Conference to focus on Church’s role in Latin America

Author: Kelly Roberts & Dennis K. Brown

The Catholic Churchs influence on the social and political agenda of an increasingly democraticLatin Americawill be the focus of a two-day conference at the University of Notre Dame.

TitledContemporary Catholicism, Religious Pluralism, and Democracy in Latin America,the conference will be held March 31 to April 1 (Thursday to Friday) at theHesburghCenterfor International Studies. It is sponsored by the Universitys Kellogg Institute for International Studies.

No longer does the Church enjoy the near monopoly on religious beliefs and practices that it once did inLatin America,said Frances Hagopian, the conference organizer and Michael P. Grace II Associate Professor of Latin American Studies and Political Science at Notre Dame.The issues that motivated political action on the part of the Catholic Churchs clergy and lay activistssuch as the defense of human rights under authoritarian regimesno longer are as prominent today inLatin America.

As democracy has taken root inLatin America, she said, the Church must respond to the policies that challenge its moral agenda and social doctrine.

Given the challenges faced by the Catholic Church, we know surprisingly little about how and why the Church and its faithful have responded to the challenges raised by democracy, and even less about the impact of the changing nature of Catholicism on democratic politics,Hagopian said.

The conference will bring together North American and Latin American scholars, as well as Catholic lay and clerical leaders, to renew the focus on these issues.

This conference is an integral component of a larger Kellogg Institutereligion initiative,designed to revitalize comparative social science research on religion, and in particular Catholicism, politics and society inLatin America.

Contemporary Catholicismis made possible by funding from The Coca-Cola Company and is co-sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, the Secretariat for the Church inLatin Americaof the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Notre Dame’s Erasmus Institute, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and the Henkels Lecture Series of the Institute for Scholarship in Liberal Arts.

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