The Emergence and Cascading of Pope Francis’ Norm of Social Justice

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A Critical Analysis of the Emergence and Cascading of Pope Francis’ Norm of Social Justice through Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink’s ‘Norm Life Cycle’ Model


Social justice, falling under the umbrella term of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), incorporates upholding the dignity of the human person, the common good, solidarity, subsidiarity, and an option for the poor (CST Website). Social justice should be a given; it should be a norm. This message should not resonate only with those having first-hand experiences but it should be an integral part of every Catholic’s faith. Moreover, such beliefs should not only exist within a Catholic realm; it should also be a part of other faiths and those with no faith because it echoes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948. It is a message worthy to be known and heard by all. There should be a global norm of social justice.

Within the academic world of International Relations (IR), religion has been ignored for a long time and still remains a significantly under researched area. Even less attention has been given to the Catholic Church. In particular, IR has thus far very little research into the Catholic Church through a framework of norms. Norms, acknowledged widely as standards of appropriate behaviour (Barnett, 2008:169; Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:891; Klotz, 1995:451), are structures that are able to influence, by enabling and constraining, an agent’s actions. This dissertation aims to fill such shortfalls within IR by using Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink’s ‘norm life cycle’, an enhanced model within constructivist literature, to study the emergence and cascading of a norm of social justice under Pope Francis. This dissertation proposes that, despite only holding office for just over a year, Pope Francis has restated the importance for social justice. Arguably, this is the beginning of a norm emerging. This dissertation argues that this norm is currently going through a ‘life cycle’ and the norm is beginning to be heard, accepted, and acted upon by a wider Catholic population.

To analyse this norm currently going through its ‘life cycle’, the author conducted interviews with employees and supporters of CAFOD. CAFOD is a sub organisation of Caritas Internationalis, which is the official social justice organisation of the Catholic Church, aiming to end poverty, promote justice, and restore dignity (Caritas Website). Caritas Internationalis has over 160 sub organisations working in areas of relief, development, and social services; works in over 200 countries and territories throughout the world; is recognised by the Vatican and connected to local parishes; and has mobilized at least $1 billion per year (Ferris, 2005:313; Tarlton, 2012:16). To examine more deeply the evolution of a norm of social justice, the author focused on Caritas’ English and Welsh sub organisation. CAFOD, having been set up in 1960, primarily works in communities across Africa, Asia, and Latin America in order to help people make a living, assist in disaster and emergency response, and to campaign and advocate (CAFOD Website). This makes CAFOD a suitable organisation to interview so as to grasp the current phenomenon taking place of a norm of social justice emerging under Pope Francis in relation to Finnemore and Sikkink’s ‘norm life cycle’ model.

To get a more holistic view, the author interviewed six people: the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Head of Theology, the Head of the Latin American and Caribbean department, the Diocesan Manager for CAFOD’s Southwark office, the Youth Outreach Co-ordinator and a supporter of CAFOD. These interviews were conducted at CAFOD’s headquarters in London (Romero House, 55 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7JB). They had a semi-structured format with five main questions alongside other smaller questions to prompt the main question (see Appendix A for the interview questions). All but one of the interviews were recorded with permission – one interviewee asked not to be recorded. All ethical considerations and its required forms were submitted, approved, and adhered to.

As with all methodologies, there are limitations. Firstly, the author acknowledges the interviewees could have been reluctant to express their true opinions because the interviews took place within the headquarters of CAFOD. However, the questions were not criticising CAFOD but attempting to gage an idea of a wider norm in the Catholic Church. Therefore, the author does not believe this to be too much of a concern. Secondly, choosing a qualitatively semi-structured format over a rigid set of questions, means that the author’s analysis of the interviews will be more interpretive and discursive than coming to quantitatively proven conclusions. Thirdly, the author is aware of the risk of bias surrounding the fact that she has previous connections through her Brazil trip with two of the interviewees (Interviewees four and five). Finally, whilst the author tried as the interviewer to take a neutral point of view, it must be acknowledged that she is a Catholic and this understandably influenced certain assumptions when conducting the interviews.

To summarise, the contribution of this dissertation is three-fold. Firstly, this dissertation aims to make two original theoretical contributions. The author aims to identify existing gaps in IR literature on religion and will use a constructivist approach to fill such shortfalls. Within constructivism, the author will use the theoretical model of Finnemore and Sikkink’s ‘norm life cycle’ to fill the gap of religion in constructivist work. The dissertation’s contribution is to critique the ‘norm life cycle’ model and thus add to literature on the construction of norms. Secondly, the author has used an empirical case study which gives new insights into Pope Francis’ papacy. The ability of this dissertation to operationalise the theoretical model of the ‘norm life cycle’ gives new insights into this case study. Thirdly, the author has undertaken her own research through conducting interviews which underlies the originality of this dissertation.


CHAPTER ONE: Literature Review


In order to contextualise this dissertation, it is necessary to first review existing academic research within the discipline of IR on the topic of religion. This chapter aims to achieve this by exploring: religion within IR literature, religion and IR theory, and literature on the Catholic Church. It is the aim of this literature review to argue that religion is an under-researched topic within IR and whilst constructivism is seen as the best approach to bring religion into IR, this has not been achieved yet. This dissertation fills this gap in the literature by furthering research on norms in constructivism through assessing an emerging norm of social justice under Pope Francis.

Religion within IR Literature

Whilst Jack Snyder argues that ‘religion is one of the basic forces of the social universe, not just an “omitted variable”’ (Snyder, 2011:3), IR has mostly not considered the significance of religion (Anderson, 2008:207; Fox and Sandler, 2006:1; Petito and Hatzopoulos, 2003:1). However, there is growing scholarly research by scholars such as Fabio Petito and Pavlos Hatzopoulos (2003), Jack Snyder (2011), Jeffrey Haynes (2013), John Anderson (2008), and Jonathan Fox and Shmuel Sandler (2006) that specifically addresses religion and IR. This growing body of research is still in its infancy introducing the need for IR to incorporate religion into it and explaining why religion can no longer be dismissed. Scholars acknowledge two reasons for the omission of religion from IR: the rejection of religion more broadly in the social sciences and IR accepting Westphalian assumptions from the very beginning. These reasons will now be addressed.

Religion was omitted from IR literature because the social sciences, which IR situated itself in, rejected the significance of religion in support of secularization theory until the late twentieth century (Anderson, 2008:208; Fox and Sandler, 2006:4; Fox, 2013:17). Secularization theory is not monolithic but comes in many variations (Fox, 2013:17). Anderson asserts that secularization theory suggested the decline of the social and political significance of religion as the world became more secular and as a response to scientific rationality (Anderson, 2008:208). Fox argues that the theory predicted ‘the decline of religion, and perhaps its disappearance, as a significant social force in the public sphere, owning to a number of processes inherent in modernization’ (Fox, 2013:18). Fox and Sandler suggest that this body of work ‘rejected religion as an explanation for the world and believed that in the modern industrial age more rational, scientific, and legalistic means were needed in order to explain the world we live in as well as to manage it’ (Fox and Sandler, 2007:10). Thus, religion was not considered in IR because it was predicted that scientific and rational explanations in society would trump the inherent mystical element of religion that requires a belief without scientific proof.

Furthermore, religion remained isolated from IR because IR based itself on Westphalian assumptions (Anderson, 2008:208; Fox and Sandler, 2006:6; Jackson and Sørensen, 2012; Petito and Hatzopoulos, 2003:1). Essentially, the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 ended the Thirty Years War and created the system of states as we know it today. This treaty ensured the notions of sovereignty and non-intervention (Anderson, 2008:208). Significantly, one of the Westphalian assumptions declared that the ruler of each state controlled the religion of that state through the principle of ‘cuius regio eius religio’ (Anderson, 2008:208; Petito and Hatzopoulos, 2003:2). Thus, religion went from having a role in the public sphere to being relegated to the private sphere (Anderson, 2008:208; Jackson and Sørensen, 2012:284; Petito and Hatzopoulos, 2003:2). IR, initially focusing on interactions between states via a realist lens, accepted this Westphalian assumption and thus religion, as a private not public matter, was not considered a factor of interest to IR scholars. Thus, the rejection of religion ‘seems to be inscribed in the genetic code of the discipline of IR’ (Petito and Hatzopoulos, 2003:1).

Religion and IR Theory

The omittance of religion in IR is evident through its minimal reflection in IR theory. Religion needs to have a strong foothold in an IR theory in order for it to play a role in IR. After exploring how traditional IR theories consider religion, this section considers other theoretical perspectives within IR, concluding that constructivism is the best approach to incorporate religion into it. Thus, constructivism will be explored in the next chapter in greater depth in order to show religion has a place within it.

Anderson (2008), Fox and Sandler (2007), Haynes (2013), Jackson and Sørensen (2012), and Snyder (2011) all agree that religion has not been a factor of contention within traditional IR theories of realism, liberalism, and Marxism. Realism focuses on states as the key unit in international politics thus religion has no place as a unit of analysis (Anderson, 2008:208; Haynes, 2013:59). Moreover, realism focuses on the pursuit of power in the form of territory, population, economic power, and military might as the main driving forces behind the relations between states (Fox and Sandler, 2007:10). Religion would not be considered by realists to be one of these powerful driving forces. Liberalism, not automatically accepting states to be the primary actor in world politics but accepting the importance of other transnational actors too (Haynes, 2013:64), fails to recognize religion as one of these transnational actors (Anderson, 2008:209). For Haynes, liberalists view the importance of religion in its relation to more important factors, such as how religion has aided the democratisation of countries or how religious non-governmental organisations help development (Haynes, 2013:64). Religion in its own right is not often considered. Marxism treats religion as secondary to other factors such as economic forces or interests (Anderson, 2008:208). When speaking about neo-Marxism, Haynes describes neo-Marxists as seeing ‘political processes at the global level primarily as expressions of underlying class conflicts’ (Haynes, 2013:64). Thus, religion ‘is understood to be an effect of or a cover for more fundamental material considerations, especially economic interests and power politics’ (Haynes, 2013:65). This shows that traditional IR theories of realism, liberalism and Marxism have essentially excluded religion by rendering it unimportant.

Unlike the traditional IR theories that simply rejected religion, primordialism is a different approach to IR that treats religion much more seriously. However, this approach remains limited in its ability to incorporate religion. A primordialist perspective sees religion at the core and embedded within identity groups (Fox, 2013:38). Hasenclever and Rittberger note that Samuel Huntington, Gilles Kepel, Jeffrey Seul, and Bassam Tibi all argue that ‘the embeddedness of nations in civilisations will be the most important determinant of world politics in the twenty-first century’ (Hasenclever and Rittberger, 2000:643). Such civilizations were determined above all by their religious traditions (Anderson, 2008:216). Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’, considered the predominant primordialist literature, asserts that religious traditions would divide civilizations and these would be the fault lines for tension – he saw the most immediate and likely tension to occur between Western and Islamic ‘civilizations’ (Huntington, 1993). Whilst many scholars argue that primordialist literature is seen as allowing religion to be the central category for understanding international relations, nevertheless primordialist literature is questioned (Anderson, 2008:216; Haynes, 2013:68; Snyder, 2011:5). Anderson (2008:216) and Haynes (2013:67) both argue that Huntington’s predictions were mistaken because no clash has actually occurred. Thus, whilst primordialist literature is helpful in seeing the importance of religion within IR, its predictions have not occurred, casting doubt on primordialist arguments.

An instrumentalist perspective does not place religion at its core, rather religion is seen as secondary to other factors. With regards to political conflict, Hasenclever and Rittberger argue that instrumentalists see conflict as ‘the result of growing economic, social, and political inequalities in and between nations and that politics between states will be determined by power and material interest, not by culture or religion (Hasenclever and Rittberger, 2000:645). Thus, through an instrumentalist perspective, ‘conflicts that appeared to be religious in nature were essentially about something else’ (Anderson, 2008:216). The instrumentalist perspective is limited in its view on religion.

A number of scholars argue that constructivism is the best approach to incorporate religion into IR (Hasenclever and Rittberger, 2000:647; Haynes, 2013:66; Jackson and Sørensen, 2012; Snyder, 2011:14). Jackson and Sørensen say that constructivism is ‘very well placed to study the role of religion in international affairs’ (2012:288). Snyder states that ‘constructivist international relations theory would seem to provide friendly terrain for the role of religion in international politics because of its emphasis on ideas, norms, identity, and culture’ (Snyder, 2011:14) but it has not done so yet (Snyder, 2011:51). Haynes emphasises that constructivism is the most favourable to encourage an understanding of religion in international relations because it is generally concerned with the impact and power of ideas, norms, identity and culture on behaviour’ (Haynes, 2013:66). Thus, constructivism is considered the best approach because it is concerned with the way the world is socially constructed and the way in which variables such as ideas, norms, culture, religion and ethnicity affect and impact the social world (Anderson, 2008:217; Haynes, 2013:65).

Despite constructivism seeming the best approach to incorporate religion into IR, constructivist literature has not fully embraced religion (Snyder, 2011:16). After all, Snyder points out that religion is absent from constructivism’s most prominent text Alexander Wendt’s ‘Social Theory of International Politics’ (Snyder, 2011:16). This dissertation aims to fill this gap and thus bringing religion into a theoretical approach in IR. The next chapter will outline how norms, a strand of constructivism, allow this gap to be filled. This dissertation will use the analysis of norms to assess Pope Francis’ norm of social justice, to incorporate religion into constructivist literature and thus the importance of religion in IR theory.

Literature on the Catholic Church

Accepting that constructivist literature on norms is to be used to incorporate religion into IR, it is necessary to analyse existing literature on the Catholic Church as this dissertation is addressing Catholicism. Existing research, which goes beyond purely IR literature, is limited to broadly-speaking three main areas: definitional questions addressing what the Catholic Church is, the role of the Catholic Church as a transnational actor, and the history of national Catholic Churches. Whilst these three research areas do not encompass all research on the Catholic Church, they highlight the scarcity of research on the Catholic Church in the context of norms.

Firstly, one area of IR literature on the Catholic Church explores how the Catholic Church functions; it looks at the inner workings of the Catholic Church as an organisation. Manhattan explores what the Vatican State is, its history, and its role in sending diplomatic representatives throughout the world (Manhattan, 1949:27). Araujo (2013) and Martens (2006) both discuss the complicated nature of the differences between the Holy See and the Vatican. Ferrari argues that the Catholic Church straddles between being both a state and a nongovernmental organisation whilst not fitting into either perfectly (Ferrari, 2007:34). Walsh explores the historical background to the foundations of the papacy’s role and situates this by distinguishing between the papacy’s role in the Holy See and the Vatican (Walsh, 2000).

Secondly, other literature looks at the role the Catholic Church plays as a global or transnational actor. Tarlton argues that the Catholic Church should be considered one of the most prominent transnational actors because of its influence in political, economic, and social matters in the international system (Tarlton, 2012). Magana-Contreras looks at how the Vatican uses ‘soft power’ to advocate for social, political or economic causes through relying on transnational activism to spread its message to followers and to persuade state leaders and international institutions (Magana-Contreras, 2013). Troy argues that through the Church’s vision of peace and through Catholic social teachings, papal policy and diplomacy will always have a great influence on the world’s political stage (Troy, 2008). In his other article, Troy explores what impact Pope Francis may make on the international system as well as claiming that the Holy See’s international presence can be encapsulated into three broad areas – encyclicals, human rights and social affairs (Troy, 2013). Casanova explores changes in the character of the papacy as the transnational core of Catholicism in terms of three different types of worldly regimes – the medieval system of Christendom, the modern system of sovereign nation-states and a newly emerging and still undefined global system (Casanova, 1997).

Thirdly, there appears to be a group of literature focussing on the history and role of specific national Catholic Churches. Enyedi and O’Mahony examine the impact of democracy on the Hungarian and Czech Catholic Churches looking at how these Churches have responded to and coped with the realities and demands of liberal pluralist regimes (Enyedi and O’Mahony, 2006). Byrnes assesses the suffering of the Catholic Church in Poland under communism but argues that the Church is more threatened under democracy and pluralism (Byrnes, 2002). Dillon speaks about the Irish Catholic Church providing a ‘sacred canopy’ within which democratic politics can be conducted (Dillon, 2002). Manuel demonstrates the predominance of the Catholic Church in the Iberian countries of Spain and Portugal yet it not serving as a source of national identity or being a particularly strong competitor in the political process (Manuel, 2002). Finally, Gill analyses the role the Catholic Church played in traditionally supporting anti-democratic regimes in South America and then becoming ‘instrumental in affecting the transformation of any regimes into their contemporary democratic forms’ (Gill, 2002:193).


This chapter explored existing IR literature on religion in order to situate this dissertation. Due to the dominance of secularization theory and Westphalian assumptions, it is clear that religion is an omitted variable from IR and thus has a minimal reflection in IR theories. However, this chapter has portrayed constructivism to be the best approach to incorporate religion. The next chapter aims to explore constructivism and in particular its emphasis on norms in order for chapters three and four to assess Pope Francis’ norm of social justice. It is evident from this chapter that there exists little research on norms in the context of the Catholic Church.


CHAPTER TWO: Constructivism and the ‘Norm Life Cycle’ Model


Constructivism is, as argued in the previous chapter, the best approach to bring religion into IR because it is interested in how the world is constructed through variables of which religion should be considered one of them (Hasenclever and Rittberger, 2000:647; Haynes, 2013:66; Jackson and Sørensen, 2012; Snyder 2011:14). Whilst this has been acknowledged, there is little research to substantiate such a claim. This chapter aims to fill this gap by arguing that constructivist literature on norms is able to bring religion into IR because norms are the ideational structures which interact with a religious leader to promote that religion’s vision of the world. A particular focus of this chapter is on Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink’s model of a ‘norm life cycle’ which outlines the dynamics of a norm (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998). This is the model, due to its established position in normative literature, along with its listed critiques which will be used to assess an emerging norm of social justice under Pope Francis in chapter four.

What is Constructivism?

Constructivism is described as a social theory (Adler, 1997:323; Barnett, 2008:162) or an approach (Checkel, 1998:325; Ruggie, 1998:879-880). One of the key founders of constructivism, Alexander Wendt, saw the value of constructivism in its ability not to determine the content of our international theorizing but to structure the questions we ask about world politics and our approaches to answer those questions (Wendt, 1992:422).

Constructivism has developed in IR since the 1980s and has attempted to find the middle ground between rationalist approaches (realism and liberalism) and reflectivist approaches (postmodernism, poststructuralism and critical theories) (Adler, 1997:319; Baylis and Smith, 2001:184; Checkel, 1998:327). Rationalist approaches, primarily neorealism and neoliberalism, treat the identity and interests of actors as a given (Finnemore, 1996:3; Ruggie, 1998:862; Wendt, 1992). Reflectivist approaches believe that in the ‘social and interpreted world in which (as they see it) we live, only ideas matter and can be studied’ (Adler, 1997:321). Constructivism, building a bridge between the two, offers a different approach whereby an ‘international reality is socially constructed by cognitive structures that give meaning to the material world’ (Adler, 1997:319). This means to say that constructivism places emphasis on how the material world but also the ideational world shapes and is shaped by human action and interaction (Adler, 1997:322). This constructivist approach is of great significance because it ‘creates new areas for theoretical and empirical investigation (Adler, 1997:319).

Whilst variations between constructivist approaches exist, there are common principles holding this approach together. Constructivists believe that ‘human interaction is shaped primarily by ideational factors, not simply material ones’ (Finnemore and Sikkink, 2001:393). It is these ideas that constructivists want to study for they are of considerable importance in the construction of society. Of these ideas, the most important are widely shared and not reducible to individuals (Finnemore and Sikkink, 2001:393). Constructivists argue that it is these shared ideas that ‘construct the interests and identities of purposive actors’ (Finnemore and Sikkink, 2001:393). This shows the agency/structure debate of constructivism; the relationship between agents and structures is mutually constituted and interact (Barnett, 2008:162; Checkel, 1998:326; Wendt, 1992). This is because an agent’s action creates a context and within this context structures, material but also ideational, enable and constrain certain acts of the agent. This is of particular relevance as this study is using norms, as one of these ideational structures, to see how it is interacting with Pope Francis, an agent.

How do Norms Feature in Constructivist Literature?

A strand within constructivism has specifically focused on norms and this strand has gained ‘much currency in IR scholarship over the past decade’ (Checkel, 1998:327). Norms are defined as standards of appropriate behaviour for actors with a given identity (Barnett, 2008:169; Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:891; Klotz, 1995:451). However, norms are able to do much more than this. Norms affect the behaviour of actors in a much deeper way than simply regulating their behaviour; norms are ideational structures that constitute an actor’s identity and interests by enabling and constraining their actions. Norms are one of those structures that interact with agents (Checkel, 1998:328). This is of particular interest to this dissertation because the following two chapters will outline how a norm of social justice is interacting with Pope Francis.

Notably, norms can be traced because due to their quality of ‘oughtness’ they prompt justifications for action and leave an extensive trail of communication that we can study (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:892). To highlight this trail in order to get a better understanding of a norm, Finnemore and Sikkink developed a model called the ‘norm life cycle’. This model, which will be explored in great depths below, has become an established model among constructivists analysing norms (Berman, 2001; Capie, 2008; Harrison, 2004; Hoffman, 2003; Ingebritsen, 2002; Krook and True, 2012; Payne, 2001; Puschkarsky, 2009; Yanacopulos, 2004). This model will be operationalised in the remainder of this dissertation, particularly chapter four, though a current case study that brings new insights into both Pope Francis’ papacy and the construction of norms.

The ‘Norm Life Cycle’ Model

Finnemore and Sikkink wanted to show that ‘norms evolve in a patterned ‘life cycle’ and that different behavioral logics dominate different segments of the life cycle’ (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:888). According to their model, a norm goes through three stages. The first stage, deemed “norm emergence”, is when ‘norm entrepreneurs attempt to convince a critical mass of states (norm leaders) to embrace new norms’ (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:895). Norm entrepreneurs are seen as critical to the norm emerging because they are the ones who ‘call attention to issues or even “create” issues by using language that names, interprets, and dramatizes them’ (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:897). The norm must then reach a “tipping point” which is described as the moment the norm reaches a threshold; somehow being tipped in favour of the norm being accepted (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:901). The two hypotheses for reaching this tipping point, whilst acknowledging that is not possible to exactly predict when the tipping point will occur, are that the norm needs to be adopted by at least one-third of the total states in the system and by states that are seen to be more critical to the adoption of the norm (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:901). On tipping, the second stage is identified as the “norm cascade” which is when norm leaders attempt to socialise others to become norm followers (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:895). The norm has entered a different dynamic whereby more and more states begin to accept, follow and promote the norm. The third and final stage is identified as the “norm internalization” whereby ‘norms acquire a taken-for-granted quality and are no longer a matter of broad public debate’ (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:895). This three staged model is Finnemore and Sikkink’s argument showing the dynamics of a norm emerging, cascading and internalizing.

Criticisms of the ‘Norm Life Cycle’ Model

Whilst this model remains insightful into the dynamics of a norm, criticisms and limitations of the model exist. Three of these criticisms, which will be used in conjunction with this case study’s interviews in chapter four, are as follows:

Critique 1

Mona Krook and Jacqui True criticise why the origins behind norms are not explored. They question why Finnemore and Sikkink’s ‘interest in norm-building by ‘norm entrepreneurs’ does not translate into exploration of the origins and internal transformations of norms’ (Krook and True, 2012). This highlights the need to deepen our understanding of the origins of norms; how they emerge, when they emerge and why they emerge. To understand a norms life cycle, it is necessary to understand the context in which they originate from and are situated in.

Critique 2

Rodger Payne criticises the idea that persuasion is the mechanism used by norm entrepreneurs to enable the emergence of a norm for he believes that it is rather the overt exploitation of material levers (Payne, 2001). In this manner according to Payne, norms are ‘inherently vulnerable to various kinds of communicative distortions’ (Payne, 2001:54) and therefore could be deemed as illegitimate. Drawing from Payne’s argument, chapter four highlights the complexity of persuasion being seen as the key mechanism used by norm entrepreneurs and suggests that the linearity of persuasion through this hierarchical natured model is far more complex than the model suggests.

Critique 3

Sheri Berman (2001) and Ewan Harrison (2004) in their separate articles both call into question the model’s tipping point and cascading process. They believe it is too strictly linear that a norm tipping requires the agreement from one-third of ‘critical’ states and that a norm cascades in a rigid and structured manner via norm leaders and norm followers. Berman questions whether it is possible to quantitatively determine exactly when a tipping point will occur and when it will cascade for she believes that ‘the process by which socialization occurs remains murky’ (Berman, 2001). Speaking of the norm cascading down strict paths, Harrison argues it is perhaps better to theoretically have ‘an essentially open-ended nature of the theoretical threshold (because) there are many potential historical paths that could produce the same outcome precisely because different states have different relative strengths’ (Harrison, 2004:532). Both these criticisms suggest that the ‘norm life cycle’ model can be adapted to not be so rigid and linear with regards to its tipping point and cascading process of a norm.


This chapter has explored a constructivist approach to IR arguing that this approach is able to incorporate religion through the use of norms as ideational structures that interact with agents. It is for this reason that it is fascinating to explore the dynamics of a norm of social justice in its interaction with Pope Francis. Finnemore and Sikkink’s ‘norm life cycle’ model has been substantially outlined in this chapter to serve as the framework that this case study will operationalise in the following chapters. The next chapter will introduce the emerging norm and chapter four will directly draw upon the criticisms of the ‘norm life cycle’ model outlined in this chapter to assess the dynamics of an emerging norm of social justice under Pope Francis.


CHAPTER THREE: An Emerging Norm of Social Justice Under Pope Francis 


Before analysing a norm of social justice through the ‘norm life cycle’ model, this chapter demonstrates that a norm of social justice is emerging under Pope Francis. This chapter does this, after addressing some of the accomplishments of Pope Francis thus far, through outlining Pope Francis’ messages and actions on social justice under the principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). The five principles encapsulating CST, which can be considered the umbrella term that incorporates social justice in a Catholic context, are: upholding the dignity of the human person, the common good, solidarity, subsidiarity, and an option for the poor (CST Website).

Pope Francis, whilst not doctrinally changing any teachings of the Catholic Church, has made a huge impact to the Catholic Church within a year. His accomplishments include making changes to the Roman Curia, establishing a permanent group of eight cardinals as an advisory panel, speaking about divorced Catholics receiving Communion, washing the feet of female convicts, posing for ‘selfies’ with young visitors to the Vatican, embracing a man with a deformed face, speaking about not judging gay people, acknowledging that women should play a greater role in the Church, and setting up a Vatican committee to fight the sexual abuses of children and to offer help to victims (TIME, 2013). Pope Francis’ ability to begin to change the perception of the Catholic Church through such accomplishments within such a short space of time, have led to him being named ‘Time’s Person of the Year’ (Chua-Eoan and Dias, 2013), appearing on the cover of ‘Rolling Stones’ (Binelli, 2014) and attracting a record number of crowds in Rome (Rocca, 2014). His apostolic exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’, an official document of communication between the Pope and the Catholic Church population, is Rome’s biggest seller for decades since documents of Vatican II (West, 2014). Whilst it is still too soon to see how effective he has been, it is truly remarkable to see the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike (Chua-Eoan and Dias, 2013).

Pope Francis and Social Justice

Pope Francis’ key message is arguably one promoting social justice. Whilst this is not his only message as evident from the paragraph above, multiple sources and writers are crediting him with this. Howard Chua-Eoan, involved in choosing Pope Francis as ‘Time’s Person of the Year’, stated that Pope Francis ‘is especially caring about the poor, that is the strongest message’ (Chua-Eoan and Dias, 2013). In an interview with the Italian newspaper ‘Corriere della Sera’ on 5 March 2014, it was stated to Pope Francis that his attention to poverty was ‘the strongest stamp of his pastoral message’ (Aguirre and Holdren, 2014). Pope Francis has even endorsed Caritas Internationalis’ first global campaign to end hunger (Vatican Radio, 2013). This all shows the recognition Pope Francis is gaining for emphasising social justice issues.

CST, which is the umbrella term encompassing social justice within the context of the Catholic Church, is the broad name given to the Church’s teachings on social, political and economic issues which are informed by Gospel values and lived Christian reflection enabling one to live one’s faith in justice and peace (CST Website). CST first emerged as a collective term for these ideas at the end of the nineteenth century drawing on Catholic texts throughout its history (CST Website). Some of these texts include passages from the Bible (Matthew, 5:1-12) and (Matthew, 25:35-36), Vatican II documents including ‘Gaudium et Spes’ (Pope Paul VI, 1965), documents by previous popes including ‘Rerum Novarum’ (Pope Leo XIII, 1891) and ‘Caritas in Veritate’ (Pope Benedict XVI, 2009). These texts among many others have informed the concept of social justice in the Catholic Church under the banner of CST.

Using the five principles of social justice described by CST, this section will explore Pope Francis’ messages and actions. This will be portrayed through the official Vatican media as well as other Catholic and secular media outlets to emphasise the multiplicity of what it being portrayed of Pope Francis.

  1. The dignity of the human person

This principle places the fundamental freedom and dignity of the human person at the centre of society and the basis for human rights (CST Website). Pope Francis is sending out a clear message: the Church wants to ensure the protection of each and every person. In his inaugural homily, he stated ‘to protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love is to open up a horizon of hope’ (News.Va, 2013). Furthermore, he has been vocal in condemning societies centred around money and not the human person (Davies, 2013). He believes it is an injustice if the human person is not at the heart of society.

  1. The common good

This principle states that because people exist as part of society, they have the right to share and benefit from the welfare of that society (CST Website). The role of public authorities is to ensure the common good and to ensure no one is excluded from it (CST Website). By washing and kissing the feet of young offenders (Glatz, 2013) and embracing a disfigured man (Strange, 2013), Pope Francis has shown that no one should be excluded from society. He believes that ‘even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect’ (Glatz, 2013).

  1. Solidarity

This principle holds that as we are all part of one human family, ‘we have mutual obligations to promote the rights and developments of peoples across communities and nations’ (CST Website). When addressing the community of Varginha in Brazil as part of his WYD engagements, Pope Francis said ‘the Brazilian people, particularly the humblest among you, can offer the world a valuable lesson in solidarity; this word solidarity is too often forgotten or silenced, because it is uncomfortable. It almost seems like a bad word…solidarity. I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity! No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world! Everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities, should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices’ (Catholic Truth Society, 2013). Pope Francis is urging everyone to fight social injustices through the message of solidarity.

  1. Subsidiarity

This principle asks that power and decision-making in society be at the most local level compatible with the common good. This could mean power passing downwards as well as upwards. The importance is that is in reference to the common good (CTS Website). In ‘Evangelii Gaudium’, Pope Francis has criticised the assumption that trickle-down theories ensure that economic growth encouraged by a free market will bring about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world (Pope Francis, 2013). He states in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ that this idea ‘expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting’ (Pope Francis, 2013:54). Pope Francis’ criticisms of those in power of certain economic systems shows that he is calling for subsidiarity whereby the people, due to the common good, have the right to be governed in a way in which the whole of society benefits.

  1. Option for the poor

This principle holds that it is necessary in seeking Christ to help those suffering, wounded and powerless in society (CTS Website). It is clear that by choosing the name Francis, Pope Francis wanted ‘a Church which is poor and for the poor’ (Pope Francis, 2013). After all, Saint Francis of Assisi did just this. Pope Francis’ actions of hosting a lunch for the poor in the town of Assisi (BBC News, 2013), celebrating a birthday a meal with some homeless people (Fox News, 2013), giving out free public transport tickets and phone cards to Rome’s poor (McKenna, 2013) are visible signs that he is putting the poor at the centre of his papacy. This is sending out a message to the entire Church. More formally, in his apostolic exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’, he explicitly states that ‘our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members’ (Pope Francis, 2013). His message is a long-term one as the ‘Beatitudes’ (The Bible, Matthew, 5:1-12) have been chosen as the themes for the next three years culminating in the next World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016. The first theme is ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (The Bible, Matthew, 5:3). This shows that as his papacy continues, he is moulding the Church in a direction that places the poor at its centre.


This chapter has outlined, through the five principles of CST, how Pope Francis has vocally addressed and acted in a manner promoting the importance of social justice. Significantly, through the variety of religious and secular media sources used in this chapter, it is evidently acknowledged and accepted that social justice is at the heart of Pope Francis’ papacy. Thus, it is arguable that a norm of social justice is emerging; the first stage of Finnemore and Sikkink’s ‘norm life cycle’ model is occurring. It is now the purpose of this dissertation to analyse the dynamics of this norm. The next chapter will, through using the interview data, critique Finnemore and Sikkink’s ‘norm life cycle’ model using the critiques from chapter two.


CHAPTER FOUR: Critiquing the ‘Norm Life Cycle’ Model 


Having outlined an emerging norm of social justice under Pope Francis in the previous chapter, this chapter aims to critique Finnemore and Sikkink’s ‘norm life cycle’ model through using interviews from employees and supporters of CAFOD. The focus is primarily on the first and second stage of the ‘norm life cycle’ model as the norm is too current to have reached the third stage of internalisation. The three critiques of the model highlighted in this chapter are: the model fails to explore the origins of norms and thus fails to see how norms not only enable but constrain norm entrepreneurs, the model’s assertion of the linearity of norm entrepreneurs using persuasion is far more complex than suggested, and the model fails to understand that the tipping and cascading of a norm can take many different paths.

Critique 1

The ‘norm life cycle’ model fails to see the significance of exploring the origins of norms. Finnemore and Sikkink state that ‘norms do not appear out of thin air; they are actively built by agents having strong notions about appropriate or desirable behavior in their community’ (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:896). However, echoing Krook and True’s criticism, they fail to explore the origins of norms and thus fail to see the full effect a norm has on the norm entrepreneur. The interviews in this case study strongly suggest that the emerging norm of social justice is an old norm that has existed within Catholic teachings for the entirety of the religious tradition. The norm is simply being reinstated by Pope Francis in a new way.

Evidence from the interviews:

Interviewee One

“I think he is restating an old norm really, I don’t think he has said anything new in terms of social justice but it is the way he is saying things and how vocal he is being that is perhaps different.”

“It’s nice to see more publicity given to that side of the Church which we at CAFOD have always known has been there. Social justice has always been part of the Church and part of what it means to be Catholic for many people but it’s not always been well noticed.”

Interviewee Three

“We can see social justice being the call of the Church that goes back to two thousand years ago or before in terms of the Old Testament. The Church on the side of the poor and that being restated through Catholic Social Teaching dates back to the end of the nineteenth century.”

Interviewee Two

“I question whether these norms are in fact ‘new’ or whether Pope Francis is simply restating/witnessing to old norms and bringing them to life. I’d say that Pope Francis isn’t creating rules because the rules are already there; there is nothing new in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’. The Church’s laws haven’t changed and whilst he may be influencing them that doesn’t mean he’s changing them. The Pope can’t change Church teachings.”

Interviewee Four

“I don’t think he is producing the norms, I think the norms are already there. I think he is producing ways of making them relevant for people so there is an understanding and a willingness to become involved in it and change their opinions and behaviours. I don’t think he’s coming up with anything brand new or exciting, he’s just practically living it out in a way that people can identify with that they haven’t done before.”

Interviewee Five

“I think that Pope Francis might be somebody that re-introduces ideas. With this definition, yes he could be seen as a ‘norm entrepreneur’. I think that within the context in which he is re-introducing ideas of social justice, the changing shape of the audience is relevant to how those ideas are taking form.”

Interviewee Six

“Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were both in their own way social justice orientated.”

“I think Pope Francis has a different emphasis on it. When others have spoken about it, they were doing things to the poor – the poor are in the periphery and your responsibility in the centre was to show compassion and love to those who are poor. Pope Francis has turned it on its head – he has said the poor should be at the centre of the Church. I think that is a profound shift.”

“In some ways what he has been saying has been reinforcing what we have been saying. He is just saying it with more authority. And what he is saying isn’t new. It’s all there in Catholic Social Teaching and in the work of the Church through Caritas. I think the only difference is that it is been said from the top.”

These interviews highlight that Pope Francis is making social justice issues more accessible and relevant by witnessing to the norm himself and being more vocal about it. He is, perhaps in a new way, reinforcing the importance for social justice. However, Pope Francis is not introducing a new idea. This norm has not appeared out of thin air or been created by Pope Francis but has been incorporated into Catholic Social Teaching which stems from the beginning of Catholicism. Pope Francis, as the interviews highlighted, is not changing the Church’s teachings but restating and perhaps re-emphasising what is already there. This insight into the origins of this norm suggests that norms enable as well as constrain the norm entrepreneur. On the one hand, Pope Francis is the enabler of the norm because by his speeches and actions he is attempting to show the importance and significance of this norm and trying to encourage ‘norm leaders’ to follow suit. On the other hand, Pope Francis is constrained by the norm because its origins lie prior to his papacy and thus he must adhere to the teachings of this established norm. Therefore, the origins of norms are crucial and need to be explored more than Finnemore and Sikkink suggest.

Critique 2

Finnemore and Sikkink state that ‘the characteristic mechanism of the first stage, norm emergence, is persuasion by norm entrepreneurs. Norm entrepreneurs attempt to convince a critical mass of states (norm leaders) to embrace new norms (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998: 895). Agreeing with Payne’s idea that persuasion as the key mechanism a norm entrepreneur uses is perhaps limited, the interviews suggest that Pope Francis’ use of persuasion is far more complex than the model would expect. This complexity is highlighted by the way in which Pope Francis continuously emphasises that Christ is the centre and he is a servant of Christ following the Catholic Church’s teachings. Pope Francis is persuading others to believe in the way Christ wants us to live; a world that accepts social justice as a given. Thus the interview data casts doubt upon the hierarchical structure suggested by the model, with the norm entrepreneur at the top linked to norm leaders by persuasion.

Evidence from the interviews:

Interviewee Three

“The ‘norm entrepreneur’ is actually Jesus Christ whereas Pope Francis is just restating the Catholic Church’s teachings. Pope Francis is trying to be someone who resembles Christ being one of and with the people. He is all about what would Jesus do, what would Jesus think.”

“Pope Francis is showing and saying that he is not any different from the rest of us, he’s not someone that should be considered separate but we are all Church. The message of the Church is to love your neighbour as yourself and the Beatitudes. If you know about that, you’ve got the message of the Church.”

Interviewee Two

“I don’t know whether I would use the terminology of ‘norms’ but perhaps Pope Francis is encouraging people to behave in a certain way. Using the language of norms and Pope Francis as a ‘norm entrepreneur’ sounds a little manipulative – I’d say he is living out the truth.”

“I don’t think that Pope Francis would want to be seen as a figure-head because, as he often states, Christ should be at the centre. After all, Pope Francis addressed himself as the Bishop of Rome instead of Pope.”

“CAFOD’s work hasn’t changed. It doesn’t need the ‘Francis’ approval. It should be about Christ. This is why, whilst it is tempting, I’m trying not to simply use quotes by Pope Francis to justify or legitimise what CAFOD does.”

Interviewee Five

“I think there is a real kind of contention between being a religious figure, be that a priest in a parish or a pope, being that person you present to the public and being that ordinary servant – that is what they are called to be. Sometimes I challenge myself in thinking should I be saying ‘wow’ because isn’t that what we should all be doing. Sometimes I say that it is great we can see a case study of what a human being should be doing but should we really be saying how out of the world this is.”

The interview data highlights that whilst Pope Francis is the head of the Catholic Church, he has shown by example that Christ is the centre and the clergy, including himself, are the servants. In this way, he is not using persuasion as linearly as Finnemore and Sikkink would expect from a norm entrepreneur. Pope Francis wants the world to know the message of social justice not because he is at the head, and not for people to idolise him or his words, but because this is the message of the Jesus. He is one of Christ’s disciples and hopes to bring Christ’s message of social justice to light. Thus for the ‘norm life cycle’ model, this linear line of persuasion in a hierarchically natured model is much more complex. The model is too rigid in its assertion that persuasion drives a hierarchical structure whereby people are expected to accept the norm initiated by the norm entrepreneur.

Critique 3  

Finnemore and Sikkink outline that a norm must reach a tipping point by one-third of the total states in the system adopting the norm which then enables the second stage of the ‘norm life cycle’ known as the norm cascade (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:901). It is in this stage that begins ‘a dynamic of imitation as the norm leaders attempt to socialize other states to become norm followers’ (Finnemore and Sikkink, 1998:895). Berman and Harrison both critique the way in which the model constructs the tipping point and cascading process as being linear and rigid. According to the cascading process outlined in the model, it would be expected that after Pope Francis introduced a norm he would attempt to relay the norm to cardinals and bishops who in turn would then relay it to priests and the religious. The norm would then be expected to become institutionalised among the wider Catholic population. However, the interviews suggest, echoing Berman and Harrison critiques, that this norm is cascading through many paths bringing into question the nature of the tipping point.

Evidence from the interviews:

Interviewee One

“In terms of this cascade effect, I wonder how that will happen. Lots of people are engaging directly with the Pope through the media and social media; they can see straight away exactly what the Pope is saying and doing. I wonder if it will cascade down directly to the lay people or if it will cascade through the parish priests. I think that for people to be able to take practical action on social justice within their Catholic communities they will need that divine of Catholic priests as well. It will be interesting to watch. I think it has got to be a combination between charities, dioceses, parishes, priests, media etc. to see this cascading effect.”

Interviewee Three

“I would imagine some bishops around the world would find Pope Francis challenging. Pope Francis himself has said how much it pains him to see bishops driving around in smart cars and getting the latest iPhones. What one man can do has limitations but obviously he’s the Pope so you’d expect him to have a little influence even if they don’t go along with it, they going to have toe the line.”

“I’d say the work hasn’t changed and the people I work with within the context of Latin America, their work hasn’t changed. But I guess what has changed is that those working for CAFOD feel that what they are doing is being recognised and being celebrated.”

Interviewee Four

“The model can be adapted, there has to be a point where ownership is taken on and a responsibility that you act on and not just in terms of it being somebody else’s idea that you agree with. It is that development and application to your own life.”

Interviewee Five

“Pope Francis has been in the public eye from the first minute and the younger generations are continuously engaging with that kind of media that engages directly with him. They are definitely taking notice.”

“I think organisations like CAFOD and the Salesians see ourselves as enablers. We enable the individuals who are taking these messages and using them constructively. I think these organisations are working to be able to make those connections between the Pope and the people he is speaking to.”

“I think the model could be further elaborated. I think the people who are norm leaders also have the potential to be norm entrepreneurs. We’re not mere recipients of information; we take that information, re-develop it and put own spin on it. Perhaps there is a middle stage where a norm leader becomes a norm entrepreneur. That is what all Christians, Catholics and any faith identify themselves to be, they are not just recipients of a norm.”

Interviewee Six

“People now can read things online. In the older days, it was a genuine cascade. Today it is much more circular.”

“Going back to the model, you will have leaders. I would say that one of the leaders is Welby (the current Archbishop of Canterbury and the senior bishop in the Church of England). The leaders don’t need to be Catholic. It wouldn’t surprise me that many of them coming forward will not be Catholic but will be inspired by Pope Francis. I’ve heard Imams here talk about Francis and saying what a wonderful inspiration he is. Welby is a classic – they are going to work together on this joint project apparently on poverty.”

“At the moment, it depends on now how the cascade works. Part of that will be the inspiration and the teachings and the writings and part of that will be the institution. The institution, the Church changes in decades or in centuries, it doesn’t change in years. I think on the first hand it’s happening already because of what he is saying, the next stage is a slower process by which you hear what he says being echoed by cardinals, bishops, other catholic thinkers, other catholic politicians – these are the norm leaders. I think it is too early.”

The interview data suggests that the tipping and cascading processes of this norm are far more complex than the ‘norm life cycle’ model relays. The norm is likely to take many paths: from Pope Francis directly to the people, from Pope Francis to bishops to priests, from people becoming norm entrepreneurs themselves, from CAFOD promoting this norm with Pope Francis. With this being the case, it is difficult to quantitatively assess the tipping point of a norm; it is hard to know, as Finnemore and Sikkink tentatively argue, if one-third of all states agree with what Pope Francis is saying. This is hard to know because at times those expected to accept the norm (i.e. bishops) have not whilst those considered at the bottom of the cascading process (i.e. the general Catholic population) have. Furthermore, the role of the media and significantly the social media has enabled a direct line from the norm entrepreneur to the people without the need necessarily for norm leaders. It is because of the complexity of this norm cascading which makes it hard to assess; a genuine cascade suggested by the model is questionable. This idea, in line with Berman and Harrison’s critiques, calls into question the rigidity of the tipping point and the cascading process of a norm. Norms do not have to follow a genuine cascade but instead are arguably much more fluid in their nature.


This case study has highlighted three critiques of the ‘norm life cycle’ model which challenge and adapt it as a theoretical model of how norms emerge and cascade. Firstly, through analysing the origins of norms, it is suggested that norms enable but also constrain a norm entrepreneur. Secondly, questioning the linear movement of persuasion by the norm entrepreneur, challenges the rigid hierarchical structure of the ‘norm life cycle’ model. Thirdly, norms do not have to follow a genuine cascade taking a specific path but instead are more fluid which critiques the rigidity of the tipping point and cascading process. Interviewing employees and supporters of CAFOD provided insightful understandings of the construction of an emerging norm of social justice under Pope Francis. Analysing the findings of the interviews through the use of the theoretical model of Finnemore and Sikkink’s ‘norm life cycle’ has allowed further conceptualisation of norms as well as new insights into Pope Francis’ papacy.


CHAPTER FIVE: Conclusion


This chapter will summarise the main objectives and findings of this study, emphasise the three significant contributions of this dissertation, discuss the limitations and difficulties of it and finally explore the potential for future research.

This dissertation aimed to further existing IR literature on religion through identifying that little research had substantiated the claim that constructivism is the best approach to incorporate religion. Norms, a strand of constructivism, were highlighted as a way to encompass religion into this IR approach. The intention was to further the conceptualisation of the construction of norms. In order to achieve this, a current emerging norm of social justice under Pope Francis was assessed. Finnemore and Sikkink’s well established ‘norm life cycle’ was chosen as a theoretical model in order to understand the dynamics of this norm. Their model set out a ‘life cycle’ of a norm and this case study was interested in the first two stages as this is where it is believed this norm to be currently situated. By means of a method, the author conducted interviews with employees and supporters of CAFOD as interviews are arguably the most effective method to grasp something that is occurring in the present. Through these interviews, the author was able to assess this norm in the context of the theoretical model of the ‘norm life cycle’, which developed into highlighting three critiques of the ‘norm life cycle’ model.

The interview data suggested, through operationalising the ‘norm life cycle’ model and its critiques, three ways that the ‘norm life cycle’ model could be criticised and thus further enhanced. The first critique is that norm origins are important and should not be overlooked. Through looking at the origin of this norm, norms enable but also constrain the norm entrepreneur. A norm of social justice has existed in the Catholic Church for essentially the entirety of the religion; Pope Francis is thus constrained by existing Church teachings on social justice even if he is re-introducing this norm in a new way. The second critique is that the linearity of persuasion by the norm entrepreneur is more complex than the model suggests. Pope Francis, acting as one of Christ’s disciples, speaks of social justice as the way Christ would want his followers to live. He is not trying to persuade others to believe a norm he has started, rather he wants to show the way to Christ’s teachings. The third critique argues that the tipping point and the cascading process of the model are too rigid. This case study has shown that the norm is showing signs of cascading in many different ways thus there is not one path for a norm to cascade. Hence, this adds to the complexity of assessing when a tipping point has occurred.

This dissertation’s contribution is three-fold. Firstly, in its theoretical capacity, this dissertation has critiqued Finnemore and Sikkink’s model of a ‘norm life cycle’. By pushing the boundaries of existing research on norms and using an empirical case study, it has allowed a better understanding of the construction of norms. Arguably, it is through this use of normative literature that religion has been able to situate itself within a constructivist approach. Thus, this dissertation has contributed to the filling the existing gaps of religion in IR theory as outlined in the literature review. This theoretical contribution highlights the originality of this dissertation in opening up a new way to conceptualise religion in IR.

Secondly, this dissertation has offered new insights into Pope Francis’ papacy. It has explored and emphasised the key message from Pope Francis’ first year in his pontificate: a message of social justice. Moreover, through the interview data allowing for the critiquing of the ‘norm life cycle’ model, this dissertation has provided a better conceptual understanding of the way Pope Francis is acting through the manner in which he is enabling this norm and the way in which the norm is constraining him. This evidently leads back to a constructivist concept of the interaction between agent and structure. Giving new insights into Pope Francis’ papacy is insightful because it is extremely current and thus this dissertation is likely to be among the first academic pieces, specifically in IR, to speak of Pope Francis.

Thirdly, the author conducting own research, through interviewing employees and supporters of CAFOD, is substantial because this is original data that only this dissertation is able to draw upon. Whilst other scholars interested in similar research may decide to use a different methodology to further their understanding of norms or of Pope Francis’ papacy, the author has taken the initiative to conduct her own research. These interviews are incredibly valuable because this charity is part of the official social justice wing of the Catholic Church. This shows how original and unique gaining such information is in its contribution to this case study.

It is important to be able to recognise the limitations of any study in order to acknowledge potential criticisms this dissertation will face. Firstly, the author is aware that she only interviewed six people from CAFOD. The author hopes that this dissertation is not seen as basing its conclusions on the opinions of six but that the interviews provided a way to grasp how this norm is currently occurring and therefore allowed the author to analyse it through the ‘norm life cycle’ model. Secondly, this dissertation essentially addressed how this norm was cascading amongst Catholics, despite the norm being for non-Catholics alike.

Along with the limitations of this study, there were also a few difficulties that the author encountered along the way. As this is a current norm, it was hard to initially see the best methodology to use in order to grasp this norm. Whilst no methodology is perfect, the author deemed interviews to be the best method to grasp the dynamics of this norm. Furthermore, it is unclear what the future of this norm holds as it is too early to tell what will happen to this norm. Whilst the fact that this norm is currently going through its ‘life cycle’, which challenged the ability of this dissertation to see its full ‘life cycle’, this means there is plenty of scope for future research.

Future research can build upon the findings of this dissertation. It would be interesting to explore and assess this particular norm of social justice given more time to see whether the norm was able to finish its ‘life cycle’ or, if not, how far it got and what path it took. Perhaps, it would be interesting to see whether this norm continues under the next pope. Also, it would be interesting to assess norms emerging through other religious figures or institutions, in order to see if there is a difference between the influences of the Catholic Church compared to other religions. This research would continue the work this dissertation has introduced in its argument that religion is able to situate itself among normative literature in a constructivist approach.

This dissertation has hoped to have been insightful, fulfilling, and valuable. For the purpose of a wider audience, this dissertation hopefully has successfully argued why social justice should be a norm and has encouraged them to take on what Pope Francis is speaking of and make it relevant in their own lives. Moreover, the author hopes that it has given a deeper and more insightful understanding to Pope Francis’ papacy. To the academic world of IR, the author hopes this dissertation has shown that norms are a truly significant ideational factor through this case study adding empirical weight to theoretical conceptions. The author hopes this dissertation, through the three critiques of the ‘norm life cycle’ model, contributes to the adaption of the way norms are constructed within normative literature in a constructivist approach. Finally, the author hopes that this dissertation convinces IR scholars that there is value in researching on religion because, by assessing Pope Francis’ norm of social justice, this dissertation was able to incorporate religion into constructivism and showed new insights into the construction of norms.


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Appendix A: Interview Questions

A Brief Summary of the ‘Norm Life Cycle’

Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink define a ‘norm’ as ‘a standard of appropriate behaviour for actors with a given identity’. They have put forward an idea that norms go through a life cycle showing them being created and implemented. Firstly, for a norm to come into existence, it needs a ‘norm entrepreneur’ – someone who is actively trying to convince others to embrace that particular norm. Secondly, the norm goes through a ‘cascading’ phase whereby it is being embraced by norm leaders and becoming accepted by the population. Thirdly, the norm has acquired a taken-for-granted quality and is no longer a matter of broad public debate – this stage is known as ‘norm internalisation’.

  1. Do you think Pope Francis is a ‘norm entrepreneur’?

(A ‘norm entrepreneur’ is someone who attempts to convince others to embrace new norms.)

(Is it because of his position as pope he is able to be a ‘norm entrepreneur’? Does he need the authority of the Catholic Church?) (As a ‘norm entrepreneur’, would you say Pope Francis orders and constrains behaviour or creates new actors, interests or categories of action? Has this differed for other popes?)

  1. Do you feel that Pope Francis has restated a norm of social justice?

(Has Pope Francis spoken of social justice issues more than other popes? Is he pushing social justice issues more than other teachings of the Catholic Church?)

  1. If so, what difference do you think it has made/will make that he has restated the importance of such a norm?

(Are people more aware of social justice issues? Do people now pay more attention to the work the Catholic Church does in terms of helping to alleviate social injustices?)

  1. What is CAFOD’s role in the social justice wing of the Catholic Church and do you feel this has changed since Pope Francis has come into office?

(What does CAFOD mean by social justice? Hoes does CAFOD’s role relate to Pope Francis’ message? Do you feel CAFOD’s work has changed since Pope Francis has been in office? If Pope Francis hadn’t become Pope, would CAFOD’s work still function in the same way?)

  1. Can we see the implementation of such a norm? And in particular, can we see the ‘cascading effect’ of the norm through the work of CAFOD?

(Is what Pope Francis saying being effectively implemented? How can we see Pope Francis’ message of the necessity of social justice in the work of CAFOD? Do you feel there has been a development in the awareness of social justice issues since Pope Francis has been in office?)

Written by: Marianne Rozario
Written at: The University of St Andrews
Written for: Dr. Faye Donnelly
Date written: April 2014

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