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

By Richard J. Gelm | Go to book overview

church ban on the practice of homosexuality when they express their opposition to allowing homosexuals to teach in the schools. They may not view this as a civil rights issue, as many bishops do.

Nevertheless, on most other issues, Catholics who attend church regularly are closer to their bishops' political views than are Catholics in general.


CONCLUSION

It would seem that the official church social teaching and the teaching of American bishops does trickle down to the parish level. Catholics by large margins support the reforms of Vatican II and are generally receptive to the political activism of their bishops, so long as that action remains nonpartisan. If this is the case, the message of Vatican II can be expected to continue to influence American Catholics and may work to move Catholics toward more liberal politics.

To the extent that conservative leaders within the Church seek to slow the reforms of Vatican II and return to more authoritarian practices, however, the implementation of Vatican II may be slowed. 80 But most signs continue to indicate a Catholic backlash to such efforts, particularly when the authoritarian tactics are used in the area of sexual ethics and abortion. It is in these areas that Catholics are least receptive to church authority. Nevertheless, the more progressive political and economic message of Vatican II and American bishops is getting through.

The bishops are faced with a dilemma. Do they emphasize issues where they have greater influence, or do they push an unpopular agenda and risk being ignored by their followers?


NOTES
1.
Bryan Wilson, Religion in Sociological Perspective ( Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 170.
2.
Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion ( Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967), p. 127.
3.
Wilson, Religion in Sociological Perspective, p. 168.
4.
Michael Novak, The Open Church ( New York: Macmillan, 1964), and James Hitchcock, The Decline and Fall of Radical Catholicism ( New York: Herder and Herder, 1971).
5.
William D. Dinges, "Ritual Conflict as Social Conflict: Liturgical Reform in the Roman Catholic Church," Sociological Analysis 48, no. 2 (Summer 1987), pp. 138-157.
6.
See "Church Attendance Stable, Poll Shows," San Francisco Chronicle, December 19, 1988.

-116-

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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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