SWOT Analysis of Institutional Church & Reform Movement

In early 2012, as part of the preparation for the Nonviolence Institute that was sponsored by the American Catholic Council,  an effort to create a “SWOT” analysis of the institutional Roman Catholic Church was undertaken. (SWOT stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.”)   This analysis focused on the Vatican, but also has application to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as well as local bishops (ordinaries) in local dioceses across the US. We are hoping that the SWOT Analysis can provide the Church Reform Movement a helpful “reality check” on mission statements, operating plans, and future action proposals.  We also used the data as part of a  “strategic estimate” that resulted from the Nonviolence Institute  sponsored by ACC in the Fall of 2012.

This technique is taught in most business schools today,  and is routinely done by many for-profit businesses and not-for-profit organizations, generally in context of developing a business plan.  Managers identify  realities and perceptions that can impact operational success of the organization in the future, both positively and negatively.  Consultants are often contracted to provide a level of objectivity. It is vitally important that the analysis of conditions be done as objectively as possible.  Often, organizations are somewhat myopic in viewing their own strengths and vulnerabilities and their competitors as well.  This analysis differs in one major respect: we needed to consider the intangible factor of the “consumers,” i.e. WE, the Faithful, the People of God.

ACC sought a wide range of participants with particular knowledge and expertise regarding the inner workings of the institution, especially in the context of the Vatican and the Vatican’s  “men” within the US hierarchy, perhaps in the context of select bishops’ roles within the USCCB. Participants included:

  • Academics, including theologians, ecclesiologists, historians and sociologists, especially those grounded in the teachings of Vatican II;
  • Journalists, especially those who have covered “politics” in the Roman Catholic Church and the progressive reform movements;
  • Knowledgeable Clergy, Religious and Laity who serve in active ministry within the Church;
  • National Leaders in the US and Canadian Church Reform Movements;
  • Local Leaders in the Church Reform Movement in the US and Canada;

Participants responded to a series of open-ended questions via an online Questionnaire.  Participants’ names remain confidential.  For a summary of the results of this SWOT, please click here.


As they prepared their analysis, we recommended (though we do not require) that participants in the SWOT Analysis first review the following sources to inform their responses to the Questionnaire.  These resources may also prove helpful to others:


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