Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Ethical Leadership in the Roman Catholic Church: The Case of the Chilean Abuse Scandal

Leaders taking an ethical stance, even en masse, may find themselves risking their very positions, including the associated perks. In May, 2018, “all Chile’s 34 [Roman Catholic] bishops offered to resign en masse . . . after attending a crisis meeting with [Pope Francis] over allegations of a cover-up of sexual abuse” in the South American state.[1] The pope could have accepted all of those resignations. Instead, he accepted the resignations of three Chilean bishops, including Juan Barros of Osorno, Cristian Cordero, and Gonzalo Garcia, a month later. The ethical leadership, I submit, was not evinced in the pope’s decision to get rid of the three sordid clerics, but, rather, in the other bishops who had been willing to take a stand even at great personal loss. Indeed, the pope admitted he had made “grave mistakes” in the Chilean sexual abuse scandal. Had he been guilty of protecting his friends?
Cicero’s natural variant of friendship, or amicitia, places family and friends closest, whereas Jesus’s notion of neighbor love places an emphasis on the misfits, weak, and vulnerable. Taking a stand on behalf of unknown kids, for instance, above close friends, especially if in risk to one’s own interests, evinces the sort of benevolence “with a cross” preached by Jesus. Christian ethical leadership involves taking a stance that is neither convenient nor easy, whereas love of friends and family—of people who are dear to us—is of less ethical value in such leadership.
Even in a Christian organization, Christian leadership may not be evinced at the highest level, even in a position that is principally that of leadership. The Chilean bishops upended the pope, who was left with admitted that he had made grave mistakes even as he was insisting that his Church would not tolerate clergy molesting children. Stark action, such as en masse resignations, may be needed when an organization’s culture, even if only principally in certain countries, is itself part of the problem. Inertia, in other words, can be very difficult to move, even when it is squalid in an organization with a Christian mission. In such a case, ethical leadership must almost inevitably involve taking painful stands at possible great cost to oneself.

See: Christianized Ethical Leadership, available at Amazon