Historical Social Research

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Michael Zängle: Trends in Papal Communication: A Content Analysis of Encyclicals, from Leo XIII to Pope Francis. [Abstract]

Within the papal encyclicals (exhortations) ranging from Leo XIII (1878) to Pope Francis (2013), concern for authority in general and for obedience and duty, in particular, is in decline. This long-term trend signals intra-ecclesial secularization at the elite level. A second negative trend supports this finding: textual indicators for Catholic uniqueness such as: Catholic, Doctrine and Pope have steadily lost prominence. Upwardly directed, the textual indicators for God, Jesus, Gospel, Spirituality and Love follow positive long-term trends. The traditional eschatological code, with its keywords sin, death, final judgment, heaven or hell, reaches only low levels of attention. Overall, there is an eschatological loss, where Heaven, due to a slower decline, wins over Hell. Christ the Inexorable Judge is retreating in favor of the loving Jesus and God as Love. The millennia-old process of civilizing God persists. Technically, the quantitative content analysis was carried out mainly with TEXTPACK.

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