The LDS church with some 14.7 million members is a fraction of the size of  the Roman Catholic church with over 1.2 billion. As with my last post however, I feel drawn to the similarities in the hierarchical organisations, and the institutions that assist with the day to day running of both organisations. The Catholic church has the curia whilst the LDS have COB (taken from the ‘church office building’ which houses the many departments).

Media discussions surrounding the selection of the new Pope, both before and after the election of Pope Francis, included the idea that the new Pope needed to be as much a CEO as a spiritual and religious leader. The Rev Robert Gahl described things thus:

“Of course, the Church is a religious institution. She organises worship, private and public, and offers spiritual formation. But she is much more. She is a humanitarian relief organisation and a global array of educational and healthcare institutions…

A long and rich theological tradition prizes the need for spiritual shepherds who also excel in management skills and the virtues of leadership. Recent developments in theology converge with components of contemporary management theory.
Theologians increasingly emphasise that configuration in Christian holiness involves a three-fold office called tria munera that consists in governance, teaching and sanctifying.
While all the baptised enjoy this three-fold office, pastors must especially excel in their leadership. To fulfil the demands of his office, the supreme pontiff must enjoy the special expertise in governance and management needed to take charge and direct the flock and therefore manage all ecclesiastical organisations, from the local parish in Papua New Guinea to the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.”

This was the first I’d heard of any theology incorporating management theory, but a criticism I have seen in various discussions on the bloggernacle is that the LDS church leaders are frequently too much manager, and not enough spiritual leader. This has normally been attributed to their selection from the ranks of successful businessmen.

One argument made for the executive abilities of the Pope is the urgent necessity for reform of the Roman Curia as it currently stands. Gahl further wrote:

“The Vatileaks episode offered a glimpse into some of the disfunctionality, normally due to petty squabbles among internal factions within middle management, but also drew attention to the traditional feudal structure of governance within and among the offices, and how the current structures and attitudes impede the distribution of information to facilitate efficient governance, thereby hampering the Church’s mission to evangelise.
The culture and the attitudes of governance tend toward the antiquated vertical structures of authority found in Italian public universities, not to mention Italy’s notorious criminal organisations. Advancement depends upon loyalty to one’s superior, who is traditionally expected to defend the department’s turf from internal rivals to safeguard career advancement, often awarded more on account of seniority and credentials than for professional performance.
The next pope needs to be someone knowledgeable about the curia and its language and ready to open up the channels of information flow and decision-making to free the dedicated, talented men and women working in the Vatican to more effectively serve the pope and the Church’s mission of evangelisation.”

Well, the curia has been around a long time, far longer than COB, and I would imagine much of it’s structure may well be considerably more antiquated. That’s not to say that the corporate model used by the LDS church and COB couldn’t also do with some updating for the modern world, as discussed on Rational Faiths very recently. Both organisations are having to deal with the release of information on the internet.

One of the motivators for reform of the curia is the long-running child sex abuse scandal involving priests, and subsequent cover-up. To my knowledge, there is no procedure for reporting abuses by LDS leaders to church authorities beyond the level of Stake President (just as Catholic congregants would have reported problems to the Bishop), other than reporting serious abuses directly to local police (which is certainly necessary for some forms of abuse). Recent discussions on the problems of  abuse in missions have taken place over on ZD. Both the Catholic and LDS churches have sometimes given the appearance of valuing loyalty over the personal safety of individual members.

Pope Francis looks to be very much a down to earth spiritual leader, mixing with and relating to the ordinary members and eschewing the trappings of his position. He intends to get to grips with the necessary reforms, but also recognises the importance of the spritiual life of the church and its members.

“Pope Francis will deal with the problems of his Church first of all prayerfully rather than as a CEO coming in with a new broom.” (David Willey, BBC)

We should expect this of all religious leaders.

  • Do you feel the LDS church has the balance right between management and spiritual leadership?
  • Can the qualities which make a good manager also make a good spiritual leader (and vice versa)?
  • What reforms would you suggest?
  • What might we learn from the new Pope?

Discuss.