Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity

Article excerpt

The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity. By Todd Hartch. [Oxford Studies in World Christianity Series.] (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. xvi, 278. $24.95. ISBN 978-0-19-984313-8.)

Pundits and scholars frequently note the rise of Protestantism, especially Pentecostalism, in Latin America. One of the most influential examples was David Stoll's Is Latin America Turning Protestante (Berkeley, 1990). Todd Hartch's new book documents the Pentecostal advance as well as the ongoing competition for adherents between Catholics and Protestants. But Hartch also contends that "Protestants proved much better at conversion that at retention" (p. 55), underscoring that Protestants also struggle to retain members who are attracted to other Protestant denominations, to Catholicism, to other religions, or to no religious practice. Thus, although proportionally Protestant gain and Catholic loss has marked the recent history of Latin American Christianity, the overriding dynamic is the advent of a religious culture of choice that impels all religious groups to engage their adherents actively. Indeed, the rising Protestant tide "served as a cat- alyst to Catholic revitalization" (p. 56). It animated numerous Catholic pastors and lay leaders to fortify the cultural Catholicism of previous eras with apostolic initiatives that foster Catholicism as an intentional way of life.

Hartch notes that Catholic revitalization movements have reached the full range of Catholics, from the poor to the rich, the politically progressive to the conservative, the ordained and religious to the laity. These new developments include the emergence of a prophetic Christianity associated with liberation theology, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Catholic Action, base ecdesial communities, and new ecdesial movements like Focolare, the Sant' Egidio Community, and Opus Dei. Although the noteworthy influence of liberation theology has rightly garnered much attention, Hartch accentuates the simultaneous impact of other initiatives. He notes, for example, that as of 2000 some 75 million Latin American Catholics were partidpating in the Charismatic Renewal, outnumbering the 66 million Latin American Pentecostals and composing what the late Dominican scholar of Latin American affairs Edward Cleary deemed "the most important religious movement in Latin America" (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.