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The Gospel of Psychology: Therapeutic Concepts and the Scientification of Pastoral Care in the West German Catholic Church, 1945-1980

By Benjamin Ziemann

Abstract

As Friedrich Wilhelm Graf has argued, any thorough assessment of religious change in the twentieth century has to pay attention to the interplay between the established churches and social forces in fields of society as different as the media, the economy, the arts, and the sciences. It is the aim of this article to stress both the emergence and the importance of hybrids between organized religion and the human sciences in the decades since the 1950s. I take the Catholic Church in the Federal Republic as a perhaps somewhat unlikely but also illuminating example, although all major Christian denominations both in Germany and in other Western European countries have made ample use of social science methods such as statistics, sociology, and opinion-polling during that period. From the broad range of scientific approaches employed by the Catholic Church, the focus of this article is on the use of psychological techniques used for purposes of therapeutic intervention, or, in Anglo-Saxon parlance, counseling. The emerging psychologization of religious topics and pastoral action is seen as merely one example of the immense significance that the “psy disciplines” of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and psychology have attained within the forms of knowledge and practice deployed to describe the “Self.” This process can also be interpreted as a particularly striking example of the “scientification of the social” in the twentieth century, that is, of the process in which human science concepts have shaped new terms and categories for the description of social contexts and offered forms of practical intervention in social problems.\ud \u

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:10790

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