Integrity of leadership

Posted by on May 6, 2012

In August, 2011, Bryan Cones, the Managing Editor of U.S. Catholic, wrote the following in his op-ed page in an article titled: “The buck stops where?” The topic was the issue of hierarchical responsibility in the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. “No amount of apologies or prayer and fasting in penance for sex abuse will make up for the fact that too many bishops have simply shown themselves incompetent to lead on this matter. After $2 billion in settlements, 10 years in crisis mode, and decades of suffering by victims, there can be no more excuses. Any bishop who has failed to respond appropriately to allegations of child sex abuse must simply resign, and all levers of pressure, from the pope to other bishops, from the police to protesters, must be applied until they do.” I have been in a leadership position for over twenty years with a major international direct selling company. I know and live by the principles of leadership with integrity and honesty. It is not easy at times, but I accept the responsibility implicit in my leadership role and I accept and trust the leader of my company. Trust is at risk in our church because some of our bishops have exhibited poor adaptive skills to the sex abuse crisis. Their lack of ownership of their implicit responsibility, and their inability to contain the level of disequilibrium through poor decision making has destabilized the church. When power is abused by anyone in office, accountability is demanded by those they lead, or a disconnect and rebellion occurs. “To build trust, we need to know what generates it. Trust in authority relationships is a matter of predictability along two dimensions: values and skill. Quite sensibly, people often expect consistent, predictable values and problem-solving skills from their authorities. Without a large measure of predictability in social life, civilization itself would not be possible,” writes Ronald Heifetz in Leadership without Easy Answers. “Authorities are expected to be competent in providing protection, direction, and order in the interests of their constituents,” he continues, although not on the topic of church leadership per se. Both the values and skills of these bishops should be severely questioned and acted upon. It should be predictable that an inability to lead honestly and with integrity, especially in a power position within the church of Christ, would lead to a removal from office or at the very least, a probationary period in which the leader is given a chance to reflect on his poor resolution of the conflict he had a responsibility to act upon for the protection of all the sheep in their fold. I’m not sure a resignation is the answer. But I am sure that some form of public demotion and a period of reflection, discernment, and humble service for restitution for the poor judgments or avoidance of proper action needs to take place. In that regard, I am in full agreement with Mr. Cones. We, the church at large, bear responsibility to keep the pressure on the bishops who have covered up the actions of pedophiles, or who have transferred them to new areas where they can do additional harm. There must be accountability and restitution to prevent the church from losing all trust in its leadership and cocooning. We must not give the Evil One any more room for another foothold. We must not allow them to be tempted to continue “business as usual.” That said, I continue to support and pray for all priests and the holiness of their vocation.

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