Due to Spanish and Portuguese colonization initiated in the 1500s, Latin America and Latin Americans have been viewed as under the control of the Catholic Church. Fully 80% of all Latin Americans identify themselves as Catholic. While the Catholic Church is an important religious and political force within Latin America, it can no longer be seen as a monolithic force. Rather, the impact of the Church and its priests has been split between a more orthodox religious and political doctrine which supports the maintenance of social and political status quo, and a doctrine based on the philosophy of liberation theology, a blending of Catholic doctrine and social activism which seeks to redress the vast social inequality typical of most Latin American societies. Furthermore, the religious portrait of Latin America is further clouded, complicated by the continuing presence of syncretic religions such as indigenous religious practices or practices combining elements of Catholicism and African religions. Furthermore, in the past several decades, Protestant evangelism has made great strides in converting Latin American peoples away from Catholicism. The public and private faces of religion in Latin American Catholicism are complicated indeed.
Latin American Catholicism
Catholicism was introduced as part of the processes of conquest and colonization by both the Spanish and the Portuguese. As part of the response to the European Protestant Reformation, the Spanish crown in particular was closely aligned with the Papacy. Through the centuries, and even following the wars of independence, the Catholic Church maintained its monolithic presence throughout most of Latin America. With the overthrow of the colonial governments the Church maintained its relationship with the now-Creole elite at the expense of its relationship with other indigenous, mestizo and African sectors of the population. It closely aligned itself with the Conservative... [continues]
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