November 17, 2007

Protecting the Brand

In the retail business there is a phrase called "protecting the brand". This involves making sure your product is presented in consistently the same way wherever it is sold. Any deviations from the norm are punished by taking the brand from your store, or court action against you. There are people at every corporation whose job is to make sure the brand is protected.

When you go to KFC anywhere in this nation are any of the franchises or corporate owned restaurants still using the name Kentucky Fried Chicken? No. It's not permitted by the parent company. Furthermore, the menu in every KFC will be the same. Pricing will be consistent. The portions sizes will be too. The interior and exterior probably look very similar to each other.

This consistency is enforced so the consumer will know what to expect in your restaurant. There will not be, there should not be, any shocking surprises like suddenly they have replaced all the chicken with black angus beef. Any manager of a KFC who did that, especially without consulting the KFC headquarters, would be shown the door.

We need protection of the Roman Catholic brand.

I should be able to go into ANY Roman Catholic parish ANYWHERE in the world and I should not be shocked by deviations from the rubrics established by the Holy See and Jesus the Christ. Sure, some diocese may have practices that are permitted by their Bishop that are unique to what I'm accustomed to in Minnesota, United States, but if the Bishop approved the innovation then there is little I can do. However, even the Bishop is allowed authority within certain limits-just like any manager or V.P in a corporation.

But, I'm not talking about locally approved "quirks".

Unfortunately, we see all too often, parishes that not only deviate wildly from the Mass rubrics, they have not even bothered to get permission from their local Ordinary.

It is absolutely appalling that so many of the Faithful have to spend their lives suffering thru completely inadequate presentations of Catholicism. Or they have to drive across town every Sunday to find a parish that even remotely follows the corporate handbook.

In the corporate world, this type of wild variation would not be permitted. The offenders would be disciplined and then if they refuse to clean up their act after warnings they would be released.

We see the same offenses against the Catholic brand in schools that have the word "Catholic" in the title. It's ridiculous that our parents and children have no guarantee that said institutions will bother teaching the Faith accurately if at all.

You don't have to be a parent or a teacher to be angry about this. You don't even have to be currently attending a Catholic school to be upset. How is our brand going to thrive and continue if it's not being consistently applied?

It seems to me lately that even optimizing the brand by putting the label "Magisterium" or "Oath of Fidelity" before the Theology faculty is no guarantee there are not underlying problems with the institution. Look at Ave Maria-the home of the titanic ego of Mr. Monaghan, lawsuits by faculty, and no accreditation. Look at Franciscan University in Steubenville-they appear to be having controversies over what forms of the Mass are permitted and which ones are not. However, the problems at both of these schools seem to be solveable and I don't think their issues are an indication that the Faith is being totally repudiated their schools.

Then, we have University of St. Thomas here in my town. I'm not convinced that the "problem" at UST is a book. I think the book has been a catalyst for revealing other problems that we may not have been aware of beforehand. I'm still not upset by the book being read. However, I'm really outraged by the power grab the Board just pulled off to keep the incoming Archbishop off the Board-a position he has historically been entitled to by virtue of his office as our local Shepherd. To me the Board run amok is a greater problem then the Atwood book. Furthermore, the entire incident around that book appears to clarify, yet again, the fact that a lot of faculty at UST have a major problem with Catholicism, yet, they work at an institution with the Catholic name on it, they may have tenure, and they are all happily accepting our money. I think the dissenting faculty at UST is a bigger problem then one book.

What can be done to protect the Catholic brand? Is it too late? Is there not enough left to rescue? Do we need to let some "franchises" go because they are not part of the "corporation" anymore and they refuse to conform in spite of being warned? Do we need to clean house and start over?

I'm sure someone is going to remind me that we need to be merciful. True. However, is there a point when not doing anything is no longer merciful because it hurts other people? What kind of message is it sending to other Catholics when dissent is not only allowed it passes without comment? Is not acting telling Catholics there are no consequences? Don't worry about Sin and Hell because you can see before you everyday other people not concerning themselves and no one is bothering to try and stop them so there must not be anything to Save? Does Salvation just become, then, a concept when we don't bother trying to correct/save our fellow man? Is the Faith just a set of guidelines that can be thrown away at will by those who makes vows to uphold them (I've got news for some of you. We ALL took those vows-not just the folks in Holy Orders)? Somedays, it seems like a lot of Catholics think so.

I am a product of God's mercy. Without it, I would not have reverted. I can only throw myself on His mercy for the rest of my life in order to beg forgiveness for all the lies I was responsible for perpetrating. I was truly far gone and very poorly catachized. If someone (actually a lot of people) were not trying to reach people like me with Truth, I would not be where I am today.

We, all of us, need to fight to protect our brand. Each of us according to our skills. I have a computer and I can write. I blog and I write letters. Some of you do too. Some teach the Faith, some are columnists, some are public speakers, some are playwrights and actors, some start Scholas and learn Chant notation, some join Holy Orders, some raise children, some excel at prayer, some launder the altar cloths, some care for the ill and dying, some are good organizers, some are good at raising capital. We need all of these skillsets. Whatever you can do, you MUST do. None of us should be sitting around on our butts thinking about it and wailing and crying and wallowing in paralysis. Cry for a while then pick yourself up and join the fight.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sterling post, Cathy!

November 17, 2007 9:21 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Wow, Angela, that was a quick response!

November 17, 2007 9:27 PM  
Blogger Fr. Andrew said...

Nice analogy, I've used it in terms of presenting myself as a priest to my parishioners: establishing a brand identity.

The issue is that Vatican II, ideally, would have encouraged such brand protection and projection, as you did in your conclusion. Instead the brand became changed and I am starting to think that, while there are many roots, the catechetical question is quite important. The fouling up of catechetical efforts seems to be rooted in deficient interpretations of Dei Verbum.

I hope to post something in that regard soon.

November 17, 2007 9:58 PM  
Blogger Vincenzo said...

That was an incredible article Cathy. God bless you. I love you.

November 17, 2007 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Thank you for writing this post, Cathy!

November 17, 2007 11:06 PM  
Anonymous Gabor said...

Well said. I think we are at times getting to the point wondering what is correct and what is not correct at mass and the way mass is presented. Don't even get me going on the school issue because my blood pressure doubles thinking about it!
Hopefully pthose in charge will have the same sentmients as you and act on them.

November 18, 2007 5:14 AM  
Blogger swissmiss said...

Good post, Cathy. Mercy doesn't mean we should sit on our hands (or backsides) when abuses occur.

November 18, 2007 8:11 AM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Excellent job, Cathy.

But this is a tough one. "Money" on the Board of Trustees made this decision to remove the connection to the Church.

They are terrified of the Church because the Church may say "no" to them at times. Businessmen don't like people and organizations who don't go along with them.

It may have to be fought under the rules of Canon Law in a Church Tribunal.

As somebody said the other day "They stole our school and I want it back!"

We should start referring to it as "Rauenhorst U" to let people know what really happened.

November 18, 2007 1:38 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Very, very good post. The "brand" identity thing is so right on - Catholic identity is so inconsistent and ill defined today - we all need to do what we can do to change that.

November 18, 2007 1:54 PM  
Blogger ignorant redneck said...

Ok, I'm out of my intellectual league here. I'm also out of my cultural Milieu.

But that's never stopped me before so:

When UST decided tha the Abp. wasn't on the board any more, all things considered, he should have decided it wasn't catholic anymore.

Think of the fun then? no more trying not to get caught, and being all kinds of secular relativist happy, then watching alumni contributions dry up. And they would--it takes years to build a career to the point where you can donate large bucks to your Alma mater--many of those folks would be catholic enough to stop supporting.

It's the Voltaire effect: Shoot one to encourage the others.

November 18, 2007 1:54 PM  
Blogger Kasia said...

In principle I agree with you, but I admit the thought of considering "Catholic" as a brand leaves a bad taste in my mouth...seems to cheapen the Faith somehow...

November 20, 2007 9:19 AM  

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