St Mary’s research on Catholic decline receives funding from British Academy

Dr Stephen Bullivant of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham has won a British Academy Grant for his work that aims to identify the characteristics of people who have left the Catholic Church. The research will make use of British Social Attitudes Data which, in 2010, reported that fully 40 per cent of people brought up as Catholics would now no longer describe themselves as such.

The grant will facilitate the research, which will be the first detailed profile of these ‘Catholic disaffiliates’ in terms of demographic and attitudinal characteristics. The work is significant both sociologically, as a case-study of change within a significant minority group (i.e. British Catholics), and theologically, informing the Catholic Church’s own pastoral mission for the new evangelisation.

The grant is part of the British Academy’s brand new Quantitative Skills Acquisition Award Scheme, which allows early career academics to spend a period of time at another institution to gain new quantitative skills.

Dr Bullivant said, “This piece of research will be undertaken in collaboration with colleagues at the Institute for Social Change at the University of Manchester, under the mentorship of Dr Siobhan McAndrew.

“While an important study in itself, this will also form the first phase a much broader, historical and sociological exploration of Catholic disaffiliation in Britain, Canada, and the USA over the past fifty years.”

Dr Bullivant’s main areas of research include Christian responses to atheism and indifference, and the sociology of nonreligion and secularity. He has three books on these topics due out later this year: Faith and Unbelief (Canterbury Press); The Oxford Handbook of Atheism (OUP; co-edited with Michael Ruse); and Non-religion and Secularity: New Empirical Perspectives (Routledge; co-edited with Elisabeth Arweck and Lois Lee).

The grant is one of three recently awarded to University College academics after Prof Chris Keith was given a grant for his work in the reception of the Jesus tradition in the first three centuries, and Dr Thomas Giddens who received funding from the Socio-Legal Studies Association for a symposium on ‘graphic justice’.

For more information visit the St Mary’s University College website: www.smuc.ac.uk