Catholicism outlasted liberal Protestantism in Iron Curtain countries
For all the flaws communism exposed in the Catholic church behind the Iron Curtain, all the human and structural damage it caused, there is a provocative conclusion to that era, according to a pair of researchers here: Catholicism endured while Protestantism largely crumbled.
That conclusion is among the more remarkable findings of the first comprehensive study of religion in post-communist societies, conducted by Professors Paul Zulehner of Vienna and Miklos Tomka of Budapest. Their book, Gott Nach Dem Kommunismus ("God after Communism"), appeared earlier this year.
Zulehner spoke to NCR Sept. 28 from his home on the outskirts of Vienna, which also serves as headquarters for his Pastoral Forum, a center for research on pastoral activity.
The question now, according to Zulehner, is whether the strength that allowed Catholicism to survive -- its strong institutional identity -- will be an agent of change or an obstacle to it.
Zulehner and Tomka found that two societies in the heart of Christian Europe now have overwhelming atheist majorities: The former East Germany and the Czech Republic. In 1999, self-described atheists are …