This interpretative “essay” is a tract for the times of Martin Luther King and Dom Helder Cêmara. It sets popular Catholicism in the context of recent Catholic theology. As against the fife-and-drum historiography of Varnhagen, it cleaves to the school of Capistrano, “o mais caboclo dos nossos historiadores,” (J. H. Rodrigues). Through the prism “the oppressed” might have used, Hoorneart looks at familiar historical data and makes them shine anew.

First off in warrior Catholicism, the Amerinds made the vain attempt to flee from the grim choice to “accept baptism or be exterminated.” As a factor in their physical extinction, Hoornaert ignores disease entirely. As for their cultural death, it was brought on by European missionaries’ belief, “We grant the right to live to others, provided they want to live like us.” He characterizes the “Henriques” who fought against the Dutch, the French, and lastly against rebels in Rio Grande do Sul as “individuos pobres e marginalizados a serviço do grupo aristocrático: eis o ideal dos promotores da guerra santa no Brasil.”

The second Catholicism is the patriarchal one. Its great power had no counterpart in Spanish America. It kept people of color out of the priesthood, it obtained the expulsion of the Jesuits, and it preserved the blacks’ popular culture from extinction by canonical prescription. Conglomeração sums up patriarchal Catholicism not Freyre’s confraternização.

Se Deus quiser is the quintessence of the third Catholicism, the people’s religion. The powers-that-be used such overwhelming force to put down popular uprisings that to this day the trauma of repression informs popular culture and integrates its own repression. Conformity, patience, even fatalism, yet at critical though fleeting moments, the downtrodden rise and call upon God the Father to realize the justice of human brotherhood; then conventional wisdom again takes over, “o pobre nasceu para sofrer mesmo.”

The popular form, in Hoornaert’s compassionate view, holds the past and future key to Catholic redemption. His argument from history is subtle and well worth our consideration. The same holds true for his distinction between false and true syncretism. He draws on recent Dutch, French, and German writers. His small book is a gem of historical synthesis and analysis.