Design Thinking in the Catholic Church’s Organizational Structures: Responding to the Wicked Problem of the Sex Abuse Crisis

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Design thinking is a methodology used by organizations in responding to wicked problems—problems that are complex and difficult to solve, due to a variety of factors. Wicked problems are called wicked because they are multi-causal and multi-factorial; they are notoriously difficult to address and solve, and any attempt to solve them is likely to yield unintended consequences. The methodology has been used in changing structures and operations in corporations as well as in non-profit organizations. This paper engages with this methodology from the context of theological ethics, arguing that this methodology can help respond to the sexual abuse crisis—a wicked problem—through first, helping flesh out the roots of the problem and their relationship to one another by framing the sex abuse crisis as a wicked problem; second, through change management and iteration when generating solutions in response to what has been identified as causing and/or exacerbating the sex abuse crisis, in order to foster transparency and accountability in the structures within the Catholic church.