The present study seeks to investigate the political effects of the Second Vatican Council. Over the past three decades since the Council, the Roman Catholic Church has been in a transitional phase, grappling with attempts to find a balance between the forces of continuity and change. This struggle has compelled the Church to reassess its role in politics and has left many wondering what influence the Church still possesses.
Chapter 1 introduces the central theme that religion and politics are connected in complex and enduring ways. The religious influence on politics can be seen on multiple levels. As change occurs in one realm its impact is often felt in the other.
Chapter 2 addresses religious contributions to political development. Strong arguments can be made that religion was making significant contributions to the political development of the Western world long before the rise of liberal democracy. The Catholic Church, more so than any other single institution during the Middle Ages, served as a unifying force in society, giving legitimacy to political institutions and processes. Although the Church sought initially to impede democratic changes, eventually it became a contributing force for political democracy in the West. As its more direct connection with the government was severed, the Church sought to maintain its influence by serving as a moral critic of society, helping to affect the political values that serve as a basis for political culture.
While the connection between religion and culture has historically been strong, the religious influence here is also changing. This is the topic of