The Rhetoric of Pope John Paul II: The Pastoral Visit as a New Vocabulary of the Sacred

By Margaret B. Melady | Go to book overview

an understanding of how public life functions. However, there is no single theoretical or methodological perspective. 37 Since there have been studies using the accommodating and resistance dialectic to examine Protestant rhetorical response to the crisis of secularization, I expect that my study may provide data and conclusions which could be compared to these other studies in an overall evaluation of the communicative strategies and the plausibility of religion as a whole.

Sociology and rhetorical criticism also overlap in studies employing the generic approach in which the power of prior rhetorical conventions and traditions mold and constrain subsequent rhetorical acts. Jamieson argued that genre can play a more decisive role than the time-bound situation in shaping the rhetorical act. She contended that the papal encyclical as a genre impedes the introduction of radical change. 38 Jablonski suggested in her study of U.S. Catholic bishops' messages that established genres function to preserve institutional order, especially in times of change. 39 In this study, I contend that the papal international pastoral visit to local churches is a newly developing rhetorical strategy that lies outside the framework of the more established rhetorical genres employed in previous papacies. In this sense, the papal visit is less constraining than the encyclical or other formal methods of papal communication. It allows for innovation and adaptation to time-bound situational demands. During the papacy of John Paul II, the papal visits have emerged to form certain patterns, establishing precedents that create expectations among audiences. These patterns and forms already place constraints on current papal rhetorical strategies and, I imagine, could affect the communicative strategies of future popes.


NOTES
1.
Karel Dobbelaere, "Secularization Theories and Sociological Paradigms: A Reformulation of the Private-Public Dichotomy and the Problem of Societal Integration", Sociological Analysis, 46 ( 1985): 377-379 and K. Dobbelaere , "Some Trends in European Sociology of Religion: The Secularization Debate", Sociological Analysis 48, no. 2 ( 1987): 116
2.
Robert Wuthnow, "New Directions in the Empirical Study of Cultural Codes" in Vocabularies of Public Life, ed. Robert Wuthnow ( London: Routledge, 1992), 13.
3.
Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy. Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion ( Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1969), 26, 86-89.
4.
Avery Dulles, Models of the Church ( New York: Doubleday, 1987), 91-92.

-27-

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