Archiv für Sozialgeschichte
Band XLIII/ 2003 - Summaries

Benjamin Ziemann,

Between Social Movement and Service for the Individual. Catholics and the Catholic Church in the Therapeutic Decade

This essay analyses the Catholic Church of the 1970s, applying the methods of modern organisational theory. In this context, at first the reciprocal eclipsing and charging of the transformative events of the Second Vatican Council and the 1968 protest movement is followed up, which finally asserted itself during the Essen Catholic Day of 1968. Since "Essen", the thematisation of internal church conflicts in the forums of the mass media has had a massive and immediate impact upon the decision-making of the bishops and the Central Committee of German Catholics. A second line of argumentation discusses the social protest movements of the youths, priests and students, which, primarily by reverting to arguments of Liberation Theology, called for, alongside a reform of the church's structures, a reform of the unjust and deficient social structures in the first world. Simultaneously and mostly unnoticed by the public, there occurred a massive extension of therapeutic concepts for the psycho-social counsel and care of individuals in need of help, which revealed itself above all in the massive personnel growth and internal differentiation of the services of Caritas. At the end, the author discusses the tensions between the hierarchical and the heterarchical linkup and decision-making, which developed within the church's organisation during the 1970s. On the one hand, the hierarchical organisational structures in the general curacies of the bishoprics and in the German Bishops' Conference were extended and supplemented with a close network of lay bodies, who, in accordance with the decisions of the Second Vatican Council, were supposed to organise the participation of the "People of God" in the church. On the other hand, forms of heterarchical self-organisation developed through the activities of many parishes, which tended to act autonomously. This tendency was discussed by contemporaries in terms of the so-called parish church. It was in such grass-roots churches, that practices like the authorisation of laymen to give sermons developed, which stood in permanent contradiction to church decisions.


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