Religious Authority Online: Catholic Case Study in Poland

Marta Kolodziejska, Alp Arat


Drawing on a popular Catholic online forum in Poland, this study examines the interaction between top-down (traditional institutional) and bottom-up (informal expert) forms of religious authority. In adapting Campbell’s concept of online religious authority, this study shows that both forms of authority emerge in varying contexts and have distinct yet mutually supplementary functions. Top-down authority occurs  as topic and background of discussions and appears mostly through references to religious doctrine. Informal experts in turn emerge from the group of most active users and gain their status through the recognition of fellow patrons for their expertise, experience and interpretation skills. The aim of the latter is less to undermine or replace traditional religious authority than to intervene in those areas where the institutional representation of the Church fails or disappoints fellow believers.


Catholic forums; religious authority; religion and the internet; Catholicism online

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