New book tracks role of Catholic Church in state politics


The Catholic Church is playing an increasingly important role in state politics, says Wake Forest University sociologist David Yamane in his new book, "The Catholic Church in State Politics."

The book documents how conferences of Catholic bishops in 33 states and Washington, D.C., bring the Church's theology into the legislative arena as they lobby on major issues, such as abortion, capital punishment, education, health care and same-sex marriage, reports the Wake Forest News Service.

One of the book's key findings is that the clergy sexual abuse scandal did not significantly diminish the political influence of state Catholic conferences because the lay people, who staff and run the conferences, have bases of political legitimacy that are independent of the bishops' moral authority, Yamane says.

Yamane also shows how state Catholic conferences combine religious arguments with secular arguments.

"State Catholic conferences are welcomed into the state legislative arena because they play by the secular rules of the political game and they succeed to the extent that they play by those rules," says Yamane.

Yamane joined the Wake Forest faculty in 2005 as assistant professor of sociology. His area of expertise is the sociology of religion and postwar American Catholicism. He is editor of the academic journal, "Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review."

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