Last Sunday marked one of the sadder remembrances on both the Latin American and Roman Catholic calendars: The 25th anniversary of the brutal military massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter during El Salvador’s civil war.
And yet it's an apt coincidence that on the eve of the massacre memorial, the Pew Research Center in Washington D.C. has released a new survey that shows Latin Americans continue to bolt the Catholic church. Only 69 percent call themselves Catholic today, compared to more than 80 percent a couple decades ago.
What links the 1989 El Salvador atrocity and last week’s Pew report is the ongoing debate over liberation theology — the idea that the church should focus its efforts on social justice and aiding the poor. The utter lack of social justice in El Salvador was the cause of the civil war; the Jesuit priests’ promotion of liberation theology, and its reputation as veiled Marxism, prompted the army to murder them.
And since then, I believe, the Catholic church’s failure to prioritize at least the basic tenets of what those Jesuits were championing seems a big reason so many Latin Americans are no longer Catholics.
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