April-May Compendium

We’re continuing to (retroactively) summarize posts to The Catholic Conversation in “compendium” announcements to help readers navigate to earlier topics. As Brian has mentioned previously, the best way to track posts is to subscribe to The Catholic Conversation’s free RSS feed or to receive e-mail updates (click “E-mail Updates” in the right side bar).  This compendium begins where the last one left off, covering posts from April-May, 2012.

Discourse on human sexuality remained a strong focus, with Lucas Sharma describing his ethnographic research on two Chicago parishes. While one parish focused on inclusivity and social justice and the other on respect life initiatives, both revealed an unexpected common objective: “redefining the discourse of the parish around human sexuality.” Gary Adler considered how ongoing social change in the perception of homosexuality, connected with complex magisterial teaching on the issue, invites controversy in addressing issues of homosexuality in local Catholic parishes.

Following the doctrinal assessment of the largest leadership organization of women religious in the United States, Linda Kawentel authored the Catholic Conversation’s most viewed post to-date:  The Power of Image.  Beginning a thread that continued in the following months, Linda examined the sociological dynamics at play in media coverage of this controversy, especially highlighting both the irony implicit in the media’s use of images of habited sisters from CMSWR congregations in lieu of images of (typically non-habited) LCWR sisters but also what this says sociologically about the power of images to shape discourse.

Parish, school and diocesan office closures continued as a topic of interest. Carol Ann MacGregor considered the complex relation of ethnic tensions, financial issues, and sexual abuse scandals to parish closures and highlighted new scholarship on closures in the Archdiocese of Boston.   Finance-induced closures were close to the heart to our contributor David DeLambo, who shared how diocesan budget reductions led to the closing of his former workplace, the Diocese of Cleveland’s Pastoral Planning Office.

Building on his previous discussion of the effectiveness of parish evangelization committees in the process of the institutionalization of the New Evangelization (NE), Mike McCallion used Christian Smith’s criteria for “institutionalization” to confirm this process’ beginnings in the Archdiocese of Detroit.  Mike later explored a particular facet of evangelization in his post on theories of ritual and Catholic devotional practice, especially how the sharing of Catholic devotions may be more imperative than religious education in the transmission of the Catholic faith.

Finally, Michael Cieslak explored a topic critical to discussion of sociology and American Catholicism, the methodology for determining the U.S. Catholic population.  Mike explored an alternative method of estimating the U.S. Catholic population, generated in the 1980s in consultation with both canon lawyers and the US Census Bureau, based on dioceses’ sacramental data on infant baptisms and funerals.

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