traditions and devotion to state power and social order. Yet the church did not remain aloof from the issues of the time and its action on the ground sometimes carried a clearer message than its words from the pulpit. In the period 1800-54 the church was an active agent in the demise of slavery in Peru, as it began to intervene decisively in the relationship between slaves and masters. To defend the integrity of slave marriage the church opposed the break up of slave families and moved to limit the right of slave owners to prevent marriages between slaves. Moreover, masters who attempted to sell married slaves outside the city of Lima, or who sexually abused their female slaves, might find themselves attacked not only by their slaves but also by the church.
The Peruvian Indians traditionally suffered from many exploiters, including clerics, whose extortionate behaviour frequently went far beyond the just collection of fees. But the church was not responsible for liberal legislation, which abolished Indian community lands and opened them to market forces, often cheating the Indians of their land without giving them true independence. Pastorals and pronouncements, overtly indifferent to the Indians, were not the only evidence of the church's Indian policy. In Indian rebellions of the later nineteenth century in the central and southern Andes church leaders in the diocese of Puno and elsewhere defended the interests of the Indians or at least acted as mediators between the rebels and the government. The Indians responded to these initiatives and reaffirmed their attachment to religion and respect for its ministers. In pacifying the Indians, of course, priests sometimes served government interests rather than those of the rebels, and it is difficult to assess the balance of church action in the sierra. The majority of priests in the Indian areas were white or mestizo, though many spoke Quechua or Aymara. But the allegiance of the Indians to traditional Catholicism was never in doubt, even duringtimes of revolution, and there is no evidence that religion was used as a palliative or became an inhibiting factor in the Indians' struggle against abuses.
The absence of social conscience in the nineteenth-century church was perhaps seen above all in Brazil, where the church was a slave owner and a notable absentee among abolitionists. The secular clergy, convents and religious orders owned slaves and were among the various interest groups sustaining a slave society. It is true that some set an example. In 1866 the Benedictines, owners of some 2,000 slaves, freed all children henceforth born to female slaves in their possession, an important precedent at the time. After the Rio Branco Law of 1871, the so-called law of free birth, the Benedictine and Carmelite orders freed their slaves, several thousand in all. And individual priests campaigned for
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