When a pope resigns, as Pope Benedict XVI did, the Catholic Church is left without a spiritual leader. Although day-to-day affairs can still be managed, as long as the papal seat is empty, the church is unable to truly move forward as a spiritual organization.
The organizational model of the Universal Life Church could not be more different. All of its members share equal spiritual power and authority. This model has made great use of the Internet, which doesn't require a central hub for the dissemination of information, teachings, or ordinations. This makes the ULC a truly successful online church.
THE PYRAMID AND THE CIRCLE
Pyramid-based organizational models are hierarchical in nature. A pyramid has a large base that serves as its foundation. This bottom foundation must be vast in size in order to maintain the stability of the overall structure. As one rises up the pyramid, the size of the pyramid decreases substantially, leaving only a single point at the top.
In contrast, a circle-based organizational model has no "top" or "bottom" to speak of. Power is not mediated and distributed by a single leader, but it is shared equally among the organization's members.
The Catholic Church is based on a pyramid structure. Like many Christian denominations, Catholicism asserts that salvation is available only through belief in God and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Pope is considered to be the ultimate earthly intermediary between God and the Church. There are specific codes and practices that one must adhere to in order to be in good standing with the Church and eligible for salvation, regardless of whether you agree with these beliefs or not.
The foundation, or bottom of the pyramid, is the church-going lay community. It receives spiritual instruction, guidance, and sacraments from the clergy: priests, bishops, cardinals, etc. The clergy represents higher tiers of the pyramid, with the pope seated at the very top. Only the clergy can administer communion, perform a wedding, baptize members and officiate at funerals.
The structure of the Universal Life Church is based on the circle. It asserts that "we are all children of the same universe." As long as you do what is right and treat others as you wish to be treated, you are in good standing with the organization and the Divine. This freedom allows ULC members to deepen their spiritual practice through self-reflection and exploration.
In Catholicism, unmarried males can become ordained and ascend the ranks of the church pyramid. Ordination requires a bachelor's degree and four years of seminary school. Without a college degree, the seminary period lasts 8 years.
The Universal Life Church allows anyone to get ordained, regardless of gender, marital status, education, or spiritual belief. Distinction between lay and clergy is virtually non-existent. Every member of the church serves as both the leader and the foundation. Getting ordained is a simple process. You simply need to provide your basic contact information, and you can get ordained within a matter of days.
After you receive ordination, you will be able to perform the same rites and sacraments that a Catholic clergy member can. You can perform a wedding, administer baptism, hold funerals, hear confession, or even develop your own ministry.
There are many spiritual paths, and everyone has different needs, depending on where they're at on their journey. One organizational model is not necessarily better or "more spiritual" than another. If one feels drawn to the centuries-old beliefs and rituals of Catholicism, one should become a member of the Church. However, if one prefers the freedom and flexibility of a more self-driven spiritual path, an online church such as the ULC would be a more appropriate choice.