Brand Trust, Contracts and the Catholic Church

Watching television this morning, I couldn’t help but notice a distinct tension between stories of spiritual salvation and scandals of sexual abuse. Today is Good Friday in North America, but for the Catholic Church there was very little good news to be seen on the television screen.

From a personal perspective, I have no opinion on this topic. However, from a professional perspective, I can’t help but consider how this may be affecting the level of brand trust and loyalty amongst Catholics. At the core of this consideration is the concept of a psychological contract.

What are psychological contracts?

In law, most of us are free to enter into contracts. If there is an offer of goods or services, an acceptance of that offer, and an exchange of consideration (money or otherwise) - then a legal contract has been created. Should either party choose to break that contract, they can face serious consequences.

In life, there exists a similar concept called a
psychological contract. Although psychological contracts are not part of the law, they are an essential part of our lives. Organizations, friends and brands can all be party to a psychological contract; and just like legal contracts, when people feel that a psychological contract has been broken, serious consequence can occur. Trust can decrease. Loyalty can be lost.

A contract with the church

Without wanting to over-simplify the topic, I believe that deep psychological contracts may exist between religious institutions and those who follow them. In the case of the Catholic Church, there may be an implied offer of spiritual safety, guidance and even salvation. For those who accept that offer, consideration is exchanged in the form of prayer, penitence or perhaps charitable payment.

So what affect could these latest sexual abuse scandals have on a psychological contract between Catholics and their Church? If Catholics were offered safety and salvation, and then experience sexual scandals, are they likely to feel that their psychological contract has been violated? These are pretty deep questions with very real ramifications.

Trade the lawyers for trust

Watching the news coverage on Good Friday, it would seem that the Catholic Church has yet to fully appreciate the seriousness of their situation. As I said at the beginning of this post, I have no personal opinion on this topic. However, from a professional perspective, I can’t help but consider how this may be affecting the level of brand trust and loyalty amongst Catholics.

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