Brazil, The Catholic Church in
BRAZIL, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
The largest and most populous country in South America and the largest Catholic nation in the world, Brazil is situated along the Atlantic coast. Straddling the equator, it borders Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana on the north, the North and South Atlantic on the east, Uruguay on the south, and Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Columbia on the west. From the southern plain, the terrain rises to an upland dotted by many lakes, then to the Mato Grosso plateau and a mountainous region. To the far north is the Amazon basin, which is crossed by many tributaries. Natural resources include the third largest bauxite reserve and the largest high-grade iron ore reserve in the world, as well as tin, beryllium and nickel. Agricultural crops consist of coffee, soybeans, wheat, rice, corn and sugarcane. Brazil's commercial center, São Paulo, ranks among the largest metropolitan areas in the world.
Brazil declared its independence on Sept. 7, 1822, and by the time of World War II, it had become a world power and was governed by a democratic constitution. Economic chaos and political discord, however, led to a coup in 1964 that brought a rightist military regime to power. A stable democratic government was restored in the late 1980s, and a new constitution was promulgated on Oct. 5, 1988 under which freedom of religion was guaranteed but no state religion was designated. The traditionally rural profile of the country underwent a drastic transformation after World War II; by the year 2000 more than 75 percent of Brazilians lived in urban areas. Of concern to the world was the continued destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which by 2000 had been reduced by millions of acres through slash and burn methods to obtain farmland. In 1999 Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso signed legislation that made deforestation a criminal act.
Early History. The region, home to the Tupí peoples, was discovered on April 22, 1500, by Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral, then on his way to India. The only activity following discovery was purely commercial, as Portuguese expeditions went in search of the
brazilwood used in making dyes. Forts were established along the coast, but only a few had resident priests.
Between 1500 and 1521 a group of Portuguese Franciscans were present at Pôrto Seguro. The culture of the Tupí made conversion difficult. Their religion was a naturalistic pantheism, and they were extremely well adapted to their environment, although polygamy, cannibalism and continuous wars of vengeance also figured in their culture. From the Tupí the Portuguese learned many things, such as the use of manioc as food, the hammock as a bed and the slash-and-burn system of cultivation. Unfortunately, this first group of missionaries, as well as several other white colonists, were captured and eaten by the natives shortly after their arrival.
In 1530 the king divided the land into captaincies, to be administered in a semi-feudal manner by donataries, each with absolute power in his region, subordinate only to the monarch. There was no centralized government in the colony and only sporadic priestly activity. Franciscans again ventured into the region about 1538, at the founding of the captaincy of Pôrto Seguro. The Franciscan Frei Pedro Palacios, a Spanish member of the Portuguese province, after helping the Jesuits catechize the native people for some time, founded the sanctuary of Penha in modern Espirito Santo sometime in the 1560s. The early Jesuits, especially José de anchieta, speak of the local people so well catechized by these early friars that they spontaneously presented themselves as Christians to the Jesuits when the latter arrived in 1549.
With the failure of the captaincy system to colonize Brazil, the Portuguese king, John III created a central government in 1549, naming Tomé de Sousa as governor-general and Salvador as the capitol. Four Jesuit priests and two lay brothers, under the direction of Manuel da nÓbrega, accompanied the governor to the New World. Some secular priests were also sent. The Jesuits fell to work immediately, both among the colonists and among the natives. After founding a church and school in Salvador, they moved into the neighboring villages, and within a year had baptized about 1,000 people. The Jesuits created crude grammars and catechisms in the socalled "lingoa geral" a sort of lingua franca more or less understood by most of the native people in the region (see aldeiamento system in brazil).
From 1514 to 1551 Brazil was under the nominal jurisdiction of the bishop of Funchal, but was separated from Funchal and the diocese of Salvador was created and declared a suffragan of Lisbon. The first bishop of Bahia and commissary general of all Brazil was Dom Pedro Fernandes sardinha, who took possession of his diocese in 1552, bringing with him several secular clerics to form his cathedral chapter. In 1553 the Jesuit general superior in Rome separated the missions of Brazil from Portugal and founded an independent province of Jesuits in the new land. Nóbrega was named provincial and Luis de Grã his alternate. By the following year the province had 26 members.
In 1553 Duarte da Costa was named governor (1553–57), and arrived with 16 Jesuits. Among them was José de anchieta, the "Apostle of Brazil." Difficulties soon arose between Jesuit missionaries and Bishop Sardinha. On his way to an audience with the king regarding this situation, Bishop Sardinha was shipwrecked, captured and finally eaten by cannibals. The following year Duarte da Costa resigned from the governorship, throwing the colony into complete disorder.
The new governor, Mem de Sá (1557–72), consolidated central government, pacified the native tribes and corrected some of the most flagrant abuses of the colonists, which had caused the native revolts in the first place. He promoted the work of the Jesuits, helping them erect schools and missions throughout Brazil. However, in 1563 disease swept many of the villages, causing thousands of deaths. Many people fled to the wilderness, and it was only with difficulty that the missionaries persuaded them to return to the aldeias, or mission villages, after the plagues had passed.
When Governor Mem de Sá asked to be relieved of his position, Luis Fernandes de Vasconcelos was sent in 1570. Unfortunately, on the voyage to Brazil he and his companions, including 40 Jesuits, were captured by French Huguenot pirates and forced to walk the plank, leaving Mem de Sá at his post until his death in 1572.
Missions Threaten Colonial Interests. On July 19, 1576 Pope Gregory XIII created the prelacy of Rio de Janeiro, which included the captaincies of Pôrto Seguro, Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and São Vicente, extending southward to the Rio de la Plata. The new prelate traveled throughout his vast territory and attempted a reform in customs and religious instruction of his people. Unfortunately, since he openly and strenuously defended the native people, he was persecuted by slaveholding colonist,
as were all his successors until the creation of a bishopric in 1676.
The missions made great strides with the arrival of new missionaries from Portugal, and soon the Jesuits had colleges in Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco. In the captaincy of Bahia alone there were 62 churches and chapels, 16 of which were parishes. In 1584 the Franciscans began organized work under Frei Melquior de Santa Catarina, beginning in Olinda and expanding to Bahia in 1587, Iguaraçu in 1588, and Paraíba in 1589. Within 70 years the Franciscans had more than 20 monasteries, with many native missions. The Benedictines, headed by Dom Antônio Ventura, founded an abbey in Salvador in 1584, and within 80 years had monasteries in Rio de Janeiro, Olinda, Paraíba do Norte, São Paulo, Santos and Sorocaba. The Carmelites arrived in Pernambuco in 1589 and led by Frei Domingos Freire, spread to Salvador, Santos, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and cared for many people in their missions, especially in the Amazon region.
At the end of the 16th century a push was made towards the north, partly to combat French efforts to colonize there and partly in response to the desire of restless adventurers who wanted to conquer new lands. A French attempt in 1594 failed to found a settlement on the island of Maranhão, but within 20 years the French returned, with four French Capuchins under Claude d' abbeville. The Capuchins, who expanded to 21 in 1614, studied the native tribes and their customs, but French efforts were ultimately doomed by Portuguese efforts to expel them. These efforts succeeded in 1615, and the work of the Capuchins was taken over by the Jesuits and the Franciscans.
In 1624 Brazil was divided into two states, with capitals at Salvador and São Luiz. With the new governor came Frei Cristóvão de lisboa, who was sent with quasiepiscopal powers to the newly named state of Maranhão e Grão Pará. Cristóvão attempted to set up orderly tribalcolonist relations, but was met by colonial disobedience and his results proved meager. This experience was repeated throughout Brazil, as missionaries' encountered opposition from both colonists and government officials due to a need for enslaved natives to work the plantations. Feliciano de Coelho, governor of Paraíba, expelled the Jesuits in 1593 and the Franciscans three years later. Governor General Diogo de Botelho (1602–07) forbid the founding of any new monasteries in Brazil; both he and his successor, Diogo Menezes (1607–12), were involved in almost continual quarrels with Bishop Dom Constantino Barradas (1600–18) and with local religious regarding the question of tribal protection from slavers.
In parts of Brazil the arrival of African slaves in the mid-1600s freed the native populations from slave hunters, but in the Amazon colonists who could not pay the exorbitant prices charged for blacks continued to hunt the rainforest tribes. At issue was who would administer and control the natives, laymen or religious? As early as 1624 Frei Cristóvão de Lisboa had attempted to effect Franciscan control of indigenous people, but the crown was forced by colonial opposition to suspend the execution of such efforts. So began a series of vacillations of the Portuguese crown: sometimes it protected the tribes and allowed them to be Christianized, while at other times colonists gained influence. During the 17th century militant Jesuit Antônio Vieira obtained adequate authority to missionize and thus protect the tribes to a greater extent than ever before. However, insurrection in Maranhão in 1661 forced the Jesuits from Brazil. Effective missionizing was renewed two decades later, when new laws unpopular with plantation owners passed control over native tribes to the missions and forbid enslavement.
While there continued to be vacillation on the part of the government in the face of colonial interests, the golden age of the missions in the Amazon region was 1680 to 1750.
Influence of Changing Balance of Power. One consequence of the Spain-Portugal alliance (1580–1640) was that the Dutch resolved to conquer part of Brazil. Bahia was taken after token resistance in May 1624; Governor Diogo de Mendonça Furtado, along with many Jesuits, Benedictines and Franciscans, was removed under guard to Holland. Other religious fled to Pernambuco, while some priests along with Bishop Dom Marcos Teixeira went into the interior. The cathedral was transformed into a Calvinist temple, the Jesuit College into a barracks and churches into warehouses. The Portuguese retook Salvador in 1625, but the Dutch returned in 1630, secured Olinda and Recife in Pernambuco, and built a colonial empire extending northward to Pará. Catholics there experienced repression and bigotry: Franciscans were allowed use of only four of their six monasteries, Carmelites one of their ten monasteries, while Jesuits were forbidden altogether. After Franciscans and Carmelites planned sedition, priests were imprisoned. Dutch governor Maurice of Nassau ended the persecution for a short time and restrained the Calvinist ministers in their anti-Catholic zeal, although he later exiled and killed friars found to be working for their mother country. A series of battles from 1648–49 crushed the Dutch, thus ending the strongest Protestant threat to colonial Brazil.
Although the Portuguese revolted successfully against Spanish rule in 1640, a peace treaty was not signed until 1668. With this peace, Pope Innocent XI raised Bahia to an archdiocese, with suffragan sees in Rio de Janeiro, Olinda and Maranhão. Meanwhile, regalism kept the number of dioceses and bishops in Brazil small, as the government avoided the cost of supporting new dioceses and paying clerics' salaries. Besides Salvador (1551) and Rio de Janeiro (1676), only five more dioceses
were created during the entire colonial period: São Luiz do Maranhão (1677), Olinda-Recife (1678), Belém do Pará (1719), São Paulo (1746) and Mariana (1748). Although the Portuguese government had accepted without modification the decrees of the Council of Trent that made diocesan seminaries obligatory, the results were meager; the first quasi-conciliar seminary was begun in Rio de Janeiro only in 1739, followed by seminaries in Belém (1749), Mariana (1750), Olinda (1800) and Salvador (1815). Most did not endure long, and their purpose was not served because the majority of students were simply taking advantage of the only institutions of higher learning in Brazil.
Because of royal restrictions issued in 1603, 1609 and 1683, convents of nuns were not founded in Brazil until late in the colonial period. Ursulines of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of the Roman Union, founded the Colégio das Mercês (1735) and the Colégio da Soledade (1739) in Bahia and later expanded their work to the south. The Carmelites of St. Theresa established themselves in Rio de Janeiro in 1742. The Conceptionist sisters entered Bahia in 1744, founding at first a retreat house and then the monastery of Lapa. In 1750 they founded the monastery of Ajuda in Rio de Janerio in the institution originally established by Capuchin sisters in 1705. The retreat house of the Macaúbas, Santa Luzia do Rio das Velhas in Minas Gerais, founded in 1715, eventually became a Conceptionist monastery (1933) as did a number of similar foundations. In 1720 there was also a convent of Poor Clares in Bahia. The social contribution of these cloistered communities was principally educational for they usually conducted boarding schools.
The Age of Enlightenment. The Church began to encounter immense difficulties in the late 1700s, as religious idealism was replaced, even among ecclesiastics, by gold and diamond fever. The irreligious spirit of the age of Enlightenment culminated in the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1782 and in the ensuing control over education by the state. The treaty of Madrid of 1750 gave Sacremento (present-day Uruguay) to Spain, while Spain ceded to Portugal the Jesuit missions in the present state of Rio Grande do Sul with their population of 30,000 Guaraní natives. The fact that some Jesuits working among these tribes disregarded the command of the Jesuit general to abide by the treaty presented an opportunity for the Marquês de Pombal, Minister of State in Portugal (1750–77). Desirous of breaking the power of the church, Pombal used this evidence of noncompliance to
campaign against the society. A joint Spanish-Portuguese expedition defeated the Guaraní and expelled them in 1756. When the governor of Rio de Janeiro refused to take over the mission lands or to cede Colônia to Sacramento, the treaty was annulled and the Guaraní allowed to return to their ruined villages in 1761. Next Pombal used the delimiting expedition in the Amazon region, under the command of his brother, Francisco Xavier de Mendonça Furtado, with the bishop of Belém Dom Miguel de Bulhões as his willing ally, to attack the northern Jesuits. For real or imagined insults to the royal prerogative, the Jesuits were deprived of their royal salary, their missions, their lands and finally their freedom. Sent under guard to Portugal, many of them spent long years in prison, while ecclesiastics or laymen who defended them were subject to exile. Religious of other orders were also exiled from Brazil at the same time.
The loss of hundreds of religious at one time was a blow from which the Church would not recover from until well into the 20th century. Now without temporal power, those religious who stayed and continued work among the natives were powerless, after the so-called "law of liberation of 1755," to stop the depredations of slavers against their native parishioners. They were reduced to parish priests in parishes the size of European countries. There was in the late 18th century a growing move to repress religious orders of both sexes, generally through the very effective means of controlling or prohibiting the reception of novices for years at a time.
At the end of the colonial period the principle that priests were civil servants had been firmly established. Education was completely under governmental control and the so-called "Reforms of Coimbra," which stressed the positive sciences at the expense of scholastic or spiritual philosophy, were taught in every school beginning with the primary grades. The texts used in philosophy and theology were controlled by the state, and Jansenist and regalist texts predominated. The paucity of bishops and the immense traveling distances within their dioceses made inspection difficult, and ecclesiastical subjects had the right of recourse to the civil courts, which made discipline difficult to uphold. While dedicated bishops were not always lacking, little could be done against the allpervading padroado (see patronato real). While many churchmen were already becoming politicians, it remained for the empire after independence (1822–89) to perfect regalistic control over the Brazilian Church and, in the process, bring the Church to the lowest condition it ever suffered.
The Church in Independent Brazil. Under pressure from French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, the royal family fled Portugal and arrived in Rio de Janeiro in March of 1808, whereupon the colony became the metropolis of the Portuguese Empire through the return of King John VI to Lisbon in 1821. Although the Church officially did not take sides in the growing struggle for independence, many churchmen played prominent parts. Freemasonry, making its own the ideas of independence and republicanism, found many adherents, lay and ecclesiastic. An unsuccessful republican revolution in Pernambuco in 1817 had so many priests among the agitators that it became known as the "revolution of the padres." Most churchmen and laymen involved in this revolution had been educated in the seminary of Olinda, which taught the special species of Jansenistic regalism inculcated by Pombal in his reform of the University of Coimbra. The influence of the seminary at Olinda continued to be felt through most of the 18th century.
Brazil declared its independence from Portugal on Sept. 7, 1822, and its new government was dominated by ultraliberal republican ideas. With few exceptions, the 23 clergymen appointed to the constituent assembly in 1823 expressed uniformly regalistic ideas. However, the constitution unilaterally promulgated by the Portuguese king John VI's son, Emperor Pedro I (1822–31), following the dissolution of the assembly, proclaimed Catholicism as the official state religion. The treatment of the Church at this juncture was owing mainly to the efforts of José da Silva Lisboa, who led the Catholic cause.
After independence diocesan reorganization was undertaken. The prelacies of Goiás and Cuiabá were raised to the category of bishoprics in 1826. Two years later the dioceses of Maranhão and Pará were separated from the archdiocese of Lisbon and made suffragans of Salvador, Bahia. In 1826 an apostolic nunciature was also created, but in 1832 it was reduced to the rank of a simple internunciature.
During the reign of Pedro I and the regency (1831–40) that followed, interference by the crown was rampant. Pontifical messages required the imperial placet; religious orders were subjected to unwarranted interference, even in internal affairs, as were dioceses and diocesan seminaries. The government suppressed the Augustinians in Bahia in 1824 and the discalced Carmelites and Capuchins in Pernambuco in 1830. The government gave hundreds of permissions to religious, male and female, to reside outside the convents for long periods of time, thus fostering decadence in the religious orders. The regency period saw the introduction of many anti-Church and antireligious measures, inspired by liberalism and freemasonry. The bishops frequently complained of the flood of decrees that restricted their liberty and independence of action.
Questions of the confirmation of bishops and of celibacy muddied relations with the Holy See for years. Noted antipapal ultraregalist priest Antônio de Moura was deliberately proposed by the state as the bishop of Rio de Janeiro. When the Holy See refused this nomination, Father Diogo feijÓ, the regent, resolved in the name of the crown to deny any Brazilian recourse to the Holy See until Moura's confirmation was granted. The stalemate finally terminated when Moura withdrew his candidacy. The crown also demonstrated its intention to control the economy of the Church and reduce it to a department of civil administration. Happily a champion arose: Dom Romualdo Antônio de seixas, archbishop and primate of Bahia.
Against the onslaughts of the crown, monastic life in the 19th century declined dramatically, with some religious communities dying out completely. Others were forced to sell monastic property and convents to support themselves. All suffered from a lack of vocations and from the growing ease with which the civil government and the papal internuncios gave briefs of exclaustration or secularization to religious. The crown determined that it would take over the property of the orders upon the death of the respective last member and, to expedite this eventuality, in 1855 José Tomás Nabuco de Araújo, minister of justice, decreed that no novices could be accepted
in any religious order "until a concordat about to be presented by the crown to the Holy See be resolved." No concordat was presented during the rest of the empire, although a few half-hearted attempts were made. Cynically, the government continued to speak piously of the "reform" of the religious orders.
The Franciscans, who had replaced the Jesuits in the missions after 1759, now found themselves without power to protect native Brazilians. Moreover, that task became increasingly impossible as their numbers decreased and no new members were allowed. In 1825 Italian Capuchins were called in to work among the tribes, and their efforts continued throughout the empire. Ironically, the very government attempting to extinguish local orders paid for foreign friars to continue the same work. A few Vincentians, Salesians, Redemptorists and Sisters of Charity also were allowed to come into the country during this century, but their numbers were too small to stem the tide of religious decadence.
Since colonial times irmandades, or ecclesiastical brotherhoods, were founded along class lines for social, economic and religious purposes. These brotherhoods built their own churches and were always difficult for local bishops to control. In the 19th century Freemasonry penetrated these confraternities, able to do so because of
the common opinion that Brazilian Masonry was, unlike world Masonry, favorable to religion and was therefore open even to clergy memberships. The clergy joined the lodges with distressing regularity.
The Religious Question: 1872–75. Antagonism between the Church and Masonry came to a head in 1872, when Bishop Dom Pedro María de Lacerda of Rio de Janeiro suspended Almeida Martins, who was going to celebrate a solemn Mass of Thanksgiving on the anniversary of the founding of the local Masonic lodge. The Viscount Rio Branco, minister of state and grand master of the Grand Orient of Lavradio, decided to "smash the episcopate with a double condemnation, civil and religious," so that never again would a Catholic bishop dare to question the rights of all Brazilians to be Freemasons and Catholics at the same time. The other local lodge, the Grand Orient of the Vale dos Beneditinos, joined in the attack on Bishop Lacerda, who allowed the suspension to stand but was afraid to take any more steps.
Only two bishops entered openly into this battle against regalism: Dom Vital María gonÇalves de oliveira, bishop of Olinda and Dom Antônio de macedo costa, bishop of Belém, both of whom stated in pastorals that Brazilian Masonry was identical with that of Europe. Brotherhoods in these dioceses published lists of members, including priests, who were Masons and members in good standing in the brotherhoods. When the two bishops ordered priests to sever all connection with these brotherhoods, the clergy obeyed, with one or two exceptions. When the brotherhoods would not expel Masonic members, the bishops placed them under interdict, which edict was appealed to the emperor. Pedro II, following the advice of Minister Rio Branco, sent a message to the bishops ordering them to lift the censures, which they refused.
The crown, hoping to gain a double condemnation of the bishops by both Church and State, sent the Baron of Penedo in August of 1873 as special envoy to Rome. In talks with the Secretary of State Cardinal Antonelli, the baron stressed the need to restore peace to the Brazilian Church and insinuated that the conflict could have been avoided if the bishops had acted with less precipitation. He made no mention of the fact that the bishops had already been apprehended. Both Pius IX and Cardinal Antonelli likely believed the envoy; without further verification they dispatched a letter on Dec. 18, 1873, to the two bishops. The letter praised the zeal of the bishops but mildly censured them for the rapidity of their actions; it ordered them to lift the interdict and concern themselves with the purification of the brotherhoods. Within a few days word reached Rome of the imprisonment of the bishops, who were now awaiting trial.
On trial before the supreme court, the bishops refused to defend themselves and did not recognize the legitimacy of the secular tribunal. Although three distinguished Catholic laymen, Zacarías de Góis e Vasconcelos, Cândido Mendes de Almeida and Antônio Ferreira Viana, voluntarily presented a brilliant defense, both bishops were condemned to four years at hard labor. While the emperor refused amnesty, he reduced the sentence to simple imprisonment.
A flood of protests reached the emperor from every side. Pope Pius IX wrote a personal letter to Pedro II, decrying the violence and duplicity of the government and approving all actions of the two bishops. He also reiterated the condemnation of Brazilian Masons. The Holy Father also ordered the nuncio to destroy the "fatal letter" of Cardinal Antonelli.
Even after being imprisoned, the two bishops did not lift their interdicts. Their substitutes in the two dioceses, some of who went to prison, also refused to do so. With the Brazilian bishops so united, a Catholic revival set in. Churches were crowded with people pledging their allegiance to the two condemned bishops. Under political pressure, Pedro II pardoned the bishops in September 1875. Pius IX, in a communication to the bishops, commanded them to lift the interdicts immediately upon their release. They did so but could not then insist on the purification of the brotherhoods, leaving their control over the more influential brotherhoods tenuous.
Abolition Heralds New Republic. By 1870 the movement to abolish slavery had gained ground, in part because of its support among members of the new republican party. Clergymen had little to do with abolition, although some religious orders and bishops had freed all their slaves many years before. While decrees in 1871, 1885, and 1888 destroyed slavery gradually, the "golden law" of 1888 served a severe blow to Brazil's plantation economy. A year later, on Nov. 15, 1889, Pedro II quietly went into exile, and on Jan. 7, 1890, the provisional government declared extinct "all patronage with all its institutions, recourses and prerogatives."
The new constitution of 1891 decreed the complete separation of Church and State, while also granting complete liberty of cults, secularization of cemeteries, the laicization of education in public schools, civil marriage as the only legal marriage, denial of all political rights to religious, exclusion of Jesuits and the absolute prohibition against new convents of religious. The mode of attack was different, but the purpose was still the same: to crush the Church and keep her powerless.
In March of 1890 the bishops issued a pastoral letter protesting the new decrees and their action had some success. The Church gained the right of self-government and the law against Jesuits was abolished. Official government persecution also ceased. Foreign members of religious orders living in Brazil were allowed to revive these venerable groups. The Franciscans, Carmelites and Benedictines were able to rebuild their provinces. Jesuits and Redemptorists once again entered the region. Pope Leo XIII now divided the country into two provinces: Bahia, with seven suffragan sees, and Rio de Janeiro, with nine. Pius X raised the number of archbishoprics to seven and created many new bishoprics and prelacies. Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII continued to increase the number of dioceses. Relations with Rome continued to improve after 1890, and in 1919 Brazil's representation at the Holy See was raised to the rank of embassy.
In addition to the renewed freedoms granted to the Catholic Church, other faiths were now allowed to practice unrestrained. Among its many religions, Brazil developed a small cult connected with Kadecismo, a pretended communication with departed spirits that entered Brazil in 1865 and coalesced in 1884 in the Federação Espírita Brasileira, which from that point on directed the Brazilian Spiritist movement. Other movements included Candomble, Xango, Macumba and Umbanda, the last an African-inspired cult that claimed to practice communication with the spirits of the dead, although in a boisterous way and with ceremonies unknown among the Kardecists. These spiritist cults continued to remain active into the 21st century, although their membership would decline after the mid-20th century.
Because of the secularistic contents of the 1891 constitution, the Church had very little influence in the public schools. Little by little the prohibition against the teaching of religion in public schools broke down. Minas Gerais became the first state to introduce religious education into the schools; it was followed by the state of São Paulo. A strong fight against these changes was made by the ultraliberals and Freemasons, but in the constitution of Nov. 10, 1937, it was ordained that the teaching of religion be allowed if the parents so wished. In 1939 the first Brazilian council of bishops was held, coinciding with the opening of the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. In 1930, the first Catholic newspaper in Portuguese was published.
See Also: mission in colonial america, ii (portuguese missions).
Bibliography: f. a. de varnhagen, História geral do Brasil, 5 v. (4th ed. São Paulo 1948–53). r. southey, History of Brazil, 3 v. (London 1810–22). j. l. mecham, Church and State in Latin America (Chapel Hill 1934). h. van der vat, Princípios da igreja no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro 1952). j. dornas, O padroado e a igreja brasileira (São Paulo 1938). f. de azevedo, Brazilian Culture, tr. w. r. crawford (New York 1950). g. freyre, The Masters and the Slaves, tr. s. putnam (2d ed. New York 1956). c. haring, Empire in Brazil (Cambridge, MA 1958). c. r. boxer, The Dutch in Brazil, 1624–1654 (Oxford 1957). m. c. kiemen, The Indian Policy of Portugal in the Amazon Region, 1614–1693 (Washington 1954). r. de oliveira, O conflito maçônico-religioso de 1872 (Rio de Janeiro 1952). f. guerra, A questão religiosa do segundo império brasileiro (Rio de Janeiro 1952). b. kloppenburg, O espiritismo no Brasil (Petrópolis 1960); A umbanda no Brasil (Petrópolis 1961); O reencarnacionismo no Brasil (Petrópolis 1961). d. kalverkamp and b. kloppenburg, Acão pastoral perante o espiristismo (Petrópolis 1961). c. p. de camargo, Aspectos sociológicos del espiritismo en São Paulo (Fribourg 1961).
[m. c. kiemen/
The Modern Church. During the worldwide depression of the 1930s, Brazil suffered economic decline and the political chaos that followed the elections of 1930 was resolved by a military coup that brought Getúlio Vargas into power. During subsequent governments, efforts were made to restore the stability of the national economy through development of both the capital city and the interior. By 1960 rising inflation and a heavy international debt had taken its toll, particularly on the poor. As peasants agitated for land reform—the redistribution of unused land for agriculture—their actions threatened Brazilian industrialists, which were estimated to own 80 percent of the nation's acreage. An industrialist-backed coup in 1964 ousted the democratically elected president, ushering in a series of hard-line military leaders who suspended all constitutional guarantees. Rural and urban guerilla movements spread rapidly, followed by a period of violent repression, arbitrary arrests, torture, assassination and exile of many who opposed the regime, including student leaders, union organizers and several priests.
The Influence of Vatican II. During the turbulent decade preceding the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), Catholic Action groups such as Catholic Action and the Young Catholic Workers pioneered initiatives in the areas of basic education and the unionizing of rural workers. The rapid growth of the Catholic Action movement in the 1950s not only developed lay leaders who became a force of change in society and the Church, but it was also a source of bishops, many of whom were former Catholic Action chaplains who encouraged pastoral and social experimentation. The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops was created in 1952. The spirit of reform generated by Vatican II further influenced and pastoral action in Brazil.
Faced with an increasing number of Protestant missionary groups and millions of rural migrants moving to the large cities, the Church became a more visible presence among the poor, developing a massive program of basic education, directed principally to the illiterate masses in the northeast. The Basic Education Movement, sponsored by the Brazilian Episcopal Conference and funded by the federal government, reached half a million peasants by radio by 1964, whereupon the new military regime all but snuffed it out.
Liberation Theology. Political amnesty was declared in 1979 under President Figueiredo, whereupon new political parties were formed and a new constitution promulgated in 1988. Within an atmosphere of increased freedom, the bishops published numerous documents addressing such topics as Sacraments, the Church and the Land Question, basic values and the position of the Church in society, while also encouraging the faithful to engage in improving society. On the outskirts of urban areas, grassroots social movements were organizing as early as 1972, directing attention to the lack of adequate housing, health care, education, public transportation and public security.
Although the country experienced an economic upturn during the 1970s, this temporary prosperity was rooted in heavy international investments, resulting in a rapidly increasing foreign debt. By the late 1970s Brazil experienced recession, rising inflation and a decline in the quality of life of the poor and the working classes. The growing concentration of land and wealth in the hands of industrialists drove millions of poor to the subsistence level. From 1978–80 workers in heavily industrialized São Paulo participated in massive strikes that transformed the union structure and led to the formation of the Workers' Party and the combative national Confederation of Workers' Unions. Rural unions were also reorganized, motivated by the struggle for land, and during the 1980s sugar cane cutters of the northeast gained significant advances.
In response to the nation's economic hardship, Church leaders undertook several bold initiatives, some of which met strong opposition from both the Brazilian government and Vatican officials who considered such initiatives theologically or pastorally unfounded. Undergirding these hotly debated initiatives was liberation theology, a doctrine developed by Franciscan theologian Leonardo Boff and others.
Social ministries of the Church, such as Catholic Action, were congenial to the development of liberation theology. Conceived within an ecumenical horizon that already existed in embryo within the evangelical churches from the early 1960s, Catholic theologians began relating the sufferings of the poor in their struggles for liberation to the Word of God, convinced that the Spirit was active in the world and that Jesus of Nazareth was identified with the poor and marginalized in history. In Brazil liberation theology came to examine the relationship of the church to the nation's economy, ecology and culture. It also gave an impetus to feminist theology, highlighting the experiences of women in the social movements as well as in the more inculturated forms of religious life. The Holy See moved from an initial attitude of encouragement and approval of this consideration toward one of restraint and even, on occasion, direct intervention. Pope John Paul II, visiting Brazil in July 1980, confirmed his support for the cause of justice as well as for the practical pastoral position of Church leaders in responding to poverty in Brazil. By 1985 however, the position of the Church was somewhat mixed. A number of Brazilians had joined other Latin American theologians in writing a "summa" of liberation theology; their aim to rethink Catholic theology from the perspective of liberation. The Roman Magisterium expressed reservations regarding this project, and in 1986 Pope John Paul II condemned the theology's Marxist underpinnings while stating that "liberation theology is not only opportune but also useful and necessary." Strong in their convictions, Brazilian bishops led the fight for land reform through the Pastoral Land Commission, facing violence and sometimes even death. In rural communities, 1,800 people lost their lives while advocating for the redistribution of landed wealth.
Into the 21st Century. By the year 2000 there were 8,243 parishes tended by 8,210 diocesan and 7,375 religious priests. Other religious included approximately 2,270 brothers and 35,900 sisters, who engaged in humanitarian works and operated Brazil's 2,333 primary and 1,059 secondary schools (Catholic education was eliminated from the public school system in 1997). Greatly due to the efforts of religious, by 2000, 83 percent of Brazilians could both read and write. Through participation in such organizations as the Indigenous Missionary Council, Catholics continued their longtime advocacy on behalf of Brazil's native tribes, while maintaining a crucial advocacy role in numerous other social programs. The Child Pastoral Commission's 140,000 volunteers provided much-needed health care and food to the children of Brazil's poor. In addition, efforts were made to aid the Church in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. Church leaders remained outspoken on the domestic front, issuing a statement in 1997 criticizing the economic policy of then-President Cardoso as beneficial only to "businessmen, bankers, big land owner, and [certain] politicians." In addition, an increasingly liberalized government broke with Church teachings through such legislation as allowing abortions when fetuses exhibited genetic defects and reducing the punishment for euthenasia. While Brazil remained an overwhelmingly Catholic country, it was estimated that only 20 percent of all Catholics regularly practiced their faith.
Bibliography: p. e. arns, Brasil, Nunca Mais: um relato para a história (Petrópolis 1985). m. azevedo, Comunidades Eclesiais de Base e Inculturação (São Paulo 1986). j. o. beozzo, A Igreja do Brasil: de João XXIII a João Paulo II, de Medellin a Santo Domingo (São Paulo 1994); "Historia da Igreja Catolica no Brasil," in Curso do Verão, Ano III (São Paulo 1989) 120–176. s. bernal, CNBB: Da Igreja da Cristandade à Igreja dos Pobres (São Paulo 1989). l. boff, Eclesiogênese: as Comunidades Eclesiais de Base Reinventam a Igreja (Petrópolis 1986). p. casaldÁliga, Na Procura do Reino: antologia de textos 1968–1988 (São Paulo 1988). j. comblin, O Espírito Santo e a Libertção (Petrópolis 1987). j. b. libÂnio, A Volta à Grande Disciplina (São Paulo 1983). s. mainwaring, Igreja Catolica e Política no Brasil: 1916–1985 (São Paulo 1989). c. mesters, Flor Sem Defesa: uma Explicação da Bíblia a partir do Povo (Petrópolis 1984). d. regan, Church for Liberation, a Pastoral Portrait of the Church in Brazil (Dublin 1985). j. m. sung, Teologia e Economia: Repensando a Teologia da Libertação e Utopias (Petrópolis 1994).
[w. t. reinhard/eds.]
"Brazil, The Catholic Church in." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 26, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/brazil-catholic-church
"Brazil, The Catholic Church in." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 26, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/brazil-catholic-church
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