EXC 2060 B3-35 - On the dynamics between the de-institutionalization and the re-institutionalization of religious practice. Catholic cultures of piety and social forms in the field of tension between institution and charisma

Research Portal
in Process
Funding Source
DFG - Cluster of Excellence
Project Number
EXC 2060/1
  • Description

    Since the 1960s, caused mainly by the erosion of the churches in Western Europe, the attention of religious studies has increasingly shifted to processes of individualization and pluralization of religion outside the churches. Political movements within the churches that developed since the 1970s (peace and 'Third World' movements, environmental movements) were taken into account. However, the profound changes that took place at the same time in the churches' culture of piety and the changes in church-bound social forms (which went hand in hand with these new styles of piety) found very little attention.

    This applies in particular to the developments in the Catholic Church. For the global success of the Protestant pentecostal churches, which emanated from the USA (but largely left out Europe), was certainly followed attentively in religious research; the pentecostal style of piety and worship as well as the missionary enthusiasm found much attention. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, was for a long time regarded exclusively as the loser of the pentecostal 'boom' (which was initially quite true); the fact that it became (with a certain time lag) an integral part of this movement was long overlooked by religious studies. This is where the project starts.

    The beginnings of this catching-up 'pentecostalization' of Catholicism (Brenda Carranza), which has its centre of gravity in the global South (with Latin America as one of its core regions and Brazil as one of the core countries), lie in the 1960s, but follow up to spiritual awakenings in (European) Catholicism of the early 20th century. In the 1980s they took up speed and are today (for instance in Brazil) about to become the dominant current within the Catholic Church (though the church as a whole is continuously shrinking since the 1970s). With the Protestant pentecostal Churches the Catholic charismatic movements share essential features with regard to their piety style and their social forms. Thus, both are characterized by enthusiastic forms of prayer and worship and a focus on spiritual healing, their competent adaptation of pop-cultural (especially pop-musical) developments, their openness to social media and an accomplished appropriation of modern communication technologies (e.g. own radio and TV channels); likewise, both combine major religious events (mega-worship services in stadium-like churches, camp meetings, religious pop concerts) with a highly mobile, network-like social structure based on local prayer groups and house groups. The Catholic charismatic movements have made various borrowings from the Protestant pentecostal churches. But at the same time they also set own accents in their culture of piety, in Brazil for instance by the prominent integration of intimate Marian devotion, the emphasis on the priest-centred eucharistic celebration and their loyalty to the pope. The latter refers to a fundamental important characteristic of Catholic charismatic movements: They do not leave the 'eroding‘ church, but dynamise the church's bureaucracy and its mechanisms of establishing religious authority from within.

    The charismatic movements in the Catholic Church are particularly interesting for the study of religion, because they show that processes of de-institutionalization - understood both as de-churching (in the sense of organizational sociology) and as erosion of expectation structures and standards of behaviour shared within the church (in the sense of neo-institutional theory) - were and are intertwined with processes of re-institutionalization, i.e. with the establishment of new forms of piety and corresponding social forms of the Catholic (beyond the Troeltschian triad of church/sect/mysticism or through the combination of elements from these three) within the church, but separately from the established church organizational units (parishes, dioceses/state churches, religious orders, monasteries).

    These dynamics are to be examined in the project by the example of Catholic charismatic movements in Brazil (e.g. Toca de Assis, Obra de Maria, Canção Nova or Shalom), one of the core countries of the Catholic charismatic renewal, and/or a European country (e.g. Germany, France or Italy). The focus will be on the innovation of the culture of piety and its corresponding new social forms. The study has to include two levels: On the one hand, the competitive dynamics within the respective 'Catholic field' itself are to be analysed; on the other hand, these are to be related to the dynamics in the surrounding larger 'religious field', including not only other Christian options (mainline Protestantism, pentecostalism, etc.), but also non-Christian religions (in Brazil especially Afro-Brazilian religions and spiritism, in Germany and France especially Islam).

  • Persons