Rachel McCleary
Rachel M. McCleary is Lecturer, Economics Department, Harvard University, and nonresident Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute. 

Rachel holds a doctorate in moral philosophy, University of Chicago. Rachel’s scholarly work in philosophy focuses on issues of moral agency, consciousness, and reasoning. Her most recent work on the topic is the nature agency for beatified and canonized children and youth by the Catholic Church as martyrs. Her contributions to the study of the political economy of religion examine the influence of religious beliefs and practices on human productivity, economic growth, and the maintenance of political institutions such as democracy.   

Phone: (+01) 617-930-8185
Office: Littauer Center (North Yard)

Email: rachel_mccleary@harvard.edu

Curriculum Vitae

Publicity Photos (.zip)

Mailing address:
Rachel M. McCleary
Harvard Economics Department
1805 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Recent Publications

McCleary, Rachel M.Protestant Doctrinal Heterodoxy and Heterogeneity in Guatemala, 1880s-1950s.” In Roots of Underdevelopment In Latin America edited by Felipe Valencia Caicedo. Springer, Forthcoming.Abstract

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Pentecostalism disrupted the U.S. religion market. Charismatic beliefs and practices, particularly the emphasis on baptism of the Holy Spirit and miraculous physical healing, comingled with the Wesleyan holiness movement. Soon, divisions arose between holiness and Pentecostal movements. Divisions also occurred within Pentecostalism giving rise to distinct types. Within this fluid religion market, with doctrinal debates and controversies, Pentecostal, holiness-Pentecostal, and holiness missionaries entered Guatemala openly competing with existing mainline Protestant, holiness, and evangelical missions. Without regard for doctrinal orthodoxy, independent missionaries proselytized their beliefs throughout the country, converting existing congregations and introducing Pentecostal beliefs. Likewise, the new denominations’ mission boards were complicit in creating doctrinal heterodoxy by hiring individual missionaries whose beliefs contradicted the denomination’s doctrinal position. A major legacy of the heterodoxy is the highly schismatic (heterogeneous) nature of the Guatemalan religion market.

McCleary, Rachel M.Catholic Child and Youth Martyrs, 1588-2022.” Catholic Historical Review 108, no. 3 (2022): 469-508.Abstract

Child and youth martyrs throughout the history of Christianity are few. New emphasis on their presence in the twentieth century raises questions about the nature of sanctity. Using a new data set on child, adolescent, and youth martyrs beatified and canonized since 1588, this article discusses early modern to contemporary models of sanctity for males and females while at the same time showing how the ancient motif of puer senex continues to be relevant in their narratives. With Catholic teachings adapting to contemporary views on child agency and autonomy, several problems arise, requiring the Church to re-evaluate its models of sanctity for young people.

McCleary, Rachel M., and Robert J. Barro. “Martyrs of Latin America, 1854-2022.” Fe y Libertad (2022).Abstract
Pope John Paul II began the recent trend of beatifying martyrs and confessors of Latin America. Together, Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have beatified 111 martyrs and 53 confessors in Latin America. These numbers represent 87% and 72%, respectively, of all Latin American martyrs and confessors sanctified by the Roman Catholic Church since 1588 when Pope Urban VIII established the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Pope Francis accelerated the rate of beatifications of Latin American blesseds to 5.0 a year as compared to 3.5 for John Paul II and 3.4 for Benedict XVI. These beatifications of Latin American martyrs and confessors must be understood from the perspective of the intended audience, which we view as the Catholic faithful. Specifically, we view this saint-making during the last three papacies as attempts to invigorate the faithful and, thereby, deter conversions into Protestantism.
McCleary, Rachel M., and Robert J. Barro. “Opening the Fifth Seal Catholic Martyrs and Forces of Religious Competition .” Journal of Religion and Demography 7 (2020): 92-122.Abstract
Since Pope John Paul II's stock-taking of twentieth century martyrs, the Catholic Church has significantly increased the beatification and canonization of martyrs.  Not only have the numbers of martyrs increased but the definition of martyrdom has expanded.  Using a comprehensive new data set on Catholic martyrs (1588-2020), we argue that the Vatican's recent emphasis on martyrs is a strategic response to competition with Protestants, especially Evangelicals.  Martyrs, unlike regular saints (confessors),  tend to be predominantly male and died in parts of the world where the Catholic Church was actively involved in evangelization or had a significant presence.  Martydom often associates with violent events, such as the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the French Revolution, and with mass persecutions such as in the case of the English Reformation or in cases of repression of missionaries, as in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and China.