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Vital governance lessons after Pope Francis visit

It is undeniable that the great- est threat to the stability of businesses and even the   government in Kenya is poor governance. This is something that has received significant mention from local and global leaders, includ- ing none other than Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. His November 2015 visit to Kenya offers a chance to deeply reflect on governance.

There is no other institution in the world that is as decorated and deeply steeped in history than the Roman Catholic Church. For 2000 years, the Roman Catholic Church has gained an ever more prominent place in the annals of history.   Right from St. Peter, the first Pope, to the humble Pope Francis, the 266th in line as Vicar of Christ, the Church has enjoyed an unbroken succession

of leaders as she weaves her way through history. Not once in two millennia has the Church crumbled to the point of lacking a leader. This is something that deeply astounds the Catholic faithful, secular his- torians and even people of other religious persuasions.

For the Catholic faithful, who now number 1.2 billion worldwide, from just 291 million faithful in 1910, the Church’s firm stability and growth amid the countless per- secutions that she never lacks is a most certain sign of her divine origin. The emblematic lives of the saints, who offer a model of Christian fidelity, and the Church’sgrowing influence globally are external proofs of faith. For them, these external proofs demonstrate clearly that faith is not in opposition to reason, and show that their assent of faith is by no means a blind impulse of the mind.

For secular historians and politi- cal scientists, on the other hand, the Church’s organization and hierarchy is seen as the underlying cause for her stability over the past two mil- lennia. Even so, it is hard to explain how different people from around the whole world, separated not just by   languages, but   by   cultures as

diverse as Korean and Kenyan, can all willfully unite under one leader in Rome.

Regardless of the perspective the Catholic Church is viewed from (faithful or secular), one thing is clear: The Church’s stability and governance over the centuries is in sharp contrast to the governance of empires, governments and even businesses over the centuries.

While the Church enjoys her second millennia of continuity, all empires that started the journey together with her at the beginning of the Anno Domini timeline (year of our Lord, abbreviated as A.D) have crumbled. The Roman Empire of Cesar and Tiberius is in no longer there.

Even today, the world’s fate lies in the balance as waves of violence sweep through the Middle East, top- pling regimes day in day out. The world has had two World Wars in less than a century and the possi- bility of a third is certainly not a farfetched idea if the confusion in places like Syria is anything to go by. Stability is simply a foreign concept for the world.

tacularly, with the fall of Lehman Brothers in the U.S. that triggered the 2008 global financial crisis act- ing as a sharp reminder. With per- haps the exception of brands such as Coca-Cola and other multinationals, most businesses rarely make it past 50 years.

If we look at Kenya, the analysis isn’t any different. Slightly more than just 50 years after the coun- try gained independence through blood, sweat and tears, hope has been replaced by despair. Corruption in Kenya is a problem that Pope Francis says is analogous to sugar. Sugar is sweet but it brings about diabetes and much pain. Businesses are also failing in Kenya as new self- styled briefcase businessmen called ‘tenderpreneurs’ take over.

For Kenya, and indeed the world, it would simply be the height of pride to assume that the Catholic Church cannot offer a lesson or two on governance. After all, it is arguably the only institution that has withstood the test of time while simultaneously seeing others which are more pomp in style and higher in worldly esteem crumble.

Learning from the Catholic Church is not in any way an invita- tion for governments to adopt theo- cratic governments with allegiances to the Pope, nor is it an exhortation for anyone to become a Catholic faithful, for freewill is a God-given right. Similarly, there cannot be strict analogies between how the Church is run and how a government or business is run.

Rather, what this reflection attempts to do is show that there are some underlying principles that have guided the Church in her unbroken path in history. These are principles that can certainly be applied in   a much broader context, including in the governance of governments, businesses and even personal life.

In Catholicism, there are two under- lying concepts that bind the faith- ful always and everywhere. Both are inextricably linked, though one exceeds the other in primacy. These are simply the Sacrament of Holy Communion/Eucharist (the summit of Catholic life), and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

More than just being key reli- gious rites, these two Sacraments fundamentally shape the Catholic way of thinking and even how the faithful and Church interact with the world around them. It is this way of thinking that has characterized the Church for 2000 years.

Without too much digression into catechism, a brief explanation of these two Sacraments would suffice   for   the   sake   of this reflection on governance. The Eucharist, which is served at Mass, for the faithful is Jesus Christ body, soul and divinity. They are one and the same. For this reason, all per- fect works of Catholic virtue spring from the Eucharist and have no other objective than to arrive at the Eucharist. For the Catholic faithful, the Eucharist is the good par excel- lence, the good that exceeds all else in primacy and above which there is no other good.

However, being human, the faithful’s fidelity to the object of their adoration (Eucharist/ Jesus) always wavers. To make up for their faithlessness to Jesus, the Catholic must show contrition for their lapse, confess the fault as their own and resolve not to repeat the same error. Then and only then can they be admitted back to perfect fidelity with the Eucharist. This confession of guilt is done under penance and reconciliation.


It is important because the Eucharist is analogous to vision, which should similarly be the summit and highest good in any organization. Penance and reconciliation, on the other hand, is analogous to integrity, which sustains fidelity to a particu- lar vision. Without vision and integ- rity no organization can withstand the test of time.

Governments are bound to the vision of serving the people, but do they do so? Businesses are bound to the vision of serving society while generating profits for investors, but do they do so?

Even after businesses and gov- ernments fail in fidelity to their visions, is there any acceptance of guilt, or is there an arrogant defense of their failures? Do governments and businesses even understand what their vision is in the first place, or what integrity is? All these ques- tions need to be answered if Kenya can plug the governance gaps in public and private sector.

It is therefore important for organizations to have a crystal clear understanding of what their vision is. This vision should be unchang- ing and idealistic yet attainable. It should be simple and intelligible and at the very heart of the orga- nization’s actions. Everything the organization does should be inspired by the vision and should have no other objective than to arrive at the vision. More than just a specific goal, the vision should be more like a way of life that despite never changing always inspires ever stronger devo- tion in the organization’s members.

It is also important for organiza- tions to understand what integrity is. There is a flawed notion that integ- rity means never failing in fidelity to one’s goal. This erroneous notion is to blame for all the cover ups we see, as people are keen to do ‘social cosmetics’ to keep up appearances. The gospel truth is that people must always fail at some point for the simple reason that they are human.

So what it is integrity? It is simply being honest about who we are, this entails divulging both our strengths and limitations without fear. Integrity therefore presupposes that man has the capacity to forgive and accommodate the misdeeds and imperfections of others, for he him- self is imperfect.

For instance, in countries where the problem of corruption is handled more expertly than most of Africa, it isn’t uncommon for officials to step aside by their own volition to allow investigations to take place. In the case of U.S.’s former President Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky drama, he publicly admitted his indiscretions. In doing so, he showed that although he was seemingly unfaithful, he indeed understood what integrity is.

Integrity is not about projecting a particular image, but rendering a

truthful and unaltered reflection of who we are. In fact, Pope Francis, while speaking strongly against cor- ruption, himself publicly admitted that there are cases of corruption afflicting the Vatican as well.

All too often, we see politicians denying acts they themselves initiat- ed in front of thousands of witnesses. This is something that those who practice hate speech have perfected. It is the same with corruption scan- dals, where denial seems to be the only liAne of defense both in public and private sector.

It is only when governments, businesses and even people accept the limitations that beset them that good governance can be practiced. Admittance of fault always allows the problem to be identified and be solved. In fact, one who hides his faults is like a man who contracts a disease in the more shameful parts of his body and shuns making himself known to the physician; what he thinks is saving him (maintaining a good image in front of men), con- demns him when the disease eats away at him, killing him, along with his pride and false idea of integrity.

Confession is therefore an act of healing, and there are no shortage of examples to demonstrate this. One prominent example, which will be briefly considered in this article, is that of Apartheid South Africa. The theme of confession inspired the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which saw amnesty applicants speak pub- licly in scouring detail about the atrocities they had committed.

While the confessions didn’t completely free South Africa from all racism, it really gave the whole world a sense of understanding about just how big a problem racism is. It demonstrated quite clearly that the deeds that people do under the drunkenness of racism indicates a regression to animality on the part of man. It helped inspire people businesses should commit them- selves to understanding the world around them better. In this regard, education is not only necessary, but also encouraged.

Businesses, for instance, should understand that politics affects them and should position themselves in a position to influence policy. Polycarp Igathe, the Managing Director Vivo Energy, once said: “Any businessman who pretends that politics is irrele- vant is lost; stay close to it so that you are warm and stay far from it so that you don’t get burnt.” Prudence proscribes fanaticism and wishful thinking. A good example of pru- dence in the Catholic Church is its reaction to the contentious issue of faith and reason.

Though the Church teaches that faith is above reason, it categorically iterates that “there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself nor can truth contradict truth.”

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, article 159). In keeping with this conviction, the Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental pro- vider of education worldwide.

This has allowed it to solidify the faith by responding to the funda- mental truth that faith always seeks understanding. It demonstrates pru- dence on the part of the Church.

Besides prudence, justice is also important. It means giving to your neighbor what is due. For instance, how many young people today work nine to five jobs and spend all the hours at work that belong to their employer on social media gossiping? This is contrary to justice as it amounts to theft. It also undermines good governance and engenders destructive habits such as gossiping

in society.



Fortitude, on the other hand, means constancy in pursuit of the good, even at the threat of enemies. Organizations need to be firm in their reform agendas, particularly in government where there are very few brave anticorruption czars. Fortitude makes a man fear neither death nor to be swayed by bribes in pursuit of his goals.

Finally, temperance is simply self-control, something that is in deficient doses in Kenyan organi- zations. Executives and politicians often want pay hike after pay hike. Some businesses also want to grow too big too fast, tempting them to manipulate accounts. This does not support stability. In conclusion, there is much that Pope Francis’ visit can teach us, particularly businesses and government.

It offers vital lessons for gover- nance and stability and challenges us to rethink the models upon which we have built our organizations.

By Lennox Yieke, Editor Business Monthly. Twitter: @lyieke