The Catholic Church and the re-emergence of civil society in Czechoslovakia: 1985--1990

Date of Completion

January 1997


Religion, Clergy|History, European|Political Science, General




As part of a growing body of literature seeking to explain the collapse of single-party rule in East-Central Europe I analyze the collapse of Communism in Czechoslovakia by using the concept of civil society as a partial explanation for socio-political changes observed. The dissertation is focused specifically on the role played by the Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia as one important component of civil society; in it I compare the role of the Church in Czechoslovakia with the roles of the Catholic Church in Poland and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Germany. For Czechoslovakia, I explain the activities of "underground Church," and how these contributed to an emerging civil society.^ This study explores several dimensions of Church contributions to civil society. First, I discuss the extent to which the formal institutions sponsored activities that the regimes considered potentially delegitimizing for them. Second, I illustrate the degree and types of support that the formal institutions offered to opposition groups. This aids in an overall understanding of the degree to which civil society developed throughout the region. Finally, I examine the activities of unofficial or underground religious groups and their significance. By clarifying the role played by religious institutions immediately prior to and during the Velvet Revolution, this study attempts to mark more precisely and clearly the boundary of civil society as a concept and as an empirical fact. ^