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The Histories of the Latin American Church

The Histories of the Latin American Church: A Handbook

Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    The Histories of the Latin American Church
    Book Description:

    Latin American Christianity is too often presented as a unified story appended to the end of larger western narratives. And yet the stories of Christianity in Latin America are as varied and diverse as the lands and the peoples who live there. The unique political, ecclesial, social, and historical realities of each nation inevitably shaped a variety of Christian expressions in each. Now, for the first time, a resource exists to help students and scholars understand the histories of Latin American Christianity. An ideal resource, this handbook is designed as an accompaniment to reading and research in the field. After a generous overview to the history and theology of the region, the text moves nation-by-nation, providing timelines, outlines, and substantial introductions to the politics, people, movements, and relevant facts of Christianity as experienced in that nation. The result is an informative and eye-opening introduction to a kaleidoscope of efforts to articulate the meanings and implications of Christianity in the context of Latin America.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-6974-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Joel Morales Cruz

    Many years ago, a visiting minister, on finding out that I intended to pursue graduate work, asked me what I planned to study. I answered, with all the enthusiasm that one beginning to anticipate grad school could, “Latin American Christianity.” His reply, relayed between discordant chuckles, left me shocked and more than a little bit angry. “Latin American Christianity? That should be easy. It’s all the same!” Perhaps this book began subconsciously as a reply to that challenge. More overtly, it is intended for students, professors, seminarians, the generally curious, and, yes, ministers who want a better understanding of the...

    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. Part 1

    • Latin America
      (pp. 3-16)

      Church and Society in Latin America (Iglesia y Sociedad en América Latina, ISAL): The formation of this ecumenical Protestant organization in 1955 was influenced by missionary and theologian Richard Shaull’s engagement with Marxism as well as then-current theories of Latin America’s economic dependency on First World powers. Originally focused on teaching the social responsibilities of Christians, by the mid-1960s it had begun to educate the lower classes according to the methods of Paulo Freire for developing critical consciousness. ISAL was viewed with suspicion by more-conservative evangelical churches and with alarm by North American missiologists such as C. Peter Wagner, who...

    • Christianity in Latin America: A Short History
      (pp. 17-44)

      Latin America unites in itself the European, African, and American streams of civilization. Similarly so, Christianity did not develop in an airtight, pasteurized package but was influenced by the religions and worldviews of the cultures in which it took root.

      Spain and Portugal on the cusp of the age of exploration were the result of centuries of struggle between the emerging Christian kingdoms in the north and the Muslims in the south of the peninsula, known as Al-Andalus. Conquered in 711 by Arab and Berber forces, Al-Andalus became a center of learning, art, poetry, industry, and, to a certain extent,...

    • The Latin American Bible
      (pp. 45-52)

      Biblia del Padre Scío de San Miguel: Translated from the Latin Vulgate (1793)

      Versión Moderna: Sponsored by the American Tract Society and the American Bible Society; the translation was the result of Henry Barrington Pratt, a Presbyterian missionary who served in Colombia and Mexico (1893)

      Biblia de Petisco y Torres Amat: A direct translation of the Vulgate (1825)

      Biblia Nácar–Colunga: First Catholic translation from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, published by the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos (1944)

      Biblia Bover-Cantera: Critical edition from the original languages, published by the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos (1947)

      Biblia Comentada: Also known as theBiblia...

    • Brief Introduction to Theology in Latin America
      (pp. 53-82)

      The task of summarizing a theological enterprise that covers a continent, five centuries, and the many fields of theology from the role of the saints to Christology to the very nature of God would either be an act of insanity or hubris of Greek proportions.¹ Overall, Latin American theology, particularly in the period before 1960, is little known outside of narrow academic circles. Most descriptions in popular or college texts begin with Bartolomé de Las Casas (1484–1566) and then jump to the formation of liberation theology in the modern era. In fact, the phrase “Latin American theology” is often...

    • Religious Traditions
      (pp. 83-98)

      Brought by the Spanish and Portuguese to the New World in the sixteenth century, Roman Catholicism has become part of the grain of Latin American identity and culture. Its influence has been present in every facet of life from politics to popular entertainment. About 68 percent of the population professes Roman Catholicism, which is still the region’s dominant religion.

      Roman Catholic religious orders and organizations have been instrumental in the Christianization of Latin America since Europeans first landed on shore. Their history, like all human endeavors, has been mixed: they evangelized, they exploited, they established schools and hospitals and oversaw...

  8. Part 2

    • Argentina
      (pp. 101-132)

      For most of the colonial period Argentina had been overlooked by the Spanish Crown. It was governed by faraway Peru until 1776 when the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata was created. Under the Hapsburgs all trade had to be undertaken through Peru despite the fact that Argentina sat on the east coast facing the Atlantic. This made the black market necessary whereby the colony traded with passing ships. The Bourbon Reforms of the eighteenth century made direct trade with Spain possible but in the process alienated the merchants who had prospered under the “back door” approach. In 1806 an...

    • Bolivia
      (pp. 133-152)

      Known as Upper Peru throughout the colonial period, Bolivia was first governed under the Viceroyalty of Peru until 1776 when the Viceroyalty of La Plata was established. When the surge toward independence from Spain rolled across South America, Upper Peru remained firmly attached to the royalist cause, in great part thanks to the power of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. They lent their support to the civil authorities in suppressing liberal and revolutionary tendencies within the province. Nonetheless, when insurrection did come, a number of parish priests, who were closer to the people than the bishops who owed their influence and...

    • Brazil
      (pp. 153-190)

      Brazil’s rupture with the Old World was not as severe as those endured by other Latin American republics, and, as a result, the transition of the Catholic Church from colonial institution to national institution to autonomy was not as fraught with anticlericalism or antagonism as elsewhere. When Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807, the queen mother and the prince regent, João, fled to Brazil under the protection of British warships. Here, the Portuguese empire was reestablished in 1815 and Brazil elevated from colony to kingdom. Seven years later King João VI returned to Portugal, leaving his son Pedro as regent over...

    • Chile
      (pp. 191-220)

      The Chilean Church remained conservative during the wars of independence. While a few priests and bishops supported the revolution, by and large, both secular and religious clergy remained committed to the royalist cause and used the power of the pulpit to rail against the insurrectionists. When, in 1813, the Spanish brigadier José Antonio Pareja occupied Concepción, Bishop Villodres preached against the rebels. The next year Jose Santiago Rodríguez was consecrated bishop of Santiago during the royalist interim and even after the victories ensuring Chilean independence continued to maintain fidelity to Spain until he was exiled by Bernardo O’Higgins in 1817....

    • Colombia
      (pp. 221-244)

      The chaos and uncertainty in the Americas after the defeat of the Spanish monarchy by the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1808 created a crisis of authority that brought down the colonial governments, including that of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. This tumult had a serious effect on the Catholic Church whose bishops were appointed by the Spanish Crown and to which they owed their loyalty. As a result, most of the ecclesiastical leadership opposed the growing cries for independence on the part of the native criollos, among whom were a number of parish priests more devoted to their homeland...

    • Costa Rica
      (pp. 245-260)

      Central America, closely aligned with the Viceroyalty of New Spain, took no action to separate from Spain until the final stages of Mexico’s War of Independence. On September 15, 1821, a junta in Guatemala City declared independence despite the misgivings of several high-ranking ecclesiastics. Costa Rica followed suit several weeks later on October, 11. Several parish priests, including MIGUEL DE BONILLA Y LAYA-BOLÍVAR, affixed their names to the declaration. At this time Central America, with the exception of El Salvador, also voted to become annexed to Mexico, a move favored by the clergy who thought that the government...

    • Cuba
      (pp. 261-278)

      Cuba was one of the last Spanish colonies to gain independence, having done so as the result of the Spanish-American War in 1898 and a brief US occupation. As a result, the island nation completely bypassed the struggles between the Liberals and Conservatives and the attendant disputes over church-state relations that plagued most other Latin American countries during the nineteenth century. However, because Cuba is the only American state under a Marxist dictatorship, the church’s standing before the government is fraught with its own challenges.

      When the US military governor took charge after the Spanish–American War, he...

    • Dominican Republic
      (pp. 279-296)

      Church and state have been integrally united in the Dominican Republic since the first stirring toward independence began in late 1830s as the Spanish-speaking half of the island of Hispaniola sought to free itself from neighboring Haiti. In 1838, a secret society called La Trinitaria that included a number of priests was formed to recruit the people in the struggle. With the coming of independence in 1844, the governing junta decreed the Roman Catholic Church as the official state religion and declared its exercise of the right of patronage, naming TOMÁS DE PORTES E INFANTE archbishop of Santo Domingo....

    • Ecuador
      (pp. 297-318)

      When the experiment of Gran Colombia (See➔COLOMBIA➔CHURCH AND STATE ) failed and Ecuador became an independent nation in 1830, its first constitution, dating from that year, established the Roman Catholic Church as the sole state religion and abrogated for the government the rights of ecclesiastical patronage once belonging to the Spanish monarchs. As in many other Latin American countries, the nation teetered between Liberals and Conservatives throughout the rest of the nineteenth century, and the Catholic Church, though maintaining a semblance of prestige, often found itself caught between those who sought to strip it of traditional privileges and those who...

    • El Salvador
      (pp. 319-340)

      Between 1823 and 1841, the modern countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua formed the Federal Republic of Central America, born of their political links during the colonial era. The republic, like other nations throughout Latin America, acknowledged the Roman Catholic Church as the sole legitimate religion to the exclusion of all others. The federation and its provinces saw themselves as the rightful heirs of the colonial rights of patronage, previously reserved to the Spanish Crown. The legitimacy of this right was tested from the very beginning of the federation when the ruling government of El Salvador,...

    • Guatemala
      (pp. 341-366)

      The provinces of Central America, after receiving word of Mexico’s successful revolution, declared independence from Spain on September 15, 1810, from Guatemala City. At this time Central America, with the exception of El Salvador, also voted to become annexed to Mexico, a move favored by the clergy who thought that the government of Mexican emperor Agustín Iturbide would protect the interests of the church. When Iturbide fell from power in 1823, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua formed the Federal Republic of Central America, a union that would formally survive until 1841. The constitution declared the Roman Catholic...

    • Honduras
      (pp. 367-382)

      After the failed experiment of the Federal Republic of Central America (See➔GUATEMALA➔CHURCH AND STATE), Honduras declared independence in 1839 and came under the control of the Conservatives. From the very beginning, though, the government sought to control the rights of patronage. In 1840, the pope named a new bishop to the vacant throne. However, displeased with the nomination, the government promptly lied and told the Vatican that their man had died and helpfully put forth their own recommendation for the position.

      Despite administrations friendly to the church, the dormant power struggle between the two entities would take on new dimensions...

    • Mexico
      (pp. 383-420)

      During the War of Mexican Independence, many bishops, who owed their position to the Crown, fled Mexico, leaving a hierarchical vacuum that was further complicated by the refusal of the papacy to recognize the newly independent county. As the nation sought its constitutional footing, the issue of patronage again reared its head: did it revert to the papacy or did it now become a national patronage whereby the sovereign Mexican state would hold the power to appoint bishops to their sees? A few, such as FRAY SERVANDO TERESA DE MIER, advocated the formation of a national Catholic Church in the...

    • Nicaragua
      (pp. 421-442)

      While the period after the breakup of the Federal Republic of Central America (See GUATEMALA CHURCH AND STATE) was characterized by civil strife, the relationship between the government and the Catholic Church remained largely amicable. The conservative elite were in power and restored the church to its former position, put it in charge of marriage and education, and welcomed back the religious orders. In 1862 a concordat was reached with the Vatican guaranteeing the church’s already privileged place in Nicaraguan society.

      This changed dramatically with the dictatorship of José Santos Zelaya. A Liberal who proved successful in integrating in the...

    • Panama
      (pp. 443-456)

      Until 1903 Panama was part of Colombia and therefore subject to the conditions of that nation’s concordat of 1886 (See➔COLOMBIA➔CHURCH AND STATE). At the founding of Panama as an independent country church and state were separated, both because of Liberal influence in the government and because of the role that the United States exercised in the separation of Panama from Colombia. In 1925, Pope Pius XI recognized the new nation by creating the Archdiocese of Panama independent from that of Cartagena.

      Since independence Panama has been governed under several constitutions that differ only in the political circumstances existing at the...

    • Paraguay
      (pp. 457-474)

      Postcolonial Paraguay was dominated by two personalities, José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia (1766–1840) and Francisco Solanos López (1827–1870), who succeeded in turning the Catholic Church into a vassal of the state. Paraguay, a backwater of the Spanish colonial enterprise, was characterized by a scarcity of urban centers and the population to support them. The church itself was dependent on the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires.

      From 1814 to 1840 de Francia sought to create an isolated, casteless nation—mandating whites to marry only natives or blacks in order to create a mestizo society—and he placed himself at the...

    • Peru
      (pp. 475-512)

      The Viceroyalty of Peru, along with that of New Spain, was one of the jewels in the Spanish Empire’s increasingly rusting crown. Its importance and prosperity hinged, in great part, on the synchronicity between church and state. So when revolution came in the early nineteenth century, the bishops remained loyal to the mother country just as their brothers to the north did. Many of them fled the oncoming armies. Archbishop BARTOLOMÉ MARÍA DE LAS HERAS, however, refused to abandon Lima on the defeat of the royalist forces by José de San Martín in 1820. Though he signed the declaration of...

    • Puerto Rico
      (pp. 513-534)

      With its devastating loss to the United States in 1898, Spain lost the final remnants of its imperial holdings: Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Whereas the first two gained their eventual independence, Puerto Rico remained a territory of the United States. From 1898 to 1900 military governments controlled the long-neglected island: repairing and constructing infrastructure; establishing a civil registry, public schools, a health care system, and postal service; and decreeing freedoms of assembly, press, and speech. Church and state were formally separated. In 1900 the Foraker Act allowed the island a limited degree of popular civil government. The governor...

    • Uruguay
      (pp. 535-550)

      At the time of independence, the Uruguayan church was under the jurisdiction of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a situation that moved the new government to petition the Vatican in 1830 for the creation of a national diocese. Hopeful of that eventuality, the congress declared that the president of the republic was the rightful heir of the ecclesiastical patronage. Not to be left behind, the congress also abrogated for itself the right to approve papal documents for dissemination. Undoubtedly much to their disappointment, it would take forty-eight years before the Diocese of Montevideo was created.

      Prior to 1880, even though the church...

    • Venezuela
      (pp. 551-574)

      Simón Bolíver’s quixotic experiment of a united Gran Colombia came to a sputtering end as the territories encompassing it separated one by one. Venezuela seceded in 1830, led by a Conservative oligarchy espousing a religious policy that sought to control the Catholic Church, beginning with the omission of any article in the constitution guaranteeing that institution’s uncontested religious monopoly. Instead, the congress claimed for itself the rights of patronage and control over education. The policies of the Conservatives did not arise from anticlericalism, much less a desire to separate church from state, but rather with the aim of restraining the...

    • Latinos in the United States
      (pp. 575-610)

      The freedoms of religion and speech are guaranteed under the United States Constitution, and in general there have been no restrictions or impediments in the formation of Latino churches or rituals. However, there have been time periods and incidents that have brought Hispanics into critique and confrontation with the United States. Within Latin American and Hispanic spirituality, the religious sphere is not separate from other aspects of life. Devotion or faith is a thread that runs through the social and the political. As a result, the participation of religious institutions in social movements, while beneficial and welcome, is nonetheless ultimately...

  9. Appendices

  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 677-677)