Religious Pluralism, Democracy, and the Catholic Church in Latin America
Penyak, Lee M., Journal of Church and State
Religious Pluralism, Democracy, and the Catholic Church in Latin America. Edited by Frances Hagopian. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009. 498pp. $45.00.
Editor Hagopian follows her own introduction to this aptly titled work with ten chapters divided into four sections: pluralist challenges to the Catholic Church; responses by the Church; the Church, public policy, and democracy, and conclusions and suggestions for future research.
Hagopian's introduction provides statistics, defines terms, and presents the landscape of religion in Latin America. Contributors assess the Church's response "to the challenges of secularism and eroding religious hegemony in a context of religious and political pluralism, how democracy has changed the church, and how religious change has impacted democratic politics in Latin America" (p. 4).
Ronald Inglehart uses the World Values Survey (1981-2007) to argue that Latin America "constitutes a distinctive global cultural region" (p. 67). Worldviews sometimes differ based on socioeconomic factors, but some peoples, such as those in Latin America, especially younger generations, emphasize traditional rather than secular-rational values and also "place stronger emphasis on selfexpression values than their economic levels would predict" (pp. 73, 93).
Soledad Loaeza examines modern Mexican women, secularization, and church authority. She finds that Mexicans cherish "individual autonomy, diversity, and self-expression" (p. 96) and that these characteristics come at the expense of the Church, which is increasingly perceived as "just one among a number of other cultural institutions" (p. 97). Women's personal welfare, happiness, and schooling have increased while the Church's influence over them has weakened.
Cristian Parker Gumucio's chapter focuses on education and religious pluralism in Chile. His examination of "Catholics in my own way" suggests "ways of believing that are far removed from the institutional churches" (p. 133). Surveys, especially those comparing generational shifts and focusing on educational levels, reveal a continual distancing between views of Chilean Catholics and official Catholicism and "an inverse relationship between educational level and the proportion of evangelicals" (p. 152).
Patricia M. Rodriguez looks within the Church to study "the links between the Catholic Church and groups in civil society that act in defense of social justice and equality in Brazil [sustained support] and Chile [sporadic support]" (p. 186). The author provides strong historical context on land debates in these countries. Rodriguez's strong focus on the "push and pull between social forces involved in land conflicts" (p. 218) and on rational decisions based on current exigencies left this reviewer yearning for greater emphasis on actors who have shaped the Church's response.
Roberto J. Blancarte's examination of religion and religious actors in the democratization of Mexico satisfied the above. He asserts, "for Mexicans, being Catholic was and still is compatible with being anticlerical" (p. 238); "the vast majority (almost 80 percent) of all youth reported that religious beliefs do not influence their sexuality" (p. 234); "the Catholic hierarchy ... still longs for those times when it had special privileges and power" (p. 241). The author's summary of views expressed by Mexican bishops in 2000 suggests they either do not know or refuse to recognize the historic reasons for their country's anticlericalism. But, could any cleric respect Mexico's secularization to the degree desired by Blancarte? The outspokenly progressive Samuel Ruiz in the early …
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Publication information: Article title: Religious Pluralism, Democracy, and the Catholic Church in Latin America. Contributors: Penyak, Lee M. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Church and State. Volume: 52. Issue: 4 Publication date: Autumn 2010. Page number: 740+. © 1999 J.M. Dawson Studies in Church and State. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.