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date: 21 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

While Max Weber wrote extensively on a range of religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and most extensively Protestantism—there is no fully developed sociology of Catholicism. This chapter attempts to construct Max Weber’s missing sociology of Catholicism from the various scattered comments across his works. While Weber saw Protestantism influencing the growth of capitalism (and more broadly modernization), his view of Catholicism was largely negative: it was ritualistic, magical, bureaucratic, and traditional. What would Weber have made of Catholicism in the twentieth century and twenty-first century? This chapter first examines developments in nineteenth-century Catholicism that lay behind Weber’s critical commentary. The second half asks how changes in Catholicism after the Second Vatican Council (informally known as Vatican II, 1962–1965) have brought about a modernization of Catholicism. The chapter argues for the relevance of Weber’s views today by considering the impact of Vatican II on Catholic teaching and practice, arguing that it represents the political modernization of Catholicism. Vatican II represented a radical departure from the political conservatism of the nineteenth century. In principle, the church was no longer critical of secular democracy, pluralism, the party system, and state sovereignty. This modernization, however, began to undermine the universalism of the church and pushed Catholicism toward denominationalism. However, the church did not modernize its teaching on contraception, abortion, marriage, divorce, and family life. This tension between political modernization and what we might simply call “familial conservatism” still haunts the church today.

Keywords: Catholicism, Second Vatican Council, familial conservatism, modernization, political modernity, denominationalism

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