Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Researcher examines secularization in Bologna

Professor Spencer Wellhofer has been at the University of Denver since 1974. During those years he has excelled at teaching, researching and even being a student.

He has chaired the economics and political science departments. He also has been a diligent student of Italian, becoming fluent in the language.

It’s his work as a student and scholar that has led to his latest research in Italy, where he and an Italian colleague ask if modernization leads to secularization — attitudes or activities that have no religious or spiritual basis.

“We chose Italy because it was one of the most religious countries in Europe in the postwar period but became much more secularized in last 50 years,” Wellhofer says.

While the pattern isn’t consistent throughout the globe, it seems to be a factor in Italy, where the Catholic Church influenced the law.

For example, in the early 1970s divorce and abortion were both illegal. By the 1980s, both became legal after a popular referendum changed the law, both passing by substantial majorities.

To learn more about Wellhofer’s research, watch this video from the Italian city where he and his colleague work.

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