Created Nov 20, 2009
John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter begins this column with a reference to Moneyball (2003) by Michael Lewis. Serious baseball fans recognize that Lewis' booki "exposed a dirty little secret that baseball's best minds already understood: the categories that shape judgments about the game are often badly flawed."
He then suggests that "a Catholic version of Moneyball might offer two challenges to the ecclesiastical box score: (1) Thinking not just in local or national terms, but globally. (2) Focusing not just on controversy, scandal, and newspaper headlines, but where ordinary Catholics actually invest their time and treasure.
"Ministry to the deaf," Allen continues, "is a relatively new pastoral category, [that has] emerged as creative impulses usually do, from ordinary Catholics seeing a need and trying to meet it. Officialdom is simply ratifying something already bubbling at the grassroots. If you want a measure of how over-emphasis on a limited set of categories distorts perceptions, consider this: Barrels of ink have been spilled dissecting the Vatican's outreach to disgruntled Anglicans, which, realistically, might bring a few thousand new members into the church worldwide. Here [in ministry to the deaf] you have an effort to integrate 1.3 million folks more thoroughly into the church, and it flies below radar -- because, of course, ministry to the deaf doesn't open a new front in the culture wars, which is a category we in the West take very seriously indeed." ...
"Perhaps all this could be the basis of a new "box score" for the church, meaning a better set of categories for thinking about what really matters. If Sabermetrics [Lewis' box score] can help the Red Sox break the Bambino's curse (and I say this as a diehard Yankees fan), its potential for generating winning strategies in Catholic life may well be almost unlimited."
Allen's column is accessible here.
Consider how badly flawed are some categories that shape judgments about religion.