Volunteering and Catholicism in Europe. The Inside Perspective. Part 1: Theoretical




Słowa kluczowe:

volunteering, civil society, Catholicism


The paper analyses the social activity practices of the Catholic persons, as a set of individual and collective action emerging from the Catholic identity and structuralised under the Church-related formal non-profit initiatives. The purpose of the study is to clarify: (1) to what extent the Catholic unpaid social activities of different kinds could be classified as forms of volunteering and (2) to what extent the third sector definitions of volunteering include the specificity of Catholic activities. There are three reasons for observed tendencies to not include religion-oriented volunteering in voluntary studies. Firstly, while using tools for collecting data adequate for the secular world, researchers face methodological difficulties in order to successfully cover social activities organized in parishes and congregations. Secondly, fonist approach reflects the ideological-rooted tendency to treat religion as a matter pertaining to private life. Thirdly, some of religious-based entities tends to keep social activities of the believers inside the church-related circle. From the Catholic perspective, volunteer engagement represents an important aspect of faith-based daily activities, so called ‘lived religion’. Social engagement of believers provided within the church-related entities, as well as outside them, usually fulfils all the main features of volunteering. The relation between volunteering and religion is to be referred, not only to the general position of faith-based and religious organizations in public sphere, but also to the embeddedness of religious life in the society, as in fact, both religion and volunteering are categories social per se. Reflection on volunteering and Catholicism is illustrated by presenting empirical evidence from the 2018 panel expert research among representatives of 29 Catholic Bishops Conferences across Europe.


Bartkowski J., Regis H., Charitable Choices: Religion, Race, and Poverty in the Post-Welfare Era, New York 2003, New York University Press.

Batson C.D., Sociobiology and the role of religion in promoting prosocial behavior, “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” (1983), No 45, pp. 1380–1385.

Being Christian in Western Europe, Washington D.C. 2018, Pew Research Center.

Benedict XVI Intima Ecclesiae Natura (Motu Proprio), Vatican 2012, http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20121111_caritas.html (17.05.2021).

Benson P., Dehority, J., Garman, L., Hanson, E., Hochschwender, M., Lebold, C., Intrapersonal Correlates of Nonspontaneous Helping Behavior, “The Journal of Social Psychology” (1980), No 110, pp. 87–95.

Berger I., The Influence of Religion on Philanthropy in Canada, “Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations” (2006), No 17, pp. 115–132.

Cameron H., Are members volunteers? An exploration of the concept of membership drawing upon studies of the local church, “Voluntary Action” (1999) no. 1, pp. 53–65.

Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Vatican 2005, Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Ebaugh H.R., The Revitalization Movement in the Catholic Church: The Institutional Dilemma of Power, “Sociological Analysis” (1991), No 52(1), pp. 1–12.

Galen L.W., Does religious belief promote prosociality? A critical examination, “Psychological Bulletin” (2012), No 138(5), pp. 876–906.

Graf Strachitz R., (ed.), Religious Communities and Civil Society in Europe, Berlin 2020, De Gruyter.

Habermas J., Between facts and norms: Contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy, Cambridge 1996, Polity Press.

Handbook on Non-profit and Related Institutions and Volunteer Work, New York 2018, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Harris M., The church is the people: Lay volunteers in religious congregations [Working paper No 16], London 1996, LSE Centre for Voluntary Organisations.

Harris M., A special case of voluntary associations? Towards a theory of congregational organization, “British Journal of Sociology” (1998), No 49(4), pp. 602–618.

Hoge D.R., Zech Ch., McNamara P., Donahue M., The Value of Volunteers as Resources for Congregations, “Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion” (1998), No 37(3), pp. 470–480.

Hopkins B.R., Moore C.L., Using the lessons learned from US and English law to create a regulatory framework for charities in evolving democracies, “Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations” (1992), No 3, pp. 1573–7888.

Ji C.-H., Pendergraft L., Perry, M., Religiosity, altruism, and altruistic hypocrisy: Evidence from Protestant adolescents, “Review of Religious Research” (2006), No 48, pp. 156–178.

Kamiński T., Kościelny trzeci sektor i jego specyfika, “Trzeci Sektor” (2015), No 34, pp. 27–35.

Mitani M., Influences of Resources and Subjective Dispositions on Formal and Informal Volunteering, “Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations” (2014), No 25, pp. 1022–1040.

Monsma S.V., Working faith. How religious organizations provide welfare-to-work services, Philadelphia 2002, University of Pennsylvania.

Nepstad S.E., Catholic Social Activism. Progressive Movements in the United States, New York 2019, New York University Press.

Nesbit R., Gaylez B., Patterns of Volunteer Activitz in Professional Associations and Societies, “Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations” (2012), No 23, pp. 558–583.

Piwowarski W., Teoretyczne i metodologiczne założenia badań nad religijnością, in: W. Piwowarski, W. Zdaniewicz (eds.), Z badań nad religijnością polską. Studia i materiały, Poznań–Warszawa 1986, Pallottinum, pp. 57–72.

Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe, Washington D.C. 2017, Pew Research Center.

Robbins D., Voluntary organizations and the social state in the European Community, “Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations” (1990), No 1, pp. 98–128.

Rymsza M., Wolontariat w kontekście organizacji pozarządowych, in: W. Kaczyńska (ed.), O etyce służb społecznych, Warszawa 2010, Uniwersytet Warszawski, pp. 30–43.

Sadłoń W., Religijny kapitał społeczny, Saabrucken 2014, Bezkresy wiedzy.

Saroglou V., Pichon I. Trompette L., Verschueren M., Dernelle R., Prosocial behavior and religion: New evidence based on projective measures and peer ratings, “Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion” (2005), No 44, pp. 323–348.

Sider R.J., Unruh H.R., Typology of Religious Characteristics of Social Service and Educational Organizations and Programs, “Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly” (2004), No 1, pp. 109–134.

Smith G., Faith in the Voluntary Sector: A common or distinctive experience of religious organisations?, London 2008, University of East London, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi= (25.03.2023).

Sorokin P., Altruistic love: a study of American “good neighbors” and Christian saints, Boston 1950, Beacon Press.

Stark R., Glock Ch., American Piety: The Nature of Religious Commitment, Berkeley 1970, University of California Press, vol. I.

Taniguchi H., The Determinants of Formal and Informal Volunteering: Evidence from the American Time Use Survey, “Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations” (2012), No 23(4), pp. 920–939.

The Advancement of Religion for the Public Benefit, Charity Commission 2008, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/358531/advancement-of-religion-for-the-public-benefit.pdf.

Unruh H.R., Sider R.J., Saving Souls, Serving Society. Understanding the Faith Factor in Church-Based Social Ministry, New York 2005, Oxford University Press.

van Tienen M., Scheepers P., Reitsma J., Schilderman H., The Role of Religiosity for Formal and Informal Volunteering in the Netherlands, “Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations” (2011), No 22, pp. 365–389.

Wang L., Handy F., Religious and Secular Voluntary Participation by Immigrants in Canada: How Trust and Social Networks Affect Decision to Participate, “Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations” (2013), No 25(6), pp. 1559–1582.

Wilson J., Janoski T., The Contribution of Religion to Volunteer Work, “Sociology of Religion” (1995), No 56(2), pp. 137–152.

Wilson J., Musick M.A., Who cares? Toward an integrated theory of volunteer work, “American Sociological Review” (1997), No 62, pp. 694–713.

Wuthnow R., Acts of Compassion, Princeton 1991, Princeton University Press.

Wuthnow R., Christianity and Civil Society. The Contemporary Debate, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania 1996, Trinity Press International.

Wuthnow R., Saving America?: Faith-based services and the future of civil society, Princeton 2004, Princeton University Press.

Yeung A.B., An Intricate Triangle – Religiosity, Volunteering, and Social Capital: The European Perspective, the Case of Finland, “Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly” (2004), No 33, pp. 401–422.

Yeung J.W.K, Religious Involvement and Participation in Volunteering: Types, Domains and Aggregate, “Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations” (2017), No 28, pp. 110–138.

Załęski P., Neoliberalizm i społeczeństwo obywatelskie, Toruń 2012, Fundacja Nauki Polskiej.