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Contemporary Catholic Transformations and Dynamics

Session Chair: N.N. | Friday, August 28, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Dominika Motak

Traditional Polish religiosity in a maelstrom of modern culture: continuity and change

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska - an old religious complex (calvary) related to the Passion of Christ - is one of the major pilgrimage centres in Poland. Ritual cycle of the Holy Week, culminating in a passion play and a mass procession performed on Good Friday, is regarded as the epitome of the traditional Polish popular religiosity. Nevertheless, it may also serve as an excellent illustration of changes which are taking place in the lived religion: we can observe that a traditional religious practice starts to transform into a leisure time and media event, and at the same time becomes a platform for the Catholic clergy to promote its views about current political affairs (e.g., in vitro fertilization). Drawing upon the results of field research and other sources the paper addresses a few theoretical issues particularly pertinent to the dynamics of continuity and change of Polish traditional religiosity.

Marc Breuer

Religious Individualisation and the Liturgy. Discursive Changes in Early Twentieth-Century Catholicism

The catholic “Liturgical Movement” in the early twentieth century was mainly driven by intellectuals. Some of their ideas gained widespread acceptance within the Second Vatican Council. From the perspective of the Sociology of knowledge, these dynamics were caused by socio-structural changes. Phenomena such as secularization and individualisation were regarded as damaging to religious traditions. The church should no longer support the contemporary popular piety but instead reform the Holy Mass to allow individual participation. Formally, those arguments were referring to the increasingly individualized urban bourgeoisie. Their main intention, however, was to promote the re-christianisation of society. Religious change, as this paper illustrates, was introduced by some initially small groups, which were able to prevail as their socio-structural basis expanded. Paradoxically, these groups accomplished to trigger the change of formally sacrosanct rituals by claiming transformations to be inevitable in order to preserve the holistic claim of religion within a secularized society.

Denise Motzigkeit

New Ecclesial Communities - Signs of the times?

In the 20th Century many New Ecclesial Communities (NEC) arose within the Catholic Church. Since the Second Vatican Council, these NEC have gained more and more influence within the church. The constantly rising in membership numbers stand in contrast to the known situation of the Catholic Church in Western societies, which is characterized by high numbers leaving the church and empty worship services. Against this background, NEC seem to become the “new hope” of the Catholic Church – but what makes them so attractive? At least it cannot be due to their openness concerning church policies or questions of morality, because in these points they strictly adhere to the dogmatic doctrines of the church. NEC are no longer satisfied with the “normal” offers of a regular parish: they are characterized by a great lay spirituality that encourages the individuals to actively create their own lives guided by faith. The community spirit is central. A mandatory organizational structure and strong conservative contents make NEC especially appealing to people who no longer get along with the open way of life of the modern spirit. Thus, members of NEC criticize the social form of the church, the way of evangelization, as well as the secular lifestyles of modernity. The following questions will lead through the presentation: How is the criticism of the NEC in church and society expressed in concrete terms? What exactly is criticized by the NEC (with regard to church and society)? What are their claims and struggles? What are potentials and risks – of the NEC for the Catholic Church?

Sonia Jimenez

The socio-political discourse of the Catholic Church in Cuba: variation and persistence

The discursive praxis of the Cuban Catholic hierarchy from 1959 up to the present is characterized by fluctuations, often subordinated to the socioeconomic and political changes undergone by Cuba, since the declaration of its socialist character. From a tacit political confrontation with the emerging State, in the late 1950s, to the dialoguing position of recent decades, the transitions shown in the language of official messages and articles published by the Catholic Church define its lines of thought, which, without abandoning old demands, denote immediate interests and respond to specific historical and social contexts. Based on research conducted by the Department of Socio-Religious Research (CIPS), the present paper aims to show continuation and variation in the sociopolitical viewpoint of the Catholic Church in Cuba, mainly from the 1990s to nowadays, through content analysis of documents issued by the Catholic Church hierarchy and of its most relevant publications.


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