Friday, March 12, 2010

The Pope, the Rider and the Elephant

Chip and Dan Heath’s new book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, shows how to speed up change processes by using psychological research on how the brain works. The book is about change. The authors drive many of their conclusions from a basic premise: our minds are driven by two components. One of these is emotional and the other is rational.

The authors relate a great story from the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who talks about a human riding atop an elephant.

The story likens the emotional mind to an elephant and the rational mind to a rider. The force and power of the elephant directs most of our behavior, while the rider represents the rational (analytical, planning) mind sitting passively on top of the elephant thinking he's steering. The elephant has a six-ton advantage in deciding where to go! In order to achieve change, the rider needs to know where to go – and the massive elephant needs to be motivated.

The danger is when, intellectually, we decide change is needed and we set out a rational path to achieve it. Formal, executive power can help smooth the path for the elephant – but executive power alone won’t motivate the elephant. Before using power, it’s important to first align the rider and the elephant. Without motivation the elephant won’t follow the path. To change, people have to believe that they can successfully make the required change. Otherwise, they are not motivated.

I'll continue with this analogy next time. The Heath's book offers lots of good insights about the power of emotional intelligence.  In the case of the Legion of Christ, I suppose I could liken the "formal power" to the Vatican's Apostolic visitation and the recommendations that will ensue. Those recommendations will mandate a path and prepare an environment.

For the Legionaries to go down that path, forsaking Fr. Maciel, we'll need to have rider and elephant aligned. They will have to believe that they can succeed - and for that they will need our support. Judicious support now - not later. That's if we really want to help them change.

Otherwise, lecture them, berate them, condemn them, seek to disband them and anything else we can think of to sap every last ounce of motivation from them so that the elephant never goes down the path chosen by the "formal power."


Anonymous said...

I think these folks would do better if we pushed the elephant off the cliff. Give them an opportunity to discover their own spiritual gifts unencumbered by a corrupt methodology.

Anonymous said...

Monk - a little off topic, but you mentioned on another blog that Fr M did not write much of his letters and you knew that for a fact. You said you wrote some but many other priests wrote for him and he signed.

How coulc you know that back than and not be uncomfortable that him signing those letters was fraud? I was in RC for 8 years and read his Envoy every night for my 2nd meditation (as one of my commitments). I was told countless times that these were his letters and I was supposed to read them, quote them, live them, take them on as a co-founder and share them constantly as a leader. I read them thinking they were coming from the founder of the movement I was called to from all eternity! How can so many priests know for years that they were not his letters and not be disturbed? Amazing how so many consciences were shut down to truth. Just that one issue pains me greatly. I trusted and believed what I was told by other priests as did so many thousands of people.

Can you help me understand that and why everyone thought that was OK? Isn't that forgery on his part with other priests as accomplices?

The more I ponder my time in RC, it was almost like I came with pure intentions and the LC leaders were playing some game with my intentions and did not even realize how wrong that was.

Anonymous said...

Hi Monk - Can you help me with my question above? Thanks.

The Monk said...

Sorry for taking so long to respond.

The letters I "wrote" mostly had to do with disciplinary matters. I recall MM telling me he wanted to gently remind some brother of the error of his ways - he suggested that because I knew the Brother, I might be able help improve the wording for his thoughts. I sometimes wondered if he made these requests of me so that I too might ponder the message! Once I typed a draft, Maciel would read it, edit if necessary and then sign.

That's no different from my experience in the corporate world - especially back in the days when we actually wrote letters. The communications department, general counsel's office and so forth routinely wrote letters for CEOs.I've no problem with that - as long as the intermediaries wrote a letter that reflected the thoughts of the signer accurately.

Another analogy that your question brings to mind are the Gospels - none of them were written by Jesus. The four Evangelists most certainly did not write every word that was passed on. We revere them because we believe they are faithful to the message. Same goes for Papal encyclicals - I think may Popes solicited staff input before sending out the final document.

Especially in the early days, MM personally wrote a lot of his letters - there are enough extant handwritten copies to bear that out. I myself received hand written letters from him. There were more than enough of those for us to accurately recognize his "voice." Other letters and writings more related to "doctrine" were drafted by his trusted assistants - priests who he felt could best express what he wanted to say. Maybe sometimes he asked for Scripture-based support for his ideas. To the best of my knowledge, he carefully read and edited everything he signed. Remember he was a control freak!

So, I never found anything in his letters that was unorthodox or in disagreement with the tradition and teachings of the Church. I, like you meditated on them and pondered their content for many years. There is no doubt that his writings helped many people. I guess even the famous "salterio," that was later found to have been plagiarized by him,would have remained largely unknown and undiscovered were it not for MM.

Those same LC leaders you mention came to the LC with the same pure intentions that you and I did. No one that I know of,thought there was any question of forgery or fraud in MM's writings. Maybe some naive people thought that he wrote everything word for word... but that was not my experience.

The dilemma is we now know the sordid more intimate details of how MM's life evolved. However, for me, I can separate the man's sins from the orthodox Catholic teaching he preached. I don't assume, every time I hear a preacher that he/she necessarily practices what he/she preaches. I've learned to 'do as they say" in terms of Church teachings rather than "do as they do." In sum - with regards to your reading of the letters, you were not betrayed in my humble opinion. And you can hold on to the solid doctrine and love of Christ that God may have inspired you through them. How many times as parents do we give our kids good advice - advice that we might not necessarily have followed in our lives? It's still good advice.

Hope this answers your question?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the answer and taking the time to give your thoughts, but I guess I am that naive person and have a different reaction.

I was told by many LC priests and RC leaders that the Envoys and Time and Eternity and all those letters that I bought many copies of and read seriously were the writings, heart, charism of Maciel the founder. I was a co-founder and read them with that in mind - not thinking that he just had other people write them. I have a huge problem with that. If we are not faithful in the little things of truth - how quickly the lies grow and look what they have done now. They have grown so great that the LC hierarchy's conscience is not even bothered when they continued to tell us Fr M was in heaven and a saint and they knew he had at least one mistress and fathered at least one child (when he was 67 and she was 27).

I have no need to read the writings of a fraud and if anything in them helped me - it was only the grace of God. As I look back now - it actually did more damage to my soul lurring me into RC and laying a huge guilt trip on me as I made my decision to leave "my vocation from all eternity" last summer. (see the quotes from Envoy on one of Pete Vere's blog..they appear to be blasphemous to the Church to me but I did not see that when I read them before).

I agree with you trying to look at the good of this situation and I want to do that myself...but it seems like you are making excuses for priests not telling the truth and for Maciel really not writing the letters that everyone claims he wrote.

In the Getting Started Regnum Christi guide that came out last year (2009) and we started to use before the scandal, the Director of that program in her concluding letter wrote..."Keep on reading - prayerfully - the letters of our Founder. If you have already found some favorites, keep going back to them. They express and explain the charism God is calling you to live out; they will continue enriching you, so that you (thruogh your prayer, your virtue and your apostolic action) can continue enriching the Church."

I did not know that I "incorporated" into some business machine that has other people write letters for the "CEO" while he is off living his double life. This whole past year has been like watching a business scramble to save itself because the CEO had another agenda with the business and trained those under to protect him. Reminds me of Enron and not a religious congregation. Any help his letters might have given me over the years is completely negated with his scandalous life. It is like still believing you benefited from love letters your husband wrote you while he was living a double life and having an affair for years - not authentic so no good.

Thanks though for your thorough and kind explanation..just wanted to share where I am at. I am grateful for the good that God gave me but just want to live in freedom, love and truth.