Article

Catholicism

Timothy Matovina and Michael Anthony Abril

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0010
Catholicism

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Spanish-speaking Catholics have lived in what is now the United States for twice as long as the nation has existed. Until World War II, however, Latinos constituted a relatively small and frequently overlooked group among US Catholics. Their numbers and their influence have increased dramatically with an influx of newcomers from such diverse locales as Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Argentina along with ongoing Mexican immigration, all swelling the ranks of an established Latino population previously consisting primarily of Mexican-descent Catholics. Latino Catholic communities, once concentrated in New York, the Southwest, and some midwestern cities, now extend from Seattle to Boston and from Miami to Alaska. In the early 21st century Catholics comprise the largest religious denomination in the United States, encompassing nearly a fourth of all US residents, and Latinos constitute more than a third of US Catholics. Moreover, given the relative youthfulness of Latinos, they will continue to represent an increasing percentage of US Catholics over time. But numbers alone do not define the significance of the Latino presence. The mutual influence of Catholicism and Latinos in the United States is shaping not just the future of American Catholic life but also the life of the nation and of course the lives of millions of Latino Catholics. Latinos approach their Catholic faith in a multitude of ways: as primarily a heritage of devotional traditions, as a marker of cultural identity, as a means to struggle for justice, as a source of spiritual growth and comfort, and as an institution with a defined body of doctrines and teachings. Not surprisingly, a considerable number are involved with Catholicism only nominally or not at all. Protestantism, especially in its Pentecostal and evangelical forms, has expanded rapidly though unevenly among Latinos and indeed throughout Latin America. A growing number of Latinos state that they have no religious affiliation. Yet the 60 to 65 percent of the US Latino population that professes to be Catholic continues the long history of Latino Catholicism in the United States and has a strong social and ecclesial impact through such activities as their activism on immigration, workers’ rights, and other issues; their pastoral outreach; their culturally conditioned expressions of faith; and their analyses of their people’s faith and struggles in publications of history, theology, religious studies, literature, sociology, anthropology, and related disciplines.

Article.  17202 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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