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Low impact?

posted by awelborn

Focusing on Honduras, John Allen asks a question:

If any corner of the globe should bear the imprint of Catholic values, it’s Latin America. Catholicism has enjoyed a spiritual monopoly in the region for more than 500 years, and today almost half the 1.1 billion Catholics alive are Latin Americans. Moreover, Latin Americans take religion seriously; surveys show that belief in God, spirits and demons, the afterlife, and final judgment is near-universal.

The sobering reality, however, is that these facts could actually support an "emperor has no clothes" accusation against the church. Latin America has been Catholic for five centuries, yet too often its societies are corrupt, violent, and underdeveloped. If Catholicism has had half a millennium to shape culture and this is the best it can do, one might be tempted to ask, is it really something to celebrate? Mounting defections to Pentecostalism only deepen such ambivalence.

snip

Hondurans also point to a severe priest shortage as limiting the extent to which Catholicism took hold. With just over 400 priests, the ratio of priests to people in Honduras today is 1 to 13,000.

"At the time of independence from Spain, most of the Catholic clergy were expelled," Rodriguez said. "We had one bishop and 15 priests for the entire country."

That shortage left vast sections of the population with no regular access to the sacraments, and no meaningful catechesis. The few clergy on hand, mostly foreign missionaries, did their best, but dreams of Honduran Catholicism shaping culture in the sense that one associates with Poland under Communism, local Catholics say, was never in the cards.

Ruminating on these explanations, I’m reminded of the famous quip from G.K. Chesterton: The problem is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but rather that it’s been found difficult and never tried. Repeatedly, that’s the story I was told by Hondurans. The problem is not that Catholicism has failed, but that authentic Catholicism has never been tried.

That view would appear to have been more or less endorsed by CELAM, the Conference of Bishops of Latin American and the Caribbean. In the lineamenta for their upcoming Fifth General Conference in Brazil, the bishops flagged inadequate religious formation, a mix of Catholicism and indigenous religious practices, and a lack of coherence with Catholic beliefs among the faithful, as central challenges.



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CDB

posted March 30, 2007 at 1:20 pm


Beginning in the 19th century the Church in Latin America underwent sever persecutions in most places. Much of the curruption, violence and underdevelopment of Latin American countries is due to the actions of the ruling elites who have often opposed the Church, either openly or clandestinely.



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Woody Jones

posted March 30, 2007 at 1:49 pm


My own view is that what is needed, not just for Honduras or Latin America, but for all of us, is a providential man, like St Francis of Assisi, whose example of coherent and deeply lived faith will inspire us all. Mere rote teaching, argumentation, even dispensation of the sacraments, or the return of the TLM and better liturgy generally, will not serve to draw the multitudes. Only the real, transparent beauty of holiness will inspire us all.
Or maybe the only one who actually fits the description is Our Lady. May our Immaculate Queen triumph and reign, and soon.



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a reader

posted March 30, 2007 at 2:40 pm


Since when is any religion expected to produce a certain level of social progress or goodness? If it were the only factor on society, that would be a valid point. But it is only one factor among many. Allen follows the standard PC practice: never miss an opportunity to blame the Church for anything! In 2000 years Catholicism has done nothing about hangnails, the common cold, mean mothers-in-law, etc etc etc



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Maureen

posted March 30, 2007 at 2:48 pm


There’s been a lot of holy men and women like that in Central and South America. St. Francis Solano, for example, after whom Blessed Solanus Casey named himself.



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bill bannon

posted March 30, 2007 at 2:56 pm


CDB….if you go back further in Latin American history, these elites were formed by a land system that inter alia initially paid conquistadors in large tracts of land that then passed down in their families and basically hogged a lot of land in the possession of those elites placing the poor as landless. The land patterns then continued for centuries which we US people don’t experience.
To see if our Church’s hierachy was blameless in this developement would take some research and a lot of blind hope. From several bulls like Inter Caetera of Pope Alexander VI in 1493 ( a bad Pope whose sins I’d rather you find out slowly for your soul’s sake)….it don’t look good…basically this Pope gave his native land, Spain…half of the known world:
“… by the authority of Almighty God conferred upon us in blessed Peter and of the vicarship of Jesus Christ, which we hold on earth, do by tenor of these presents, should any of said islands have been found by your envoys and captains, give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever, together with all their dominions, cities, camps, places, and villages, and all rights, jurisdictions, and appurtenances, all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole, namely the north, to the Antarctic pole, namely the south, no matter whether the said mainlands and islands are found and to be found in the direction of India or towards any other quarter, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde.”



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Clare Krishan

posted March 30, 2007 at 4:10 pm


I’ve been asked by my (non-Catholic) husband what the “white magic” is that Catholics of certain Latino communities seem to practice (a fellow Mennonite friend is troubled by the ‘superstitious’ Catholicism he encounters among poor immigrants he ministers to with charitable social services for migrant farm laborers). I’ve never heard of it, so couldn’t venture a guess, but have experienced CCD kids tales of the “spiritism” of the grown-ups in their families. My (admittedly limited data-set) impression is that, south of the border, its not “new-age” flights of fancy weakening the Christian witness, but good old-fashioned “illuminati/beatti” filling the void that a dearth of “laborers in the vineyard”causes. American Bishops (not USCCB, but all on the continent) need to go back to JPIIs millenium-closing exhortation “Ecclesia in America”:
      ” Unfortunately, the name of Jesus is unknown to a vast part of humanity and in many sectors of American society. It is enough to think of the indigenous peoples not yet Christianized or of the presence of non-Christian religions such as Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, especially among immigrants from Asia. This obliges the Church in America to be involved in the mission ad gentes. (288) The program of a new evangelization on the American continent, to which many pastoral projects are directed, cannot be restricted to revitalizing the faith of regular believers, but must strive as well to proclaim Christ where he is not known.” (boldface my emphasis)
What “means” have we, the wealthiest Catholics ever to walk this planet, used to meet our Church’s stated end?
The great tragedy of the intervening years is how poorly we have lived up to hope placed in us by JPIIs challenge. Instead of using our time, talents and treasures defending “the right of conversion” (Cantalamessa’s apt moniker), we have elected to divert $500 billion to “spread freedom and democracy” (and Planned Parenthood services) by military means.
Sure politics is important, but without adequate formation of conscience, the American electorate’s concerns reflect base self-interest, north and south of the border. Apply JPIIs thinking on the theology of the body to Mother Church, and perhaps the “low impact” is a symptom of a clerical class “objectifying” the persons who represent their spouse. Whether the ecclesial ‘conjugal act’ is barren because the parties have agreed “to live as brother and sister” (as mediavalists may paraphrase continence), or whether corruptions to “go forth and multiply” are disorders rooted in incontinence such as self-satisfaction, same-sex attraction, contraceptive mentality, or extra-ecclesial affairs (adultery) such as mercantile interests or party politics is probably a question of local concern.
But we could all probably reach a diagnosis of what ills our diocese/continent, but are we willing to take the medicine prescribed for our sickness? Talk elsewhere (re @25,000 tuition at Archdiocesan academies for gradeschoolers) of tithing full 10% seems flippant when we reflect on the first fruits of the Father – not the first 10% of his Son’s earthly goods, no, HIS LIFE ON A CROSS. How many Catholics withold 100% of their reproductive assets? How many good Christians realise that there’d be no such thing as Christianity if our Father had done the same thing? It’s no joke – Jesus himself taught us to pray “… thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”
The gnosticism that passes for religious faith in too many salons on this continent cannot be remedied by winning elections for good supreme court justices, or tough-on-crime commander-in-chiefs for the war on terror. It will be healed by ordinary folks living the culture of life, day in day out, refreshing themselves at the Eucharistic fount of life, at masses where the truth preached by virile pastors who father their own “big brood” of spiritual children, and welcome all manner of dependants into their care.



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Caroline

posted March 30, 2007 at 4:17 pm


As more and more of these folk come to the USA whether legally or illegally, it will be interesting to see if the north American Church is any more successful than the Latin American Church has been over 500 years in evangelizing down to the roots of daily moral behavior or if the way of the future for American Catholicism will not be imitation of what Latin American Catholicism has produced or failed to produce, however one looks at it.
I wonder if the real question isn’t what kind of a Catholicism was the norm in Spain and Portugal during colonization. Was it, too, superficial? Maybe lots of devotions but little
emphasis on ethical behavior, indeed little connection between the two?



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Jeff Culbreath

posted March 30, 2007 at 4:51 pm


I don’t think there is any question. Protestantism, historically, is better at elevating the morals and the behavior of the masses. Catholicism, on the other hand, is better at making saints. Unfortunately it seems to be a trade off.



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Jeff Culbreath

posted March 30, 2007 at 4:55 pm


I don’t think there is any question. Protestantism, historically, is better at elevating the morals and behavior of the masses. Catholicism, on the other hand, is better at making saints. Unfortunately it seems to be a trade off.



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Sr Lorraine

posted March 30, 2007 at 5:10 pm


On this side of eternal life, original sin always enters the picture. There is never going to be an ideal Catholic society where truth and justice reign. Corruption and sin, not to mention psychological illness and other maladies will cause problems.
We can get closer or farther from the ideal depending on other circumstances. I don’t know much about the situation in latin America so I can’t say. But history tends to show that the Church grows stronger when it has to struggle and live in poverty. Wealth and riches sap the Church’s spiritual strength more than anything.



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Hidden One

posted March 30, 2007 at 8:46 pm


You know, I keep hearing about seminaries in NA bursting at the seams. … The needs of the faithful up here are immeasurably dwarfed by those down there.
{hint, hint…lol}



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Michaelus

posted March 30, 2007 at 9:19 pm


Protestantism is better at elevating morals? Where – in Rhodesia? Pakistan? New York?
Honduras is astoundingly poor and has been dominated by US and English business interests for something like 150 years. Using this as an example of Catholic social success is – well – damned stupid.



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Jeff Culbreath

posted March 31, 2007 at 2:41 am


Michaelus,
I am speaking of public morality and behavior of course, in times far less secular than ours. Even John Henry Newman noted, before his conversion, that the Catholics of his day “live badly, but they die well.” The Know-Nothing campaign against “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” was not entirely wrong in lumping these together.
See also Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddhin who analyizes the irony in some depth. Protestantism is an egalitarian religion of social conformity, Catholicism is an hierarchical religion of polarities and extremes – an absolutist, “all or nothing” proposition. Those who reject it in part are going to have problems with the whole package. That is why communism ravaged the Catholic and Orthodox nations first.
Thomas Jefferson, upon returning from France, observed that when Catholics lose their religion they become atheists, and when Protestants lose their religion they merely join another sect more to their liking, thereby preserving outwardly some semblance of Christian faith and discipline, however compromised.
It also makes sense spiritually. The backsliding or fallen-away Catholic has made a greater, more decisive act of apostasy than the born-Protestant who lives all of his life in respectable mediocrity. The lives of such Catholics – the majority in many countries – will not be lives of elevated morals.



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RC Metcalf

posted March 31, 2007 at 4:16 am


Sorry this is off topic, but… You may be interested in a new book that has just been published in response to Sam Harris. It is entitled “Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point” by RC Metcalf. It is available through Amazon and B&N or through the author’s website at http://thinkagain.us. Please let others know about this important work!



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Samuel J. Howard

posted March 31, 2007 at 10:34 am


“Latin America has been Catholic for five centuries”
“At the time of independence from Spain, most of the Catholic clergy were expelled”
Columbus Arrives in Hondouras: 1502
Hondouran Independence: 1821
1821-1502= 319
Furthermore, it’s a myth that the Catholic Church had a free and dominating hand in South America until the 20th century.
The history of Latin America is much more complicated and rich than most folks from the U.S. realize…I know I didn’t even really think about it until I moved to New York and saw all the statues of South American revolutionaries.
Consider for instance the account of the fortunes of the Church in Ecuador according to the old Catholic Encyclopedia:
“Soon after the discovery of the country missionaries began their labour in Ecuador and in 1545 the Bishopric of Quito was erected. Work among the different Indian tribes on the tributaries of the Amazon was difficult, and the Dominican missions were destroyed in 1599 by the savage Jivaros. Later, however, the Dominicans re-established themselves and were assisted by the Jesuits who had been in Quito since 1596. By the close of the seventeenth century Ecuador was well-evangelized, but after the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, who on the Napo alone had thirty-three missions with 100,000 inhabitants, the Dominicans were unable to keep up the work and the natives fell back into paganism. The revolution destroyed all traces of two hundred years of untiring labour. Since 1848 Ecuador has formed an ecclesiastical province. The population is Catholic except for a small number of foreigners and a few pagan Indians in the East.
“Up to 1861 the government was in the hands of the Liberal and largely anti-Catholic party. When Garcia Moreno was elected president (1861-65 and 1869-75), however, he reorganized civil and religious affairs. Under him a Concordat (20 November, 1863) was concluded with Rome, new dioceses were erected, schools and missions given to the Jesuits (who had been recalled), and others, and in 1864, at the time of the spolation of the Holy See, ten percent of the state’s income was guaranteed to the pope. Moreno was murdered 6 Aug., 1875, and his death not only put an end to the concordat, but under the new regime which succeeded him a series of persecutions occurred. In 1885, when Bishop Schumacher took charge, nearly all the native clergy were suspended and replaced by Europeans and practically a new hierarchy established. The religious and moral education of the people was likewise in bad condition. The revolution of Alfaro in 1895 was a severe blow to the Church. The orders, among them the Capuchins, Salesians, Missionaries of Steyl, and the various sisterhoods, were all banished and Bishop Schumacher obliged to flee.
“The State religion is the Catholic, but other creeds are not interfered with. Since tithes were abolished the State has provided for the maintenance of Catholic worship; it also supports religious educational institutions, such as the 3 seminaries at Quito and 6 elsewhere, one in each of the six dioceses. Civil marriage was recognized in 1902, and two years later the Church and its property were placed under State control. At the same time it was enacted that no new or foreign religious order would be permitted in the country. …”



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Father Elijah

posted March 31, 2007 at 11:27 am


The issues in Latin America are extremely complex and take in not only religious but socio-economic, political, racial and ethnic issues. Since, it is this complext needless to say thereare no simple answers or formulas to resolve the issues.
That being said, however, we can gain some insight, at least on the faith/religious level.
The first thing to recognize is that there are at least four specific and distinct socio-cultural divisions in ‘Latin America’. One most people are aware of which is the very distinct difference of Brazil [of Portuguese background] and the rest of Latin America [which has Spain as its background]
Although it is more a myth story rather than anything really historical, the movie “the Mission” shows the tension and competition between the Portuguese and Spanish in the slave trade of Native Americans with the Jesuits attempting to bring the Gospel to the people. Much like the Church’s teaching on the dignity of human life today-and the world’s and even Catholic’s ignoring of the teaching, five hundred years ago the Church in the Pope taught that both native Africans and Native Americans were human beings [needing the Gospel] and not animals etc as was the popular and economic policies of the day.
Within Spanish Latin America we have the distinct Caribean [all the islands] culture, the Mexican [which sometimes is seen to include Central American countries], northern South American countries [down to Ecuador Bolivia] and then the very distinct cultures of Chile and Argentina which are very Europeanized. Although all of these Latin countries once were under Spanish control, their sense of identity as well as their evangelization and thus living of the Catholic faith are somewhat distinct.
In all of the countries except Mexico, the Gospel was brought to the country by the Spanish, and to a greater or lesser extent identified with the Spanish. In many cases, even after centuries, a native clergy was not encouraged, and in some cases was outright militated against.
That is not to say, that the ‘SPanish’ clergy abandoned the people-they did not. There are so many of the clergy who spoke out against such practices as the slave trade etc against their own Spanish people. The Church ministered to and very often sided with the poor etc but still ‘remained spanish’
I differentiated Mexico, because in Mexico the evangelization took a turn very different than anything expected. While of course the Gospel came with the first missionaries who came with the Conquistadores, evangelization in Mexico was more directly handled by the Lord Himself and His Blessed Mother-at Guadalupe! Here the Gospel of the Incarnate Son of God, was preached by one who identified with the people-Mary appeared as a Native American, dressed as an expectant princess-mother, with the Scriptural {Revelations 12) image of the Woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and the crown of Twelve Stars for a crown. As in Revelations this sign appears along with the sign of the great Dragon [satan] so Our Lady of Guadalupe appears opposing the Aztec seven headed dragon god Quetzalcoatl! Millions of Native AMericans came into the faith of the Church within a generation [much like Ireland at the time of Patick]
Weaknesses? A shortage of clergy because of a racial/ethnic pride wanting only Spanish clergy over the years. In some cases the Church siding far too often with one group over others-for example the wealthy landowners over the poor-however it can work the opposite way as well now-when in fact, the Church should be a reconciling force worksing toward unity and communion.
But I would say that perhaps the greatest weakness is common in the ‘cultural Catholic mindset’. Forgetting that no one is ‘born a Catholic’-even if we baptize infants, a too easy identification of ‘being Catholic’ because “I was born a Catholic’, “My family is Catholic’, or of course I am Catholic, I am_________Mexican, Honduran, Chilean, Irish, Italian, French etc [see what I mean?] We need to recapture the reality that “Christians are made not born” as Tertullian stated in 200 AD-whether we are made Christian from infancy or from our conversion in adulthood. There needs to be some process of conversion and formation which leads one to an actual conversion-faith moment at an adult level so that one is ‘consciously-intentionally’ Catholic Christian, a person working at becoming as well as being a real disciple of CHrist.



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Father Elijah

posted March 31, 2007 at 11:28 am


The issues in Latin America are extremely complex and take in not only religious but socio-economic, political, racial and ethnic issues. Since, it is this complext needless to say thereare no simple answers or formulas to resolve the issues.
That being said, however, we can gain some insight, at least on the faith/religious level.
The first thing to recognize is that there are at least four specific and distinct socio-cultural divisions in ‘Latin America’. One most people are aware of which is the very distinct difference of Brazil [of Portuguese background] and the rest of Latin America [which has Spain as its background]
Although it is more a myth story rather than anything really historical, the movie “the Mission” shows the tension and competition between the Portuguese and Spanish in the slave trade of Native Americans with the Jesuits attempting to bring the Gospel to the people. Much like the Church’s teaching on the dignity of human life today-and the world’s and even Catholic’s ignoring of the teaching, five hundred years ago the Church in the Pope taught that both native Africans and Native Americans were human beings [needing the Gospel] and not animals etc as was the popular and economic policies of the day.
Within Spanish Latin America we have the distinct Caribean [all the islands] culture, the Mexican [which sometimes is seen to include Central American countries], northern South American countries [down to Ecuador Bolivia] and then the very distinct cultures of Chile and Argentina which are very Europeanized. Although all of these Latin countries once were under Spanish control, their sense of identity as well as their evangelization and thus living of the Catholic faith are somewhat distinct.
In all of the countries except Mexico, the Gospel was brought to the country by the Spanish, and to a greater or lesser extent identified with the Spanish. In many cases, even after centuries, a native clergy was not encouraged, and in some cases was outright militated against.
That is not to say, that the ‘SPanish’ clergy abandoned the people-they did not. There are so many of the clergy who spoke out against such practices as the slave trade etc against their own Spanish people. The Church ministered to and very often sided with the poor etc but still ‘remained spanish’
I differentiated Mexico, because in Mexico the evangelization took a turn very different than anything expected. While of course the Gospel came with the first missionaries who came with the Conquistadores, evangelization in Mexico was more directly handled by the Lord Himself and His Blessed Mother-at Guadalupe! Here the Gospel of the Incarnate Son of God, was preached by one who identified with the people-Mary appeared as a Native American, dressed as an expectant princess-mother, with the Scriptural {Revelations 12) image of the Woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and the crown of Twelve Stars for a crown. As in Revelations this sign appears along with the sign of the great Dragon [satan] so Our Lady of Guadalupe appears opposing the Aztec seven headed dragon god Quetzalcoatl! Millions of Native AMericans came into the faith of the Church within a generation [much like Ireland at the time of Patick]
Weaknesses? A shortage of clergy because of a racial/ethnic pride wanting only Spanish clergy over the years. In some cases the Church siding far too often with one group over others-for example the wealthy landowners over the poor-however it can work the opposite way as well now-when in fact, the Church should be a reconciling force worksing toward unity and communion.
But I would say that perhaps the greatest weakness is common in the ‘cultural Catholic mindset’. Forgetting that no one is ‘born a Catholic’-even if we baptize infants, a too easy identification of ‘being Catholic’ because “I was born a Catholic’, “My family is Catholic’, or of course I am Catholic, I am_________Mexican, Honduran, Chilean, Irish, Italian, French etc [see what I mean?] We need to recapture the reality that “Christians are made not born” as Tertullian stated in 200 AD-whether we are made Christian from infancy or from our conversion in adulthood. There needs to be some process of conversion and formation which leads one to an actual conversion-faith moment at an adult level so that one is ‘consciously-intentionally’ Catholic Christian, a person working at becoming as well as being a real disciple of CHrist.



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PNP, OP

posted March 31, 2007 at 11:53 am


During our recent mission trip to Peru, the UD students and I had the opportunity to do some ecumenical work among Lima’s pentecostal Christians. They were dumbfounded that a Catholic priest and a bunch of Catholic students would even speak to them much less help them paint their church! The story that the pastor tells is damning for the RCC in Peru. For the most part (generalization alert!), the RCC in Peru is still heavily influenced by a colonial mentality. The clergy are more or less state employees and the hierarchy is deeply beholding to the Powers That Be for their offices. We visited a Catholic family in Lima for dinner. On leaving I asked the family if I could bless their pregnant daughter and her baby. They were floored! They all lined up for about ten minutes of individual blessing…one of our Peruvian students told me later that RC priests in Peru just aren’t friendly or approachable. They would have never offered to bless the family. Again, I know, a generalization…
Perhaps the RCC’s problem in SA is more than just a colonial image…maybe there are some real unpleasant colonial leftovers festering in the Church?
One good question for the SA hierarchy: where’s the Spirit?
Fr. Philip, OP



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A.Williams

posted March 31, 2007 at 12:34 pm


Living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, I can only think of the 500 years of the Catholic Faith here, in terms of the 2 very different worlds that are indeed present here: the rich and the poor.
These worlds really shouldn’t be mixed when discussing anything of the faith, because they are so radically different from each other.
If we talk about the ‘rich’ side of life here, we might see some semblence of normal Roman Catholicism. Piety, devotion, study, prayer and fidelity to the Magisterium can all be found. And this might not have changed much over the last 500 years.
However, this ‘rich’ portion of socienty is in the minority, and accounts for possible only 10% of the population.
The other 90% are, for the most part, the decendents of por farmers and slaves. And the rich, through the centuries,as they also do today, really don’t pay too much attention to them. It seems just too big of a project…almost impossible!
And so, people are left on their own to fend for themselves.
I can guarentee you that my gardener, construction workers,guards, cleaning lady, painters, etc..will probably never open one book on a Catholic spiritual topic. They probably don’t even know how to read! And this is one point to make, that the two worlds don’t know the others too well..even as I really don’t know if my cleaning lady actually knows how to read. Some things are embarrassing to ask!!(as if I would be superior to her for only this item of being literate.
The poor, here, have their own way and own culture. They somehow ‘make things meet’ on very little resources. But they also help each other considerably, and in all aspects of life!
If the poor haven’t been catequized well, it has to do with this culture of rich and poor. It has to do with education too. And Jesus said it well, “the Harvest is great, but the Laborers are few.” The problem is, that it is hard to see anything changing rapidly, because there are so many social, political and cultural considerations involved..like one huge mess of cultural, political and spiritual spaghetti.
The best way, I think, is for every Catholic to do his duty for the Lord. That is..teach the faith to others as the Holy Spirit provides the opportunity.
I, for my part, am currently publishing a short series of readings into spanish from “the Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ” by ArchBshp. Alban Goodier SJ, to distribute to these above mentioned poor.
Others might do their parts, as they feel inspired! I really don’t have any other possible solution in mind? It’s quite an overwelming project..but one that needs to be worked at!
Just my 2 pesos!



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CDB

posted March 31, 2007 at 2:24 pm


Mr. Bannon:
I have done a little research on these topics and am familiar with Inter Caetera and Pope Alexander VI. It should be borne in mind that the ‘giving’ of half the known world was to be for evangelization, not for exploitation. And there are many archival documents that show that the activities of conquistadors in regard to land holdings were oftentimes at odds with the Church as the Spanish crown. It was these tensions, among other things, that led to the Latin American independence movements, inspired often in deistic and Masonic philosophies.
That said, that is not the same as holding the heirarchy of the Catholic Church (it is not just our Church, but Christ’s) blameless.



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Art Deco

posted March 31, 2007 at 2:33 pm


I think a difficulty with Mr. Allen’s thesis is the notion that Latin America, or any other region of the globe, occupies a fixed position in the strata of regions with regard to its level of prosperity, much less phenomena more difficult to measure (e.g. ‘corruption’). Latin America does have (at this time) an abnormally skewed distribution of income and elevated crime rates, but it is ‘poor’ only in comparison to North America, Western Europe, the Antipodes, Israel, and selected portions of the peripheral Far East. Eighty percent of the world’s population lives elsewhere.



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Augustine

posted March 31, 2007 at 3:27 pm


As natural-born Latin-American, allow me to shed some more details to life of Catholicism there.
It’s a great falsehood that Protestantism elevated morals anywhere. When this happened, it was more because Protestants found themselves in a defensive position, e.g., 19th century Utah. When Catholics found themselves in the same position, Catholics rose above the norm too, e.g., 20th century Poland. Whenever a religion becomes mainstream, there seems to arise a more lackadaisical attitude, as it’s clear in Latin-America.
On the other hand, even Pope Alexander cannot be blamed, for what he said was quite acceptable then and even to this day.
The biggest problem in Latin-America is that it was colonized by despotic states, where there was no rule of law, just the rulers’ whims. That’s why Catholic France and Austria fare much better economically than any Latin-American country. Not to mention the USA’s fortune of being colonized by a state with perhaps the longest tradition of constitutional laws (thinking of the Magna Carta here).
But as I said in the comments section of Allen’s post, he ignores the power of secularism, especially through the media and the elites. In other words, not much different from America. As a matter of fact, anyone in any big Latin-American city could confuse it any large American city when it comes to cultural and social trends.
And then there’s the world push by the International Socialist to make abortion the law-of-the-land wherever one of its ilks rises to power. With the notable exception of Nicaragua, abortion has been pushed by the recently elected presidents in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela. Interestingly enough, although abortion had never been proposed before, until such leftist officials were elected, most with the backing of “progressive” Catholic lay and clergy, i.e., adherents of Liberation Theology.
It’s pathetic to read some Latin-American NCBs press releases praising the Marxist leader in one and lamenting the same leader’s moves towards abortion, “gay marriage”, distribution of contraceptives to elementary schoolers, etc. I guess it’s the price paid by fellow travelers. Of course, fellow travelers have also been the first ones executed after the left consolidates itself in power…
May Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for Latin America.



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Augustine

posted March 31, 2007 at 4:18 pm


As natural-born Latin-American, allow me to shed some more details to life of Catholicism there.
It’s a great falsehood that Protestantism elevated morals anywhere. When this happened, it was more because Protestants found themselves in a defensive position, e.g., 19th century Utah. When Catholics found themselves in the same position, Catholics rose above the norm too, e.g., 20th century Poland. Whenever a religion becomes mainstream, there seems to arise a more lackadaisical attitude, as it’s clear in Latin-America.
On the other hand, even Pope Alexander cannot be blamed, for what he said was quite acceptable then and even to this day.
The biggest problem in Latin-America is that it was colonized by despotic states, where there was no rule of law, just the rulers’ whims. That’s why Catholic France and Austria fare much better economically than any Latin-American country. Not to mention the USA’s fortune of being colonized by a state with perhaps the longest tradition of constitutional laws (thinking of the Magna Carta here).
But as I said in the comments section of Allen’s post, he ignores the power of secularism, especially through the media and the elites. In other words, not much different from America. As a matter of fact, anyone in any big Latin-American city could confuse it any large American city when it comes to cultural and social trends.
And then there’s the world push by the International Socialist to make abortion the law-of-the-land wherever one of its ilks rises to power. With the notable exception of Nicaragua, abortion has been pushed by the recently elected presidents in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela. Interestingly enough, although abortion had never been proposed before, until such leftist officials were elected, most with the backing of “progressive” Catholic lay and clergy, i.e., adherents of Liberation Theology.
It’s pathetic to read some Latin-American NCBs press releases praising the Marxist leader in one and lamenting the same leader’s moves towards abortion, “gay marriage”, distribution of contraceptives to elementary schoolers, etc. I guess it’s the price paid by fellow travelers. Of course, fellow travelers have also been the first ones executed after the left consolidates itself in power…
May Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for Latin America.



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Augustine

posted March 31, 2007 at 4:19 pm


As natural-born Latin-American, allow me to shed some more details to life of Catholicism there.
It’s a great falsehood that Protestantism elevated morals anywhere. When this happened, it was more because Protestants found themselves in a defensive position, e.g., 19th century Utah. When Catholics found themselves in the same position, Catholics rose above the norm too, e.g., 20th century Poland. Whenever a religion becomes mainstream, there seems to arise a more lackadaisical attitude, as it’s clear in Latin-America.
On the other hand, even Pope Alexander cannot be blamed, for what he said was quite acceptable then and even to this day.
The biggest problem in Latin-America is that it was colonized by despotic states, where there was no rule of law, just the rulers’ whims. That’s why Catholic France and Austria fare much better economically than any Latin-American country. Not to mention the USA’s fortune of being colonized by a state with perhaps the longest tradition of constitutional laws (thinking of the Magna Carta here).
But as I said in the comments section of Allen’s post, he ignores the power of secularism, especially through the media and the elites. In other words, not much different from America. As a matter of fact, anyone in any big Latin-American city could confuse it any large American city when it comes to cultural and social trends.
And then there’s the world push by the International Socialist to make abortion the law-of-the-land wherever one of its ilks rises to power. With the notable exception of Nicaragua, abortion has been pushed by the recently elected presidents in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela. Interestingly enough, although abortion had never been proposed before, until such leftist officials were elected, most with the backing of “progressive” Catholic lay and clergy, i.e., adherents of Liberation Theology.
It’s pathetic to read some Latin-American NCBs press releases praising the Marxist leader in one and lamenting the same leader’s moves towards abortion, “gay marriage”, distribution of contraceptives to elementary schoolers, etc. I guess it’s the price paid by fellow travelers. Of course, fellow travelers have also been the first ones executed after the left consolidates itself in power…
May Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for Latin America.



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John Hetman

posted March 31, 2007 at 6:14 pm


“The gnosticism that passes for religious faith in too many salons on this continent cannot be remedied by winning elections for good supreme court justices, or tough-on-crime commander-in-chiefs for the war on terror. It will be healed by ordinary folks living the culture of life, day in day out, refreshing themselves at the Eucharistic fount of life, at masses where the truth preached by virile pastors who father their own “big brood” of spiritual children, and welcome all manner of dependants into their care.”
–Clare Krishan
Clare, you have written one of the most profound and intelligible summations of the problems facing American society and the Church that I have ever read. It is a gem worth keeping and meditating upon as a means of action.
Time is of the essence now. We are still in a historical period of the calm before the storm and there is space and time to prepare ourselves and those around us for an onslaught that have never yet been seen in the Western Hemisphere. If we continue to expand and promote the Planned Parenthood models and the variety of sexual deviant zealotry that is rampant, we all face that moment of decision known better to those in the catacombs, the 16th-17th Century English Catholics, and those Catholics and devout Ortodox who found themselves in that hells we refer to as Nazi occupied Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Again, thank you, Clare.



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Brendan Hickey

posted April 1, 2007 at 12:31 am


What about the Catholic nations of Ireland and southern Germany/Austria? Strongly Catholic, piously devotional, and outstanding in public morality (except for perhaps an excess taste for the brewer’s craft). I would venture to guess that the weak moral fabric of Latin American sociery results from a combination of 150 years of Masonic anticlericalism and American Protestant imperialism.



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MaryClare

posted April 1, 2007 at 10:23 am


An old family friend once commented that ” the problem with Latin America is that She was sacramentalized but not evangelized.” To be fair, is this not a battle that all Catholics face?



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Hank_F_M

posted April 1, 2007 at 2:29 pm


Ion any society there is the core, which prefers a degree of stability and order and the peripheries where the rule of law is weak or an exception. The peripheries often attract people whom modern though would call dysfunctional and more traditional language would call unrepentant sinners. For the first 100 years at least of Spanish rule Latin America was periphery and even as the main population centers took on properties of being the core, much of the interior was periphery. Actually this status continued in parts of Latin America well into the 20th Century.
When an abuse was discovered and reported to Madrid, it took several months to get there, possibly the a reqest for more information which took several months to go to the new world and several more to come back. Probably several more months (or years) to decided and several more to returned to the new world to be enforced. Where the person who created the problem or some sympatric to him would enforce it.
When looking at the role of the Church in this period we should remember it was working in an environment where a significant portion of the Spanish while maintaining nominal allegiance to the Crown and the Church did not in fact pay much attention to them. Effective means of enforcement were not available. Nonetheless very strong efforts were made by church and crown to prevent, correct, and punish injustices. Much of what we know about these in fact comes from the reports of efforts to correct them. If the success of these efforts deserve a D- for success they often rate an A for effort.
Of course with independence there was no appeal to Madrid.



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Hank_F_M

posted April 1, 2007 at 2:44 pm


The groups that led the independence movements in Latin America were not motivated just by a desire to be free of the Spanish Crown, they were often influenced if not supporters of the European Enlightenment which had a very strong anti religious (especially Catholic) prejudice. When in power, they sent all the Spanish clergy home and as a mater of policy did every thing they could to oppose the Church. There were other problems to be sure but with a significant part of the new ruling classes hostile to Church reestablishing what was lost with the withdrawal of the Spanish proved to be overwheliming.
I am not sure how to prove it, but I guess the average person was much better catechized in the generation before independence than two or three generations later. Just look at how much the quality of basic knowledge of the faith has decreased in the US when basic catechistics was de-emphasized in the post Vatican II period.



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dmhb

posted April 1, 2007 at 7:05 pm


Sorry I haven’t the time to read all the comments, but here are a few thoughts from my experiences as a Catholic missionary in Honduras for the past four years and from my university study of Latin America.
First of all, “low impact?” do you not know of the immesurable difference Catholic theology has made on Latin America beginning with the policy changes effected by Bartolome de las Casas’ arguments against slavery until the present strong Catholic influence against the legalization of abortion (pushed by the more civilized first world??)? There are some movements in Latin America that we would do well to study further as the North American policies took much longer to change and the “freedom” and “prosperity” North America enjoys is no guarantor of justice or integrity. In other words, North Americans by no means have a moral or other high ground from which to criticize Latin America.
The church in Latin America is a paradox in it’s youth and age. We celebrated the 500 year anniversary of the first mass in Honduras, and in the New World, a few years ago, but evangelization ad gentes, first contact with the gospel is still happening in places. A paradox, but also a reminder that evangelization is never over. As conversion is never over. Each one of us needs it every day.
The church in Latin America also interacts with culture in a different way than in the United States. Catholicism is almost assumed of everyone, though the proselytism of the evangelicals has made that less real in the past few years. But conversion is still necessary.
Because of anti-clericalism, sometimes saying Catholicism has had little impact in Latin America is very akin to arguing that it had little impact on the culture in 16th century Europe, hence the success of the Protestant Reformation. In fact, I am convinced that the way the Church interacts with culture in the natively Catholic Latin America is much more like its interaction with Christendom, a culture born of Catholicism (but not lacking its dictators, slavery, wars, and other problems) than the way things work out in the natively Protestant (and anti-Catholic) United States.
Finally consider that Latin America has a good majority of the world’s Catholics, and you can see that there must be (and are in fact) many other facets of the religious culture than can be understood by an outsider. (I don’t understand them all either. Sure I know the priest shortage is a real problem, but it’s roots are surely a failure of evangelization on some level. However, that doesn’t mean Catholicism hasn’t had a huge impact. In fact, I feel that being a Latin American Catholic also means a little different thing than being a North American Catholic, since there are many assumed things when Catholicism has been around so long. If there are few that really take their faith seriously is that an argument against anything?)



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