Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

Lex_orandi_lext_credendiLex orandi, lex credendi is usually associated with the fifth-century theologian Prosper of Aquitaine and it basically means “the law of worship determines the law of belief.”  It is actually the shortened form of the phrase legem credendi lex statuit supplicandi.  Many theologians have interpreted the phrase in causative terms and therefore argue that “the law of praying forms or causes the law of believing.”  So prayer before belief, worship before doctrine.  Continue reading

Peace Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Commemorating ‘Pacem in Terris’

“We are called to establish with truth, justice, charity, and liberty new methods of relationships in human society.” So states Pope John XXIII’s seminal encyclical Pacem in terris (PT), which celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year. A variety of Catholic media outlets have capitalized on the anniversary to highlight some of the encyclical’s enduring hallmarks. Likewise, universities and peace-building organizations have hosted international conferences on the topics of war and peace. Notre Dame’s recent “Peace Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” conference was one such gathering, which I was fortunate to attend. The conference aimed at facilitating an international, interfaith exploration of thematic peace and justice issues, especially those emerging in PT. I share a few reflections on the conference here.John XXIII

The call to “establish truth, justice, charity and liberty” aptly captures a core conviction shared by the conference’s diverse presenters and attendees. Laity, clergy, Muslims, Christians, Westerners, Easterners, academics and practitioners, all brought experience working at a particular level of global society to promote peace, reconciliation efforts and conflict resolution. Those I encountered certainly merited the moniker a fellow attendee used for them: “artisans of peace.” Rather than a strict reading of PT in light of its historical context, speakers impressed me with their astute applications of its content to 2013 “signs of the times.” Worthy of particular mention were Fr. Paul Kollman’s insights about the tremendous power for today’s technologies, even as they accelerate human works, to displace human dignity. They can also result in our “ethical deskilling,” he argued, evidenced in the operation of drones in the Middle East from remote U.S. operating centers. With such technologies, “our ethics muscles become atrophied,” even as drone-operators sit at a computer in the comfort of an Arizona office building. Continue reading

The Gift of Hispanics to the Church

Over the last several years, considerable attention has been paid in the secular and religious media to the growth of Hispanics in the United States. Much information has come from the Pew Research Center and the US Census Bureau. From them, we have learned that the US Hispanic population grew 43% between 2000 and 2010, and that non-Hispanic whites will become a minority sometime after 2040. This Hispanic growth has the potential to radically change the face of America, both politically and religiously. Political commentators generally have stated that President Obama was re-elected in 2012, in part, because of strong Hispanic support.


Meanwhile we also learned the religious implications of Hispanic growth. The Protestant share of the population dropped between 1972 and 2010 but the Catholic share held constant because of immigration from Latin America and the larger families that Hispanics typically raise. An estimated one-third of all US Catholics are now Hispanic and this percentage is almost certain to grow in the coming decades. Continue reading

Durkheim, Weber and Religion

My last blog on Durkheim delved into the epistemological problems resulting from individualism.  Anne Rawls (whom I have been quoting in these blogs), interpreting Durkheim, said that an individualistic perspective on religion highlights the importance of beliefs over practices.  Indeed, Rawls argued the Durkheim believed that “ideas” are merely retrospective accounts of what took place in communal ritual practices.  More specifically, the categories of understanding (ideas) are the result of ritual practices not the other way around.  Rawls is not suggesting that ideas do not ever affect our practices, indeed, practices and ideas are often mutually reinforcing, but epistemologically considered practices came first then the categories of understanding.  Continue reading

What do data tell us about feetwashing at Catholic Parishes?

Question_mark_3dSo, what do sociological data tell us about how the mandatum is practiced in the US?  What percentage of parishes (or dioceses) allow women’s feet to be washed as part of their Holy Thursday service?  What types of parishes are more (or less) likely to do so?  Does engaging in this (yearly) practice of footwashing have a measurable impact on a parishioner’s capacity to empathize with and/or serve others?

The answer to all of these questions and more is:  I don’t know.  The ugly fact is that I know of no data exploring footwashing practices in U.S. Catholic parishes.

OK, so the title of my post is  a bit misleading, because my point is actually to highlight how little we (social scientists) know about parish practices, such as the mandatum.  Or even about much more common practices such as receiving the Eucharist, confession or other sacraments, and devotions.   (The two practices that most commonly receive  attention are mass attendance and prayer, but even these are investigated in rather thin terms.)  Indeed, there is much too little systematic research exploring the contours of Catholic parish life within Sociology.  This is a lacuna within Sociology that needs to be filled.   Continue reading