Pope Francis: Leadership to Resurrect a Mission

Abstract

Between 1965 and 2010, the Catholic Church was the only major religion that lost membership as a percent of the global population. Some of the drop-off may be attributed to the clergy sexual abuse scandal that first came to light in the 1990s; some sources also note a natural decline in numbers due to decreasing birthrates in Europe. But the main reason people cite for leaving the Church is its lack of relevance for their personal lives and/or relevance in the modern world. Other key indicators of global decline include a high rate of attrition in leadership positions (i.e., priests and religious sisters), and lower numbers of men and women entering vocations. Since his election in 2013 as a relative outsider, Pope Francis has garnered much mainstream attention for his fresh interpretation of traditional dogma and for his vocal disdain for the Vatican bureaucracy and its failure to focus on the core mission of the Church. This case invites students to learn about the organizational dynamics of one of the world’s oldest organizations and about leadership effectiveness. Students will focus on analyzing Pope Francis’ leadership performance and evidence-based actions he could take in the future to achieve his vision of a church that is reformed to more closely reflect the life of Jesus—that is, an inclusive, compassionate church focused on ministering to the sick and the poor and seeking justice for those in need. Students will consider whether this Pope’s performance has the potential to reverse the key indicators of decline in the Catholic Church.

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