The construction of religious authority in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Germany
Mediatisation theory claims that media change can not be explained separately from other societal processes (Krotz 2009). Concerning media change and religious authority it is often said that media change does not only change religious performance, but especially challenges established authorities. Others state that through new communication practices established authorities are even stabilized.
In my thesis I am following the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (Keller 2005) to portray the complexes of authority-ascription in the discourse of the German Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is located in and part of the discourse of the Roman Catholic Church and neighbouring discourses of other, non-Catholic Charismatic Movements. As there are processes of exchange, but processes of positioning and drawing borders in the direction of both discourses, authority construction plays an important role in defining the discoursive field.
As opposed to the tendencies of scepticism against media change in the catholic field, media are commonly used by actors in the charismatic, pentecostal and evangelical context – be it to inform themselves about religion, to communicate with others or to position themselves in religious questions. While actors in the catholic charismatic renewal locate themselves in the catholic discourse – their positions as well as their self-description are „catholic“ – they adapt certain media practices and forms of communication from the charismatic and evangelical discourses.
In my thesis I will explore how authority is constructed in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Who is mentioned as an authority in religious matters? For what reasons are they seen as an authority, how is their authority legitimised? In which way is religious – charismatic or catholic – authority communicatively constructed? Are there specific „charismatic“ or specific „catholic“ argumentations? Are there communication practices that challenge or confirm certain authorities? Which media are used in the field? Does media use influence authority constructions?
In my research I collect and triangulate data that I gathered using different qualitative methods. On the one hand, I performed participant observations in two catholic charismatic bible study groups. The data I collected there are complemented by interviews with important persons in the catholic charismatic discourse. On the other hand, I collected the media that are used in the field and surveyed media practices via a questionnaire. Following the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (Keller 2005) I will look for narratives, argumentations, and discoursive structures that are characteristic for the construction of religious authority in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Germany.
Keller, Rainer (2005): Analysing Discourse. An Approach from the Sociology of Knowledge. In: Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Volume 6, No. 3, Art. 32
Krotz, Friedrich (2009): Mediatization: A concept with which to grasp media and societal change. In: Lundby, Knut (ed.): Mediatization: Concept, Changes, Consequences. New York: Lang, p. 21-40