Journal Article

Structural Obstacles to Grassroots Pastoral Practice: The Case of a Base Community in Urban Brazil*

Manuel A. Vásquez

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 58, issue 1, pages 53-68
Published in print January 1997 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 1997 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3712106
Structural Obstacles to Grassroots Pastoral Practice: The Case of a Base Community in Urban Brazil*

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Base Christian Communities (CEBs) represented a key element in progressive Catholicism in Latin America, particularly in Brazil where they attained a high level of development. This article examines the evolution of a CEB in the periphery of Rio de Janeiro, exploring the obstacles to the production, circulation, and reception of the progressive Catholic message. While tensions and contradictions within the CEB contributed to its decline, they had deleterious effects only when they were conditioned by external processes such as the Vatican restoration and the economic crisis Brazil faced beginning in the mid-1980s. These macro processes exacerbated tensions between the pastoral agent and lay people and among different lay factions. They also disempowered the core of activists in the CEB. The paper concludes by challenging recent readings of the ‘crisis’ of Brazilian CEBs and by arguing for the need to place local religious dynamics in their proper institutional and structural context.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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