Chapter 7: Questions, Science,
Bishops Teaching Children
A Practical Method
By Which Roman Catholic Bishops
Can Personally Direct
The Religious Education
Of the Children of Their Dioceses
Cambridge, Massachusetts USA
Written in the Year of the Great Jubilee
Let the market rule.
Ideally, there should be bishops' Questions, a good Scientific umpire, and money. Everything else (within ordinary morality) should be disciplined solely by a Competitive free market.
The Bishops Teaching Children method does focus that Competitive market. Markets are only ways to bring buyers together with sellers. Markets do not care what is 'wanted.' They do not care if various vague or even contradictory 'wants' are given symbolic expression in purchases. They do not care if buyers employ vague, contradictory, or even downright foolish methods of evaluating the worth of what sellers are selling.
Thus the Bishops Teaching Children method, not the market, specifies what is 'wanted': increased ability of 'all' to answer bishops' Questions. It, not the market, specifies the test and the Science by which Competitors are judged. However, within that context, the principle always applies: Let the market rule.
Thus, a chapter focused on Competition within the Bishops Teaching Children method can not describe any Competition in detail. A free market will rule. By definition, the activity of a free market is not predictable.
What can be done here is to outline some of the distinctive features of the Bishops Teaching Children method from a business perspective. In particular, the principles by which the Bishops Teaching Children method operates dictate a specific relationship between buyers and sellers.
Undoubtedly a local church and a local ordinary will appeal to and rely on business-savvy Catholics to help set up and run the business and fiscal components of an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method. After all, in a way, the Bishops Teaching Children method is all about money. Businessmen may be among those who most appreciate the peculiar combination of crudity and subtlety, selfishness and generosity, that is the Bishops Teaching Children method.
Those businessmen will automatically understand that the Bishops Teaching Children method is not only naturally but also robustly built to do business. That is, its success does not hinge on the invention of some amazing new accounting system or business practice. Once running, an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method will probably chug along quite happily using any of a number of 'off the shelf' business and fiscal systems familiar to business owners, financial officers, corporate attorneys, etc.
Nonetheless, the local ordinary, with the local church, and the business people he asks to help, need to thoroughly understand the business ofthe Bishops Teaching Children method itself. That is, they need to have, burned into their brains, what the Bishops Teaching Children method defines as the business of buyers, and the business of sellers. For an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method to work, both the buyer, and sellers, must each know their own 'business,' and also absolutely must stay out of each other's 'business.'
The bulk of this chapter is devoted to giving examples of how this works itself out in practice. A local church, its local ordinary, and any business and fiscal helpers it needs, should have far fewer problems building and maintaining an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, if the following examples and ideas are deeply understood.
Markets are composed of buyers and sellers. One of the most distinctive features of the Bishops Teaching Children method from a business perspective is its utter lack of focus on sellers. Constitutionally,the Bishops Teaching Children method never has any opinions about what sellers should look like, or what they should do. Literally, what sellers should look like and do is their business.
To the contrary, the current system of religious education is heavily focused on what sellers should look like and what they should do.
The 'professionalization' of religious education, defined as making sure that sellers possess certain kinds of training and certain kinds of credentials, proceeds apace. The Sacred Pastors may at times even congratulate themselves that this focus on what sellers look like and what they do (and a similar willingness to use a diocese's funds to preferentially fund institutions which develop that kind of seller) is a sign of great progress, an indication that bishops are conscious of how important and serious religious education is.
Nonetheless, while the Bishops Teaching Children method absolutely agrees that spending money is indeed an important and serious thing, it does not agree that spending important and serious money automatically makes what the money purchases important and serious. Any focus on sellers is entirely misguided, from the Bishops Teaching Children method's point of view.
First of all, as the Bishops Teaching Children method emphasizes, by his sacramental ordination the local ordinary takes "the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest," [Lumen Gentium 21] and the local church as a whole, and all its members, explicitly under the local ordinary as chief teacher, is also teacher, a mission that flows directly from the local church's sacramental character as a direct embodiment of "the holy society by which we belong to God."
As was shown, especially in Endnote 1, Chapter 2, the current system of religious education at least in practice simply ignores this. The authentic grandeur and glory of religious education, in which 'all' are taught 'as much as possible' in and through the very body of the entire local church, and all its members, with its local ordinary, successor of the apostles, explicitly and directly its chief teacher, is just words to the present system.
Instead, the current system seeks grandeur and glory in unrealistic places, first and foremost by romanticizing its task. Unlike the Bishops Teaching Children method, the present system of religious education is not as humble as dirt. To the contrary, one might say that the present system systematically confuses the missions of catechesis and moral development with religious education.
However, this confusion severely misrepresents, if it does not actively deny, the actual situation. The Church's union with her Lord is in and through the sacraments. The Eucharist makes the Church. Further, moral development is largely a mediative task of all adults and all institutions, since by and large, morality is caught, not taught. The body, the intellect, and the will are engaged and formed morally largely in normal social interactions, not especially above all in a 'religion' class.
Thus the current system of religious education inaccurately and romantically glorifies both the task, and those who perform the task. The reality that the goal of religious education is merely intellectual knowledge of the faith (which the devil himself possesses in abundance) is a scandal to it. The present system prefers not to hear the painful truth, that religious education is humble as dirt, that its task is merely to teach 'all' what even the devil already knows, and that it can not bring to anyone either the spiritual sustenance and formation that is the direct action of the Lord himself in and through the sacraments, or the moral formation that is largely unavailable except mediatively, and is the common project of all of mankind and man's institutions.
Further, the Bishops Teaching Children method points out that bishops alone are sacramentally competent and have the apostolic authority to 'hand on' the faith of the universal Catholic Church, and devises a method by which the Sacred Pastors can do just that, directly and accountably.
The Bishops Teaching Children method also points out that bishops have no sacramental competence whatever regarding how religious education ought to be conducted. Any focus on sellers by bishops automatically relies on a priori theories, about the technical details of schooling and a whole host of other practical matters, which have no sacramental basis, and thus manufactures out of thin air competencies a bishop simply does not have. One bishop's theories, one hundred bishops' theories, an entire national conference of bishops' theories, about how religious education ought to be conducted, are combined not worth even one tested, practical minute of religious education.
The current system of religious education focuses its attention on encouraging the formation and the employment of a particular kind of seller. However, as has been shown in these chapters, any focus on what sellers look like or should do appears to be misguided from a theological standpoint, and in the practical realm has made it extremely difficult to hold adults accountable by making them directly responsible for the outcomes of religious education.
Within any implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, no seller is 'pre-approved.' Credentials are meaningless. Money flows or ceases to flow toward a seller based solely on measured outcomes.
Simply reversing everything that the Bishops Teaching Children method thinks about sellers rather well describes the current system of religious education. Sellers are pre-approved. Credentials are everything. Money flows or ceases to flow toward a seller with little regard for measurable outcomes.
Also of course, the Bishops Teaching Children method creates a market for 'religious education,' but that is actually not very noteworthy or significant. What is noteworthy and significant is the kind of market it creates, through its unrelenting focus on turning the local church and the local ordinary into a different kind of buyer of religious education.
The creation of a new kind of buyer of religious education is the essence of the Bishops Teaching Children method's Competitive innovation. When a local ordinary with his diocese uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, together they become an extremely focused, well-informed, and self-disciplined buyer. By using the Bishops Teaching Children method, the local ordinary with his diocese becomes a buyer that knows exactly what it wants, exactly how close it is to getting it, and that insists on allowing money to flow only to those Competitors who do a better and better job of helping it get exactly what it wants.
The Bishops Teaching Children method does create an entirely different kind of buyer of religious education. However, it is not correct to say that it 'creates' a market in religious education. After all, in the United States today, there already is a substantial market in religious education.
Today, professors of religious education exist at most if not all American Catholic colleges and universities. They are getting paid. Salaries range from perhaps $40,000 to $60,000 yearly. (According to the Census Bureau, the median income in the United States in 1999 was $38,900. That is, fifty percent of Americans made more than that, fifty percent, less.)
Today, nearly all dioceses and many parishes have Directors of Religious Education or other "professional catechetical personnel." For example, the archdiocese of Boston (with 372 parishes) recently reported that 416 "professional catechetical personnel" are in the archdiocese's parishes, up from 193 in 1984. 1* They are getting paid. Nationwide, salaries for "professional catechetical personnel" range from perhaps $20,000 to $40,000 yearly.
Today, religious education publishers distribute books and other materials to parishes and homes across the country. Rest assured, they are getting paid to do that.
Substantial sums of money are already flowing based on decisions about religious education. Professorships of religious education are funded or not, "professional catechetical personnel" are hired or not, particular religious education texts are purchased or not. A market in religious education already has been created, and in fact, it is substantial.
So, what the Bishops Teaching Children method actually 'creates' is not a market for religious education, but a new kind of extremely focused, well-informed, and self-disciplined buyer of religious education.
That new buyer is interested in only one thing: making the money flow solely to Competitors who are better than other current Competitors at giving 'all' the children of the diocese the knowledge they need to be able to answer bishops' Questions.
That new buyer, then, is not interested in preserving the employment either of professors of religious education or of "professional catechetical personnel," nor is it interested in preserving the businesses of existing religious education publishers. Indeed, beyond the requirements of ordinary morality, which must apply to relations with every person or business entity,the Bishops Teaching Children method is inherently, constitutionally, not interested in - not even curious about - sellers. Beyond ordinary morality, sellers are whatever they are, they do whatever they do, and they live, or they die, and the new buyer created by the Bishops Teaching Children method remains at all times completely uninterested in their make-ups, their theories, their methods, and their fates.
That new buyer is not even interested in the evident fact that the Sacred Pastors themselves approved, supported, encouraged, and even designed the current system of religious education, in which large sums of money are spent on both persons and materials, based never on what children actually learn about their faith, but solely on 'credentials,' 'experience,' and on other even more vague and even less relevant criteria.
The new buyer created by the Bishops Teaching Children method is interested in only one thing: what have the children actually learned about their faith, and which Competitors are responsible?
Let the market rule.
The following three scenarios are in the vein of 'case studies,' all three of which underscore the importance of the principle that the Bishops Teaching Children method works by forming the local ordinary with his diocese into a highly focused, well-informed, and self-disciplined buyer. If the local church with its ordinary understands its own 'business' well, and if it sticks to that 'business' - if it stays focused and self-disciplined - it will have the means to decide complex and difficult questions, while ensuring that 'all' the children of the diocese learn 'as much as possible' about their faith.
Within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, there is in the end only one buyer - the local ordinary as chief teacher of the local church as a whole - and only subsidiarily can there be other buyers, such as parishes or families. As will be shown in the third scenario below, by the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, the bishop of the local church is the ultimate but not the primary buyer. Nonetheless, the local ordinary, acting by apostolic authority for and in the name of the whole local church, is the ultimate buyer.
The 'business' of that buyer is to care about bringing 'all' the children of the diocese to adult minimal competence in the Catechism, by allowing money to flow only to the better Competitors. That is his business, he must stick to it and to it alone, and he should stay entirely out of Competitors' business, or the children automatically suffer. To see why, examine the following poignant (and certainly, realistic) scenario.
It is obvious that $20,000 to $40,000 spent yearly on a parish "catechetical professional" is money that can not be spent on anything else, including religious education materials, curriculums, and methods.
More fundamentally, it is money that can not be spent on Competitive rivals, with other, and possibly better, ideas about how the same amount of money should be allocated to teach children about their faith.
No doubt, Sister Jane, Brother John, Mrs. Doe, or Mr. Smith, who spent several years and much money getting a degree, a certificate, or both, in order to become a "catechetical professional," did so in good faith and in order to help children. No doubt their salaries are not immense compared to other professions. No doubt the Sacred Pastors in the United States themselves have allowed and encouraged this kind of burgeoning 'professionalization,' which is not tied to actual outcomes, to what Catholic children actually learn about their faith.
No doubt the Sacred Pastors erred in imagining that their episcopal authority gave them some sort of special competence in judging how the faith should be taught to 'all' the children, to the extent that they have even 'canonized' certain kinds of religious education structures, theories, methods, and standards, as established and enforced by certain kinds of 'experts' with certain kinds of credentials.
No doubt they also erred in imagining that making themselves directly accountable and responsible for 'handing on' the faith of the universal Catholic Church to 'all' the children of the diocese was either practically impossible or (even more ironic) 'pastorally inappropriate.'
No doubt, none of this was the fault of the "catechetical professionals" Sister Jane, Brother John, Mrs. Doe, or Mr. Smith.
A considerable number of good, hard-working, earnest Catholic people are even now employed as "professional catechetical personnel" in dioceses throughout the country. And yet it should never be forgotten: the Bishops Teaching Children method is consummately crude, and the entire purpose of that crudity is to protect the children, not adults.
Within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, every adult who makes money to provide religious education is, pure and simple, an entrepreneur, a Competitor, with all the rights any Competitor enjoys, but no more than those. There are no 'privileged' Competitors who are evaluated by special standards not applicable to rivals.
If a local church and its local ordinary use the Bishops Teaching Children method, then all the local church's monies devoted to the religious education of children should flow solely to those Competitors who are demonstrably better at bringing children to adult minimal competence in the Catechism.
None of that money should flow to certain pre-existing 'privileged' Competitors, with 'credentials' or not, with 'experience' or not, simply so that they can continue to keep their jobs.
If monies continue to flow to Competitors who, for whatever reason, are substantially inferior to rivals, then the children of the diocese automatically suffer. Allowing this to happen inevitably amounts to protecting the livelihoods of adults, at the expense of children.
All adults within any implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children approach deserve the protections of justice and ordinary morality: the protections of contracts and agreements.
However, according to the Bishops Teaching Children approach, all the children of the local church deserve the fierce, overwhelming protection that mothers give their own children. The Bishops Teaching Children method exists to protect, with a mother's overwhelming ferocity, all the children of the local church from ignorance, by subjecting all responsible adults to the fierce discipline of the market.
Because the Bishops Teaching Children method so carefully establishes a 'buyer' who is focused resolutely on protecting 'all' the children of the diocese from ignorance of their faith, then, when a diocese with its local ordinary uses it, nothing can protect those children better, with more of a mother's ferocious care, than this simple statement: Let the market rule.
Sister Jane, Brother John, Mrs. Doe, and Mr. Smith are adults. They deserve the protections of justice and ordinary morality: the protections of contracts and agreements.
Yet 'all' the children of the diocese deserve a mother's ferocious protection from ignorance.
Accordingly, in each yearly Report, Sister Jane, Brother John, Mrs. Doe, and Mr. Smith will all be listed as Competitors, alongside textbooks and methods published by religious education publishers. A parish employing a "catechetical professional" will thus be seen to be employing an additional 'method' to improve children's knowledge of their faith (the professional catechist), alongside whatever books, materials, and methods from religious education publishers (or any other source) that it also has purchased and used.
Although sufficient precision is not always possible when a Competitor is used in only one parish, there are conceivable circumstances in which Science can reasonably compare how well children answered bishops' Questions in the parish employing Sister Jane (for example), to the answers children gave in the parish that employed Brother John - or to the examination scores of children in a parish which employed no "catechetical professional" at all. Even if fine discriminations prove Scientifically impractical, it will certainly be possible to tell how much a parish might expect children's scores to change (up or down) on average, if a parish hires a typical "catechetical professional," or if it spends the same amount of money on something else.
The organizational or administrative skills of these "professional catechetical personnel" also have no a priori value to the bishop and the local church. Obviously, religious education has to be organized and administered, but how this can be done in a way that maximizes the amount children learn, and minimizes the amount it costs, is a question that the Bishops Teaching Children method states is a matter for Competitors and the market to decide.
Let the market rule.
When a local church under its ordinary uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, he and it commit themselves to the 'creative destruction' engendered by a competitive free market. Within such a market, businesses will fail. People - very possibly, nice people - will lose their jobs. Other businesses will succeed, and other people will gain jobs. All these, however, are risks and rewards borne by adults.
From the perspective of the chief teacher of the local church, what is the purpose of this ferocious competition? To protect the children ferociously.
It is of course conceivable that an ordinary with his diocese will decide that part of his mission regarding religious education is to protect the children of the diocese from ignorance, and that the other part is to protect the livelihoods of certain adults; for instance, the livelihoods of certain, very probably dedicated and well-liked, "catechetical professionals."
Put one foot on a ladder.
Keep the other foot solidly planted on the floor.
See how much higher you can reach.
Think about how, if monies continue to flow to Competitors who, for whatever reason, are substantially inferior to rivals, then the children of the diocese automatically suffer.
Think about how allowing this to happen inevitably amounts to protecting the livelihoods of adults, at the expense of children.
Let the market rule.
Here is an example of the importance of the chief teacher of the local church sticking to his own 'business,' and not trying to do what is beyond both his sacramental and his practical competence.
When a local church uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, as teacher of 'all,' with its ordinary as chief teacher, he and it are concerned both with excellence (bringing children to adult minimum competence in the Catechism) and with equity ('all' children of the diocese deserve that knowledge, wherever in the diocese they receive the sacraments).
When a diocese uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, the local church wants all its children protected from ignorance. It can not abide the idea that even one child in the diocese would fail to learn about his faith, because of where he happens to receive the sacraments.
In any given diocese, there may be great disparities in how much money individual parishes have available for religious education. Also, as noted in Chapter 6, while French pre-schools sizably narrow, even entirely eliminate, the general academic gap between racially and ethnically diverse low-income children and others, American schooling for the most part does not.
In the United States, then, racially and ethnically diverse low-income Catholic children may have massive disadvantages in their quest to attain adult minimal competence in the Catechism. Their parishes may have less money to spend on their religious education, and their general academic preparation may - not by their fault - be inferior to Catholic children from more privileged backgrounds.
It can not be said often enough: the Bishops Teaching Children method is completely and perennially incurious about how to solve such a problem. To repeat what needs to be repeated forever, until it is truly understood, determining how to solve such a problem is - literally - none of the bishop's business, and - literally - is the business of Competitors.
Thus, even though he is the chief teacher of his diocese, the local ordinary has absolutely no theories about how to allocate resources to solve this problem. It is forever beyond both a bishop's practical competence, and especially, it is forever beyond his sacramental competence, to 'know' how such a problem can be ameliorated or solved.
Thus, for example, a bishop must not (for example) take some of one parish's religious education money and give it to another, unless a Competitor has proved that that works best.
A bishop using the Bishops Teaching Children method can allocate funds for religious education in whatever way best allows him to teach 'all' the children 'as much as possible' about the faith. The local ordinary as chief teacher, and the local church as a whole under him, alone possesses the sacramental competence to teach 'all.' Individual parishes and families have no such competence. The ultimate 'buyer' of religious education in a diocese is the local ordinary as chief teacher, and the local church and all its members under him.
That scarcely means that all money for religious education should be raised and allocated at the highest possible level. To the contrary, the principles founding the Bishops Teaching Children method are wholly in accord with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. Funds for religious education should be both collected and allocated at the lowest possible level. Nonetheless, the bishop as chief teacher and the local church as a whole under him are the teacher of 'all,' and are thus ultimately responsible. A local ordinary as teacher of 'all' has the right to re-allocate monies raised for religious education in order to better teach 'all.'
On the other hand, that same ordinary has absolutely no business allocating or re-allocating even a nickel of religious education monies based on the diocese's, the local ordinary's, some church bureaucracy's, or anyone's, theories about what works best.
It is not the business of the local ordinary or the local church even to have theories about what works, let alone implement them. The ordinary's competence, both sacramental and practical, is expressed in knowing what he wants, and in rigorously allowing the diocese's money to flow only toward Competitors who better give him what he wants.
It could be that disadvantaged children require less funds than privileged ones, or substantially more funds, or no more funds, but simply a different kind of schooling. It is not the business of the local church or the local ordinary even to be curious about questions like these, let alone to be the creator of the 'right answer.'
A problem like this one is a model prospect for the kind of sub-Competition briefly discussed in Chapter 6. If a diocese had sufficient funds and wished to, it could try a sub-Competition to help it determine how best to solve or at least ameliorate the problem.
The one thing the local ordinary must not do is to try to 'solve' the problem himself. That is none of his business. His business is not to solve problems, but to define them crisply, evaluate Competitive responses sharply, and resolutely let the money flow to Competitors demonstrably better at solving them.
In a way, the 'business' of the local ordinary, and the whole local church under him, within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, is to be very, very smart about what he wants, very, very smart about knowing whether he has what he wants, and very, very dumb - to the point of being completely uninterested - about how to get what he wants.
Let the market rule.
This case is an example in which sellers are required to mind their own 'business,' and not intrude on the 'business' of the 'buyer,' the local ordinary, and the whole local church under him.
Suppose the following situation. Some years after a diocese first usesthe Bishops Teaching Children method, two Competitors are 'survivors.' They have established long term efficacy, but let us further suppose that both 'survivors' are of substantially similar quality. In addition, four other Competitors have established that, short term, they are 'safe;' that is, they are at least as good as the 'survivors,' and not substantially worse than the other short term rivals.
As the disciplined and ultimate 'buyer,' the local ordinary and the local church under him wants money to flow to Competitors solely on the basis of long term efficacy; that is, on ability to help children attain adult minimal competence in the Catechism, as measured by the yearly Reports.
However, what the yearly Report currently shows is complicated. First, it shows that two Competitors have both established long term efficacy, at about the same level of quality.
However, as was discussed in Chapter 6, the long term efficacy of the four other 'safe' Competitors can not be known with any certainty. Although they look fine in the short term - indeed, one or more of them may eventually prove to be much superior to the two current 'survivors' - their actual long term efficacy is unknown. Obviously, long term efficacy can only be established over the long term, and none of these Competitors has been around long enough to establish it.
All the Competitors, of course, want as much money as possible. If possible, they want all of it, and they want it right away. This is the nature of Competitors, who have to be focused on profit, and short term profit, at that.
It is in the interests of Competitors to seek a competitive advantage other than and in addition to the one defined by the goal set by the local church.
This sometimes, but not always, means that Competitors are seeking to 'help' the local ordinary define what he wants, and how he should evaluate whether he has gotten what he wants. Competitors naturally are tempted to intrude into what is none of their business, 'business' that, within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, is the 'business' of the local ordinary alone, and the whole local church under him. It would of course be convenient to a seller, if the seller were able to define what the buyer wanted.
To some business people, a 'free' market must be that kind of market - one in which sellers are 'free' to try to shape buyers into the kind that are most convenient for sellers.
However, just as the children of the diocese inevitably suffer if the local ordinary or a member of the local church tries to meddle in what is the proper 'business' of Competitors, the children also suffer if Competitors try to meddle in what is the proper 'business' of the local ordinary. The Bishops Teaching Children method works (and helps the children of a diocese learn) because it forms the local ordinary and the whole local church under him into a new kind of buyer for religious education, one that is highly focused, well-informed, and tough as nails.
Being that kind of buyer is the 'business' proper to the local ordinary and the local church under him, and that 'business' is - again literally - none of any Competitor's business. The market still rules - but in response to a tough and disciplined buyer.
On the other hand, the local ordinary and the local church under him does not necessarily care if Competitors seek competitive advantages other than or in addition to the one defined by the goal set by the local church.
Here is how all this works out in the scenario being discussed.
The local ordinary and the local church under him is focused solely on long term efficacy, while cognizant of short term safety. In Competitor's eyes, this is merely expressing a 'preference.' To Competitors, any buyer preference will do, so long as they can satisfy it. On the other hand, if the local church resolutely sticks to its 'preference,' Competitors have no choice but to satisfy it.
Within any reasonably free market, there is no fancy or idealistic definition of rationality. Markets do not, and should not, operate according to some set of 'logical' rules imposed from the outside. That inevitably impedes rather than enhances the rationality of a market. The 'rationality' of any competitive free market is, simply, the summation of the individual preferences of the buyers in the market, as expressed by what they buy. The Bishops Teaching Children method does not deny this.
However, the Bishops Teaching Children method does assert that the sole ultimate 'buyer' of religious education in a diocese is the local ordinary as chief teacher, and the whole local church under him, with 'buying' by parishes and families done only when that is consistent with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. The local ordinary, and the local church under him, alone is sacramentally competent to teach 'all.' Taking that seriously, and thus creating a new buyer of religious education, is one of the principal tasks of the Bishops Teaching Children method.
As a result, the rationality of parishes and families can and should have expression as 'buyers' of religious education, but only so far as the rationality of parishes and families is not allowed to trump the rationality of the local ordinary and the local church under him. In other words, the 'market rationality' of the local ordinary and the local church under him is not merely the summation of the individual rational preferences of parishes and families.
The scenario being discussed here outlines a situation typical in an actual market. A buyer has some information, but not all the information he would like. In this case, the local ordinary knows that any Competitors that are substantially inferior to current rivals (the definition of 'unsafe') have already been excluded from further Competition by the Scientist's yearly Report, leaving some 'safe' Competitors. How should he proceed?
First of all - and this needs to be stressed - the local ordinary needs to thoroughly understand what he actually knows, and he needs to operate within the limits of what he actually knows. His determination to do this will make him a much better buyer, and that will always serve the children's interests.
In this case, the ordinary knows about two 'survivors' (Competitors with proven long term efficacy) of essentially similar quality. Let's suppose that both Survivor A and Survivor B bring about 30% of eighth-graders, and about 50% of twelfth-graders, to adult minimal competence in the Catechism.
(Before we start throwing stones at these Survivors for having such low 'graduation rates,' we ought to remember that, in the current climate, the actual figures might well be 3% for eighth-graders, and 5% for twelfth-graders.)
These are the only two Competitors who have established long-term efficacy. Since this is the one thing the local church really cares about, it definitely wants to spend at least some of its money on the two 'survivors.'
However, as long as at least one of the 'survivors' was left standing, the local church could care less if the other went out of business. Why should it? With either Survivor, it gets about the same outcome.
Does the savvy consumer detect here the possibility of a tiny bit of competition on price arising as a result?
At the same time, the ordinary knows of four Competitors that certainly seem to be fine, compared both to the 'survivors' and to each other, but none of them have established long term efficacy. One or more of these Competitors may eventually emerge as vastly superior to either of the two 'survivors' in terms of long term efficacy, but it's just too early to tell if that will happen.
The following three things can happen to these Competitors.
Why in the world should the local ordinary and the local church under him want to reduce the odds that the schooling of 'all' the children of the diocese will improve, or the odds that competition on price will become more vigorous?
The hand dealt the local ordinary in this scenario is therefore complicated. The general outline of the solution is straightforward, so long as the local ordinary, with the whole local church under him, understands himself as the ultimate 'buyer' of religious education, within the principle of subsidiarity as expressed in the buying preferences of parishes and families.
It is not the business of sellers, after all, to accuse a buyer of trying to 'manipulate' a 'free' market, when all a buyer is doing is expressing his 'preferences' by means of his purchases.
Therefore, if the local ordinary, with the whole local church under him, as the ultimate 'buyer' within the principle of subsidiarity, buys in a manner which increases, rather than reduces, the odds that the schooling of 'all' the children of the diocese will improve and that competition on price will become more vigorous, that is the local ordinary's 'business.' Indeed, buying in that fashion is doing no more than being good at the 'business' proper to the apostolic office of the ordinary. When the local ordinary makes his purchases of religious education for those reasons, he is simply being an intelligent, well-informed, self-disciplined consumer.
Of course, if the local ordinary does not understand himself as the ultimate buyer of religious education within the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, but rather understands 'market rationality' merely as the summation of the individual rational preferences of individual parishes and families, then of course he will also see the expression of any 'preference' beyond the individual preferences of parishes and families as an 'intrusion' into a 'free' market.
The actual present situation, obviously, depicts the opposite pole of the same danger. The diocese as a whole, and the local ordinary as chief teacher, 'intrudes' in the market by (in effect) restraining trade, by dictating, or at least strongly advocating for, what a 'proper' seller should a priori look like. Even more perverse, after eliminating even the possibility of a competitive free market in religious education by restraining trade, by controlling sellers, local ordinaries apparently actually consider that to be an effective discharge of their responsibilities as chief teachers of their dioceses, and take no direct note of, nor any direct responsibility for, the actual outcomes of religious education.
All this being said, what is the hand the ordinary has been dealt in this scenario?
First, he has a known baseline competence that he wants to purchase some amount of. This is the competence the diocese gets (equally well) from the two current 'survivors.'
However, he also has intriguing but incomplete information about four other Competitors. Thus, he also wants to 'bet' some of his money (purchase some chance) a) that the schooling of 'all' the children of the diocese will improve even further, and b) that competition on price will become even more vigorous.
Finally, according to the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, buying preferences like these must be expressed at the most local level competent to do the job. It is not unCatholic for the local ordinary to know himself, with the local church under him, as the one authentic teacher of 'all,' and therefore with due courtesy to insist that the 'market rationality' proper to religious education is not completely expressed by the mere summation of the buying preferences of individual parishes and families.
However, it would quite literally be unCatholic for an ordinary to take all the monies individual parishes and families had for religious education, buy a bunch of religious education textbooks, distribute them, and make the parishes and families teach whatever they were handed, simply because an ordinary could do that.
As the Holy Father has said more than once regarding married couples (in these or similar words), "They are asked to become one, not to become each other." This same covenantal principle is also expressed in the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, and naked impositions of episcopal power in the interest of making parishes or families become, not one, but 'each other,' offend that principle.
In practical terms, the ordinary wants to buy at least some known baseline competence. He wants to keep the known baseline competence 'alive.' After all, as far as he knows, all of the short term 'safe' Competitors may eventually falter, and 'die' a natural death. An ordinary definitely wants to bet some of his diocese's money on the sure thing.
However, the ordinary does not care about the 'survivors' per se. He only cares if at least one of the 'survivors' remains in business, until definitely defeated in a fair fight by some other 'survivor.'
On the other hand, the ordinary does care about preserving the 'lives' of all of the currently 'safe' short term Competitors. That increases the chances that the schooling of 'all' the children of the diocese will improve even further, and that competition on price will become even more vigorous.
So, the ordinary also wants to bet at least enough of his diocese's money to keep all of the short term 'safe' Competitors at least minimally 'alive,' so that he can continue to collect more information about them.
One practical way to work this out is to poll all the parishes about their preferences.
The buying rationality of individual parishes, expressed as they state their preferences for one or the other of the 'safe' Competitors, thus is given primary, but not necessarily ultimate, voice.
This is the right way to honor the Catholic principle of solidarity. The buying preferences of individual parishes are rational. There is no reason to suppose that parishes are not rational on their own terms. Within any implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, the buying rationality of parishes should always be given primary, but not necessarily ultimate, voice.
Parishes have reasons to prefer one 'safe' Competitor to another. For instance, they may want to stick with the particular 'safe' Competitor they are already using, whose methods are already familiar (and whose books are already bought). As can be seen, a parochial reason to prefer a particular Competitor is far from necessarily arbitrary or irrational; and expressing a parochial preference can even be helpful to the religious instruction of the children in the parish.
Then, after polling the parishes, only
Given that, in the United States, both parishes and dioceses nowadays possess telephones (even computers in many cases), if all parties knew what was expected, the whole process would take a week at most.
By definition, if any adjustments are needed, they do not fully meet the rational preferences of the individual parishes. Each parish already made its judgment about what best meets its own rational preferences. Instead, the adjustments are required to fully meet the rational preferences of the local ordinary and the local church as a whole under him.
These adjustments are therefore similar to any other uncomfortable public burden, like jury duty. Everyone understands their necessity, but most wish that someone else would do them.
Like jury duty, the burden might best be borne under a lottery. Two other components of the jury duty system are probably also applicable. 1. Explicit and onerous punishment for non-compliance; for example, a two year 'excommunication' from the diocesan system. For two years, the entire parish would be totally on its own, back in the 'bad old days' - no bishops' Questions for any of the parish children, no information about the parish's own performance. 2. A time-limited 'get out of jail free' card given to any parish which had recently had to make such an adjustment, if its number came up again.
Of course, taking a 'jury duty' approach is only a suggestion. The local ordinary is free to concoct any solution he wants. Nonetheless, in this scenario and in all others the local ordinary as chief teacher and the whole local church under him must ensure that his apostolic authority and sacramental competence expresses itself in buying preferences, but always - and first - within a heartfelt and enthusiastic application of the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, in which the buying preferences of individual parishes and families are given the fullest possible play.
The preceding three scenarios were discussed in order to underscore four main points.
A number of other issues should be discussed briefly.
The first year or two that the Bishops Teaching Children method begins to be implemented in a diocese, the 'Competitors' are whoever happens to be there already, and all Competitors are 'untried,' since none have yet been evaluated in terms of how well, relative to their rivals, they prepare children to answer bishops' Questions.
After that, however, the Bishops Teaching Children method becomes a controlled-entry market. The obvious need to encourage competition and innovation by 'buying' some number of untried methods has to be balanced against the equally obvious need to protect the children from untried methods that are inferior to existing Competitors.
The end of Chapter 6 contains some thoughts about how this might be accomplished, but the local ordinary and the local church really need to understand that there will never be any procedure that perfectly rewards progress, at the same time as it perfectly protects children. Only rough balances between the two can be struck.
The bishop and the diocese also need to remember that, according tothe Bishops Teaching Children method, neither a bishop, nor the diocese, is ever competent to evaluate any Competitor a priori, beyond the bishop providing assurance that the Competitor teaches nothing contrary to the faith.
Other than that, there is no way a local ordinary can 'screen' any untried Competitor. According to the Bishops Teaching Children method, such a priori screening is forever beyond the competence of either the bishop or the local church.
So, here is the dilemma. 'Untried' Competitors are essential to the successful operation of the Bishops Teaching Children method. Chapter 6 is worth quoting explicitly:
(Ignaz Semmelweiss, it will be recalled, was the mid-nineteenth century Hungarian physician whose methods of antisepsis reduced maternal mortality rates ten-fold. Semmelweiss's attempts to get other physicians to follow his lead were rebuffed, his methods being dismissed as "nonsense" by the leading medical authorities of his day.)
On the other hand, by definition, no one knows either the safety or the efficacy of untried Competitors, and neither the bishop nor the diocese is competent to judge their safety or efficacy in advance.
So, some number of untried Competitors must be tried, but the only way they can be tried, is if they are tried - that is, if some of the children of the diocese are taught using untried Competitors.
The parishes and families of those children are not going to like that, especially once the Bishops Teaching Children method really begins to work, and religious education is already going on at a high level.
Those parishes and families - even while admitting that someone has to try untried Competitors - are always being rational, in their own terms, when they also say that these untried Competitors should be tried on somebody else.
To repeat, there is no magic formula a bishop can use to make this problem go away. The horns of this dilemma are built in to the Bishops Teaching Children method. A bishop using the Bishops Teaching Children method is going to have to wrestle with the dilemma forever, undoubtedly in intense consultation with his diocese.
As noted at the end of Chapter 6, to protect children, the diocese could try all sorts of things: decide to test untried Competitors every few months instead of yearly, make untried Competitors post a bond which is lost if the Competitor proves to be unsafe, have the Scientist make sure that only the minimum number of children necessary to get accurate information were involved, etc.
A diocese could also make untried Competitors reward parishes, families, and children for assuming the risk of an untried Competitor: a free ice cream cone, a new computer, a new playground?
Nonetheless, some number of untried Competitors have to be allowed in to the market every year, and that does mean that some number of children are at greater risk of being taught (at least temporarily) by a method that will prove to be ineffective compared to current Competitors.
The 'Jury Duty' syndrome again rears its ugly head. A rational overall public good is, again rationally, no one's particular individual good.
So, however a local ordinary and his diocese work this out year to year, 'Pay to Play' may well be part of their implementing procedures.
'Pay to Play'
'Pay to Play' has in fact already been invoked twice in these chapters as solutions for certain difficulties. Only the term was missing, but the idea was there. The first time the idea was broached occurred when the cost paid was in 'privacy.'
The Bishops Teaching Children method's radical transparency means that everyone will know how each child did on the yearly set of Questions. Particularly given the current dominance of 'privacy,' not everyone will like this. However, as noted in Chapter 6, there is a solution, which amounts to 'Pay to Play.'
That is, in order to 'play,' (participate in the diocese's implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method), each family has to 'pay,' by signing an agreement that makes all test scores the property of the diocese, and a matter of public record.
'Pay to Play' was also the idea behind the 'Jury Duty' model discussed in Scenario 3, above. A parish 'pays' at least the chance, and sometimes the actuality, of accepting a 'safe' Competitor that was not its own choice, again in order to continue to participate in the diocese's implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method.
'Pay to Play' may also be part or all of the solution to the practical difficulty of requiring a certain number of parishes and families per year to accept untried Competitors.
Thus, if a family decides that it does not want its child using an untried Competitor, that is always fine with the Bishops Teaching Children approach. The family does not have to 'play.' Any family always has the option of leaving the diocesan system and instructing its children on its own.
However, there is a cost to that decision. A family that does not 'pay,' can not 'play.' So, that family also realizes (the other shoe now falls) that it is really now on its own, and that every child in its family is now 'contaminated' and can not participate in the diocese's religious education (including the yearly set of Questions) for three years, because the family decided not to shoulder its share of the load that must be shouldered for the common good.
To say out loud what has been implied several times, the Bishops Teaching Children method is about bishops, teaching children, not about bishops, throwing their weight around. Nonetheless, the local ordinary, and the whole local church under him as chief teacher, is alone sacramentally competent to 'hand on' the faith of the whole Catholic Church. He, and the local church under him, is charged to teach that faith to 'all.'
However, in the case of untried Competitors, there are competing rational interests, between the interests of the local church as a whole, and the interests of individual families and parishes (which, by the way, even those families and parishes will admit). Whichever way that inherent conflict of interest gets resolved year to year, the agreement needs to be enforced. Human nature being what it is, a mix of both rewards and punishments is often needed in situations like these, and 'Pay to Play' is a time-honored practical method that could help.
'Key Buyers' and 'Pay to Play'
Of course, 'Pay to Play' automatically applies to all Competitors when a diocese uses the Bishops Teaching Children method, because, as mentioned in Chapter 6, all Competitors must agree in advance that the conclusions of the yearly Report are definitive and inarguable. In order to 'play,' all Competitors must 'pay,' by agreeing to play by the rules, and the rules say: the 'umpire' is always right. If you argue with the diocese's Scientific umpire, you could be ejected from the game.
'Pay to Play' could at some point also be applied to Competitors in another way. At some point, a diocese or dioceses using the Bishops Teaching Children method will probably have what amounts to a competitive advantage over dioceses that do not. That is, the yearly Reports of all the dioceses that use the Bishops Teaching Children method will be readily available to anyone who wants to know which Competitors actually do a better job of preparing children to answer bishops' Questions.
It does not take a business genius to imagine that those Reports are going to influence how non-participating dioceses spend their religious education dollars. Thus, the impact of the yearly Report on Competitors will probably not be limited to the business those Competitors get from the participating dioceses. Dioceses using the Bishops Teaching Children method will be 'key buyers' who will influence purchasing choices far beyond themselves.
That will give dioceses using the Bishops Teaching Children method additional clout with Competitors. The dioceses might use this clout to make Competitors 'Pay to Play.'
There are costs to the local church when it implements the Bishops Teaching Children method. For example:
It is true that, relative to the total costs of religious education in many dioceses, the sums required for these tasks are minuscule. For instance, assuming that the roughly 400 "professional catechetical personnel" now employed in the Archdiocese of Boston devote on average only half their time to the religious education of children, and that all 400 earn only a minimal salary of $20,000 per year, the total religious education cost to parishes, just for these personnel, just for their time spent in religious education, is at least four million dollars per year, every year.
Further, if several dioceses decided to use the Bishops Teaching Children method, they could conceivably share some of these costs, and probably reduce them even further.
Nonetheless, they are costs, they are not negligible, and they have to be met.
One solution that matches the Bishops Teaching Children method's inherent crudity is 'Pay to Play.'
So (for example) the diocese, as a 'key buyer,' negotiates below-market prices for all Competitors' methods, and the savings helps recoup the diocese's costs in running the Bishops Teaching Children method.
However a business-savvy diocese uses this competitive advantage to reduce its costs, the general point persists. At some point, a diocese using the Bishops Teaching Children method will become a 'key buyer' in the eyes of Competitors, and they may indeed at that point be willing to 'Pay to Play' in that diocese's market.
Both price and cost are essential elements of markets, and yet neither has yet received much treatment in these chapters. The Bishops Teaching Children method's principal focus is of course not directly on price and cost, but on creating a new kind of buyer of religious education, one who knows the quality of each Competitor's wares and will buy only from better Competitors. An informed and self-disciplined consumer within a competitive free market has an effect on prices, but more needs to be said about both price and cost.
Although funds are of course not unlimited, what the market will bear is dependent not only on money but also on how valuable religious education is to a diocese, and to its parishes and families. For instance, more money can sometimes be found for things greatly valued. Making a diocesan, parish, or family budget involves more than fiscal criteria alone.
A school or a religious education program is just the visible part, the tip, of a complex socio-cultural system of signals and feedbacks. Indeed,the Bishops Teaching Children method knows this explicitly. This more sophisticated understanding explains the Bishops Teaching Children method's ability to make bishops directly and personally responsible for the religious education of the children of their dioceses.
When religious education is seen as the visible tip of a complex socio-cultural system, it becomes obvious that the monetary price of religious education is only part of what religious education actually costs. Students, as well as families, parishes, and dioceses, also have to invest time and effort, if children are going to learn about their faith.
Thus, desire and motivation are essential features of markets. Within certain limits (to put this negatively) desire and motivation can be manipulated. To put it positively, within certain limits, desire and motivation can be enhanced.
If a Competitor can increase a student's desire and motivation, the student will study more. More study often (perhaps not always) leads to more knowledge. If that happens, the Competitor looks good. More money flows his way.
Similarly, if a Competitor can increase a family's, a parish's, or a diocese's desire and motivation, they a) may be more willing to pay more money for the Competitor's product, and b) may encourage students to study harder. Either way, the effect is that the Competitor makes more money.
The Bishops Teaching Children method is, absolutely, focused on what is called 'high stakes' testing. However, in dramatic contrast to that phrase's customary meaning, the Bishops Teaching Children method makes the stakes 'high' exclusively for responsible adults, and only secondarily for children, who are merely co-responsible for their religious education.
What happens if a student never attains 'adult minimal competence in the Catechism'? Beyond the fact that everyone in the world knows that he has not, to the student, nothing happens. However, every time that happens, some adult Competitor may lose money, or even his entire business.
The Bishops Teaching Children method is not magic. Given current socio-cultural levels of desire for religious education at a high level, it is entirely possible that many students, particularly at first, will not be highly motivated, either personally or culturally. Given current levels of competence in religious education, it is entirely possible that even many motivated students will not attain adult minimal competence in the Catechism.
These are both problems. Yet, if Competitors solve them, they get more money. Thus, solving both of those problems - not only the problem of teaching competence but also the problem of student and socio-cultural motivation - is, literally, the business of Competitors.
Within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method, Competitors may well be motivated to use advertising and other techniques both to increase demand and to increase student effort. A higher-quality program may 'cost' more in both money and effort. It is up to the Competitor to convince people to pay his price.
There is a place for advertising and other marketing tools within an implementation of the Bishops Teaching Children method. That place is motivating consumers to pay the costs, both monetary and otherwise, of high-quality religious education. The Bishops Teaching Children method can tell the buyer of religious education the quality of Competitors' wares. It can not tell the buyer how valuable that quality is to the buyer.
Let the market rule.
It almost goes without saying that complete fiscal transparency is an inevitable component of the transparency that is inherent in the Bishops Teaching Children method.
Since the Bishops Teaching Children method intends the religious education of the local church to be an 'open book,' down to the last sub-score of each individual child on each yearly set of Questions (and which Competitor was associated with that child and score), it stands to reason that part of being an 'open book' involves 'opening the books' - the local church's accounting books - regarding every aspect of that schooling.
As is usual for transparency within the Bishops Teaching Children method, this detailed fiscal transparency has practical benefits, and also, a sacramental foundation.
In Chapter 2 it was established that the authentic teacher of 'all' the children of the diocese is the local ordinary as chief teacher, and the whole local church, and all its members, under him. The local church exists. It is by no means a 'private' agglomeration of individuals, families, or even parishes, but rather, the local church, under its ordinary and in union with the whole Catholic Church, constitutes a genuine 'public.' That 'public' alone expresses in its fullness a sacramental character, is "the holy society by which we belong to God," and (under its ordinary as chief teacher) is the teacher of 'all.'
Put simply, that one authentic teacher of 'all' needs to monitor not only the performance of its students, but also its own performance, and this is the sacramental basis for the radical fiscal transparency ofthe Bishops Teaching Children method. A teacher who wastes either time or money is not a good teacher. The money spent on religious education throughout the local church ought to be just as much a matter of detailed public record as the sub-scores of its youngest first-grader.
On the practical level, of course, perennially detailed - and explicitly public - information about where the money flows is the mother's milk of improvements in economic efficiency, and an important defense against fraud, theft, and scandal. Radical fiscal transparency, for instance, makes it very easy to identify and list the per-pupil cost of each 'safe' Competitor appearing in the yearly Report.
Also, complete fiscal transparency will help everyone feel that religious education is in fact a mission of the whole local church working together, and it also will help individuals take individual, 'on-the-spot' initiatives to increase economic efficiencies.
Radical fiscal transparency is such an obvious and essential part ofthe Bishops Teaching Children method, that nothing further needs to be said.
1. Source: The Pilot (Newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston). March 17, 2000, p. 17, "Convocation 2000 - Facts and figures."
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