Catholicism and Post-Secularism: Contesting Secularism in (Post)Modern Conditions

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Andrew LYNCH, University of Sydney, Australia
If former phases of modernity have been characterised by debates about secularization, the present is being shaped by discussions about post-secularism.  Post-secularism, the resurgence of religion in political and social life, is an important paradigm through which debates about the role of religion in the modern world are being considered.  Catholicism, a global church of over 1.2 billion members, is intertwined with the social transformations that have challenged the processes of secularization.  It continues to be intricately enmeshed in debates about religious and secular forms of thought and social practice in contemporary society. 

This paper examines the impact that post-secularism is having on the Catholic Church.  After critically interrogating the idea of post-secularism as a theoretical perspective, the paper will consider research (Pace 2013) that suggests that although the resurgence of religion and the emergence of a post-secular phase have drawn attention to the limits of the secularization thesis, the onset of post-secularism will not mean a return to an idealized past for religious institutions, and a number of new challenges present themselves as churches and religious groups negotiate the changing contours of social life in late modernity.  Theories of multiple secularities (Wohlrab-Sahr and Burchardt, 2012; 2013) will also be considered in this light.  The paper will then assess the Catholic Church’s response to secularism as it seeks to position itself in post-secular times, through an analysis of the political theology of Johannes Baptist Metz and the holding of Vatican II.  New strategies by the Catholic Church to engage with the contemporary post-secular world will also be considered.  The discussion will draw on the work of Charles Taylor and Jürgen Habermas, among others, to assess the contribution that the Catholic Church has made to religious dialogue in a post-secular context, and the interplay between religious thought and postmodern secular reason.