Cleavages of the cross: The Catholic Church from right to left in contemporary Colombia

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Steve Stein, Committee Chair


The Roman Catholic Church in Colombia has played an important role in that country's political and social development; however, positions taken by the Church have not always been consistent. This study argues that contemporary Colombian history can and should be understood in terms of Church-state relations, tensions and actors. After a period of complacency and hegemony (1885-1930), the Church became more a force of reaction in Colombia since it would be challenged by Liberal governmental policies, economic collapse, growing Protestantism and a perceived threat of Communism in the period after 1930.The Church, which tried and failed to solve social crises during the 1930s-1950s, would be challenged from within by the mobilization of radical priests, most notably Camilo Torres Restrepo. Torres's violent death at the hands of the Colombian Army in 1966 was an important factor in shaping the agenda of the famous 1968 Medellin Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM). Some Colombian priests, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, sought to re-create the program of Father Torres and, departing significantly from the texts of the Medellin meeting, advocated violent change and revolution to bring about meaningful social change in Colombia. These priests' groups (Golconda and SAL) were repressed by the State, a State which has been historically unable to mediate social, political or economic conflict.


Religion, History of; History, Latin American

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