Religious Pluralism, Democracy, and the Catholic Church in Latin America

Edited by Frances Hagopian

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

The Roman Catholic Church in Latin America faces significant and unprecedented challenges. Most prominent among them are secularization, globalizing cultural trends, intensifying religious competition, and pluralism of many kinds within what were once hegemonic Catholic societies. The substantial and original essays in this volume assess the ways in which the Catholic Church in Latin America is dealing with these political, religious, and social changes. Most importantly, they explore how democracy has changed the Catholic Church and, in turn, how religious changes have influenced democratic politics in Latin America.

Drawing on the experiences of several countries to illustrate broad themes and explain divergent religious responses to common challenges, the contributors advance the notion that the Catholic Church’s effectiveness in the public sphere and even its long-term viability as a religious institution depend on the nature and extent of the relationship between the hierarchy and the faithful. The essays address the context of pluralist challenges, the ideational, institutional, and policy responses of the Catholic hierarchy, and the nature of both religious beliefs and democratic values at the individual level in Latin America today.

Frances Hagopian is the Michael P. Grace II Associate Professor of Latin American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author and co-editor of a number of books, including The Third Wave of Democratization in Latin America: Advances and Setbacks.

Contributors: Frances Hagopian, Ronald Inglehart, Soledad Loaeza, Cristián Parker Gumucio, Patricia M. Rodríguez, Roberto J. Blancarte, Mala Htun, Catalina Romero, and Daniel H. Levine.

Religious Pluralism, Democracy, and the Catholic Church in Latin America is a much needed volume. The book is highly original, relevant, and will stimulate new research on religion in Latin America.” —Kenneth Serbin, University of San Diego

“Religion and politics, two of the great topics of all time, stir intense passions and often deep conflicts—they have done so in Latin America’s history. Hagopian’s book thoughtfully examines religious pluralism in Latin America and its impact on politics and society, with special attention to cultural change, gender, the family, education, and beliefs about justice and morality as they bear on democracy. Hagopian’s own three chapters frame the book and make it a cohesive and thought-provoking intellectual project.” —Jorge I. Domínguez, Harvard University

“This book makes an original contribution to our understanding of the challenges facing the Catholic Church in Latin America in the wake of democratic transitions and increasing religious pluralism. It also provides important insights into how church leaders are responding to these challenges in a number of key countries.” —Philip Williams, University of Florida


“With this edited volume, Hagopian breathes new life into the study of the political role of the Catholic Church in Latin America. Hagopian provides a nuanced overview of the Church’s historical hegemony and illustrates how traditional theoretical paradigms (e.g., institutional, rational choice, and ideational) prove inadequate under historical scrutiny.” — Choice

“This edited volume helps to fill a lacuna in the growing literature about religious competition in Latin America, as it focuses specifically on the Roman Catholic church, not on the evangelical churches that have attracted so much scholarly attention in recent years, nor on the secularization debates that have long preoccupied theoreticians in the field. . . . The volume offers a careful and well-argued case for enduring Catholic vitality. . . . The contributors to this volume represent some of the most distinguished scholars in the field of religion in Latin America.” — The Americas

“This sterling work looks at the first European institution in America—the Roman Catholic Church. It consists of 11 articles written by nine authors, all of whom are political scientists save one. The leading theme of the work is the challenges facing the contemporary church.” — Multicultural Review

“Political scientist have, for the most part, neglected to investigate the Catholic Church’s political role in Latin America despite the fact that half of the world’s Catholics live and vote there. This new book edited by Frances Hagopian . . . contains eleven chapters divided into four sections that skillfully use a wealth of survey data. . . . Hagopian’s contribution includes three chapters that attempt to set the stage for the book’s other authors while providing fascinating survey-based conclusions. Hagopian’s model correctly presents the Catholic Church’s conduct in six of the countries she examines.” — Horizons

“Hagopian has compiled a work that will benefit not only students of Latin American studies but also theologians, social and political scientists, and historians. . . . This is a good resource on Latin American religious development over the past several decades. Problems are addressed and possible solutions are explored.” — Catholic Library World

“In this rich and varied volume, Frances Hagopian and her co-authors provide quantitative and qualitative responses to a question that might, very broadly, be phrased as ‘the state of Catholic religiosity.’ In doing so they draw on bishops’ statements, instances of confrontation, and survey data on observance, beliefs and political dispositions of the true believers, the faithful and the indifferent.” — Bulletin of Latin American Research