The Transformation of the Christian Churches in Western Europe (1945-2000) / La transformation des églises chrétiennes en Europe occidentale

The Transformation of the Christian Churches in Western Europe (1945-2000) / La transformation des églises chrétiennes en Europe occidentale

Leo Kenis
Jaak Billiet
Patrick Pasture
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Transformation of the Christian Churches in Western Europe (1945-2000) / La transformation des églises chrétiennes en Europe occidentale
    Book Description:

    Research continues to show that the Christian religion is gradually disappearing from the public, cultural and social spheres in Western Europe. Even on the individual level, institutionalised religion is becoming increasingly marginalised. Some scholars, however, speak of a repositioning of the Christian churches in post-modern Europe, citing new forms of religious life and community. This book focuses on the complex mutations the Christian churches in Western Europe have experienced since World War II. The authors offer a comparative exploration of the situations in several countries and describe the evolution (including the specific growth and decline) of the various Christian denominations.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-108-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. The Transformation of Christian Churches in Western Europe An Introduction
    (pp. 7-20)
    Patrick Pasture and Leo Kenis

    The Western European religious landscape underwent major changes after World War II. Not the least of these relate to the Christian churches. While admittedly the Christian churches were not as omnipresent as they once had been and their position had been undermined by the development of rationalism and secularism as well as through the great socioeconomic transformations of the nineteenth century, by the mid-twentieth century in major parts of the continent they still, or rather once again, occupied a central position in society, though admittedly not everywhere nor among every social group or class: urban centres and middle and working...


    • The Present Crisis in Historical Context
      (pp. 23-38)
      Hugh McLeod

      Historians divide between those who see fundamental changes as products of gradual long-term evolution, and those who focus on short periods of revolutionary upheaval. To the former party belongs Alan Gilbert. InThe Making of Post-Christian Britainhe begins his story in the thirteenth century. Secularisation is almost as slow as the geological processes that built the Himalayas, and just as inexorable. The religious crisis of the 1960s and 1970s was merely the logical conclusion of developments which began in the distant past.¹ Other historians have reached the same conclusions by different routes. For instance, a very similar evolutionary model...

    • Feu la “nouvelle chrétienté”?
      (pp. 39-54)
      Étienne Fouilloux

      Deux sondages grandeur nature, en guise d’introduction. Dans la riche production sur l’histoire des intellectuels au XXesiècle, les catholiques d’expression française ont enfin reçu l’attention qu’ils méritaient. S’il n’existe pas d’étude équivalente pour la Suisse romande¹, leur activité en Wallonie et en France a récemment fait l’objet de recherches approfondies.

      La thèse de Jean-Louis Jadoulle, soutenue à Louvain-la-Neuve le 8 octobre 1999, explore le parcours et les positions de quatre vecteurs intellectuels wallons entre 1945 et 1958:La Relève, publication de l’aile rénovatrice du Parti social-chrétien; sa consoeur bien connueLa Revue nouvelle, autour du chanoine Jacques Leclercq et...

    • Restoration and Erosion of Pillarised Catholicism in Western Europe
      (pp. 55-76)
      Wilhelm Damberg and Patrick Pasture

      To discuss the question of the continuities and discontinuities in the position of Christendom before and after the Second World War, we must adopt a long-term perspective, in particular because the history of modern Christendom is often still seen within the framework of modernisation and secularisation discourses that assume that the influence of religion in society gradually declined since a mythical ‘age of faith’, usually situated in the Middle Ages or the Ancien Régime, and even up to the blurb of this conference.¹ As we shall see, secularisation theories do have their merit, but that must be limited to Europe...

    • Left Catholicism in Western Europe A Brief Survey
      (pp. 77-95)
      Gerd-Rainer Horn

      No sequence of events shook up modern European societies as much as the Second World War, the Nazi occupation of vast portions of the continent and the ensuing antifascist resistance efforts. The experience of occupation, resistance and liberation turned European societies upside down. Previous certainties oftentimes dissolved into distant memories, and new conceptions of society, politics and culture began to agitate the hearts and minds of those Europeans who were fortunate enough to survive. When the moment of liberation eventually arrived, significant numbers of Europeans were no longer willing to return to the status quo ante. They instead hoped for...

    • Opening Windows or Opening Doors? Catholic Intellectuals as the Bearers of Secularisation in the Netherlands, 1945-1970
      (pp. 96-112)
      Lodewijk Winkeler

      In July 1966 the director of the well-known Catholic publishing house De Spaarnestad, Dr H.J.A. de Goeij BSc, published a short letter to the editor in the newspaperDe Tijdunder the provocative title, “The betrayal of the clerks”. In his letter he criticised Dutch theologians for questioning the truth of central dogmas of the Catholic Church. Existentialist philosophy, the modern sciences, and the humanities had caused, as he stated, an explosion of modernist thinking. Neo-modernism was, he said, a “freezing storm which has blown in through clerics and seminary professors, even more than through lay people”.¹

      De Goeij’s letter...

    • Late 20th-Century Trends in Catholic Religiousness Belgium Compared with Western and Central European Nations
      (pp. 113-145)
      Karel Dobbelaere and Jaak Billiet

      In this article, we discuss trends in Catholic religiousness in Belgium and compare them with similar data from Western Europe at large. Is Belgium a unique case or does it represent a more general trend? Next, we analyse recent data from Western and Central European countries collected through the European RAMP-survey¹ which confronts two theoretical approaches on religious pluralism: Rational Choice Theory (RCT)² and Secularisation Theory (ST).³ The outcome of this confrontation will lead us to our theoretical explanation. Finally, we evaluate a possible development of the current trends.

      In his seminal work on religion, Durkheim emphasised the importance of...

    • Contemporary Syncretism in Europe
      (pp. 146-160)
      Liliane Voyé

      For a long time, syncretism was exclusively associated with continents other than Europe, and with Africa and Latin America in particular. It was perceived as evidence of these peoples’ irrationality that, in this way, they blended gods, beliefs and practices that the colonisers defined as incompatible and mutually antagonistic. Anthropologists have demonstrated, however, that, far from lacking coherence, this syncretism was an attempt by people to preserve their identities. This held especially true when colonisation disrupted social structures (for example the systems of lineage) as well as daily life (notably with the spread of schooling and the development of urbanisation)....

    • The American Exception? Secularisation and Religion in the United States, 1945-2000
      (pp. 161-172)
      Jon Butler

      Historians face a puzzle in assessing American religion after World War II, if not a paradox. In the nation often thought to epitomise the triumph of secularity, religion maintains a presence so extraordinary that it almost defies description as well as analysis. By any measure - statistics on membership, active participation, financial contributions and health, construction of new church buildings and (with the exception of rural America) maintenance of old buildings - religion is as healthy in the United States in 2003 as it has been in almost any other time, including the vaunted Puritan era of seventeenth-century New England....


    • Fundamental Changes in the Social Ethic of the Christian Churches
      (pp. 175-193)
      Johan Verstraeten

      The social discourse of churches is not an unhistorical doctrine but “a continuing learning process”¹ which results in a series of texts developed in a permanent dialogue with the secular world, its movements and its theories.² An adequate understanding of the fundamental transformations in the social discourse of churches requires, consequently, an examination of the changing social, political and economic realities and their popular as well as scientific interpretations (Sollicitudo rei socialis41). This does not mean that churches are passive actors reacting to historical circumstances and trends in thinking. As living social realities intertwined with the world, they actively...

    • The Affirmation of Women’s Religious Leadership: A “Modern” Issue?
      (pp. 194-206)
      Anne-Marie Korte

      In the summer of 2001, I attended an international celebration of the Eucharist led by three female priests. These ministers included a Lutheran priest from Sweden, an Anglican priest from England, and an Old-Catholic priest from Germany. All women were in their thirties, feminist theologians and officially ordained. They had created a celebration that was, on the one hand, in line with their respective church orders and with interconfessional agreements, and, on the other hand, expressed the style and content of feminist liturgies. This second aspect meant that, for instance, mutual contact, bodily experience and references to daily life were...

    • God has no Favourites Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue: the Unity of God’s Creation
      (pp. 207-220)
      Anton Houtepen

      When we speak about tranformations of the churches in the second half of the twentieth century, ecumenism and interreligious encounter seem to be two of the most striking examples.

      Ecumenism, “the great new fact of our era” (Visser’t Hooft), has changed church life and societal relations considerably. The increase of mixed marriages, the exchange of liturgical forms and organisational patterns of the churches (e.g. forms of synodality in the Roman Catholic Church, forms of episcopacy in various Reformation churches), a multiplicity of theological dialogues, the osmosis of ideas and scholarly cooperation beyond confessional boundaries: all these have reshaped the idea...

    • Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue
      (pp. 221-235)
      Hans Ucko

      French Reformed theologian, F.Lovsky, has in his book,La Déchirure de l’absence: Essai sur les rapports de l’Église du Christ et du peuple d’Israël, a chapter entitled “Le peuple d’Israël, pivot oecuménique du peuple de Dieu”.¹ Here, he puts in relation the “Mystère de l’É glise” and the “Mystère d’Israël” and says that this relationship obliges us to realise that the unity of the Church cannot be conceived without the people Israel, which is the root of the Church. The other is thus intrinsically part of the self-understanding and unity of the Church. Elaborating, he sees the theory of rejection...

    • Christian Churches as Social Capital. An Empirical Study of the Relationship between Church Commitment, Religious Pluralism and Tolerance, and the Attitude towards Immigrants in Eleven European Countries
      (pp. 236-252)
      Jaak Billiet, Karel Dobbelaere and Bart Cambré

      Does church commitment affect social attitudes that are favourable to social integration? From a social capital viewpoint, social integration is understood as the maintenance of orientations and attitudes that are favourable to the justification and functioning of a pluralistic, democratic, political system. Social capital itself has been functionally defined as aspects of social relationships or structures that facilitate the purposeful co-operation of individuals within these relationships. These aspects are mutual obligations and expectations, the availability of information, purposeful social organisations, norms of reciprocity, civic commitment, and social confidence.¹

      An empirical study in Belgium has shown that the involvement in religious...


    • La réception du Concile Vatican II dans la Curie romaine
      (pp. 255-266)
      Philippe Chenaux

      À la veille de l’ouverture des travaux du Concile Vatican II, en octobre 1962, l’image de la Curie romaine dans l’Église catholique reste très négative.¹ De nombreux évêques, dans leurs vota envoyés à Rome en réponse à la consultation lancée par la commission antépréparatoire en juin 1959, avaient réclamé “des changements dans l’administration” centrale de l’Église.² La réforme de la Congrégation du Saint-Office n’était-elle pas devenue, au cours de la période de préparation, l’un des plus sûrs marqueurs d’“un esprit réformiste”?³ Passé le premier moment de stupeur et d’incrédulité, la réaction des principaux responsables de la Curie à l’initiative du...

    • Collégialité et primauté dans l’application de Vatican II
      (pp. 267-280)
      Jan Grootaers

      Dans ce texte je veux esquisser brièvement une évolution qui couvre quarante années. Je me limite donc à quelques points saillants concernant l’application ou la non-application de la collégialité épiscopale, qui fut à Vatican II un des thèmes les plus significatifs du renouveau que la majorité des Pères conciliaires voulait mettre en oeuvre.

      La notion de “collège des évêques” était une réalité très ancienne, mais presque oubliée après Trente et après Vatican I. Elle est apparue à l’ordre du jour du Concile de 1962 comme une découverte, et, de fait, c’en était une pour de très nombreux participants de Vatican...

    • Réception et conséquences de Vatican II. Un point de vue protestant
      (pp. 281-295)
      André Birmelé

      Le processus de la réception est une donnée complexe. Dans la foulée du Concile Vatican II le théologien catholique Yves Congar en a proposé une définition qui est aujourd’hui largement admise en vie ecclésiale et en théologie. Nous la reprenons à notre compte: “Parréceptionnous entendons ici le processus par lequel un corps ecclésial fait sienne en vérité une détermination qu’il ne s’est pas donnée à lui-même, en reconnaissant, dans la mesure promulguée, une règle qui convient à la sienne. Il y a dans la réception, bien autre chose que ce que les Scolastiques entendent par obéissance. Pour ces...

    • Reception and Implementation of the Second Vatican Council Religious Institutes
      (pp. 296-311)
      Joachim Schmiedl

      In the first half of the twentieth century a typical parish in a mid-European country such as Germany, Austria or Belgium, included a small house of religious sisters. Often there were no more than four or five sisters in such a house, and they cared for the church (i.e.sacristy and flowers, etc.), the kindergarten and the sick. Generations of parishioners passed through the hands of these sisters and received their initial education and religious socialisation from them. In 1953, there were 8,248 religious houses for sisters in Western Germany. Following the Second Vatican Council very few religious communities have been...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 312-351)
  8. Colophon
    (pp. 352-352)