On the RNS roundup this morning, David Gibson linked 5 Steps to Reclaim Your Credibility After You Screw Up.

For bishops covering up and uncovered this seems about right. Management consultant Supriya Desai suggests there’s a first step before the apology:

People want to see you own it. They want to see you say, straight-up, “I did it and I regret having done this.”

Then comes the apology. Not for someone else’s mistakes.

(P)eople want to know that you understand the problem isn’t that you (were caught), but that you were (wrong) to begin with.

For Cardinal George, $3.2M might be cheap compared to the continuing questions. He could admit, “I didn’t trust my review board. I trusted the priest to behave. I went along with the Charter, but I thought it was wack.”

Step 3 involves communicating improvements. Step 4–not a problem so much. The last stage turns a blunder into a positive for the organization. Ms Desai on one improved situation:

After a colleague had some communication issues with his team members during a period of layoffs, employees had some negative feelings about how he was communicating with his team. Several months after he went through the steps of admitting his mistake, apologizing and making the situation better, he began talking about the communication issues with other leaders in the company to help them avoid the same mistakes.

“At that point, he had a much-improved situation in terms of relations with employees, so he could point to that and say, ‘Facing what I had done was really important. Here’s a positive that came out of it, so I encourage you to do the same because you also can have a positive result.'”

I know we haven’t reached that point in the sex abuse cover-up scandal just yet. We have some new bishops taking over–clean so far. We have a generation of JP2/B16 bishops who take advice from lawyers and insurance companies–not from the success stories in their midst.

Clergy and especially bishops are a tight-knit subculture. I get that. But there’s a bigger culture at stake in the restoration of credibility. Appointing a new guy before the previous bishop has sent in the retirement request: that feels good for a moment, a day. But a truly reformed bishop who gets things done: that might inspire even more confidence in some quarters.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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