Needs of the Heart: A Social and Cultural History of Brazil's Clergy and Seminaries

By Hewitt, Warren E. | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Needs of the Heart: A Social and Cultural History of Brazil's Clergy and Seminaries


Hewitt, Warren E., The Catholic Historical Review


Latin American Needs of the Heart: A Social and Cultural History of Brazil's Clergy and Seminaries. By Kenneth P. Serbin. [Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies.] (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 2006. Pp. xx, 476. $60.00.)

In this groundbreaking work, Kenneth Serbin has provided a masterful account of the history of Brazil's clergy and their training from the sixteenth century to the present day. Supplemented by a unique and comprehensive collection of tables, figures, and maps, Serbin provides original and detailed insight into an aspect of church history in Brazil not commonly explored - certainly not on this scale.This work is a "must" read not only for those interested in Brazilian history, but for anyone looking to understand the state and role of the Church in contemporary Brazilian society. One of Serbin's key observations relates to the way in which the clergy were both shaped by, and actively shaped their centuries-long experience in Brazil. "In some instances," he relates, "the intended transformers of Latin America's religious culture became the transformed because of their profound experiences in the region." At the same time, notes Serbin, "no matter how foreign the models, priests employed great creativity in adapting them to the local context" (p. 18).

To facilitate his task, Serbin divides Brazilian clerical history into four critical stages. During the first (1549-1759), religious orders dispatched from Europe dominated the religious landscape, in effect aiding and abetting the conquest of Brazil by the Portuguese. With the growing maturity of Brazilian society (1759-1840), however, an indigenous secular clergy began to emerge from a growing number of domestic seminaries. Given their domestic roots, these priests in turn aligned themselves with local elites looking to establish Brazil as a modern nation-state.The subsequent period (1840-1962) focuses on the Church's attempts to bring an increasingly "untamed" Brazilian Church back into line with established doctrine and practice. …

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