Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Pope Apologized, Sort Of

Finally, the Pope and other representatives of the Catholic Church have apologized, sort of.

Washington Post and syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, himself a devout Catholic, said today on National Public Radio his own pastor recently talked about the scandal, individual culpability and institutional church culpability.

In his Easter sermon, Dionne conceded, his priest became defensive though, when he added, enemies of the church were stirring this up.

In the past year, or so, some of our competitors have been complaining that organizations in crisis are wasting their time in apologizing.

I would suggest an apology is not the be-all, end-all solution to an organizational crisis, but “taking responsibility” when something goes wrong, explaining what you’re going to do to fix it, and then fixing it, is almost always the most sure-fire way to recovery.

An apology is only as good as the sincerity of the person speaking and the context in which it is delivered.

In recent days, the Pope is reported to have said, “Now, under attack from the world which talks to us of our sins, we can see that being able to do penance is a grace and we see how necessary it is to do penance and thus recognize what is wrong in our lives.”

Asked about the Pope’s “apology,” Dionne, the newspaper writer, said, “I suppose if I had been an editor, I would have asked him, 'can you drop the first half?' Because, I think . . . attacking the world first for bringing this to the church’s attention undercuts the contrition in the second half.”

I agree. How many times have you heard a CEO or a politician stand in front of the cameras and say, “…if I offended you, I apologize.” What I hear is, “I’m not sorry for what I or my company did when we knowingly sold you contaminated (fill in the blank), but I am sorry if it offended you!”

Whether it’s the Catholic Church or a corporate client, I’m not so concerned about the “critics,” but I urge them to hear and respond appropriately to their members, employees and customers.

1 comment:

  1. Larry, I think you have to judge this on the standards of papal communications, not corporate communications. To be sure, Benedict is the CEO of the church. But he is also considered the "direct descendant", figuratively, of St. Peter. He is the representative of God's will on earth. His decisions are considered divinely inspired and inerrant. So, for the Vatican to admit wrongdoing of any kind in real time is, quite frankly, unprecedented. Look how long it took for them to own up to their Nazi-enabling during World War II, for instance. I think when the church speaks of being attacked, I think they are really reacting to the public's changed perception and expectations of the church, and the pope, specifically.

    But, for the first time perhaps, I am a teensy weensy bit encouraged. Today's headlines talk about how Benedict has "accepted the resignations"of several culpable bishops. Bishops all over the world have been writing anti-abuse policies and developing watchdog practices. Most diocese leaders really want to fix the situation. What they have lacked so far is backup from the Vatican, that, no matter what they say publicly, still controls the approval of every single priest assignment in the world. This is the first indication I've seen that this may be changing.

    I think most Catholic parents would just like to know that if a church employee or priest molests one of their children, the church would remove that person. Period. If the parents wish to have the act reported to police, the church should cooperate fully. I think most Catholics would feel better if constant education and reporting were done on the matter, as many dioceses, including Louisville's, are doing.

    In the past, priest pedophiles were protected "for the good of the church." Now, awareness, suspicion and financial/criminal liabilities are so high, we've reached a real tipping point. It is now "good for the church" to get these priests out.

    If the Vatican wants to control this situation from the top, as it does everything else, it needs to have comprehensive policies and directives from the top. It needs to speak plainly about the issue and stop acting like the wounded party, which they CLEARLY are not. Isn't this what Jesus would do?