The history and politics of Liberation Theology in Latin America and the Caribbean

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Arts (D.A.)



First Committee Member

Maureen Nutting - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Steve Stein - Committee Member


Contemporary Latin America and the Caribbean have been undergoing various changes in the area of their political direction. One reason for these changes has been the emergence of a new phenomenon called Liberation Theology among bishops and clergy of the Roman Catholic Church in particular. They see the poor in Latin America as the subjects of exploitation and oppression under a capitalist system of dependency, and they contend through various conciliar meetings (1962-1979) that a "preferential option for the poor" is necessary in order to transform church and society in their various territories. An amalgam of Christian ideas with Marxist analysis together with the establishment of Christian based communities and an emphasis on praxis is used in an effort to effect change in political direction.There is no lack of written material on the subject of liberation theology, beginning with the publication of Gustavo Gutierrez' book A Theology of Liberation (1973) all the way through contributions from supporters of the movement as well as critical material both friendly and antagonistic. The general consensus is that the basic tenets of the movement (preferential option for the poor, establishment of base communities and emphasis on theological praxis) are uniform throughout Latin America, but application of the principles differ according to one's location. The church has thus changed from its original stance of being allied to the state and the elite to siding with the poor with a practical expectation of a just liberated society.


History, Latin American; Theology

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