Latin America: The Church Militant
ONE OF THE great religious dramas of our time is currently being enacted throughout the length and breadth of Latin America, which contains more than one-third of the world’s Catholic population. In the dozen or so years since John XXIII proclaimed his aggiornamento, the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America has been increasingly assuming a role not unlike that of the ancient Hebrew prophets in pointing to the injustices and disorders of society; at the same time, it has been experiencing an internal ferment that has affected all levels of its hierarchical structure. To be sure, dissent and disarray-what John’s successor, the more cautious Paul VI, has called “inner rebellion” and “self- demolition”-are apparent everywhere in the Church, but in Latin America they have assumed a particular relevance. There, the papal social encyclicals are being put to ideological use as guides for a fundamental reorganization of society; and the dogmatic definition by Vatican II of the Church as “the People of God”-the effect of which was to limit the traditional predominance of the clerical hierarchy-has paved the way for a democratization of Church life in nearly all its forms. Moreover, in Latin America the Church has been generating a “theology of revolution”-disseminated in pastoral letters and bishops’ orations, in the writings of theologians, and in official pronotmcements-which condemns in no uncertain terms the “institutionalized violence” of a society that confines from one-third to one-half of its population to backwardness and marginality.
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