Pope Francis is a terrible CEO

Pope Francis gives this blog his blessing

If the Catholic Church was a corporation, Pope Francis would be it’s CEO. And in terms of a company, the Catholic Church is pretty impressive: ~1.3 billion members, a few hundred billion in assets, missionary operations throughout the entire world, and the inspiration for great organizations such as Catholic Charities USA. It’s a big order for any single person to run, let alone do so while fighting a combination of Satan and secularism on a daily basis.

While I like Pope Francis as a spiritual leader, I have to say that as a CEO, he sort of sucks. For a CEO, his communication, discipline and snap decisions aren’t great. If you wanted to read an article where I detail that Pope Francis is the anti-Christ…this is not that article. But if you wonder why you’re not happy with the Pope, then maybe this is the article for you.

Let’s start with communication. A good CEO communicates clearly, consistently, and constantly. This means you say exactly what you mean, in as few words as possible, with no ambiguity, and repeat the message.

The recent “non-clear” moment in many people’s minds is the recent change to the death penalty section of the Catechism, where the Pope used the word “inadmissible.” Now, maybe in his head this is clear, but most Catholics were left scratching their heads. The previous Catechism said the death penalty is only allowed in grave circumstances, and that overall we should move to eliminate it. Most people can understand this, even if they don’t agree with the notion. But what does “inadmissible” mean? Most, including myself, haven’t a clue.

I remember when I told a a group of young Sailors that I was OK if they redesigned the layout for our metal workshop floor. In my mind, it meant the Sailors would put together a plan, lay it out on paper, brief me on it, and then present it to me with a bill for materials. In my mind, that is exactly what I would do for my boss. Instead, two weeks later I found that three petty officers had changed the downstairs layout no less than four times, with no resolution or agreement on a way ahead. After rounding everyone up and issuing very in-depth instructions, I was able to get a better layout.

Discipline is important. Even people that commit to an organization with good values occasionally fall short. I had Sailors that disclosed classified information, forged a Commanding Officer’s signature, and disobeyed lawful orders. I also had Sailors that I thought disobeyed the rules, only to later find out they were innocent. My response to all these situations was the same: investigate thoroughly, then take decisive action. For the Sailors I found guilty, I quickly punished them, either removing them from the Navy or taking something less and setting them on a path to get better. If they were innocent, I would personally sit down with them, explain why I had investigated the matter, and then move forward.

The Catholic Churches discipline on priest homosexuality and sexual abuses hasn’t been decisive in any respect. When someone fails that miserably at that level, you must act. Had Pope Francis (and Pope Benedict before him) publicly laicized those found guilty, and then pushed for prosecution of the more severe cases, you would have significantly less scandal associated with the Church. Doing this with the message that these people failed to uphold your high values helps to maintain those same values.

Snap decisions seem cool in the movies, but are normally terrible for a CEO. We aren’t talking about the quick, life-saving decisions in combat. I had a senior enlisted leader bring me a half-baked plan for changing our uniform policy, and instead of thinking it through like most plans, I simply said “Sure, sounds good.” Two days before implementation, I heard my Sailors grumbling about a stupid plan devised by leadership, and when I got details, I was horrified. A quick cancellation saved the day, but I had to later build back some trust.

I think the Pope made a snap decision when he married two stewards on a flight from Chile. He was probably well meaning, wanting to fix a problem. By not asking some hard questions, he didn’t notice that the couple had not gotten married in the church for 8 years…and had two kids to boot during that time. For any good Catholic, who gets told to go to marriage prep and the importance of marrying in the church, this smacks of inconsistency, and could encourage bad behavior.

I truly think Pope Francis’ heart is in the right spot. But he isn’t a priest anymore, and the rookie mistakes he is making are hurting his Church. He needs to take some advice from Peter Drucker and start acting like a CEO.


This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. And no, I don’t think the Pope is the anti-Christ, even if my mother-in-law does.

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