Any priest will tell you that when he is assigned to a new parish and tries to introduce a new idea into the mix, he will inevitably hear “but this is how we’ve always done it!”
There is a story of an experiment performed by scientists in which 5 monkeys were put in a cage. In the middle of the cage was a ladder with bananas on top. Every time one monkey tried to climb the ladder the others were sprayed with cold water. Eventually the monkeys got wise to the trick and started to attack whichever monkey tried to climb the ladder, in order to avoid getting soaked.
The scientists then substituted a monkey and continued the experiment with interesting results:
After several beatings, the new monkey learned never to go up the ladder, even though there was no evident reason not to, aside from the beatings. The second monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same was repeated. The fourth monkey was changed, resulting in the same, before the fifth was finally replaced as well. What was left was a group of five monkeys that – without ever having received a cold shower – continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.
Of course as the title says, this is an urban legend, but it has it’s roots in real experiments performed by G.R. Stephenson and Wolfgang Köhler, and can help give us perspective on our own social habits.
Something to contemplate. Especially the next time a new priest (or pastoral assistant) comes into the rectory and says “I have a great idea…”