Catholic Chaplains in Public Institutions: Contextual Opportunities and Institutional Inertia in Spanish Hospitals and Prisons

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This article analyses the roles of Catholic chaplains amidst secularisation and diversification in Spain. Instead of focussing on highly politicised and controversial issues, we examine lower-profile negotiations taking place in secular public institutions. With this micro-sociological approach, we move the analysis beyond the official stand of the national Catholic hierarchy and examine everyday interactions and negotiations between front-line Catholic actors, civil servants, and religious minorities’ leaders who share—and compete for—time, space, and material and symbolic resources in public hospitals and prisons. We argue that rather than resisting the changes strenuously, Catholic chaplains strategically re-define and diversify their roles by taking advantage of contextual opportunities, institutional factors, and organisational inertia. This attitude, which diverges from the more confrontational stance of the hierarchy in the
public sphere, allows them to adapt to the environment and maintain their position and relevance within these institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-160
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Religion in Europe
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Catholicism
  • chaplains
  • reconfiguration
  • roles
  • public institutions
  • Spain
  • Religous diversity

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