, appear at all appropriate national conclaves, etc. He should be our “Commander-in-chief” in the war against Catholicism.
  • There is a need to improve education and training of clergy-

Over the years we have often wondered what kind of education and training our clergy have received about how to manage a parish. The USCCB lists just over 100 seminaries (both order and diocesan) with web sites. After looking at a random number of curriculums we could not find any with more than a very few business/management, advertising or marketing subjects included in any courses. Most did not have any such courses.

        We believe that for the clergy to have a reasonable amount of education necessary to manage a parish they should have, at a minimum, perhaps the following 3 hour semester courses; accounting and finance; management and planning; human resources; advertising; marketing; communications, fund raising and technology. However, the best way to deal with this problem is for the seminary to either partner with or hire a nearby business school to help design a program and needed courses. If just a few of the larger seminaries did this and shared the results with all other seminaries it would be the most efficient way to do it.

  • Centralize or at least group certain nearby parish administrative functions-

        With the use of modern technology it should be fairly simple to combine various nearby parish administrative functions. This would be easiest to do in large dioceses where many parishes are located relatively close together. The diocese should be the leader in this effort and could standardize many functions that many or even all parishes could make use of. There is a need for “best practice” guides for parishes and again some type of internal audit or peer reviews every two or three years to determine the level of compliance with these “best practice” guides. Following are some of the centralized templates that could be used by Parishes-

1). Apologetics

2). Homilies for the week

3). Parish websites

4). Surveys of parishioners referred to elsewhere in this book.

5). Fund raising appeals

6). Best practice weekly generic newsletter

7). Direct appeal to less engaged parishioners

  • Strategic Plan of USCCB-

        We have read everything that is available on the USCCB’s web site. From what we have read so far it appears that the USCCB Plan contains much very good information but has certain shortcomings when compared to the Strategic Planning methodology presented and used elsewhere in this document. Following are the apparent shortcomings we have identified.

1). The Plan’s Mission Statement is too narrow and we believe it must be much more consistent with the universal one proposed by the late Chicago Cardinal George referred to above and used below in the planning process recommended here.

2). The Plan does not specifically address the strengths and weaknesses of the Church in the United States, identify the causes and offer suggested solutions to each of those weaknesses.

3). Most importantly, the Plan does not address how it will solve “The Catholic Problem and Fight the War against Catholicism” presented in this document.

4). The plan does not identify the various objectives in measurable terms so that progress in achieving these objectives can be monitored.

5). The plan does not disclose specific strategies to achieve its objectives.

6). The plan does not describe the specific action plans necessary to achieve these strategies and who is responsible for them and by what date they are to be completed.

7). The USCCB web site also contains a document “Strategic Planning-Which way is Best?”, but this document is dated from 1999. It contains a number of matters that we would agree with, but is missing some of the procedures we have identified above and should be updated with more current thinking about strategic planning as advocated by the American Strategic Planning Association and used in this document.


[1] — Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1560