Hockey Canada, the Ottawa Police Service and the Catholic Church



What do Hockey Canada, the Ottawa Police Service and the Catholic Church have in common? These three entities have been in the news lately due to issues related to a problematic internal culture, leadership and governance structures, and a reluctance to change.

In the last week of October, we learned that Hockey Canada’s CEO and entire Board of Directors were finally stepping down after months of pressure from MPs, corporate sponsors and its own members. . A few days earlier, there had been a report on CBC National News that Hockey Canada executives were not heeding calls for their resignation and a complete overhaul of the sport’s management. Gretchen Kerr, a sports expert from the University of Toronto, noted that the organization is made up of players who grew up in a sports culture that tolerates sexual harassment and misogyny and who have become coaches, referees and organizational leaders. And this very insular nature of hockey encourages the organization to become a bit of an echo chamber. It is self-regulating and autonomous with very little external responsibility.

Then, in late October, there was testimony from former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly at the Emergencies Act inquiry. Mr. Sloly’s opinions and views on the organizational deficits of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) are well-founded based on his undergraduate degree in sociology and a master’s degree in business administration. In addition, he has extensive practical experience and training in policing and public order, as well as two tours of duty with a United Nations peacekeeping mission. He says that when he was recruited, the Police Services Board made it very clear to him that the OPS needed significant change: operationally, administratively and in its human resources processes, the usual types of change processes including large organizations need for a regular basis. From his own professional preparation, experience and background, he knew the challenges facing any major cultural change, especially in a large organization more than a century old with longstanding structural deficits. He knew that these types of changes require staff and leadership development, that these are things you need to build and grow. There’s no major light switch to make them happen.

A previous article in The stream, Welcome to Synodality, describes how a global “wide movement of consultation” is taking place in the Catholic Church. It has been described as one of the most important reforms in the history of the Catholic Church. All the dioceses of the world were invited to participate, to encourage collective and individual participation by listening to each other and walking together to discern the future paths necessary to participate in the mission of the Church; how to follow the way of Christ. Participants were encouraged to submit responses and in mid-June these were summarized in a diocesan summary document. Click HERE to read the report from the Diocese of Pembroke. Each Canadian diocese was invited to submit its summary document, or synthesis, to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). On August 15, the CCCB submitted its National Synthesis to the Holy See. Click HERE to read the CCCB submission.

When you read the reports, there is a real sense of gratitude, that people cared deeply about their faith and the Church, and that the hierarchy was seeking feedback. Participants appreciated that there was a listening ear, they were encouraged to speak frankly and openly about their concerns and were invited to discuss future paths for the Church. And respondents were direct and honest about issues that needed to be addressed, such as openness concerns; governance structures; strict, inflexible and intransigent doctrine; the role of the laity, especially women; issues around the LGBTQ community, etc. Suffice it to say that a short article like this is not able to adequately summarize the positive views or concerns expressed in the 14-page reports, but one is encouraged to read the longer reports to get a broader view of what participants across the country are thinking. must be done for the Church.

However, there was no sense of panic or urgency to do something now about the current situation. The pews are emptying, young people are not getting involved, financial support is dwindling, the clergy is aging and withdrawing much faster than the seminaries manage to replenish the ranks. Like Hockey Canada, it’s as if the leaders were unaware of the need for change and ignored it. And Peter Sloly is right; these are the types of challenges that a large organization faces when a major cultural shift is needed. There is no quick fix, no switch to get there.

But wait! Just when things looked daunting, that not much would happen, on October 27, Pope Francis announced an extension of the synodal process, the continental stage. The new document is titled “Expand Your Tent Space”. It calls for a Church capable of radical inclusion and encourages deeper discussion of the issues raised in many reports from around the world; some issues that just a few years ago were considered anathema and heretical, questions about the role and inclusion of women, young people, the poor, people who identify as LGBTQ, divorced people and people civilly remarried. The report notes the various challenges facing the Church around the world, challenges such as increased secularization, forced conversions, religious persecution, lack of facilities for people with disabilities, as well as clericalism.

Unlike Hockey Canada, the Curia, this bureaucracy of cardinals which is a management level between the pope and the bishops, did not resign en masse. The document gives the impression that the bishops are finally listening and that there is hope for greater inclusion in the Church. It is good that organizational problems are not diagnosed as an easy fix, someone to blame, or some other simple explanation provided such as modernity or secularization. Look for larger systemic issues. Like the Ottawa Police Services, change will take time to build and grow, time for leadership and membership development. Pope Francis notes that the “The purpose of the Synod was not to produce documents but to sow dreams, to bring forth prophecies and visions, to allow hope to flourish, to inspire confidence, to heal wounds, to build relationships, inspire hope, learn from each other and create a brilliant ingenuity that will enlighten minds and warm hearts.

We hope this next step will inspire more people to read some of the reports and share the dreams and visions of people around the world.

About the Author: John Madigan grew up on a farm along the Madawaska River and spent forty years in Ontario’s education system as a teacher, principal and school board administrator. He says that, like so many others around the world, new conditions and discoveries force him to reevaluate his religious traditions and that he is more comfortable pondering the questions than obsessing over the right answers. .

Above: St. Francis de Sales Mission Church at Latchford Bridge (image provided)


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