The decline of the Catholic Church in terms of loyalty to the brand from those who define themselves as Catholics began in the early 1960s with the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), when in an attempt to modernize the overall institutional apparatus, a few consolidated theological practices and beliefs coming from the Council of Trent were considered disused.
TO BE NOTED: My analysis isn’t a theological dissertation but a mere analysis made on the basis of a brand positioning approach.
What was said in the introduction can be explained with specific examples.
This last point has emptied the confessionals, places where people were required to go in order to obtain mercy from God. Denying the existence of Hell as a spiritual world where you will spend eternity if you do not adhere to a specific behavioural conduct enlightened by God has moved the moral question from a spiritual MUST to a philosophical SHOULD.
Consequently, there is no one that needs to be saved anymore.
Anyone is the master of his own life and there are no eternal consequences due to conduct.
What has strengthened this belief is the conception of God as infinitely merciful, a different image than the justice-seeking God that prevailed pre-Vatican II.
This is the first controversy the Catholic Church has denied: the polarisation of Paradise/Hell.
As a consequence of the denial of the first controversy, a second controversy has come to be denied: the polarisation of right/wrong.
Let’s move in time a few decades after Vatican II with the arrival of Pope Francis.
Pope Francis has a socialist background with clear anti-capitalistic views on the economic configuration that has taken place in the last 30 years as a single worldwide ideology, and he was elected after a conservative pope.
From the beginning, Pope Francis’s goal has been to create an inclusive church.
In just a few years, he has “depenalised”:
What has been the tangible result of his political program and his religious positioning so widely acclaimed by the media?
It has been calculated that during the Wednesday Audience, compared to the previous pope, there has been an average of 600,000 fewer people attending the event.
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, that should have mobilised millions of people to Rome, has been a total failure in terms of presence, according to the tourism associations which represent the travel business in Rome.
What is the reason for this decline in customer loyalty towards the Catholic Church brand?
Pope Francis, who is called to be a business man managing a property empire in addition to being a spiritual leader, has committed the mistake of most entrepreneurs on this planet:
aware of the crisis of consent (read: revenue), he opted for the solution more products more revenue, thus defocusing the brand.
Since my revenue is less and less consistent on a gradual basis, I widen the reach of people I can appeal to, reducing the degree of controversy and making it for all.
More and more loyal consumers started to decrease their sense of identification with the values of the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis has positioned himself at the head of the denial of any polarisation.
Polarisation, indeed, is the essential mechanism that leads to the creation of self-perception and personal and social identity.
Being someone necessarily means not being someone else.
Standing for something necessarily involves not standing for something else.
Both in personal and social terms, your own identity is built by also not claiming someone else’s identity.
I recognize myself also for what I do not recognize as part of myself.
What did Pope Francis think instead?
If, for example, in Italy 80% of the people define themselves as Catholic but just 10% of them go to church once a week, I reduce the requirements to get membership of the exclusive "loyal to God" club, and my numbers will start to make sense once again.
Well, he hasn’t been that right.
It is better to own 45% shares of a single market than 10% in five different markets, Al Reis would say.
How could Pope Francis have increased the number of the Catholic products’ consumers?
How could he have increased the polarisation and strengthened the sense of identity of his people?
This would have brought so much controversy that he would have been able to consolidate the relationship with the most radical Catholic movements (which are those that really care about the Church as an institution): the raving customers.
Indeed, claiming that Hell exists and Satan is a spiritual entity rather than the symbol of some moral or psychological inclination would have generated publicity. The same could be said about the condemnation of abortion as homicide in the era of feminism and women's rights. Not to mention the tons of free publicity that could have been raised as a consequence of denying the legitimacy of relationships outside the so-called traditional family.
If you want to win in business and politics, you shouldn’t be afraid to divide. The average person has a black and white approach when it comes to matters he can’t fully understand. Controversy is what allows your voice to be heard. It’s a disturbing factor that generates attention. Indeed, if you stand for something, it’s automatically said that you stand against the opposite.
Radicality is the basis of victory.
The most lasting start-ups in the US are religious organisations.
What should Pope Francis have done to strengthen the brand positioning of the Catholic Church?
Opening is the beginning of any end.
Focusing is the beginning of any success.
Unless the Catholic Church decides to go back to its origins and close the borders it has opened in recent years, the decline will be irreversible.
And you do not need to be a prophet to foresee it.
With the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church decided to adapt to the cultural circumstances that were taking place in the westernised world. After 2000 years, the Catholic Church made the conscious decision to move from a position of leadership to a position of fellowship.
If you are not a leader, you are a follower.
However, people seem to dislike followers as much as they love leaders.
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