Defending Human Rights Through Social Action: The Role of the Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1960s–1980s


  • Madelyn Evans McGill University


Since the earliest days of colonization, religion – in particular, the Roman Catholic Church – has been a driving force in the Latin American politics, economics, and society. As the region underwent frequent political instability and high levels of violence, the Church remained a steady, powerful force in society. This paper will explore the relationship between the Catholic Church and the struggle to defend human rights during the particularly oppressive era of bureaucratic-authoritarianism in Latin America throughout the 1960s–1980s. This paper seeks to demonstrate that the Church undertook the struggle to protect human rights because its modernized social mission sought to support the oppressed suffering from the political, economic, and social status quo. In challenging the legitimacy of the ruling national security ideology and illuminating the moral dimensions of violence, the Catholic Church became a crucial constructive agent in spurring social change, mitigating the effects of violence, and setting a democratic framework for the future.


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