Journal Article

The Demographic Transition of the Catholic Priesthood and the End of Clericalism in Spain

José Pérez Vilariño and José L Sequeiros Tizón

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 59, issue 1, pages 25-35
Published in print January 1998 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 1998 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
The Demographic Transition of the Catholic Priesthood and the End of Clericalism in Spain

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The evidence showing patterns of demographic transition (decline) in the Catholic Church are similar in both Spain and the United States. Yet while the patterns are similar, the Spanish case reflects a very different historical circumstance in which the institutional church was closely allied to state interests. The article argues that the dialectical relationship between forces of clericalism and anticlericalism shaped both institutions, church and state, in indelible ways. Thus while the patterns of demographic transition in the two countries are similar, the impact upon society has been very different. In Spain, the decline of clericalism is associated with the rise of modernization processes. While the logic of this modernism creates similar pressures among Spanish priests to leave the ministry, i.e., a greater sense of personal autonomy, a desire to marry, etc., the context of these decisions is very different. Spanish priests have less social freedom than US priests, and their role is more strongly integrated into their own family structures. Celibacy is seen more as an issue of male power than women's exclusion.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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