Latin American Catholic Societies

Paul E. Sigmund

in The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780195137989
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Latin American Catholic Societies

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A large majority of Latin Americans identify themselves as Roman Catholics. Countries like Uruguay have very low rates of Catholic religious practice, and until recently Mexico and Cuba had anti-Catholic laws and policies. Anticlericalism has been strong in Latin America, at least since the nineteenth century and probably earlier. In the last two decades, conversions to evangelical Protestantism have accelerated, and Pentacostalism is the fastest-growing religion in Latin America. There are now more Mormons in Latin America than in the United States. The remnants of state support for Catholicism are rapidly disappearing in the wave of constitutional reforms that has followed the transition from military rule to elected civilian governments in the eighties and nineties. Yet the history, culture, and public ceremonials of Latin America are profoundly Catholic, and even those who, except for weddings and funerals, have never been near a Catholic Church since baptism think of themselves as Catholic.

Keywords: Latin America; anticlericalism; Catholic Church; Protestantism; Pentacostalism; Mormons; constitutional reform

Article.  2672 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Interfaith Relations ; Christianity

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