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Yamane argues that this dual structure allows the state conferences to be "faithful and effective representatives of the Church in state politics. The third chapter puts forward the most intriguing part of Yamane's thesis. It examines the role of the Catholic Church's "seamless garment" ideology, which because of its right-friendly anti-abortion platform but left-friendly economic and social platforms, necessitates that Catholic state conferences have a bipartisan lobbying orientation.

The conferences reportedly see their bipartisan status as [End Page ] an advantage, in that they can and often do, work with both Republicans and Democrats on various issues. However, Yamane also demonstrates that anti-abortion lobby efforts are invoked more than any other, and though they are not the only priority of these organizations, they are certainly the first priority. In the fourth chapter, Yamane examines how these Catholic lobbyists negotiated the legitimacy concerns raised by the Catholic sex abuse scandal.

Interestingly, he finds that while it had some concrete political consequences, it did not negatively affect the lobbying efforts of most conferences, nor the way that the lobbyists and their bishops if they were not directly involved in the scandal were seen by politicians. In the final chapter, he examines the various arguments made by Catholic lobbyists as they engage in state-level politics.

He finds that they use a variety of both religious and secular arguments when making cases to politicians, a result, he argues, of the fact that they are dealing with secular political institutions. In sum, The Catholic Church in State Politics provides a wealth of empirical information about state-level politics, lobbying efforts and organizations, and the way in which these lobbyists must manage their religious beliefs with the need for political expediency that their jobs mandate.

The book is clearly and engagingly written and will thus be of use to scholars of American religion, politics and institutions more generally. On the other hand, Catholic teachings on the dignity of the human person and the authenticity of the common good produce concern for the poor in the global economy and, especially in recent decades, advocacy of religious freedom, human rights, and democratic governance.

Despite this strategic position the Church faces challenges that can blunt its political impact. A shortage of priests and women religious nuns and sisters stretches Church resources in some places, while elsewhere the Church must sustain itself amidst syncretic influences of local cultures, desperate poverty, or hostile governments. Thus Catholic politics varies enormously by region, context, and issue.

This chapter begins with a review of the theological and historical context of Catholic engagement with politics, paying particular attention to the evolution of Catholic social teaching. This is followed by a discussion of Catholic politics in different regions of the world. The chapter concludes by examining issues that loom large on the horizon.


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The exploration of Catholicism, consequently, will provide a window into the broader and ever-dynamic relationship between religion and politics in the contemporary world. From its inception the Catholic Church has been enmeshed in worldly affairs. Popes raised armies, formed alliances, and anointed political rulers. The Church sought to wield the two swords of spiritual and temporal authority to perpetuate its vision of a united Christendom. To understand the logic and rationale of contemporary Catholic politics one must trace how the loss of this temporal position led the Church to think afresh about its place in the world.

We see this in the dramatic transformation of the Church in the century between the two Vatican councils —70 and — Pope Pius IX not only convened the first Vatican Council, which promulgated the doctrine of papal infallibility, he also issued his infamous Syllabus of Errors in In that document the pontiff condemned modernism, liberalism, religious freedom, the idea of progress, and separation of Church and state. His encyclical Rerum Novarum argued that the Church must bring to bear gospel values in addressing the crises of the industrial age — untrammelled capitalism, child labour, mass suffering, and Marxist revolutions.

Anchoring Rerum Novarum and subsequent social teaching is the idea of Dignitatis Humanae — the dignity of the human person. Desperate poverty and exploitation violate the gospel message of love and require appropriate political responses, particularly the payment of just wages and provision of leisure time for worship and family succour. This language of human personhood also implies that people are social creatures, embedded in families and organic communities that should be supported, not supplanted by the state.

Thus Church teaching sought a middle way between laissez faire capitalism and state socialism. Although the Church sought to lift the yoke on workers in Rerum Novarum , it did not yet accept central tenets of liberal democracy.


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  4. In a symbiotic relationship authoritarian regimes happily granted such privilege in return for the legitimacy the Church could provide. The legacy of fascism, instrumental in the devastation of Europe during World War II, shocked the Church into a deeper reflection on the proper governance of society. To be sure, the Pope, in Aristotelian fashion, qualified his endorsement of democracy by arguing that it depended on citizens properly guided by natural law and socialised to seek the common good.

    Despite this embrace the Church continued to resist a key tenet of pluralist democracy — that all religious groups should enjoy freedom of worship and organisation. And the Church enforced that view on its clergy and scholars. The celebrated American theologian John Courtney Murray made a Catholic case for religious freedom, pluralist forms of Church—state relations, and ecumenical cooperation. But he was reproached and silenced by the Church in the s. Understanding this background helps us see the significance of the Second Vatican Council — , especially its later documents.

    Social Forces

    Two individuals would be pivotal drafters of this historic document: John Courtney Murray, who brought with him the American experience of Catholic participation in a pluralist democracy, and one Bishop Wojtyla of Poland, whose defence of the faith against the totalitarian tyrannies of Nazism and Communism forged a fierce commitment to free churches as bulwarks of civil society and resistance to oppression.

    As pontiff, of course, he would be placed in a pivotal position to implement this vision. When the Church stopped relying on temporal power to pursue its spiritual mission it was freed to challenge the legitimacy of authoritarian regimes, and with a few exceptions it did just that. Indeed, like a great ocean liner that turns slowly but with tremendous force in its new direction, the Church became a powerful engine of democracy. As Samuel Huntington documents, the last great wave of democratisation was largely a Catholic wave. In three-quarters of all Catholic countries were ruled by authoritarian regimes; by all but a few were democracies.

    The Catholic Church is a unique multifarious institution. Headquartered at Vatican City, the Holy See retains remnants of state sovereignty, including an elaborate diplomatic structure that sends and receives ambassadors. This section explores the first of these roles, as captured under the rubric of Vatican diplomacy, then touches on transnational global activism of other Catholic organisations.

    A major focus of papal initiatives in the past few decades has been human rights, particularly religious freedom. For John Paul II this involved championing religious freedom behind the Iron Curtain, and then, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, to broader authoritarian contexts. More recently the waxing of militant Islamist movements, imperilling the lives of indigenous Christian communities, has captured the attention of popes and Vatican diplomats.