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Opting for Democracy?

Liberation Theology and the Struggle for Democracy in Brazil


Iain S. Maclean

Liberation theology is often characterized as rejecting democracy and, based upon their option for the poor, advocating a form of socialism. This claim is challenged through an analysis of the works of Brazilian liberation theologians, Catholic social teaching, and studies on the base community movements in Brazil from the imposition of military rule through democratization (1964-1992). Liberation theologians initially rejected liberal democracy, but by the nineties were advocating a participatory and ecological democracy. However, they differed on how such a democracy was to be achieved in the competitive political party arena. In addition, increasing ecclesiastical opposition and the collapse of existent socialist regimes marginalized liberation theologians' vision of an inclusive, participatory democracy.