Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The September shuffle

If you read my more esteemed colleagues in the world of Vatican watching, you'll know that there is a big shuffle coming in September as far as retirements, new appointments and basically the reorganization of the Curia to suit Benedict XVI's tastes.

I shall not prognosticate, as I have no material with which to do so.

Aside from the filling in the slots with names, the question remains of how Benedict will organize his administration of the Holy See.

If you're familiar with the basic theories of government, there are two primary models that political scientists normally use. The first is the 'wheel' model. The seat of power is in the middle and spokes extend outward to the world at large in direct lines. This model is for those who are interested in hands-on governance.

The second model is the classical pyramid model. The seat of power is at the top and there are various ever-widening layers of bureaucracy between the top and the real world. The best example would perhaps be John Paul II. His entourage were certainly there to limit access and filter the flow of information. In the Holy Father's last years, this was augmented especially by Sodano and the Secretariat of State.

Which of our two models (or some form of them) will Benedict choose? Looking back at the fact he's risen from being the prefect of CDF, it may be useful to look at his administration there. But on the other hand, as it's been noted time and again, being a department head is a bit different from sitting at the head of the table.

Some factors to consider:
1. Benedict is pushing eighty. He seems to be in good enough health, but will he choose a model that will be less time and energy consuming?

2. Benedict is more hands on. As it was noted at WYD by observers, the Holy Father was not inclined to say a few words to those he spoke to, but rather to take a moment and have a brief little conversation. He's very hands on with the people he meets.

3. Trusted advisors are on hand. Benedict XVI has his trusted secretary and several others who we've grown familiar with since April. He trusts them, but will he be willing to allow them to shield him?

4. On the same line as 3.: Will Benedict be able to find enough subordinates to fill all the slots that need filling so that he can rest easy with the fact that he is not being undermined or will he have to keep his friends close and his enemies even closer and keep a firm hand on things?

We'll see how the shuffle turns out when the music stops.

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