abolition. But the Brazilian church did not significantly support the abolitionist cause. Joaquim Nabuco, distinguished leader of abolition, had an audience with Pope Leo XIII in 1888 but without positive results, and throughout the antislavery campaign the Brazilian church remained a spectator of events. According to Nabuco, the Catholic church never raised its voice in favour of emancipation: 'Our clergy's desertion of the role of the Gospel assigned to it was as shameful as it could possibly be.' Reformers criticised what they saw as a triple alliance of church, slavery and monarchy as the major obstacles to national progress, and believed, however unjustly, that they would sink or swim together.

The religion of the people

Large numbers of Latin Americans deserted the Catholic Church in the nineteenth century. Reason deposed faith amongthe professional classes, while positivism provided an intellectual alternative to Christian doctrines. The decline of religious practice, however, was a story not only of lapsed Catholics but also of missing priests. Parishes were so large that attendance at mass was impossible for many people. While average sizes in the dioceses of BogotaƩ (3,732 parishioners) and Caracas (4,722) were barely manageable, parishes in the dioceses of Santiago (over 12,000) and La Paz (over 18,000) were too large for the existing clergy. And priests were declining in numbers. The ideal proportion of 1/1,000 cited for contemporary Europe and the United States was never reached in Latin America in the period 1820-1900; by 1912 the average was 4,480 to a priest, and even in Mexico, where vocations were more abundant, the average was only 1/3,000. In these conditions the cure of souls was a vain hope, and many nominal Catholics, especially those on the margin of society, were left without pastoral care for most of their lives. But the faithful were not entirely forgotten.

The church never lost its links with the popular sectors or became a captive of the elites, though the pattern of religious observance was unpredictable. There were places, especially in mestizo America, where churchgoing was regular, others where it was infrequent, others where it was once a year at Easter or thereabouts. There was also a difference between countries: on the one hand those where historically the church was strongly implanted, on the other hand those where religion was endemically weak. So Mexico was more Catholic than Honduras, Paraguay than Uruguay. The common people of Paraguay, inheritors of a Jesuit past and victims of a recent war, practised religion with a fervour that inspired a Vatican observer to report in 1878 that

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