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Book: The Insider/Outsider Debate

Chapter: Chapter 16: Being Catholic since Vatican II: Challenges and Opportunities in Secular Times

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.27468


The current Synod on the Family which has been organised by Pope Francis and which is being held during the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), highlights the Catholic Church’s continued struggle for relevance in the modern world. The Synod was launched to address social issues such as contraception, homosexuality, divorce, and the myriad social pressures facing families in the early twenty-first century. It follows Pope Francis’ public marriage ceremonies of Catholics who had been hitherto cohabiting or who had children out of wedlock. The Pope has also made a number of public statements about homosexuality and sexuality that have created a stir in the Catholic and secular media.

This chapter examines and analyses the Church’s continued struggle to be a universal institution in times of increased social mobility, multiculturalism and technological advancement. The chapter argues that a tension continues to exist in the post-conciliar Catholic Church about who is considered properly Catholic, and that since the election of Pope Francis a discourse has been revived which questions an insider/outsider distinction about ‘being Catholic.’ The chapter focuses on a range of theorists, including Marcel Gauchet, Charles Taylor, Robert Bellah, Grace Davie, and Jürgen Habermas, who have examined the situation of religion in modern, secular times. The work of these theorists is used to analyse how social change in the forms of modernity, postmodernity, secularisation and the post-secular, are presenting the Church with a range of challenges and opportunities for renegotiating the issue of belonging in modern Catholicism.

Chapter Contributors

  • Andrew Lynch ( - aplynch) 'University of Sydney and University of Western Sydney'