Abstract and Keywords
The Catholic Church in Latin America has played far-reaching and diverse roles in the political sphere. In the 1970s and 1980s, Catholic leaders used the Church’s prestige and its considerable resources to defend human rights and promote democratic transitions in several countries; in the modern democratic context the Church has facilitated action on social justice issues such as land reform, inequality, and the rights of the indigenous. Yet it has also defended authoritarian regimes and thwarted laws lessening restrictions on abortion and gay rights. This article surveys divergent Catholic responses to the challenges of authoritarianism and modernization and synthesizes the explanations for these distinctive political paths into three categories of causal variables: ideology, organizational interests, and institutional arrangements. Interests and ideology strongly influence political agendas, but their content and meaning depend on the specific institutional relations among the Church, state, and society.
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