Missing Code Language

The code words for Protestants coined by Pope John XXIII, “separated brethren,” never appear in this section. Instead concern is expressed for the rapid growth of “free religious movements” and their proselytism. The bishops believe that Latin Americans belong to the Catholic church because “the continent was evangelized during the colonial period.” However, both ecclesiastical and secular historians often question the evangelization carried out by Spanish conquerors who, they say, came for gold, glory, and God, in that order.

The document’s stance toward the “free religious movements” is: study their appeal to the masses, and especially their “lively liturgy, felt sense of brotherhood, and active missionary participation.” Months prior to the Puebla conference, priests questioned leading evangelical preachers and movements in Latin America about their methods, for reports to the bishops.

But a tightening within the Catholic community in Latin America is also indicated. Catholics should be warned, says the document, about other religious forms and “the distortions they carry regarding a living expression of the Christian faith.”

Banned liberation theologians had a greater influence on the conference than was grasped by many conservative bishops. Progressive bishops brought thirty-eight sympathetic theologians who met in an outside think tank while the sessions were in progress. Bishops solicited their suggestions, and sometimes returned with sections composed by the excluded liberation theologians for incorporation into the final document. Exulted Brazilian liberation expert Hugo Assmann: “We were not condemned here as we had expected. Instead this document goes farther than the one put together in Medellín ...

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