Re-Christianizing society : the institutional and popular revival of Catholicism in Guatemala, 1920-1968




Hernández Sandoval, Bonar Ludwig

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This dissertation, explores the institutional and cultural revival of Guatemalan Catholicism during the twentieth century. First, it examines the changing character of Church-state relations in Guatemala in the 1920s and 1930s. The gradual decline of anticlericalism and emergence of a modus vivendi between the Guatemalan Liberal state and the Catholic Church proved fundamental for the reemergence of the Church as a social and political actor in the 1950s and 1960s. Second, this work analyzes the Catholic Action movement as a window to study this resurgence. Although it started as a socially conservative movement dedicated to implanting Catholic orthodoxy and curbing the advance of communism among Guatemala’s popular sectors, Catholic Action in the 1950s nevertheless evolved into an instrument of economic and social change. In applying the Gospel to social reality and bringing the Church into closer contact with rural Maya communities and urban workers, this movement became a precursor of Liberation Theology. Catholic Action served as a meeting point from which subaltern groups – namely lay indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, and priests and nuns from the United States and Europe – strove to transform Guatemalan society through the promotion of literacy programs, health-related projects and agricultural cooperatives. In this sense, religious change proved a catalyst of socioeconomic transformations.




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