In Persona Christi Capitis: Agency Problems When God Is the Principal

26 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2021 Last revised: 7 Dec 2021

See all articles by Clara Jace

Clara Jace

George Mason University, Department of Economics

Ennio Emanuele Piano

Middle Tennessee State University

Date Written: November 25, 2020

Abstract

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

Jace, Clara and Piano, Ennio Emanuele, In Persona Christi Capitis: Agency Problems When God Is the Principal (November 25, 2020). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 21-49, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3737767 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3737767

Clara Jace (Contact Author)

George Mason University, Department of Economics ( email )

Fairfax, VA
United States

Ennio Emanuele Piano

Middle Tennessee State University ( email )

Murfreesboro, TN
United States

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