SWOT report summary


Borrowing from a common business practice, the American Catholic Council embarked on a “SWOT” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis of the institutional Catholic Church.  In accordance with the “best practice” SWOT methodology, the survey assessed both the Church (in this case, specifically, the Vatican) and reform groups calling for change.



  • Surveys were sent out to approximately 185 people from a wide range of backgrounds: academics, church ministers, authors, theologians, reform activists, journalists and others.
  • Survey was open from 3/20/12-5/15/12 (extended from the original stop date of May 1st).  From those distributed, seventy-six questionnaires were started and forty-five were completed.  The response rate was lower than expected, therefore these results must be viewed more as a trend analysis than a statistically valid survey.


Church Reform Movement: SWOT

Strengths of the Movement: 

  • Respondents almost universally mentioned the determination, commitment, love for the faith and passion of participants in reform, as well as the well-educated and articulate quality of knowledge and the inclusive nature of the make-up of the movement itself .

Dominant Weakness: 

  • There is a perception of multiple agendas coupled with a lack of comprehensive strategy, i.e., “boats rowing in many different directions”. Lack of funds and loss of supporters due to their leaving the Church in frustration.  There was also significant concern about an inability to reach the “average” pew Catholic, i.e., “preaching to the already converted”.


  • The reform movement should make better use of new media and communication methods to engage the general public with “a single, common, clear voice” based on the enormous range of information available.  The movement “lacks a communications strategy to use this material to drive change”.


  • Discouragement, lack of funding and the pressing need for unified, inspiring leadership. The aging of reformers will create a future leadership vacuum.


The Vatican:  SWOT


  • The Vatican’s central governance and hierarchy, its global reach and historic continuity of tradition.

Dominant Weakness: 

  • Vatican is “out of touch with the lived experience of most Catholics”.
  •  The corruption of the Curia and its rigid, patriarchal structure.
  •  Narrow vision of the Church and its potential.


  •  If the Church would return to Vatican II principles, there was an opportunity to create the kind of paradigm shift that would correct its hierarchical overbearing nature and would result in a true dialogue with the people.  Few felt that this would happen, but longed for such change.
  •  A vehicle for the sensus fidelium to express itself and become a part of official teaching in the Church.


  • Increasing marginalization of the Vatican from the faith life of “average Catholics” was creating a loss of moral authority which was its own “threat” to the Church.  Loss of credibility from the recurrent scandals (abuse, financial and power abuses) and the consequent loss of international respect was also seen as undermining Vatican power.
  • Institutionally, overlooking the real power of the laity compounded by the laity’s lack of awareness of same.
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