Social History of the Catholic Church in Chile Volume I: The First Period of the Pinochet Government

Author: Aguilar, Mario I.
Year:2004
Pages:234
ISBN:0-7734-6245-7
978-0-7734-6245-8
Price:179.95
This first volume of a social history of the Catholic Church in Chile describes and interprets the historiography of bishops, priests, religious, Christian communities and lay people during the years 1973-1980 by the use of ecclesiastical primary sources and oral testimonies. In 1973, Augusto Pinochet led a military coup that had enormous repercussions for the history of Chile and for the pastoral actions of the Catholic Church led by Cardinal Silva Henriquez. This book examines the historiography of the period in the context of the universal church, the Latin American churches and the development of a very strong network of parish communities that sheltered the persecuted and defended the right of the Church to speak against a totalitarian state. Its author has used a significantly large number of unpublished and unknown primary historical sources that make this volume the most significant historical work in English for the history of the Chilean Church from the military coup to the approval of the new Chilean Constitution in 1980. It includes an examination of legal documentation related to the first findings of human remains of political prisoners at Lonquen and it analyses the role of the Church within that social process.

Reviews

“I am delighted to be able to introduce this volume that covers the first period of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, 1973-1980. As one of those thousands of Chileans in exile and as a historian of Latin America that has worked on the history of this period I have read with great interest and feeling this work by Dr Mario I. Aguilar. This work explores the role of the Catholic Church within the dramatic period that started with the military coup in Chile that took place on the 11th of September 1973. In this book the Catholic Church comes out as a collective actor through the voice and actions of her Cardinal and her bishops … accordingly many voices and many texts appear in this book: priests, religious - male and female-, Basic Christian Communities, parishioners from the urban peripheries, and lay people, all committed to the work of the Church. Such work included helping, defending and protecting those persecuted by the military regime and those that suffered poverty and hunger because of neo-liberal economic policies. In my opinion this book constitutes an invaluable contribution to further understanding of tensions, leaderships and narratives of a painful period in the history of Chile. However, this book also provides a new and pioneering methodology for the study of the history of the Church in Chile. The author locates the Chilean Church within the context of the universal Church and of the Latin American Church since Vatican II, as well as within the social context, the economic policies and the ideological discourse of the military regime. Thus, by means of a sharp analysis and critique Dr. Mario Aguilar navigates complex historical scenarios related to the Church and the people of God. Within those scenarios bishops, priests and religious embrace persecution, sacrifices and death in order to protect those persecuted by the regime becoming themselves enemies of that military regime. The amount of primary and secondary sources in this book is extraordinary. Together with the interviews conducted in many occasions and in situ in Chile by the author they provide a book with the highest academic standard. I am sure that the following volumes, that we expectantly await, will have the same high quality of research as this work that I have had the privilege to read and to present to the academic community.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Professor Dr. Hugo Cancino Aalborg, University Denmark

“This book is the result of painstaking archival research and an enormous knowledge of recent Chilean history. It demonstrates in fluent and at times gripping prose the difficult and complex situation of the Catholic Church facing the ruthless dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. It discusses the discussions and ambiguities within the Church and it clearly shows the problems encountered by the Church trying to find answers to dramatically changing political circumstances. It focuses on the activities of the Chilean Church hierarchy, which -contrary to what happened in for instance Argentina -used its moral authority to defend democracy and human rights. At the same time, it highlights the courageous posture of many individual men and women who under extremely difficult circumstances tried to save what was left of respect for human dignity. The book shows the individual efforts to cope with an extremely complex and dangerous political situation, without losing out of sight the general scope of events. In this way, it presents an eminently humanist vision of this historical period.” – Prof. Dr. Michiel Baud, Director of Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA) and Professor of Latin American Studies, University of Amsterdam

“Mario Aguilar is uniquely well placed to tell the story of Church-State relations in a time dictatorship and violence unprecedented in Chile's twentieth century history. He recounts the courage of Church leaders and the suffering of the victims of repression with sensitivity and insight. His book will be the standard source on this subject for a long time to come.” – David Lehmann, Reader in Social Science, University of Cambridge

"These two volumes will be necessary additions tot he theology, history and Latin American studies sections of college and university libraries." - Catholic Book Reviews

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Preface
Introduction: A Social History of the Chilean Church in Context
The Military Coup
The Committee for Peace (1974)
The Sheltering of the Persecuted (1975)
The Birth of the Vicarate of Solidarity (1976)
Contested Visions for Chile (1977)
The Year of Human Rights (1978)
From Puebla to Lonquén: The End of the Beginning
Appendix: Chilean Episcopal Conference Committee 1972–1981
Bibliography
Index