Churches have become closed societies

Ecclesiastical inclusion mechanisms using the example of the Catholic liturgy

Abstract

The change in religious - and consequently also: ecclesiastical - social forms goes hand in hand with the transformation of their inclusion mechanisms. The article illustrates this finding using the religious social form in Germany that continues to have the largest number of members and resources: the Catholic Church. In a first section, the state of sociological research on ecclesiastical social forms is reconstructed, which must be characterized as definitely deficient. In the second section, the transformation of the inclusion mechanisms of church social forms is discussed using an example from the field of Catholic liturgy: using an empirical study of so-called Word-of-God celebrations. Here it is important to work out that church members today can no longer be conceptualized as pure audience roles - but are included in the design and implementation of church offers in an activist manner. Such developments are discussed in sociological diagnoses of the times with a view to the most diverse areas of society under the heading of “activating the audience”. Finally, in the third section it is shown that church social forms - despite the deficient state of research - can then be grasped using genuinely sociological concepts if distinct levels of churchliness are analytically separated from one another on the basis of specific functional logics and action orientations. Church social forms are to be understood as multi-level systems that seek to integrate different inclusion mechanisms.

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