Prof: Catholicism, sociology can interact
By MAUREEN SMITHE
Although the differences between sociology and Catholicism are obvious, they can still interact positively, according to Boston College professor Alan Wolfe.
"Both Catholicism and sociology have experienced similar fates in recent times," Wolfe said in a lecture Wednesday.
"Catholocism was not a sociologist's religion of choice ... Catholocism was a force for backwardness in Germany," he said, citing the non-Catholic sociologists Max Faber and Martin Luther.
Wolfe said that the two can find a common ground by learning from each others' positive qualities.
Under the influence of theology, "empirical social science might come to appreciate the virtue of humility," he said. "Social science would learn from the pluralism in American religion greater respect for the pluralism in their field."
Wolfe commented on sociology in America.
"Nearly all great founders of American sociology were Protestants," he said, "In fact, most grew up with fathers who were Protestant ministers."
Religious differences are just one distinction between individuals involved in the two fields, he said. While the Catholic wants everyone to follow the same belief, "the sociologist immediately wants to characterize people into ... distinct groups," said Wolfe.
"Both sociologists and Catholics change themselves ... they both Americanize themselves," he said.
With European immigrants moving to America, Church traditions were incorporated into American city life, Wolfe said.
"Both sociology and Catholicism were an urban phenomenon," he said.
Wolfe also discussed the importance of tradition for both Catholicism and sociology.
"We are much more likely to witness intersections between some Catholic traditions and some sociological traditions," he said. "There is no Catholic tradition within which sociology can be contrasted," he said.
"In theory, a religious tradition as secure in its faith as Catholocism should have nothing to do with an academic tradition, such as sociology," he said.
However, the two fields do mix at most universities and differ at every Institution. "Hence, Notre Dame's sociology department has more in common with University of Michigan's than with my own institution, Boston College," he said. Boston College's sociology department is related more closely to the one at Brandies University, a primarily Jewsih university, than it is with its Catholic counterpart, according to Wolfe.
"Geography is a much more powerful determinant in America than religion," Wolfe said.
The lecture was sponsored by the Erasmus Institute.
All News Stories for Thursday, October 14, 1999