Encounters with Modernity

Encounters with Modernity: The Catholic Church in West Germany, 1945-1975

Benjamin Ziemann
Translated from the German by Andrew Evans
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    Encounters with Modernity
    Book Description:

    During the three decades from 1945 to 1975, the Catholic Church in West Germany employed a broad range of methods from empirical social research. Statistics, opinion polling, and organizational sociology, as well as psychoanalysis and other approaches from the "psy sciences," were debated and introduced in pastoral care. In adopting these methods for their own work, bishops, parish clergy, and pastoral sociologists tried to open the church up to modernity in a rapidly changing society. In the process, they contributed to the reform agenda of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Through its analysis of the intersections between organized religion and applied social sciences, this award-winning book offers fascinating insights into the trajectory of the Catholic Church in postwar Germany.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-345-1
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Benjamin Ziemann
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    From 1945 to 1975, the Catholic Church in the Federal Republic of Germany faced many challenges. At the end of the Second World War, it seemed as if the church was the “victor among ruins.” It was one of the few major societal institutions to survive the Nazi dictatorship more or less intact. And in the immediate postwar period, hopes were high that the devastating effects of Nazi rule would encourage a return to Christian values and beliefs and would reinvigorate the church’s role in society. However, it soon became apparent that such high-flying hopes were to be disappointed. Some...

  6. Chapter 1 Counting Piety: Church Statistics and Its Uses
    (pp. 24-62)

    Although this study is about the scientization of the Catholic Church since 1945, this chapter must first look back to the early modern period. The persistence of the statistical discourse, which continued into the postwar Federal Republic—and the church’s practical application of it, which will be discussed here—cannot be understood without the long prelude, beginning in the sixteenth century, to an understanding of the church based on orthopraxy. This held that it was not the proper belief or the orthodoxy of individual Catholics that mattered most for the well-being of the church, but the fact that they regularly...

  7. Chapter 2 In Search of Social Reality: Sociography
    (pp. 63-110)

    From the start, the use of statistics in the Catholic Church was characterized by ambivalences, expressing confidence about the vibrancy of practiced piety as much as concerns about the dwindling coherence of the Catholic religious field. From the 1960s at the latest, the use of statistics to describe and analyze the Catholic milieu from within even cemented the notion of a pervasive crisis, as evidenced by the then-rapid decline in the number of churchgoers and Holy Communions received during Easter. The application of another social scientific method, sociography, commenced under much more favorable auspices. In the immediate postwar period, when...

  8. Chapter 3 Representation and Contestation after the Council: Opinion Polling
    (pp. 111-167)

    Sociography made it possible for the Catholic Church to establish a detailed picture of the “active” laity, “active” being defined as participation in a highly circumscribed set of liturgical rituals. This understanding of being Catholic suited the late 1940s and 1950s, when many still had high hopes that the traditional Catholic milieu could be reconstructed, even though the figures quickly sug gested otherwise. However, the sociographic approach to conceptualizing Catholic faith became increasingly outdated during the 1960s for two main reasons. First, the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), which took place from 1962 to 1965, fundamentally altered definitions of what...

  9. Chapter 4 Planning the Future of the Church: Organizational Research
    (pp. 168-219)

    At first glance, the Catholic Church seems a highly unlikely candidate for the practical application of organizational research. In the years after 1945, official ecclesiology reaffirmed the traditional idea of the church as the “mystical body of Christ,” as outlined in the encyclical “Mystici Corporis,” issued by Pope Pius XII in June 1943. According to this notion, the church was more than simply a strictly hierarchical body. As a mystical body, the church was not to be understood as a worldly, man-made bureaucratic structure with changeable elements. On the contrary, it had been instituted by God and designed by him...

  10. Chapter 5 “Humane” Scientific Approaches: Psychology and Group Dynamics
    (pp. 220-265)

    In the early 1970s, the “golden age of modernization” had reached its apex, and with it the social scientific belief in the potential of planning and planned reform to transform complex organizations and policy fields in accordance with societal change, to the benefit of all stakeholders.² The Catholic Church was, as theStrukturplanin the diocese of Münster demonstrated, part and parcel of these endeavors. This is a point that is worth stressing, as it demonstrates that the church was not simply a pre- or even antimodern relic, but rather that its chronology of reform and scientization ties in with...

  11. Conclusion. The Scientization of the Church as an Encounter with a Dangerous Modernity
    (pp. 266-278)

    This book is neither a conventional church history, with a focus on the discussions among and high-level decision making of bishops and their advisors, or on the theological underpinnings of these decisions. Nor is it a cultural history of German lay Catholics and the ways in which they articulated or practiced their individual faith. Rather than treading these well-established paths of historiography, this book has tried to offer new insights into the intersections of religion, social sciences, and society in the postwar period. It has done so through a focus on the “scientization of the social,” asking whether and how...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-314)
  13. Index
    (pp. 315-322)