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Prof. Shun-hing Chan

B.A., M.Div. (CUHK), M.Th. (Edinburgh), Ph.D. (CUHK)

Professor, Department of Religion and Philosophy

Funding:

  • General Research Fund (GRF), HKSAR Government 
    HK$247,538

Introduction

  • This research project sought to inquire about the role of the Catholic Church in shaping the political opinions of members, and to investigate members’ political behaviour and their antecedents. The investigator examined whether the Catholic Church in Hong Kong played a role in civic life, and whether the Catholic Church was an egalitarian provider of civic resources. In addressing these normative concerns with an empirical inquiry into the political salience of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, this research project contributed to literatures across the social sciences:
    -    To press contextual analyses to confront organizational structures and a diversity of individual motivations;
    -    To advance the study of public opinion formation by elaborating how individuals process information from social sources dependent on social location and interaction;
    -    To push forward the study of political participation by incorporating organizational measures as well as social interactions and information flow among members.

Abstract

  • This research project examined the political influence of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong. Specifically, this research used Paul Djupe and Christopher Gilbert’s theory of religious influence on political behaviour to investigate how the social context of the Catholic Church shaped the way people react to one another, the bonds they formed with others, and how they approached society. The research findings provided a clearer understanding of the contributions of the Catholic Church to sustaining civil society in Hong Kong. Regarding the theoretical significance of this research project, it explicated a theory of church-centred influences on political behaviour based on contextual analysis, which advanced the study of religion and politics in Hong Kong. Regarding the practical significance, it provided a specified model of how voluntary associations exposed individuals to political information and norms, which helped us to understand how public opinion was formed and why people participated in politics. 

Methodology

  • This study used both survey and interview as research methods for a full test of the effects of the Catholic Church on the political behaviour of their members.

    The first stage of this study involved a survey of clergy in the Catholic Church of Hong Kong. According to the information provided by the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong in 2011, there were 52 parishes in Hong Kong, Kowloon, and the New Territories, comprising 41 churches, 31 chapels and 28 halls in 2010. The investigator invited the Bishop of the Hong Kong Catholic Church to participate in the research project, allowing the investigators to survey the clergy from the 52 parishes.

    The second stage of the study moved from clergy to church members, using a subset of responding clergy as a starting point. The investigator sought permission from the clergy to survey the members of their congregation, in order to bring together data on the perceptions and political behaviour of clergy and congregants.
     
    In the third stage, the investigator probed for respondents’ involvement in the myriad small groups churches offered, asking about the number of groups and activities in which respondents participated. The investigator asked respondents to compare themselves to the primary small group in which they were involved, a direct parallel to the congregational comparison questions. Another long set of questions investigated respondents’ perceptions of their discussion partners’ political orientations, including voting patterns, ideological views, and specific political issue stances.

Interdisciplinary expertise

  • This research project needs the expertise of Sociology of Religion and Religious Studies, particularly the knowledge of the Catholic Church.