Contemporary Catholic Identities: Ideology and Politics Among American Catholics
Contributor(s)Robinson, Robert V.
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AbstractThesis (PhD) - Indiana University, Sociology, 2005
While conflicts between Protestants, Catholics, and Jews once dominated the religious, social and political landscape, it has been argued that these have been supplanted by divisions between the religious right and left. My dissertation examines self-identified traditional, moderate and liberal Catholics and explores the forces that divide them from each other and those that unify them. Using national survey data from the General Social Survey and 50 in-depth interviews I conducted in three Midwestern cities, I examine the meaning of these religious identities to ordinary Catholics, detail their competing visions of Church, and consider the social bases of these divisions. Following the lead of other scholars, I examine whether Catholics' religious identities are created by religious movements. After exploring various traditional and liberal Catholic movement organizations, I examine whether Catholics' religious identities are connected to these movements and organizations. However, I find that most ordinary Catholics are not familiar with traditional and liberal movement organizations or periodicals. So, while these movements may be important in institutionalizing identities and garnering media attention for religious disagreements, the origins of religious identity for the majority of Catholics must be found elsewhere. Most Catholics indicate that their understanding of religious identities comes through everyday interaction with other Catholics and acknowledged the importance of politics, as well as demographics, especially cohort, for dividing Catholics into different categories. Using national survey data, I find that Cohort and education are the best predictors of religious identity among Catholics, and suggest that these form the social sources of Catholic division. I also argue that the intergenerational character of this divide helps in managing conflict between traditionals and liberals because much cross group contact occurs within families and is thus less conflictual than movement-oriented interaction.