Religious Organizations and Change

Brian and Gary’s recent posts dealing with the current debates over contraception and health care have highlighted several of the important sociological elements of the debate–issues of the sacred versus profane, the decline of religious authority and the framing of issues. Much of the discourse around this debate seems to be about religious freedom and what it means in the constitutional sense but also how average people interpret it.

Continue reading

Liberal Catholics and the Contraception Debate Explained?

A little over a week ago, I presented the puzzle of liberal Catholics who disagree with the Church about contraception, but who felt betrayed when Obama enacted their contraceptive preferences into public policy.  Gary recently weighed in on the debate and highlighted some deeper questions that need to be asked, but I also promised to provide my own solutions to this puzzle.  So, here we go—I will begin with the simplest or most parsimonious explanation for liberal Catholics’ response:

Theory 1:  Framing– Sociologists often emphasize the importance of framing in political discourse.  Sometimes the notion of framing is seen as (or reduced to) a manipulation of meanings and situations.  And, at times, there can be an element of truth to this.  But the larger truth is that framing illustrates the role of context and history in shaping meaning, and a frame must be understand as the coming together of several different meaningful elements into a single whole.
Continue reading

Religion’s Place

These past few weeks have been something of a church and state wrestling match:

  • Obama administration begins the match with interpretation of contraception rules. (Bad Guy Wrestler strutting around an empty ring).
  • Then, a wide array of Catholic institutions and politicians respond with theological, political, and ethical argument about over-reach. (Good Guy Wrestler and posse enter the ring, knock Bad Guy wrestler out with a clothesline move).
  • Continue reading

Monthly “Compendium”

Now that the Catholic Conversation has been successfully running for awhile we are going to start doing a monthly compendium highlighting  the topics that have been discussed over the previous month (or in this case the last 6 or 7 weeks):

With the implementation of the New Translation of the Roman Missal during Advent, Brian Starks wrote several posts on the topic–one exploring his own personal experience with the New Translation and another highlighting videos on the topic. Additionally Brian and Lucas Sharma both blogged about ideas and called for sociological research on the New Mass Translation, and Mike McCallion discussed research on the placement of the tabernacle in the post-Vatican II era and linked these decisions to a liturgical movement.

In addition to the topic of the New Mass Translation, Carol Ann MacGregor has blogged about and provided research data regarding the decline of women religious and the growth of Hispanic populations and the possible effects these demographic changes are having on American Catholicism. She also reflected on the news of Catholic school closures in Philadelphia and presented graphical data depicting changes in the number of school aged children enrolled in Catholic schools over time.

Gary Adler explored research on the the impact of congregational mission trips.  He also recalled Catholics’ historic connection to Saul Alinsky and mentioned recent sociological research hinting at the  important benefits which  have accrued to congregational communities as a result of that unique connection.

More recently, the topic of the New Evangelization and reflection on the Catholics Come Home campaign have emerged.  In discussing Catholics Come Home, we highlighted research and discussion by Mark Gray at CARA on whether or not these programs will or have had the desired effects in bringing Catholics into the fold long term.  We also mentioned the ICL YouTube channel and showed a video of Archbishop Dolan discussing Human Dignity at Notre Dame.

Catholic Books Review was highlighted as a great source of information on what to read, and we discussed books on contemporary trends in American Religion and Latino Catholicism in particular.  Looking at articles instead of books, we blogged about  second graders’ first experiences with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and research on religion and health, specifically an article on religious doubt and sleep quality.

Finally, though this blog serves to provide research, data, and opinions on sociological research on the Catholic Church around the country, it can also provide a place for parishioners to reflect on their experiences of Church. Brian, in one of his posts, shared the story of  a parishioner’s reflection on how his parish felt to him like family, and we hope that readers will share more such stories with us.


Catholic New Evangelization: Who has even Heard of It?

The Archdiocese of Detroit (AOD) has been engaged in a planning process called Together In Faith since 2000, and this process surfaced “New Evangelization” and “youth ministry” as top priorities for the diocese to address.  However, little or no research on the New Evangelization (NE), from a sociological perspective, has been conducted.

Sociologists have not even answered basic questions, such as, “How many parishes have a NE committee?” or “How many people have heard of the NE?” Consequently, I started a research project on the NE in the AOD.  After several years in the field, 3 telephone surveys of parish offices, and the administration of a social survey to six suburban parishes, I am prepared to present some basic descriptive statistics on how many parishes within the AOD have NE committees and how many parishioners have heard of the NE.

Continue reading

CSPRI Logo Poll

We want to thank everybody who has participated in The Catholic Conversation blog and who has contributed to its successful start. We are continuing to grow and to develop this initiative but as in any organization we are looking to settle on a logo that will be the face of CSPRI and the Catholic Conversation blog. As participants in this initiative we find it important to ask for your input as we try to discern what would be an appropriate logo. We have narrowed the options to two logos and are asking for you to help us decide between the two. If you would like to vote on an option we ask you to comment on the post letting us know which option you prefer.  Thanks again for your participation and we look forward to unveiling the CSPRI logo soon!


Option 1:


Option 2:

The New Mass Translation: Call for Research in Cultural Sociology

On this blog, there have been numerous posts in the last couple of weeks about the new Mass Translations issued last Advent.  As we already know, many Catholics have had difficulty adjusting to the change.

I remember learning that a new translation was coming actually a couple of years ago from college seminarians who talked about the “great Roman Missal Three.” Their excitement puzzled me – I was unsure what the need for a new translation was – my 20 ish years of Mass experience made me think that our current version seemed to work just fine.
Continue reading

E-mail Updates now available

The e-mail updates button on our sidebar has now been fixed.

If you would like to receive e-mails with the daily posts from The Catholic Conversation, just click on  “e-mail updates” (on the right) and sign up.

The RSS is for people who use readers, such as Google Reader, and you can subscribe via most readers (no clicking of the button for RSS).

If you have any problems, please let us know!

Tomorrow, I will post our first contribution from Lucas Sharma, a graduate student at University of Loyola-Chicago.  He will be suggesting how we might take a cultural sociology approach to liturgical studies.  So, look for that.

Data for the Day: Growth in the Hispanic Population

In keeping with the theme of my last post, I thought some of you might be interested in examining visually what the increase in the Hispanic population looks like across dioceses in the United States.

As the maps illustrate the increase has impacted almost every diocese in the nation– but the largest increases and the largest overall population are in dioceses in the Southwest.

These maps reflect the % of the overall population that is Hispanic not the % of Catholics that are Hispanic. Because the census does not ask about religion accurate aggregate level information is difficult to find.

If your diocese keeps track of the ethnicity of parishioners tell us what your pews look like (demographically speaking) in the comments!

Another great resource for finding books: Catholic Books Review

As Carol Ann recently mentioned, it can be hard to select which books to read on a topic.  And sometimes it can be hard to even know what books are out there.  Here’s a resource to help solve both issues.

For people wanting to read all things Catholic, Pierre Hegy’s “Catholic Books Review” is a great place to start.  The website has hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of book reviews written over the years by professional academics. Pierre estimates that 80-90% of the reviews are by professional theologians, while many of the rest are by professional sociologists.

To give readers a flavor of the books reviewed, here is a short list of some of the recent titles that caught my eye (which tilts the list a bit more towards sociology):

True and False Reform in the Church by Yves Congar, reviewed by Patrick Hayes

The Christian Consumer: Living Faithfully in a Fragile World by Laura Hartman, reviewed by Marie Conn

Faith and Money: How Religion Contributes to Wealth and Poverty by Lisa Keister, reviewed by Matthew Loveland

Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood by Christian Smith with Kari Christofferson, Hilary Davidson, and Patricia Snell Herzog, reviewed by Patricia Wittberg

Spiritual Writings. by Gustavo Gutierrez. Selected and with an introduction by Daniel G. Groody, reviewed by Andrew Prevot

Faithful Revolution: How Voice of the Faithful is Changing the Church by Tricia Bruce, reviewed by Melissa Cidade

Check it out!