In Persona Christi Capitis: Agency Problems When God Is the Principal
26 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2021 Last revised: 7 Dec 2021
Date Written: November 25, 2020
The in persona Christi Capitis doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church guarantees the validity of its sacraments, irrespective of the morality of the priest who performs them. While this protects their value as metacredence goods, it seemingly opens the door to opportunistic behavior by the clergy. To balance out its institutional incentives, the Roman Catholic Church must rigorously screen its candidates for the priesthood. Historical evidence supports the hypothesis that the development of the in persona Christi Capitis doctrine was accompanied by marginal increases in the screening of seminarians, which may have been an optimal response to changing historical circumstances. Also consistent with our hypothesis, a cross-section of contemporary Christian denominations shows a correlation between a group’s stance on sacramental theology and the strictness of its screening of candidates to religious ministry. Finally, we apply our theory to contemporary scandals concerning the Roman Catholic clergy.
Keywords: Agency Problems; Roman Catholic Church; Economics of Religion
JEL Classification: D23, N8, Z12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation