All posts by Erny Gillen


Following Jesus through time and space the catholic tradition brought into life many leadership models. Each time when the signs of the time requested a specific incarnation of the gospel creative people and communities stood up and forged an adapted version of christian life as their answer to the then historical needs.

Today the petrinien model is the best known and copied through governmental administrations worldwide and locally, but also through feudal like organised companies and organisations. People governed by any petrinien type organisation rely more on a defined structure then on a content or on common goals. The belonging component is ensured through a kind of creed or constitution opening large spaces for personal interpretation and implementation. A democratic state guarantees personal freedom and inner dissent. Pluralism was the logical result and brought many flourishing systems into existence. This model worked fine for many decades, but seems coming to an end in our global world and in our common home.

If we look at the very first model when the church was growing as community of communities another model comes to our mind. I call it for the sake of simplicity the paulinien model. Saint Paul had that wonderful vision of the Church being multi-faced and colourful communities with many charisms. He captured his vision for us in the great image of the human body as an interdependent and interconnected “tensegrity” living being. In that approach leadership comes from all “ends” and it doesn’t sit in the head or in the heart of that body. A living being (and organisations are living organisms as well) needs all it’s parts to advance and evolve in time. Leadership sometimes comes from the eye and another time from the foot. To keep it balanced all parts must cooperate. Celeste was rightly pointing to “self-awareness” and a corporate “conscience” in order to avoid “teleo-pathy”. If the foot and the eye are involved in conflicting aims the whole body will tremble and lose control. Leadership is a matter for a meaningful and corporate culture where everyone leads at his “end” and where the centre for decision making (may it be the heart or the brain) is well connected to all its parts. Pope Francis used very eloquently this model of leadership during the Synode of the Family.

Management and governance do need this type of leadership to save human persons from becoming simple elements in systems which are going to replace the failing and weak ones efficiently under the pressure of finances and so-called formal quality requirements. Young people reminded us that they do not trust such institutions, because those institutions are not loyal to people. Pope Francis in Evangelii gaudium urges world leaders in the same spirit and mindset to fight situations “of generalised wastefulness” (Nr.191) when he sees and puts in front of us what todays world is doing to the poor. “The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”” (Nr.53). The human person and her integral development are at stake. Peaceful leadership must be integral and including. It is more than a technic. It is more than skills and systems. It is about living to one’s full potential as a community or organisation. No artificial intelligence will replace this sacred intelligence embedded in humans and communities. This sacred intelligence as an expression of our common (corporate) conscience is our thread into a better future for the best of our institutions and for the best of our world. It is a missionary task because it’s about the reign of God in our midst, the resurrection of people against all forms of death.

Going for a “community embedded leadership system” could be a deliberate choice for a culture of life breaking through the cultures of death. Shared leadership is not a dream, but can be learned in a given community which takes care of all its stakeholders. A good leader is always a systemic part of a whole system of leadership in which he or she is accepted (and thus leading). An internally rejected leader is a formal and costly element in a self-organised system which would work the same way without that person.

Making the catholic leadership initiative an international one would certainly provide more space for manoeuvring and avoiding blind spots linked to one specific cultural approach.

Happy to read any reactions and comments!



Francis, the Bishop of Rome, brings to the Church  a type of change that many Catholics were not  expecting. While looking for the usual papal guidance, they are encouraged to walk and follow Jesus in responsibility. While some 280 bishops were exploring the mystery of Family during the Synods in Rome over the last two years, they learned to understand that there are different and acceptable views among them on some difficult issues. While the American People and its Congress were waiting for a further papal condemnation of abortion, they had to hear that life is indeed sacred and therefore the death penalty should be banned.

Pope Francis changes  radically the perspective of those raising questions and looking for answers. He simply turns to the reality of people experiencing need, whether it be material,  spiritual, moral or an unknown distress. He had made this clear at the very beginning of his pontificate. Any one  who has read his programmatic apostolic letter Evangelii gaudium (Nov 2013) should  not be taken by surprise. “Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. (…) Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people” (Nr. 270). This Pope likes complexity and dialogue because he believes that in the midst of open and honest debates among brothers, and the all too often missing sisters, a new attitude and new behavioural patterns will arise.

On December, 8th the gates of mercy will be opened in Rome by Pope Francis and in each local Church throughout the world  by the local Bishop.The flock should find open doors worldwide. Those who seek, will find a merciful Father. Those who do not understand mercy because they are not thirsting for it, will remain in their closed churches, complaining about those who are forgiven their sins, celebrating with the Father and eating the best calf together with the servants.

Let’s understand the logic of a Pope who calls himself a sinner and who ask’s “who am I to condemn?” The real difference he brings should not be searched for in the change of whatever doctrine. It is again about people. He deals with the elder son. He touches the inner morality of Christian life. In this way he radically changes the approach of  traditional moral theology by transforming it swiftly into a newly to be elaborated “Theology of Morality”. A Theology, in which priests and bishops follow the people of God, a people which “does not err in faith, even though it may not find words to explain that faith” (Nr. 119). The latter is the task of theologians and pastors!

Pope Francis works on our hearts of stone. With his words and deeds he transforms the environment, our culture which co-authors our moral norms and judgments. And together with the people of good he hopes for a change coming from the hearts of all concerned. Without her people the Church will be lost. Hope is where the many doors of mercy will be opened for all. Freedom is where the moral factory starts working again, assuming risks and responsibilities.


In his encyclical Laudato si‘ Pope Francis puts a clear question mark to the strategies of “buying and selling carbon credits” (171). At the Conference “Our Common Home” (  John Holdron (Assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology) said the Vatican to be too dismissive towards technological or market solutions to climate change. He might be right if those solutions were driven by economy and new types of profits only! He might be wrong if those solutions are part of a comprehensive moral framework using all the trigger points making the moral factory work!


“The strategy of buying and selling “car- bon credits” can lead to a new form of specula- tion which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environ- ment, but in no way does it allow for the radi- cal change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which per- mits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.” (Laudato si’ 171)


“Call it a conflict crisis but not a refugee crisis”. Thus were the words Maryanne Loughry, RSM used to make an audience of some 50 people @ BC aware that words are designing and hiding political concepts. If today Europe and moreover the whole world can no longer overlook the crisis notably in Syria, it is because people got a face and names. Too many people on the move had to die before politicians were willing to open their eyes. It were courageous citizens who broke the line of silence and helplessness. They went to the railway stations, they took their cars picking up people on the move alongside the european highways. They encountered women, men and children with names and faces. Wounded people found a smile and the caress of people who took care of them. The wounds inflicted on them in their homelands and recently by the European border guards are appalling and they tell the story of what we don’t want to see: The external root causes and the personal hopes bringing whole families, men and women, children and young people on the most dangerous roads of their life. They invest their naked life because they believe in a better future. Do we believe in a better future with them? They are part of the one human family. They are our brothers and sisters whatever faith, whatever hope, whatever dream drives them to start their journey for (their and our) humanity. Our today’s moral and legal instruments do not seem working anymore. Are we willing to open the box and enter the moral factory leaving behind our moral prejudices about refugees, about migrants, about our power to (not) change (anything)?

Healing moral and curial diseases


Pope Francis goes ahead! He is not afraid to unite what seems divided. He refers to the gospel and firmly believes into a great future for religious organisations, if they are open to change their structures of power as well as their sclerosed norms. Pope Francis believes that it is worth sowing peace even if one had to bite one’s tongue.


Read more about how a pope can and does treat curial diseases: How a Pope might treat curial diseases

Erny_Gillen_english_ebook_cover_2-1 Continue reading Healing moral and curial diseases


“I believe that humans can get by without religion, but not without inner values, not without ethics. The difference between ethics and religion is like the difference between water and tea. Religion-based ethics and inner values are more like tea. The tea that we drink is made mostly of water, but it contains other ingredients as well – tea leaves, spices, perhaps a little sugar, and, at least in Tibet, a pinch of salt – and that makes it more substantial, more lasting, something we want to drink every day. Yet no matter how tea is prepared, its main ingredient is always water. We can live without tea, but not without water. Likewise, we are born without religion, but not without the basic need for compassion – and not without the fundamental need for water.”

Excerpt From: Dalai Lama, Franz Alt. “An Appeal by the Dalai Lama to the World – Ethics Are More Important Than Religion.” iBooks.

The Dalai Lama brings it to a simple analogy: Water is the main ingredient of tea even if we might be overwhelmed by the taste of the tea. But is the analogy right when applied to describe the relation between ethics and religion? A great question for a moral factory workshop!