Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Just and Grave Causes: Decline as Religious Change in Catholic Philadelphia
Authors: Gambino, Madeline
Advisors: Best, Wallace
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Aging
Subjects: Religious history
American studies
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines the history of Catholic decline and change in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia from the 1970s through the first decade of the twenty-first century. It proposes religious decline as an analytical lens for interrogating not only quantifiable markers of religious change—the number of attendees at Mass, clergy or vowed religious, or sacraments—but also the types of diocesan policies and community responses that Catholics have developed in response to these markers. Employing archival, ethnographic, and digital humanities methods, this study argues that Catholics have actively participated in shaping the institutional presence of the Church in the metropolitan area, with profound implications for the racial and spatial composition of the region’s Catholicism. It presents this argument in two parts: first, by examining the history of the Archdiocese’s practice of closing parishes as a policy of decline starting in the 1970s; and secondly, through an analysis of the practical, narrative, and affective strategies that Catholics have developed in local sites—what this project terms repertoires of decline—to respond to decline and contest archdiocesan authority in the 2010s. This study demonstrates that demographic changes do not tell the whole story of the institutional history and lived experience of Catholic decline. In Philadelphia, although the decreasing numbers of white, European-descent Catholics play a role in shaping the twenty-first century Church, the racialization of religious decline as Black and urban has deep roots. This dissertation thus calls for scholars of Catholic studies, as well as American religious studies more broadly, to consider decline not as a linear process of secularization. Rather, it proposes decline as a lens for examining institutional systems of support and divestment, as well as practices and narratives that create meaningful interpretations of religious change, challenge, and sustainability.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

Files in This Item:
This content is embargoed until 2024-09-30. For questions about theses and dissertations, please contact the Mudd Manuscript Library. For questions about research datasets, as well as other inquiries, please contact the DataSpace curators.

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.