Pioneering Sociologist of Catholicism Fr. Andrew Greeley has Died

imagesMultiple media outlets are reporting that Father Andrew Greeley has died in Chicago at the age of 85. Father  Greeley was a prolific author of academic scholarship, fiction, and is often noted as an important in-house critic of the church. Greeley received his PhD from the University of Chicago and taught at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago and at the University of Arizona. Among his many works, I have often consulted Can Catholic Schools Survive? and “The Demographic Imperative in Religious Change” but my favorite is The Catholic Imagination. Which of Father Greeley’s works has had the most impact on your work or on you as a person?


A Pope Resigns!

Scholars will, undoubtedly, be discussing this historic day in Catholicism for years to come. While there is not a great deal of scholarship on the papacy by sociologists of religion, we’d be remiss as bloggers to not mention this historic moment.

One of the most clear and insightful accounts I have seen thus far is “Can a Pope Resign?” by Fr. Thomas J. Reese, SJ in The National Catholic Reporter.

I did quickly do some research to see if there had been any social scientific analysis of this papacy, and found just one recent piece “Benedict the Bifurcated: Secular and Sacred Framing of the Pope and Turkey” authored by Valenzano and Menegatos and published by the Journal of Media and Religion in 2008.

Feel free to react to the resignation or to note other insightful accounts in the comments.

Parish Closures: New Scholarship and Important Questions

As I mentioned in my previous post/shameless use of this blog for research assistance, I am in the final stages of finishing my dissertation on Catholic school closures. I have always struggled with the temptation to spend days reading wonderful existing scholarship instead of doing the much harder work of putting words on the page.  Recently, I decided that it would actually be negligent for someone with my research interests not to read John Seitz’ (relatively) new book on parish closures No Closure: Catholic Practice and Boston’s Parish Shutdowns (Harvard University Press, 2011). I couldn’t put it down as I got swept up into the ethnographic account of the many faithful Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston who took over and held constant year(s) long vigils at their parishes rather than see them close. Continue reading

Question: Pastoral Letters

The final stages of dissertation writing, as it turns out, are not conducive to a prolific blogging career. I do hope to have two posts up soon– one about voucher initiatives across the country and another about an excellent new book on parish closures.

However, I am writing today with a shameless plea.  In the course of my continuing research I have developed a question that seemed like it might be best answered by the Catholic Conversation’s readership.

If one were to be interested in tracking down all the pastoral letters ever written about Catholic education [or any other topic for that matter] in the United States… where might the best place to look be?


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.

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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!

Latino Catholicism: A New Book

Often I find myself with the desire to read all available books on a given topic but with the time to only read one. Under such circumstances I hope to get a recommendation from a friend or colleague about where to start and I try to do the same for my sociology colleagues when they find themselves with a passing interest in religion. For those with an interest in the relationship between Hispanic demographic changes and American Catholicism, I’ll be recommending Timothy Matovina’s new book Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America’s Largest Church.
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Data for the Day: Decline in the Number of Women Religious

One of the most significant changes in Catholicism in the last fifty years has been the dramatic decrease in the number of religious women. These maps highlight the decline of the number of religious women in dioceses across the country since 1980.  Several scholars have looked for sociological explanations for this decline. A common explanation argues that Vatican II itself, and not just the women’s movement or increased opportunities in the labor market that resulted in women leaving the church in large numbers. Specifically, before Vatican II religious women were accorded a special status within the faith. Continue reading

Catholic Schools in the News: Major Changes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Two big stories about American Catholicism were front page news this weekend:  Archbishop Dolan’s appointment to the College of Cardinals and the news that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is about to close or consolidate 48 schools. Those involved in Catholic education likely won’t be surprised to hear of more school closings. Catholic schools have lost over half of their enrollment since their peak in 1965 and each year since 1965 the total number of schools has declined. In the course of my dissertation research on the causes and consequences of Catholic school closings I have read hundreds of local news stories from dioceses across the nation documenting a school’s closure or consolidation. However, the large number of schools involved in this re-organization is noteworthy. Continue reading