Benedict is speaking on the decline in Catholic observance and identity in Europe and the United States, in relation to the new vitality the Church is experiencing in other parts other world:
Less clearly but nevertheless unmistakably, we find here in the West, too, a revival of new Catholic initiatives that are not ordered by a structure or a bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is spent and tired. These initiatives come from within, from the joy of young people.*
What is meant by 'bureaucracy' here? Is it the structures of dioceses? That would seem to be the obvious guess. If so, I think the Pope's words raise an important reflection for us religious, and especially religious of institutes that are largely clerical.
Historically, here in North America, the ministerial resources and priestly energies of religious have often gone into supporting and assisting the diocesan structure and its parishes. This was a tremendous good work at one time, and built a network of parishes, schools, hospitals and many other Catholic institutions that accomplished the greatest work of social uplift the world has ever seen.
But where are we now, if the bureaucracy is "spent and tired"? Often we religious of clerical or largely clerical communities justify and eagerly go about the work of parish priesthood because we want to respond to what is called "the needs of the Church." But I think Benedict's words beg for us the question: are the 'needs of the Church' the same thing as the needs of bishops and the needs of diocesan structures, which may be 'spent and tired.'?
This is a difficult and delicate question. Many religious communities have tried to better proclaim the Gospel by moving outside of the traditional structures of the Church, but some have only succeeded in stepping outside of the Church--and sometimes even Christianity--altogether. So, to me, the question is not whether or not to work within the structures of the Church--because we all form that structure, and to deny it is to deny ourselves and our baptism--but how it is we can best serve the needs of the Church conceived in the broadest possible way, and perhaps this means seeking out and supporting the new and joyful energies of which Benedict speaks.
*I don't know the page number, because I am reading the Kindle edition. It's 'location' 870.