Let’s raise the standards

There is strain between the Church’s laity and leadership. Rather, strain between the people in the pews and the hierarchy. Leadership is something other. It can be found on either side of the Communion rail.

May I recommend to the readership – especially to the hierarchical leadership – a good book?

I’ve written about it before.

More and more my thoughts turn to the kind of New Normal that we want. We are going to pay and pay and pay, and then pay some more, for the lockdown imposed on our nations and economy and churches. This is going to hurt, friends, and the hurting hasn’t even started yet.  As the Fat Man laid down in Rule VIII: “They can always hurt you more.

We are going to new a new style of priest, king, prophet in our hierarchy, in our chanceries and parish offices.  New style… maybe with a lot of old in it.  I’ve ranted about that recently, and pointed my finger at myself.  Je m’accuse.

Read this.  I’ve been recommending it to priest friends for a while now:


It is not a complete manual, but it does bring home the fact that when the mission fails, it is often leadership that failed.  And leadership isn’t limited to the commanding officer.  The whole team has to own the mission and its objectives.  The leader needs to bring people into that vision and help them to embrace it for themselves.  Everyone has to believe in the cause they are fighting for.  Leaders have to own it first.

Let’s raise the standards.

(That’s a double entendre, by the way, about something risky, not risqué.)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. LeeGilbert says:

    The days of the Prince/Archbishop are long gone, but in the face of the religious/economic/ emotional stress being laid on their flocks the failure of bishops individually or as a conference to remonstrate forcefully with civil governments, and to push back in the public square is very disappointing. Worse is their making the Church an instrument of demonstrably disproportionate and draconian governmental policy. Replacing prince /archbishops with super-compliant archbishops and bishops took more than half a millennium, but is just as disastrous for the reputation of the Church and the well-being of the body politic.

    Here in Oregon, the churches are being opened up under the banner of “good news” but with a maximum of 25 person allowed to attend per Mass, with sign-ups required, and social distance to be maintained. This is obviously going to be an administrative nightmare, with a great deal of potential for misunderstandings, hurt feelings, resentments and jealousy. St. Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:15 to let no root of bitterness spring up, but compliance with gov’t regs will surely provide plenty of fertile ground.

    Beyond that, our priests and pastors are suddenly thrust into the role of enforcing gov’t policy, that is, of being policemen. There is nothing about that role that is likely to endear them to their flocks. In short, this “good news” is likely to be more bad news for priests and people.

    As Catholics we communicate with sign, symbol and gesture. Using that language our bishops are telling us that the Church is the instrument of the state, but this is neither Catholic nor American. We want to be good citizens, of course, but as Emerson says our goodness should have an edge to it. There is nothing about being good citizens that demands our silent acquiescence in manifest stupidity. We are not slaves on the government plantation that we have to accede to the absurd maximum of of 25 persons in churches that could accommodation far more, even with the equally absurd social distancing.

    We need our churches open once again, with the dispensations left in place. If people want to brave what little risk there is, is there not something to be said for the freedom of the sons of God (Rom 8:21)? Or are we going to allow the Nanny State to turn us into the child Church, the mewling, infantile, flaccid body of Christ? For the love of God, your excellencies, man up, push back, be the Resistance.

    Besides being good and necessary in itself, it would go a long way toward regaining the respect of our fellow citizens. It would be- and I cannot think of a more convincing or accurate word- evangelical.

    [Thought provoking.]

  2. Fr. Reader says:

    Thanks Fr. for your recommendation. I got the book. Interesting concepts and useful approach.
    A bit too many military acronyms, but the rest is perfect.

  3. Gaetano says:

    Another important principle is that followership is as important as leadership. Everyone has a boss, and we learn how to be a leader by first learning to follow.

    It is also important for followers to take action. It is easy to complain from the sidelines and criticize. This has the further distraction of appearing to act.

    Actually doing something, no matter how small, is much more difficult, and requires real effort.

  4. Cy says:

    One action we can certainly take is to consider future collection basket offerings. Was your Bishop, or pastor, there for you during these difficult times or did they close shop and leave the sheepfold? And what Bishops, orders, priests (worldwide) rather stood in the breach during these times?

  5. Jack in NH says:

    I know, Father, that this is not a ‘good news’ post, but I have to share.
    Our FSSP parish has figured out a way to bring the Body & Blood of our Lord to the parishioners.
    It’s a complicated procedure, but our beloved Pastors got it right, & the Mrs. & I were able to receive this morning!
    God is good, & we are blessed to have such wonderful men as our shepherds.
    In Christ…

  6. Lepanto ! says:

    Negative. The State has deemed our priests and ALL that they do non-essential. Non-essential?! That most Archbishops have sided with the State in *their silence* after this much time is *unacceptable*. In my own Diocese, this is day 64 and counting. Infuriating.
    The Feast of Corpus Christi will be Day 93.
    The Feast of the Most Precious Blood of OLJC will be Day 113
    The Feast of the Assumption will be Day 158
    At what point do the Laity, the Parish Priests, the pathetic Abps. push back on the State?
    The Laity can and should do something more *active* today; they can and they should! The Parish Priests are sadly bound by the two-edged sword of Obedience to the local Ordinary and are quashed. For now.
    The Archbishops have pressed the priests in the Dioceses to put their hands out to the Fed Govt. to hoover up “grants” and “debt” to launder through the Parishes to then funnel to the various Chanceries to further kick the can down the road of their failed, bloated, Progressive sties.
    The fact is that Pastors doing so have just taken from their own parishioners who are furloughed or own and operate shuttered small businesses. Wait until those pour souls hit the confession box or the Pastors office in despair…
    The over-reach and consequent leverage over the people and the Parishes by the State and their compromised, corrupt, Chancery lackeys is beyond belief. They simultaneously push their 9-figure grift campaigns and roll out their annual appeals….”Just a dollar a day they say…..” Pigs.
    No mandated masks here. Ever. Not another penny to the Chancery that won’t push back on the State and resume Mass and the Sacraments, including the Laity, in defiance of this State Template against society.
    What would Pius V do? Combat!

  7. CanukFrank says:

    I recently listened to a lecture from the late, great Michael Davies on the life and execution of St. John Fisher after his refusal to kowtow to thin skinned, thug-king, Henry VIII’s demand for recognition as the supreme head of the church in England. 18 Charterhouse monks were also condemned for defending the liberty of the Church, seven of who were hung, drawn and quartered. I understood at how quickly the Roman Catholic Church in England had been capitulating to the rancid King’s gangsta behaviour with the executions only hastening the miserable process.

    Witnessing the speed at which our prelates have caved in to Caesar’s CoVid-19 demands surprised me. Examples: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales decision to go BEYOND the governments willingness to exempt “Houses of worship…..from the stay-at-home order” and “places of worship (to) remain open for solitary prayer” and close ALL churches to the public. cards.


    Knoxville Bsp. Stika’s ridiculous Soup Nazi-style Holy Communion distribution “procedure”.

    The “fantastic collaborative posture” of the Episcopal Conference of Portugal to allow 3,500 fully kitted troops to stop pilgrims going to the Fatima shrine this month.

    The capitulation of the Modern Church seems to be complete. Being prepared to vigorously defend the Faith? Suffer for the one, true, holy Catholic and apostolic Church? Leadership? Please. Just wave the mere threat of looking disagreeable to many of our prelates and they fold like a wet deck of cards.

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    Excellent post and comments.

    Fr. Reader: *chuckle* WDLOA (We Do Like Our Acronyms). Thanks for your recommendation.

    Jocko Willink and Leif Babin know something about leadership under pressure, having spent time in Ramadi, Iraq (a war correspondent, not easily impressed, said the level of violence in Ramadi was “astounding”), and as leadership instructors (yep, leadership can be learned, “born leaders” are rare).

    Jocko Willink also writes…children’s novels. See: “Way of the Warrior Kid: From Wimpy to Warrior the Navy SEAL Way” (touches on topics from chivalry to the Gettysburg Address.)

    Quotes from “Extreme Ownership”:

    “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.” (That is particularly apt these days for certain prelates in Rome).

    “Leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interests.”

    “Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” (In other words, Satan and our Fallen Nature should not be blamed for laziness and immaturity. Own your behavior.)

    “When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable—if there are no consequences—that poor performance becomes the new standard.”

    “There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.”

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    An excerpt from a letter written by the Lion of Fallujah, Maj. Douglas Zembiec USMC, to the children of his friend Maj. Ray Mendoza, KIA in Iraq in 2006:

    Dear Kiana and Alek,

    Ray and I had a conversation late May in 2004 while we were deployed to Iraq. He spoke of why he fought. He fought to give the people of Iraq a chance. He fought to crush those who would terrorize and enslave others. He fought to protect his fellow Marines.

    The last thing he told me that day was, “I don’t want any of these people (terrorists) telling my kids how to act, or how to dress. I don’t want to worry about the safety of my children.” Kiana and Alek, your father fought for many things, but always remember, he fought for you.

    No one could’ve better prepared you than your father. In the month and a half your family stayed with me in Laguna Niguel, Calif., while waiting for base housing to open up, I saw how, with the help of your incredible mother, he instilled in you the essentials to life:

    Live with integrity, for without integrity we deceive ourselves, we live in a house of cards.

    Fight for what you believe, for without valor, we lose our freedom.

    Be willing to sacrifice, for anything worthy in life requires sacrifice.

    Be disciplined, for it is discipline that builds the foundation of your success.

    Your father was a warrior, but being a warrior is not always about fighting. He was patient with those he led, and he understood people make mistakes. He cared about the men he led as if they were his own family. To him, they were. His work ethic was tremendous. But he made time for his family, to enjoy life. He was balanced, at equilibrium. He was an inspiration. He was my friend.

    You will always be in our lives. Please stay in touch. We will always be in your corner for assistance, advice or just conversation. Pam and I plan to retire in Idaho and would love for you to visit us so we can take you white-water rafting and mountain climbing.

    Very Respectfully,



    A few months after writing this letter to the children of his friend, the Lion of Fallujah was Killed in Action in Iraq. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery after a funeral attended by over a thousand.

    “I’d follow Major Zembiec into battle with a spoon.” – an anonymous Marine

  10. Semper Gumby says:

    From “Into the Breach: An Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic Men, my Spiritual Sons in the Diocese of Phoenix by Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix”:

    I begin this letter with a clarion call and clear charge to you, my sons and brothers in Christ: Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.

    The world is under attack by Satan, as our Lord said it would be (1 Peter 5:8-14). This battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident.

    As our fathers, brothers, uncles, sons, and friends fall away from the Church, they fall deeper and deeper into sin, breaking their bonds with God and leaving them vulnerable to the fires of Hell. While we know that Christ welcomes back every repentant sinner, the truth is that large numbers of Catholic men are failing to keep the promises they made at their children’s baptisms – promises to bring them to Christ and to raise them in the faith of the Church.

    This crisis is evident in the discouragement and disengagement of Catholic men like you and me. In fact, this is precisely why I believe this Exhortation is needed, and it is also the reason for my hope, for God constantly overcomes evil with good. The joy of the Gospel is stronger than the sadness wrought by sin! A throw-away culture cannot withstand the new life and light that constantly radiates from Christ. So I call upon you to open your minds and hearts to Him, the Savior who strengthens you to step into the breach!

    The question for every man is not, “Am I called to be a father?” but rather, “What kind of father am I called to be?”

  11. Dan says:

    I know that google will not let anything posted (or at least found) that suggests this pandemic is anything less than the worst plague to ever strike humanity, but…

    I do believe it is a consequence from God directly tied to the inaction of our Bishops. As I recall the readings from the week the sex abuse scandal re-broke I can’t help but feel we were all warned of the consequence of inaction. “ Shepherds if you don’t care for your flock I will take them from you.” Now two years later the Bishops of the world have doubled down on silence and inaction. Feeble cries from a few Bishops for more reverence toward the Eucharist and openness are Pish poshed and made fun of. Even now a few being called “conspiracy theorists.” Meanwhile we watch a Pope who has lead the force of inaction preaching to an empty St. Peter’s square.
    I can’t help but feel, that if today the McCarrick report were released and our Bishop’s started to man up and prioritize the salvation of souls that this would all end very quickly.

  12. Cy says:


    The people of God are no longer the patrons of most Dioceses.

    The State is the patron of most (perhaps all) Dioceses.

    The Dioceses will not bite the hand that feeds them! And that bites!

  13. Traductora says:

    Excellent post. Our bishops essentially think that everything is the property of Caesar and they’ve handed us over. Before VII there was more resistance to the State but somehow “opening the windows” meant that the State flew in.

    What they don’t realize is that the Church – even the other Christian churches – was the only thing that stood between the State and the individual, whose allegiance was to be to God alone. The Church protected the civil sphere and the individual.

    Not anymore though. I think part of this in practice is due to the national bishops’ conferences, since individual bishops have lost their authority and thus there is no accountability.

    But it goes beyond that. Like the Israelites, the Church has always been tempted to make a deal with or even to become the handmaiden of the State. It makes life so much easier…but VII virtually regarded secularism and adherence to left wing (authoritarian) government as a policy, and unfortunately under Bergoglio all of this has come together at the worst possible time.

  14. Semper Gumby says:

    “Had the Christian fleets sunk off western Greece on October 7 in 1571, we would not be here now, these words would not be written in English, and there would be no universities, human rights, holy matrimony, advanced science, enfranchised women, fair justice, and morality as it was carved on the tablets of Moses and enfleshed in Christ.”

    – Fr. Rutler, The Banners of Lepanto

    “Where there are bishops of moral vigor, there will be an abundance of young men willing to take up the call of priestly service. Where the spirit is tepid and refreshes itself on the thin broth of a domesticated and politically correct Gospel, seminaries will be vacant. As C.S. Lewis gave account: “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

    “An English bishop reflected: “Wherever St. Paul went, there was a riot. Wherever I go, they serve tea.” In spiritual combat, there is no teatime, and effective strategies cannot be plotted at conferences, synods, workshops, and costly conventions at resort hotels with multiple “break-out” sessions and mellow music. One fears that a fly on the wall at any of those conversations would drop to the floor out of boredom. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8)

    – Fr. Rutler, Where Are The Churchmen With Chests?

  15. The other Fr. Rutler quote that I will never forget is, “It would be good if our bishops were vertebrates in more than the anthropological sense.”

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  17. MrsBridge says:

    Gentlemen, “put your sword back into its scabbard.” (John 18:11)

    This is an occasion when the lack of women’s influence on Church leaders is showing. All the communications from my parish are coming in the tone of commands and organization. This will be allowed, that will not be allowed. Older people are encouraged to stay home. And so forth. Now here we have the advice to learn from Navy Seals? Uh-oh.

    What did your mother and grandmother do when the whole family was unhappy? They listened to everyone, sympathized with the injustices, scolded the agitators, preached peace, cooked up a few good dinners, and told each person how much she loved them.

    My grandmother-age friends are getting through this by sitting in their driveways in the evening and having sing-alongs with the neighbors. People in my neighborhood are going for long walks and bike rides every day. But I don’t see our three priests anywhere.

    Acronym: WWYGD – What Would Your Grandmother Do? (Or Mother Mary.)

    An alternate suggestion for priests, pastors, and bishops: Try a little tenderness. Ask your mother.

  18. Semper Gumby says:

    MrsBridge: You missed the point. “Sing-alongs” are nice, but not a solution. Take a closer look at the post and comments. Cheers.

  19. Semper Gumby says:

    God bless our faithful priests and bishops. It’s hard times in the vineyards of the Lord these days but there have been worse. God never promised us a rose garden.

    In the spirit of the Lion of Munster, Fr. O’Callahan, Fr. Kapaun and Fr. Capodanno, Marine Corps leadership principles:

    Be technically and tactically [liturgically- we are our rites] proficient.

    Know yourself [we all have strengths and weaknesses] and seek self-improvement [learn and move forward].

    Know your Marines and look after their welfare [pagan idols on the altar, socialist sermons and goat rodeos around the altar are not preferred methods for preparing parishioners for Eternity].

    Keep your Marines informed [informing and educating, like prayer, is continuous; one example, many are unfamiliar with the Rosary and Lepanto].

    Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates [cultivate the virtues and Confession].

    There are also Leadership Traits, such as Dependability, Bearing, Integrity and Fortitude.

  20. tripudians says:

    Here in the Netherlands its been an epic fail from the bishops. According to the government regulations religious services (with 30 or less people) have been actually allowed. Yet our beloved bishops suspended all public Masses :(

  21. Semper Gumby says:

    tripudians: That is unfortunate.

    Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

    “Who’s going to save our Church? It’s not our bishops, it’s not our priests and it is not the religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that the priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and the religious act like religious.”

    We remember the actions of the Hierarchy against Venerable Fulton Sheen last December.

  22. Semper Gumby says:

    Andrew Saucci: Fr. Rutler, a pugilist himself, has a suggestion:

    “The Apostle to the Gentiles did not consider the Way of the Lord Jesus a spectator sport…No young man should venture into the larger world without having sparred with his peers, and boxing should be required of every seminarian who would preach like Paul. The writer to the Hebrews (12:4-13) quite likely took counsel from the Apostle when he wrote:

    “In your struggles against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood…Suffering is part of your training…God is treating you as his sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him? If you were not getting this training, as all of you are, then you would not be sons but bastards…Of course, any punishment is most painful at the time, and far from pleasant, but later, in those on whom it has been used, it bears fruit in peace and goodness. So hold up your limp arms and steady your trembling knees and smooth out the path you tread; then the injured limb will not be wrenched, it will grow strong again.”


  23. Semper Gumby says:

    Great comment by Traductora. If I could expand on this particular point:

    “What they don’t realize is that the Church – even the other Christian churches – was the only thing that stood between the State and the individual, whose allegiance was to be to God alone.”

    Fair, however, Fr. Neuhaus in “American Babylon”:

    “James Madison wrote in his famed Memorial and Remonstrance that those who enter the political community must have a prior allegiance to God and the laws of God. That allegiance is prior in both time and priority.

    “Indeed the fundamental charge of anti-Catholics in American history is that Catholicism requires a “dual loyalty”- an allegiance to America and a prior allegiance to the Church. That was, and is, exactly right. A prior allegiance is not necessarily a conflicting allegiance. Murray argued that the Catholic allegiance complemented and reinforced the allegiance to the American experiment. In this he agreed with the Letter to Diognetus that America is both homeland and foreign country.”

    To further illustrate. Michel Aflaq was a Syrian sociologist, a principal founder of Ba’athism and a major influence on Saddam Hussein. He was Christian. So was Tariq Aziz, Saddam’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister. Many Christians in the U.S., Catholic and Protestant, support the Party of Death. These Christians entered politics (usually seeking power and praise) and along the way forgot their prior allegiance. There are consequences to that forgetfulness. If Christians do not want to be persecuted by tyrants, then don’t support tyrants.

    “Live with integrity, for without integrity we deceive ourselves, we live in a house of cards.” – the Lion of Fallujah

    “Neither praise nor threats will distance me from God.” – The Lion of Munster

  24. matt from az says:

    Excellent recommendation. I am a big fan of Jocko Willink. Please indulge me to relate a story about his children’s books.
    My son, who wants to become a priest as soon as his NBA career is over, read the books and enjoyed them very much. I am not a hero as Jocko is, but I’ve held my own and share much of his mentality, and want to pass this mindset onto my son.
    My son attended summer camp at the nearest Abbey and by midweek was homesick and ready to go home. The brother called me and asked what he could do to try persuade the boy to stay at camp to the end.
    I told him about Way of the Warrior Kid and told him to ask my son “What would Uncle Jake advise Mark to do? And how would Mark respond?”
    It worked. He toughed it out and won an award for bravery.
    Not only am I a fan of Jocko for teaching my son how to persevere but I’m also a fan of a young Norbertine for helping drive home the lesson.
    We still pray for him nightly.

  25. Semper Gumby says:

    matt from az: Great comment.

    Nothing against Jocko Willink, but this recalls Allan Sherman’s Camp Grenada song, also known as “Hello Muddah, hello Faddah”:

    Hello Muddah, hello Faddah
    Here I am at Camp Grenada
    Camp is very entertaining
    And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining

    I went hiking with Joe Spivey
    He developed poison ivy
    You remember Leonard Skinner
    He got Ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner

    All the counsellors hate the waiters
    And the lake has alligators
    And the head coach wants no sissies
    So he reads to us from something called Ulysses

    Now I don’t want this should scare ya
    But my bunkmate has Malaria
    You remember Jeffery Hardy
    They’re about to organize a searching party

    Take me home, oh Muddah, Faddah
    Take me home, I hate Grenada
    Don’t leave me out in the forest where
    I might get eaten by a bear

    Take me home, I promise I will
    Not make noise, or mess the house with
    Other boys, oh please don’t make me stay
    I’ve been here one whole day

    Dearest Fadduh, darling Muddah
    How’s my precious little bruddah
    Let me come home if you miss me
    I would even let Aunt Bertha hug and kiss me

    Wait a minute, it’s stopped hailing
    Guys are swimming, guys are sailing
    Playing baseball, gee that’s bettah
    Muddah, Faddah kindly disregard this letter

  26. khouri says:

    Most bishops thought they were doing the “right thing”. They were wrong.
    Stupid expressions like “Eucharistic fast” were used to legitimize the artificial “Eucharistic famine” they imposed. Blind guides, blind fools. A few of the bishops like Bishop Olson in Ft Worth found ways to feed his people the Holy Eucharist. Most touted the poor substitute of “Spiritual Communion” to pacify the faithful. This is fine when there is truly no access to priests but the current situation does not qualify. Once again, the bishops failed, taking the lead from the poor excuse of the pope.

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