Why Democracy, Culture and Catholicism?

Contextualizing the Project

Successive waves of democracy have been sweeping the world since the beginning of the 20th century, launching affected states into new citizen experiments with self-government, competitive elections, equal opportunity, expanded civil rights, deeper cultural tolerance, and broader freedom of expression. Such events gained particular momentum in the predominantly Roman Catholic countries of Eastern Europe and Latin America in the waning years of the Cold War. At the same time, the traditionally democratic states of Western Europe and North America (most with sizable Catholic populations) became more deeply divided over the place of religion and morality in democratic politics. More recently, controversial democratic movements have emerged in Muslim states across a wide geographic band from North Africa to East Asia—each state including a Roman Catholic minority.

What Does This Mean for Democracy, Culture and Catholicism?

This worldwide increase in democratic practices raises fundamental questions: What is causing democratization around the world? What are its effects on not only a society’s political and legal practices, but also on practices such as education, communication, artistic expression, family life, economics, and health care? What impact has it had on the lives of women, children, and minorities? Is the social experience of democratization largely positive? Is religion advancing or challenging democratization? For Roman Catholics, the questions go further: what responses are faithful Catholics—and Church leaders—making to this worldwide development? How should Catholics respond? For people working in Jesuit educational institutions or engaged in Jesuit-supported evangelization programs, the questions are immediate and practical: how are Jesuit institutions and programs around the world responding to democratic movements? What responsibilities do Jesuit institutions, programs and the people supporting them have toward democratization in the contemporary world?

The Role of the Democracy, Culture and Catholicism International Research Project

The Joan and Bill Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage (CCIH) at Loyola University Chicago (LUC) is privileged to launch a new international research project focused on this contemporary phenomenon of democratization. The Democracy, Culture and Catholicism International Research Project (DCCIRP) will assemble a group of thirty-two research scholars from Eastern Europe, East Asia, South America, and North America for a three-year study of democratization and culture, with special focus on Catholic responses and responsibilities to this phenomenon. Each participant is encouraged to approach this broad topic from the perspective of their own cultural context, their own scholarly field, and their own specific research interest. In order to ensure interdisciplinary dialogue over the course of the project, participating scholars have been drawn from diverse fields within the humanities, social sciences, and professional disciplines (e.g. social work, education, business, communication, and law).