I am working on turning my dissertation into a book. Here is a short summary of my project:
- Under what conditions is the Catholic Church able to obtain its preferred public policy outcomes in consolidated democracies? My research examines thirty-five contemporary democracies and focuses on what the Church perceives as the most pressing moral issues, such as abortion and euthanasia, to see how it uses legitimate institutional mechanisms to achieve its policy goals.
Below please find a more detailed explanation of my project:
- The overarching aim of my research was to examine the extent to which the Catholic Church is still a significant public policy actor in thirty-five economically developed democracies. The research design used in this project draws on three distinct approaches, each addressing a different puzzle but when integrated together they provide an answer to the main question. Taken together these three approaches show that the Catholic Church continues to be an important political institution with considerable influence even in economically developed democracies.
- The rational choice institutionalism paradigm is used to explain the political behavior of the Catholic Church. The paradigm focuses on Catholic abortion teaching to demonstrate that doctrine is as a form of endogenous institutional constraint. In addition to its institutional self-interest, the Church is also motivated by its doctrinal commitments. When institutional and doctrinal interests collide, the Church acts in favor of its doctrine and violates its self-interest.
- Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) examines the macro-conditions under which the Church is able to exercise influence on public policy outcomes. QCA findings demonstrate that the political influence of the Church on public policy outcomes is still substantial and its influence is especially pronounced in countries belonging to the third wave of democratization. The Church uses a number of necessary and sufficient conditions to secure its policy victories. When such victories have obtained a combination of strong Christian Democratic parties and institutional availability of referendums is sufficient to keep these gains in place. The QCA analysis identified Poland as the ideal case study candidate for process tracing analysis.
- The process tracing and case study analysis focuses on Poland to demonstrate the specific mechanisms used by the Church to exert its power. In the early democratic period, the Polish Episcopate took advantage of the fragmented political scene to overturn abortion-on-demand laws and to introduce catechesis to public schools. In 2010, the Church started to depend on pro-life groups and the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) to secure new policy concessions. The ban of trade on Sundays institutionalized in 2018 helps illustrate that the Church’s influence is considerable even many years after the democratic transition.