The Catholic Church and violence in Latin America: a historical dilemma

Mülheim an der Ruhr | 26.11.2024 - 29.11.2024
Manager:Dr. Thomas Krüggeler
Spiritual companion:P. Prof. Dr. Thomas Eggensperger OP


Latin America and the Caribbean have been a region of the world characterised by violence since the conquest phase in the 15th and 16th centuries. The systems of oppression established by the European invaders laid the foundations for inequality, exploitation, repression and resistance, which continue to this day in many places, particularly at the regional and local levels. The Catholic Church was involved in the emerging structures from the very beginning, providing the religious legitimisation of the conquest on the one hand and seeking to close ranks with the powerful on the other. Only in individual cases did the clergy rebel and point out the contradictions between political and social realities and Christian doctrine. The close ties between state and church changed little with independence in the 19th century, as many political leaders saw the church as the important "glue" that would hold the society of the nation states together.
In Latin America today, dramas dominated by violence are taking place somewhat in the shadows of world politics and urgently require the spiritual and social intervention of the church. We need only mention drug wars, migration and the drifting apart of societies.

After the Second Vatican Council and with the development of theological approaches such as liberation theology (teología de la liberación) or indigenous theology (teología indígena), the Church has increasingly focussed on the issues of poverty and justice and is constructively involved in political conflict resolution in various countries. Building on such experiences, the seminar aims to identify areas of activity in which the church as a moral authority can contribute to more peace in Latin America.

To this end, the dilemma between the proclamation of the Gospel and the church's involvement in oppression and exploitation will be analysed. We will also ask representatives of sociology and theology what paths the church could take to contribute to building less violent societies.