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The institutional limitations of Catholic progressivism: an economic approach

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From the vantage point of the 1970s and early 1980s, the Latin American Catholic Church appeared to be on a trajectory of increasing progressivism, typically manifesting itself as a "preferential option for the poor". Recently, however, the Catholic hierarchy has experienced a "conservative retrenchment". Why has this change occurred? Argues that the need to maintain a high profile in democratic societies experiencing rapid growth in evangelical Protestantism has led Church officials to return to an élite-based, conservative political strategy. Suggests that lacking the resources to compete adequately with the rapid expansion of evangelical Protestantism, bishops have turned to lobbying the political and economic élite to help them maintain their social presence and prevent further parishioner defections from the faith. Ironically, at that time when the Church most needs state assistance to compete effectively, politicians are least likely to lend support.
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Keywords: Churches; Latin America; Politics; Religion

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 1995

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