Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Sociology (Applied), PhD

Committee Chair

Roelfs, David

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Best, Latrica

Committee Member

Best, Latrica

Committee Member

Kofman, Michal

Committee Member

Heberle, Lauren

Committee Member

Wiggins, Jon

Author's Keywords

Organization; Isomorphism; disability; catholic church; niche; sacramental norms


This dissertation addresses the role of isomorphism as it pertains to disability accommodations in the Catholic Church. Isomorphism is the concept articulated by DiMaggio and Powell (1983) that organizations are becoming more similar. They do this in three ways: mimetic (when one organization copies another organization), coercive (when one organization or cultural practices pressure another organization to perform an action or adopt a policy), and normative (when organizations adopt similar actions because their leaders are following a common set of norms established through professional or educational processes). Sacraments that address disability issues in the Catholic Church are unique because they are exempt from federal and state laws. Therefore, the only entity that can coerce a parish (individual Catholic Church headed by a priest) is the diocese (the umbrella organization the governs parishes headed by a bishop). This dissertation uses that dynamic to isolate the coercive factors and quantify the three types of isomorphism. To do this I mainly use two surveys sent to parishes and dioceses in the United States by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). The findings show that normative isomorphism is the most influential type of vi isomorphism, around three times as influential as mimetic isomorphism. Coercive isomorphism is not influential in any models in the dissertation. I conclude that the reason coercive isomorphism is not influential is because the tools bishops use to influence disability accommodations lack a strong enforcement mechanism. Most bishops do not regard disability accommodations as a high priority and without a strong enforcement mechanism, disability accommodations are not regularly implemented. Normative isomorphism is influential because a priest and bishop’s position is inherently social, therefore people and organizations have the opportunity to affect how the priest/bishop thinks about disability accommodations. Once they start thinking about them, other organizations have an opportunity to influence the decision and mimetic isomorphism can also influence their decision because the priest or bishop is searching for solutions and looks to similar organizations for those solutions.