Recently, there have been very interesting developments in the Catholic Church. They involve the outgoing Pope and the incoming Pope.
The first interesting development was the resignation of Pope Benedict, for health and age reasons. This is the first time that a Pope has resigned in over 600 years. Is the event significant? Yes, it not only encourages future popes to step down when they feel that they can no longer adequately lead, but it encourages other organizations with “leaders-for-life” to do the same. It sets a great example. The world is changing rapidly, and an incapacitated leader is an organization liability.
Joanna Brooks on religiondispatches.org asks “whether an LDS Church President [could] ever retire due to health reason?” According to historian Matthew Bowman:
The church’s government is conciliar, which means there’s a bit of slack built in. Even the president of the church has two counselors to assist him, to step in and cover when he is indisposed, and so on. The church is quite capable of functioning when the president is not.
I don’t agree. We are in an era of 24/7 news and accelerating pace of change. An organization without a rudder is a problem. Apparently, President Ezra Taft Bensen was incapacitated during the last years of his tenure. But more importantly, President David O. McKay was a virtual shut-in during his last few years and this left Elder Joseph Fielding Smith with almost free rein to do some pretty strange stuff. If difficult enough for the LDS Church to function with a very senior leadership, but it is even more difficult for it to operate without a Prophet.
The second interesting development is the “new” path that Pope Frances has put the Catholic Church on. He wants to improve the plight of the poor and encourage more be done to assist those in real need. Consider these gems from Pope Frances:
Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children. . . .
Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of the poor and hungry.
Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food, or one third of what is produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted every year.
All churches and religions could learn from Pope Frances’ message. The LDS Church would do well to place further emphasis on assisting the poor. Afterall, the Church’s largest membership growth is occurring in countries south of the equator.