Devolution, Moneyball, and the children’s game

One of the most memorable moments in Moneyball—a good, though flawed, sports movie in many respects, sports movie—is when the scout is recruiting young Billy Beane. He says,

We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t… don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.

(Emphasis supplied.) For context, Beane thought about playing college ball for Stanford and then looking at a career in the majors. The scout pooh-poohs the idea, suggesting that if Beane wants to be a big-league ballplayer, then he needs to go be a big-league ballplayer. The scout, in short, is addressing Beane’s desire to have it both ways. That‘s the children’s game.

Elliot Milco has a piece at The Paraphasic that is about the Holy Father’s apparent intent to forge ahead with collegiality and synodality. He argues, in short, that Francis’s plans are un-Catholic and disastrous for the Church. Worse than anything poor Pope Paul let happen. And he suggests that we will all find ourselves in greater sympathy with the SSPX if those plans come to fruition. We have expressed earlier our doubt that those plans will, in fact, come to fruition, not least since Francis has yet to achieve some of the big-idea items of his agenda. (Items, by the way, which will be necessary for the broader plans described: you can’t start devolving power to the peripheries as long as Pastor Bonus remains good law.) In the meantime, Milco urges us all to do as Catherine of Siena did and provide the Holy Father with our thoughts, encouragement, and, if necessary, fraternal correction.

This piece got us thinking, though maybe not how best to write a letter to the Pope outlining our concerns. It got us thinking about Moneyball. (Also, the Mets are playing for the pennant.) The fundamental aspect with the major problems confronting the Church is that they are all variations on the children’s game. The liberals want to have it both ways. Affirm doctrine about marriage, but permit those in objectively sinful situations to approach the living Flesh and Blood of the mighty God. Affirm the unity and universality of the Church, but give episcopal conferences the authority to vary doctrine and practice from region to region. Require petitioners to prove nullity to a moral certainty, but give bishops thirty days in which to sort everything out. Maintain a hierarchy, but let the faithful mark the direction of the Church. But you can’t play the children’s game forever.

Sooner or later, you have to make a choice, though. And it is in making those choices—almost always hard choices—that problems creep in.