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Dominos Pizza vs. The Catholic Church

Back in 2009, Domino’s Pizza’s new president, Patrick Doyle, publicly announced in a commercial that his pizza sucked. He acknowledged that the Domino’s pizza of old simply was not very good — it didn’t use real cheese, its crust was terrible, its sauce was terrible, it tasted like cardboard, and it was an extremely horrible product.

The commercial shared some reviews of its product:

“The sauce tastes like ketchup.”

“Domino’s pizza crust is to me like cardboard.”

“Worst excuse for pizza I’ve ever had.”

“Totally void of flavor.”

Doyle promised that the problems would be corrected and Domino’s would become a pizza that you could love.

In January of 2010, when the transformation began, Domino’s stock price was $8.76 per share.

By 2015, its stock skyrocketed to $104.52 per share.

Today, it stands at $392 per share despite a 25% sell-off during this current bull market.

Had you invested in Domino’s at any point over the last 12 years, you would be a very happy investor.

Part of this turnaround was the improved ingredients and recipe, of course, but it was also Domino’s willingness to be transparent:

We suck. We promise to do better. Then they did better.

So few organizations are willing to be so bold.

It’s no surprise that the Catholic Church has suffered enormous damage to its reputation and public trust as a result of the rape and sexual abuse committed by priests, as well as the church’s willingness to allow those crimes to continue and their repeated attempts to cover it all up.

Asa result, Catholicism has experienced a greater net loss due to religious switching than any other religion in the United States.

Catholics have fled their church in large numbers.

Catholics also express a strong desire for the church to reform.

According to the most recent Pew survey, more than  60% of Catholics think the church should allow priests to marry and allow women to become priests. More than half of U.S. Catholics say the church should recognize same-sex marriages. More than half support abortion in all or most cases. More than 75% of Catholics believe that the church should condone contraception.

In response to declining membership and a desire for reform, the Catholic Church has decided against transparency. Rather than addressing their problems in a clear, honest, and public way – the Domino’s Pizza way –  the church has opted for concealment, obfuscation, and distraction.

As a result, priests have become the butt of many jokes. I’ve heard parents joke about never leaving their child alone with a priest, and I’ve also heard parents say with absolute earnestness that they would never even consider leaving their child alone with a priest.

Many of these parents are Catholic.

If the Pope wanted my advice and counsel, I would advise taking the same road that Domino’s Pizza took in 2009:

Transparency. Openly acknowledge the criminal behaviors that took place in your church in every way possible. Make amends. Make enormous, overwhelming, astounding amends. Listen to your parishioners and respond to their wants and needs. Reestablish your reputation by being honest with the people who are looking to you for moral support and guidance.

As long as the Catholic Church continues to avoid responsibility, its reputation will falter and people will leave the church.

Also, the public will respond.

Recently, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Propublic announced that since the Catholic Church in the United States does not have its own public, centralized list of “credibly accused priests, they made one of their own.

The announcement went viral. The website has been accessed tens of millions of times.

Catholics are now using this list to determine if their priest has been credibly accused of rape or sexual assault.

Once again, the Catholic Church has lost control of the story.

You have a choice in a crisis:

Control the message through honesty, transparency, and doing the right thing, or cede the high ground and allow others to control the message for you.

This is a perfect example of that reality.

My mother was Catholic. I was born Catholic but left the church after learning in my first CCD class about the existence of The Pope.

I’m far too anti-authoritarian to accept that one man – and only a man – could be in charge of so much. Even as a boy, I saw this was nonsense. Eventually, I devolved into the reluctant atheist I am today, but my mother loved the church. I have many Catholic friends. I think the Catholic Church does good work. Despite my opposition to its ridiculous, vile patriarchal structure and many of its core tenets related to contraception, abortion, and sexuality, I hate to see it so maligned.

But it deserves to be maligned, You can’t turn a blind eye while your employees rape children for years. It’s a terrible, evil, and heinous thing that leaders of the church did and condoned.

But there are plenty of good people in the Catholic Church who want and deserve better.

But I don’t think they will do better until the church takes aggressive, proactive responsibility for what had happened, creates transparent systems through which these crimes can never happen again, and makes overwhelming amends to anyone who was harmed.

Oddly enough, the Catholic Church would do well to take the Domino’s Pizza approach:

Brutal, transparent honesty followed by an unrelenting commitment to reform.

Also, because the church has done so much damage, astounding, overwhelming amends.