Papal Mis-Alignment?

"I plead with you - never, ever, give up on hope. Never doubt, never tire and never become discouraged.


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“I plead with you – never, ever, give up on hope.

Never doubt, never tire and never become discouraged.

Be not afraid.”

– Pope John Paul II

This week sees my home country of Ireland play host to the Pope, who arrives on Saturday for The World Meeting Of Families. It will be the first time a Pope has visited the Emerald Isle since 1979.

I remember as a child going to see Pope John II then and at the time I didn’t understand what was happening. But I vividly remember being very bored… as my family walked several miles to see the Pope in a wet Limerick (who ironically won the All-Ireland Hurling final yesterday for the first time since 1973).

At the time, I remember people being excited about the Pope’s visit who to be fair, was a very charismatic person.

Yet that excitement was only the surface.

Underneath as we all know, was a time bomb ticking that has since exploded and with it, irreparable damage for the Catholic Church.

The Ireland at that time was very different to what it is now.

In 1979, 90% of the population went to mass every Sunday – Today it’s half that figure (and less than 14% in the capital, Dublin).

Divorce wasn’t possible, and contraception was very much a taboo subject.

Homosexuality was still to be de-criminalised and same sex marriage wasn’t even dreamed of.

Priests were seen as central leaders of communities and many of them had considerable influence in society and politics.

But the people of Ireland in 2018 see the world very differently to the way they did in 1979.

And many have lost faith in the leadership of the Church, primarily because of the revelations around abuse but also because of the lack of real transparency, accountability and willingness to change with the times.

Ultimately it’s down to a lack of strong, brave, authentic leadership.

And as a result, the Catholic Hierarchy are mis-aligned with the majority of the population in Ireland.

There is a lesson for every organisation (business, charity, sport, family) and leader in this:

– Change is happening all of the time – but are we changing to fit the times?

– Have we fallen into the trap of thinking ‘we know better’?

– Are we really listening to the people that matter most? (Our customers, our teams, our key relationships) And are we engaged in meaningful dialogue?

– Are we owning our mistakes and taking genuine action to improve?

– Have we apologised for mistakes to relevant parties if necessary and genuinely sought to build new and better bridges towards better relationships and results that matter?

– What is our purpose for existing? And how best can we deliver value aligned with that purpose to our target audience?

To build on last week’s post about Value, the Church has potentially tremendous value to offer people. (And indeed many of the priests and brothers already do tremendous work in the communities) But not if there is a reluctance to change or ask the questions above.

Even if the Church doesn’t show strong leadership, we can still take inspiration from how not to do it. And make sure our own behaviour learns from the mistakes of others.

Where can you show better leadership this week?

Food for thought…



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