A Comparative Analysis of Individual-Level Determinants of Catholic Belief and Practice in Wider Europe: Evidence from Belgium, Ireland and Slovenia
Sociology National University of Ireland, Maynooth Maynooth, Ireland
This paper examines individual-level determinants of religious belief and practice through a comparative study of three Catholic countries - Belgium, Ireland and Slovenia. Within the sociology of religion literature, a great deal of attention has been given to the "secularisation debate". This debate turns on the question of whether the processes associated with modernisation such as individualisation and urbanisation are associated or not with a decline in religion as a source of individual and group identities. Comparative research suggests that this process unfolds at different levels and speeds in different societies. While sociologists have sought to capture variation in pathways to secularisation through the construction of interesting typologies of secularisation "regimes" distinguished in denominational terms between Catholic, Protestant, and mixed models, insufficient attention has been paid to differences and similarities within the Catholic category. Furthermore, it is very difficult to find studies employing cases from periphery, continental and eastern parts of Catholic Europe. Drawing on data from the World Values Survey, this paper examines patterns of belief and practice in these three Catholic societies and attempts to explain variation with respect to these dimensions of religiosity with reference to individual-level explanations derived from the sociology of religion literature. Specifically, I ask three interrelated questions: (1) what patterns of belief and practice are evident among Belgian, Irish and Slovenian Catholics? (2) do Belgian Catholics differ from the Irish and Slovenian Catholics? and, (3) what individual-level factors help account for variation between these three Catholic countries? By estimating these effects we will be better positioned to understand how secularisation plays out in different ways in different societies and how Catholicism is expressed in nationally-specific forms.