According to Jung Mo Sung, a Catholic lay theologian and professor at the Methodist University of São Paulo, it’s wrong to blame Liberation Theology for this transformation of the religious landscape.
“Decades ago, 90 percent of the Brazilian people professed Catholicism because this was the cultural norm, but actual participation in the Church was very low,” he told Crux.
“In the beginning of the 1980s, when there was a boom of basic ecclesial communities [theologically nurtured by Liberation Theology], the number of people active in the Catholic Church, mainly in the [working-class] suburbs, became gigantic,” Mo Sung continued.
Basic ecclesial communities are neighborhood-based entities that meet for scripture study and other activities, including social activism. Although some existed before the Second Vatican Council, the movement took off after the 1960s in Latin America.
The number of basic ecclesial communities in poor neighborhoods and rural areas throughout the country in the 1980s reached 100,000, he explained, adding that “if it wasn’t for Liberation Theology [and its pastoral counterpart], Evangelical churches would be even bigger today.”