Sociologist peeks behind the curtain of Vatican II

Vatican II was a momentous movement in the modern history of the Catholic Church. However, how some of these decisions were made was not public knowledge.

Sociologist Melissa Wilde, with a team of researchers, obtained unprecedented access to Vatican II voting records in the Vatican Secret Archive. Their recent paper in American Sociological Review, “Religious Economy or Organizational Field? Predicting Bishops’ Votes at the Second Vatican Council” provides some answers about the voting patterns of the council. Some of the key findings:

They concluded that in places where the Roman Catholic Church enjoyed a stable monopoly as the state church, religious leaders were almost impervious to outside influence and opposed to most kinds of change. In areas in which Catholicism was not the established faith but where the religious field was stable, however, leaders of other religious institutions were a crucial source of influence on Catholic bishops who attended and voted at Vatican II.

Essentially, in places where the Catholic Church was not the state-supported religion, Catholic leaders were more willing to consider reforms that could make them more attractive in the religious marketplace. Or that is my quick interpretation based on this quick overview…I’ll need to read the complete article.

Interesting glimpse at unprecedented data.