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“Official” Doctrine and “Unofficial” Practices: The Negotiation of Catholicism in a Netherlands Community

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This article examines the Dutch Catholic Church. It is based on a qualitative ethnographic analysis of a particular Dutch Catholic community. It seeks to demonstrate that despite a decline in the church since the 1960s many Dutch parishioners are becoming active in redefining the church and attempting to revitalize Catholicism, creating democratically organized local communities where laity and local clergy, women and men, work together as equals in negotiating change, but argues that this may involve “unofficial” practices, possibly at odds with “official” church hierarchy controlled doctrine, which may resist acknowledging them and resist change. By examining these issues, the article aims to understand the dialectic and tension between what could be termed “popular” and “orthodox”, “private” and “public”, beliefs and to examine the constraints or possibilities this may place on the church. In this sense, the article also aims to explore how religion, thought to be vulnerable to recent change encouraging individual independence from social institutions, may negotiate (or reject) new developments. Although challenged, Catholic identity may still be valued and provide individuals with resources for negotiating new developments. However, the success or failure of this may depend on the nature of the struggle for authority and influence between “official” and “unofficial” versions of Catholicism.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University College London

Publication date: 01 December 2001

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