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Photo: “Saint Peter’s Square from the dome” by velyag, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Hue modified from the original

Reuterswärd, Camilla. “Organized Religion and Contestations of the Liberal Script. The Catholic Church, Body Politics, and Anti-Gender Mobilizations.” SCRIPTS Working Paper No. 7. 2021.


Policies that expand reproductive health and sexual minority rights have met increasing resistance around the world over the past decade. Movements opposing so-called “gender ideology” have mobilized against a perceived threat to conservative values concerning life, the family, identity, and sexuality. The Catholic Church first coined the term “gender ideology” and has in its role as a global NGO instigated transnational and domestic anti-gender movements that seek to slow down or reverse progressive policy. These Church-orchestrated contestations challenge fundamental aspects of the liberal script, and in particular, the right to self- determination as it pertains to body autonomy rights. This paper focuses on the Catholic Church’s complex relationship with liberal thought and the various ways in which it influences global policy. It highlights religious institutions’ role in validating and challenging the liberal script and in so doing, addresses both the causes and implications of intensified contestations in contemporary times.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.