The Roman Catholic Church

Dominican Republic Table of Contents

The Dominican Republic remained over 90 percent Roman Catholic in the late 1980s, despite major gains by Protestant groups, especially evangelical, charismatic, and spiritualist sects. The Dominican Roman Catholic Church was historically conservative and traditionalist; in general it supported the status quo and the existing power structure. The Roman Catholic Church was weak institutionally, however, with few priests (fewer than 200 in the entire country), little land, few educational or social institutions, and little influence over the daily lives of most Dominicans.

Since the 1960s, the Roman Catholic Church had ceased to identify wholly with the status quo. Rather, it tended to stand for moderate change. It organized mainstream Catholic political parties, trade unions, student groups, peasant leagues, and businessmen's associations.

Liberation theology had made few inroads in the Dominican Republic. A few priests espoused liberationist ideas, but they were not considered to be in the mainstream of the clergy. Nor had there been calls by church officials for an alliance with Marxist groups, let alone calls for guerrilla struggles or other militant action against the system.

As the Dominican Republic modernized and secularized, the church lost some of its influence. The country had legalized divorce in 1963 and had instituted government-sponsored family planning in 1967, two measures the church had opposed. The church seldom succeeded in mobilizing voters in support of its favored programs. With only about 10 percent of the population engaged as active, practicing Catholics, and with Protestant groups continuing to grow rapidly, political scientists estimated that the church had gone from being one of the top three most influential interest groups, in past decades, to about the sixth or the seventh by the late 1980s.

More about the Government and Politics of the Dominican Republic.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress