Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The Chinese Rites Controversy, which began in seventeenth century China and largely concerned disagreement amongst Catholic missionary orders as to whether or not participation in ancestor veneration and Confucian rituals should be permitted by the Church, concluded in 1742 with the bull Ex quo singulari which ruled against Catholics taking part in these rites. However, the Church rescinded this decision in 1939 when Plane compertum est allowed such participation by Catholics of Chinese ancestry. Subsequently, in 1974 the Chinese Bishops' Conference in Taipei, Taiwan approved the "Proposed Catholic Ancestor Memorial Liturgy" in which ancestor veneration became an integral part of Chinese Catholic life. Through extensive library research I trace the history of these developments until 1939. After this date, I attempt to construct the history of the performance of the ritual by Catholics mainly in Taiwan and the United States--as well as to reflect on the meaning of the rite in the Catholic context--primarily through interviews and correspondence with Catholic scholars, clergy and parishioners, recorded personal observation of five such ancestor memorial services, and by a survey. I conclude that the ultimate creation and performance of the ancestor memorial liturgy by the Catholic Church is the practical realization of the ideal to renew attempts at worldwide inculturation as set forth during Vatican II in the 1960s.


Dr. Beverly Joan Butcher received her PhD in Folklore & Folklife.

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