- Macht, Moral und Mehrheiten. Der politische Katholizismus in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und den USA seit 1960
The political scientist and historian Antonius Liedhegener, who teaches at the University of Jena, compares the political roles of Catholicism in the United States with the Federal Republic of Germany from 1960 until the present day. The book (a second thesis, Habilitation, in political science) is a mine of information, full of knowledgeable insights and useful data. Liedhegener's approach combines the theoretical perspectives of political science with the [End Page 123] methodologies of contemporary history, making use of archives, a variety of documents and interviews. The author describes the changing structures of the post-Vatican II Church, the reorganization of the bishops' conferences and lay organizations, and researches the possibilities of both national churches to exert influence on public policies. Arguing against approaches that predict the diminishing role of religion in the political process due to individualization processes, he claims that the Church has been a relevant political actor during the last years.
The book is organized in four parts. In the introductory chapter, the author loosely follows Easton, Almond, and Parsons's structural functionalism of the 1950s and 1960s, although without really clarifying why it is useful to pursue such a systems approach. Instead, he briefly touches on Fowler's preconditions for political success of religious organizations (p. 35). Thus, the theoretical and methodological perspectives are, in my opinion, not sufficiently clarified and demarcated from competing theoretical and methodological approaches (e.g., organizational, quantifying or network) which also claim to measure political influence. However, the dense empirical descriptions of developments over the last forty-five years more than compensate for this first impression.
The first part discusses the external framing of both churches, i.e. the legal parameters, the dynamics of the world Church, typical patterns of modernization in both countries but also the origin and dissolution of the Catholic milieux. The second part convincingly sheds light on changes within the Catholic Church and their affiliated Catholic organizations, and especially focuses on the growing internal conflicts within both churches using a wide array of data. In this part of the book, Liedhegener also presents a fresh comparative look at church attendance rates and religious commitment. In the third part inner political processes are spotlighted, such as decision-making within the Church, the question of the Catholic vote and which Catholic organizations are politically influential in both countries (pp. 250 ff.). In the last part Liedhegener presents two case studies illustrating where both churches tried to gain influence on political issues: abortion and social policies.
In conclusion (pp. 442 ff) the author gives a brief theoretical synopsis of the internal and external conditions needed for political influence and success. On an empirical level he concludes that German Catholicism had a greater success in influencing the debate and policies about abortion than its American counterpart due to differences in the organization of (party) politics (p. 388). In principle, even though both Catholicisms are characterized by internal conflicts, the German Catholics have a more established organizational mechanism of coordination and decision-making (p. 438). In America, however, tactics of direct political lobbying are more advanced (pp. 305 ff).
The differences in both national versions of Catholicism show a remarkable resemblance to general differences in the social and political organization of both countries. Thus, Liedhegener's valuable study, which should be read by [End Page 124] everybody interested in contemporary political Catholicism, shows striking similarities between the Catholicisms but also—and this is not surprising—how much Catholics' collective actions are shaped by their respective institutional environment.