Politics and Religious Authority: American Catholics since the Second Vatican Council

By Richard J. Gelm | Go to book overview

Charles A. Buswell of Pueblo, Colorado, went on public record opposing the Vatican statement. 80 But many other bishops may be with them in spirit. A majority of the bishops responding to our survey (56 percent) disagree with the statement that "homosexuals should not teach in public schools." Similar polls of American Catholics have also found support for homosexual rights. According to a Gallup poll taken in the spring of 1992, 78 percent of U.S. Catholics favor equal job opportunities for gay people. 81 At a time when American Catholics and American bishops have become more supportive of equal job opportunities for homosexuals, the Vatican has intensified an already inflamed controversy.

These crises within the Church are by no means unusual. Throughout its history the Church struggled with conflicts between its religious leaders and the wider society. The context of current crises, however, can be traced back to the "promises" some Catholics believe were made at the Second Vatican Council but remain unfulfilled to this day. The profound religious and political changes over the last thirty years since the Council and the rising expectations of American Catholics have left Catholic leaders scrambling to maintain a meaningful political voice.


CONCLUSION

The simple classification themes common to the political development literature may not be completely suitable for explaining the current relationship between religion and politics. An assumption underlying many models is that religion remains static while political systems change. As modern systems advance, it is assumed, religion is left behind without contemporary relevance in the realm of politics. Religion is viewed as an impediment (or obsolete) to development in advanced societies. When religion no longer serves the purposes of government, it is argued, it is soon abandoned. But religion changes. Catholicism and its leaders have entered a new phase. Religion and politics are not on completely separate tracts. The interaction continues.

During the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church provided a source of authority necessary to orchestrate societal development. That authority was challenged not only by political leaders but by revolutions occurring in the realms of science and religion. The rise of the nation-states of Europe, the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment, and the Protestant Reformation all worked to end the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church.

But the Church found new ways to retain a role in politics. Taking advantage of its numbers, the Church mobilized new voters through

-27-

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Politics and Religious Authority: American Catholics since the Second Vatican Council
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of Religion ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter 1 Introduction 1
  • Notes 8
  • Chapter 2 Religion, Political Development, and Change 11
  • Conclusion 27
  • Notes 28
  • Chapter 3 Religious Contributions to Political Culture 33
  • Conclusion 43
  • Notes 44
  • Chapter 4 Catholic Social Teaching and the Second Vatican Council 47
  • Conclusion 60
  • Notes 60
  • Chapter 5 Politics and the U.S. Catholic Bishops 65
  • Conclusion 90
  • Notes 92
  • Chapter 6 Religion, Politics, and the Catholic Laity 99
  • Conclusion 116
  • Notes 116
  • Chapter 7 Conclusion: The Enduring Connection Between Religion and Politics 123
  • Notes 129
  • References 131
  • Index 145
  • About the Author 153
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