Latin America and the Church Essay

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The Catholic Church has been regarded as one of the most powerful institutions in the world. The beginnings of its authority can be rooted in the European continent wherein the development of the Catholic religious belief took place. Nevertheless, the numerous changes that happened in the world paved the way for the Catholic Church to extend their influence. At present, Europe is no longer regarded as the center of the Roman Catholic Church in terms of the number of people who adhere to this faith because the Latin American region has long been the most Catholic continent in the world.

As a result, Catholic doctrines and beliefs play a very important role in the development of the Latin American continent. The influence of the Catholic Church goes beyond the mere spiritual well being of the people because it also has a huge impact in the areas of their life. The influential role of the Catholic Church is clearly observable in the cultural, social, and even political areas of the society. Being the case, it can be said that the Catholic Church has a substantial and advantageous contribution to the Latin American society.

The Catholic Church has appositive influence in the Latin American region, which can be proven by four important points. First, much of the culture of the countries within Latin America is derive from the Catholic Church. Catholicism started in Latin America during the 1500s. The Iberian monarchs are the one responsible in propagating the Catholic faith in the Latin American region through the holy crusade that they waged in their new dominion. One of the main objectives of the Iberian monarchs in converting the Latin American people into becoming Catholics is for the Church to have a comprehensive in the society.

This is related to their belief that every area of an individuals life is related to his or her salvation. Thus, the Church established connection to every sector of the society and every part of an individuals life. As a result, the distinction between the sacred or the secular is observable in Latin America wherein the Church plays an active role in the various areas of community life. This kind of adage is clearly exemplified in the family dynamics of most Latin American countries such as: Brazil, Chile, and Cuba.

Due to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Iberian monarchs were able to instill the value of close-family ties in Latin America. As a result, the family as the basic unit of society is given due importance. This makes the people very family oriented, which almost every individual acquires and later on pass to the succeeding generations. Moreover, the family structure in Latin America is mostly patriarchal because of the authoritative society that the Christendom has propagated (Patterson 18). It gives importance to the fact that the father is the head of the family.

Having such role entails that he is the main decision-maker in the household. The male dominion or superiority is not merely confined within the four corners of their houses but rather it is also seen in work-related opportunities. Men still have control of many occupational areas especially in terms of job that are regarded to be the domain of men like politics. However, the changes in time that the Catholic Church sometimes adheres to have also revolutionized the political dynamics of Latin America.

In the call of the Church for greater equality in the society, they have also supported women empowerment in terms of giving them more opportunity to develop their skills and participate in the society. This could be proven by the case of Chile wherein the country elected its first female president. President Michelle Bachelet holds the highest position in Chilean politics. This only goes to show that the Catholic Church has a substantial influence in the culture of Latin America especially with regards to its family values.

Second, The Catholic Church heavily influences the social fields in Latin America especially in the realm of education. The mission of the Catholic Church that came together with the Iberian invasion of the region is focused on the creation of highly selective and academic educational foundations. The colonial territories were controlled and administered in towns and cities. The central features of these places are the schools, seminaries, and universities. During the nineteenth century, the formative influence that plays a vital role in the educational system of Latin America was that of Napoleonic France.

This kind of education is characterized by hierarchical responsibility that includes national to regional to local scale of territorial administration. Each of these levels also extended in both the urban and rural sectors (Brock and Lawlor 2-3). The influence of the Catholic Church in the educational system is seen in Brazils public life. The Brazilian Catholic Church took part in implementing a conservative program in order to strengthen it internal hierarchy by means of providing education and other social services. In the same manner, Catholicism also has a huge impact in the educational institution of Cuba.

Despite the fact that Cuba is regarded as a Communist state, which means that the government has the main and greater responsibility in making decisions and distributing the resources of the country, the Catholic Church still manage to influence the countrys education. In Cuba, the government delivers the vast majority of social services. Nevertheless, the emergence of other actors also exists and one of the most notable is the Catholic Church. This is clearly exemplified by the Caritas Cubana, a non-governmental organization that is affiliated with the Catholic Church. Caritas Cubana provides social services and distributes medications.

Some of their programs are funded through the help of international non-governmental organizations. The services that they render are providing academic support for the children and others (Uriarte 62). Third, the Church is a highly structured organization in a region that is experiencing low and slow development. The Catholic Church is recognized as one of the strongest institution that is established in the world. The network of churches that adhere to the doctrines and teaching of the Roman Catholic is observable in various parts of the world and this also includes the Latin American region.

The important role that the Church has in this part of the South American continent can be rooted from the very organizational strength of the Catholic Church. In relation to this, the reality that most countries in Latin America experienced and are still facing political instability make the influence of the Catholic Church greater than ever. This is mentality is due to the sentiment of the people wherein they need a strong governing body that they can hold into in times of hardships and trials. The Catholic Church emerged as the stable organization that most people can believe and lean on.

The weaknesses and shortcomings of the most Latin American government to address the pressing problems of the people like threats to peace and order as well as the sustenance of basic needs like food, shelter, education and public health care. Being the case, the Catholic Church takes a bolder role in giving hope to the people especially those who are living in dire poverty. The political turmoil in the Latin American region is observable in countries like Brazil, Chile, and Cuba. In the case of Brazil, its weak government during the 1960s caused a coup detat and the establishment of a totalitarian state in the country.

However, there was significant resistance to the ouster of the civilian government that attributed to the major split of the Brazilian Communist Party. Due to this, a number of small urban and rural guerilla groups were formed, which aim to provoke the government by creating a domestic atmosphere of repression that will force the people to rebel (Train, 1994). In the same manner, Chile also has its own set of political problems that is very evident during the Pinochet regime. Augusto Pinochet was able to obtain the seat of power in Chile through a military junta.

Most of the citizens supported the coup because they want to overthrow the administration of Salvador Allende. Many people believed that the army would bring back order and then call elections. However, General Pinochet disabused them as he asserted that in order to eliminate communism democracy must be ended. He unleashed violence that has no precedent in Chile (Augusto Pinochet). Cuba also has its political concerns especially those that the country experience under the authority of Fidel Castro. During those times, Cuba was regarded as an isolationist country that is against its close neighbor, the United States.

The situation of the country was further worsened by U. S. political and diplomatic hostility (Falcoff). In these instances, the people turn toward the Catholic Church instead of their government because the Church clearly shows organization and stability as compared with the government that usually changes political leaders due to civil unrest. Fourth, the influence of the Catholic Church has extended up to point of being politically active. The Catholic Church has the power to create popular movements because they have a huge influence in motivating the people to participate.

The Church can promote the political mobilization of the poor and marginalized people society. In line with this, poor and marginalized parishioners in Latin American sometime require the help and support of their religious leaders in order to change their political an economic condition. The responsibilities as well as the reputation that the Catholic Church has in the society have prompted them to become politically active. The Church involvement in politics is not simply confined in giving advices or their stand on certain issues but rather they also established their own political parties.

This is proven in the case of Brazil wherein it has Christian democratic parties that support traditional Catholic principles like hierarchy, paternalism, and corporate identity (Trejo). The Catholic Church indeed has a positive influence in the Latin American region. This is proven by the four major tenets that are discuss above that the Catholic Church contribute to the development of Latin Americas culture, social fields, citizens strength amidst political turmoil, and greater political participation.

These only show that an individuals religious belief has a huge role in the development of the other aspects of his or her life as well as the evolution of the society as a whole.

Works Cited

Augusto Pinochet. 2007. The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. 30 July 2009 . Brock, Colin. , & Lawlor, Hugh. Education in Latin America. New York: Routledge, 1985. Falcoff, Mark. Cubas Future or Futures. 21 December 2004. American Experience. 09 March 2009. . Patterson, Eric.

Latin Americas Neo-reformation: Religions influence in Contemporary Politics. New York: Routledge, 2005. Train, Brian. Urban Guerillas in Brazil. 1994. MIT Western Hemisphere Project. 18 July 2007 . Trejo, Guillermo. Religious Competition and Popular Mobilization: Evidence from Mexicos Regions. 2006. 08 March 2009 . Uriarte, Miren. Cuba Social Policy at the Crossroads: Maintaining Priorities, Transforming Practice. Oxfam American Report. Boston: Oxfam America, 2002.

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