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.