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Religious social action and its organizational profiles: Study conducted in the context of southern European welfare states

Angel Belzunegui-Eraso (Department of History and Art History, Facultat de Lletres, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain)
David Duenas-Cid (Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallin University of Technology, Tallin, Estonia)
Inma Pastor-Gosálbez (Department of History and Art History, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 8 October 2018

Issue publication date: 20 March 2019




Social action implemented by the Church via its affiliated entities, foundations and associations may be viewed as a uniform activity. In reality, however, several organizational profiles exist that depend on the origin of these organizations (lay or religious), the scope of their activities (local or general) and their dependence on resources (whether from public administration or civil society). The paper aims to discuss these issues.


In this paper, the authors examine this diversity based on a 2015 study of every Catholic Church social organization with headquarters in Catalonia. For the study, the authors conducted a detailed analysis of these organizations in order to determine their nature, scope and structure. The methodology combined questionnaire, interviews and non-participant observation.


The social actions of these organizations lead to interesting debates, such as those on: charity/assistentialism vs social justice; professionalization vs voluntarism; and personal autonomy vs functional dependence resulting from the action. This study also highlights how important it is that Church organizations carry out social actions to generate social welfare in the welfare states of southern European countries.


It is the first time that a study of the social impact of the church and its organizational implications in Spain has been made.



The authors would like to thank all the organizations that kindly agreed to participate in this study. The authors would also like to thank the Pere Tarrés Foundation of Barcelona for its contribution to the field work, the General Directorate for Religious Affairs of the autonomous government of Catalonia and the Agency for the Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR) for selecting and subsidizing our study of the social action of the Church in Catalonia. Without this financial support this study would not have been possible.


Belzunegui-Eraso, A., Duenas-Cid, D. and Pastor-Gosálbez, I. (2019), "Religious social action and its organizational profiles: Study conducted in the context of southern European welfare states", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 95-108.



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