When Michael asked me to write a post about the accessibility of the Catholic hierarchy vs that of the LDS hierarchy I admit I was intrigued. Too intrigued perhaps, as my writing style can never do this topic the justice he must have envisioned giving it. I shoot from the hip with my writing and hope it all sticks—I am no academic, though I am academic adjacent so I apologize to you the readers, and Brother Barker as well.
The most commonly recognized situation of Catholic hierarchy is the 3-tiered model. The 3-tiered model consists of The Pope→Bishops/Dioceses→Local Parishes. Not too complicated at all, right? Up until recently, it was virtually impossible to gain an audience with The Pope though. Even if one could afford the time and money to visit Vatican City the most you could hope for was to wait in the crowd and be blessed as a body of people vs and individual; and then The Pope would ride off in his Pope-Mobile. With the coming of the newest Pope, Francis, quite a few changes have been made. This Pope specifically travels extensively out of Vatican City, but not to visit heads of state and other individuals of supposed great import, but to visit the people. Pope Francis has made an almost Herculean effort to bring the office of The Pope back to a servant position in the same respect as John Paul II. Pope Francis even has a Twitter Account (@Pontifex) which offers “time off” from Purgatory to its followers. A veritable new era of accessibility when one can fire off a tweet to His Holiness.
We are all pretty well familiar with the structure of LDS Hierarchy so I hope I don’t need to detail that—suffice it to say that surprisingly there are many more levels. Regular Joe Schmo has access to his Bishop/Branch President, Stake President, and *sometimes* the Area 70, but that is really about it. Dishearteningly, any problems or complaints that are taken further up the chain are merely referred back to the Bishop or Stake President. The LDS Newsroom has its own Social Media outlets, but who on earth wants to talk to them about a matter of doctrinal importance, or eternal salvation?
Prior to Pope Francis I would have put all my money on Mormonism offering greater accessibility than Catholicism, but we live in a new age. We live in an age where as Catholicism grows closer to itself Mormonism seems to become more distant. Sure, there are members that are on a first-name basis with those higher up in The Church, but in a worldwide Church is that sufficient? I suppose it makes more sense for Catholicism to be more accessible because there is the intermediary nature of The Pope that is not really there for the President of The Church. We can access God ourselves, so why not do so? When there is a problem with the organization of The Church that is unrelated to The Gospel I think there should be better means to nip problems in the bud. As it stands all we are left to do is to hold out hope that we will be blessed from afar, while FP12 drives by us in their Morm-Mobiles.
I think this is a matter of perspective. There’s a billion catholics, and the pope has almost 3 million followers, does he have time to respond to the probably tens of thousands of mentions on twitter daily? Like alot of celebrities hopefully he tweets himself, but probably not.
I’m in Utah, so it would make sense that we have better access to the apostles and prophet but I’ve still only had a few experiences. One time I was in Smiths Grocery and I was at the deli counter. I looked to my right and there was Henry B. Eyring standing next to me. He smiled, and I smiled back and we both went on our way. Were there questions I wanted to ask him, or did I want to introduce myself? Yea, but my reaction was that he probably gets hassled everywhere he goes around here, so I just turned and went on my way. No security detail, no personal shopper for an apostle… The other day a friend of mine was tagged in a facebook photo of President Monson at a birthday party in a ward chapel last Friday night. Another friend of mine’s nephew passed away a few weeks ago, and nearly all of the twelve apostles came to pay their respects. It may appear they are in some ivory tower, and inaccessible but then again it probably just appears that way… I hear so many stories of people who want an apostle to provide them a priesthood blessing. They probably get requests like that daily, but the bottom line is whether that blessing comes from The Prophet or the father of the home, it’s the same Priesthood power.
These men are just like any other brethren in the church, but they’re serving our heavenly father and they can’t be everywhere at once. That’s what the Holy Ghost is for… 😉
Carson, I 100% agree that it is a matter of perspective, and honestly that is what probably bothers me most about it.
When a new Pope is elected it is pretty standard that any parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc… will most likely never see him again. He is a man for the people now, not a man for the people who know him. As a convert from the East Coast I still remember the weird feeling that attended realizing I know someone who is a General Authority, and then another one as well. I can’t imagine being at the Grocery Store and running into Henry B. Eyring, but for you it is a day in the life (As a side-note I lived in SLC for 4 years and never saw a single GA so it isn’t as if I have never had the opportunity)
I agree that they are Brethren like the rest of us, but were I having a major religious crisis that could only be solved by my Bishop getting to him would be no problem.
Most of all–I don’t want the Newsroom. The Newsroom is great for clarifying piddly points of doctrine to the press, but a big part of me resents that it is where I am expected to gain news of my own religion that doesn’t fall on the half-year. We need more true accessibility to our leaders, not mere sightings. If they are my Brothers I want them to act like it.
“We can access God ourselves, so why not do so?”– the money shot. This post is nice work, sister. Thanks for writing.
P.S. I want those rosary beads.
Me too, Melody! I do have my Grandmother’s rosary beads though and so for the sentimental attachment alone it doesn’t get any better than that.