Concurrent with the spread since World War II of military dictatorships based on the doctrine of national security, significant segments of the Christian churches in Latin America have challenged the increased oppression of the masses needed to impose the economic policies of these dictatorships. The Catholic Church, traditionally committed to legitimizing whatever regime holds power, has been torn asunder by this challenge to defend the social human rights (food, clothing, shelter, education, dignity) of the poor.

In Brazil, the challenge came with the counterrevolution of 1964. The bishops, leaders of the institutionalized Church, vacillated. Within five years, however, the lines were clearly drawn. With the consolidation of the dictatorship by Institutional Act No. 5, the Brazilian bishops, ecumenically supported by progressive elements in the Protestant churches, adopted a clear position of resistance, today led most vigorously by Cardinal Arns in strike-ridden São Paulo. No other Latin American hierarchy has equalled the determination of the Brazilians.

Paulo José Krischke, a graduate of the University of São Paulo, with advanced degrees from York University, Canada, and now a professor at the National University of Mexico, brings together in this book a series of studies he published between 1968 and 1978 in North America and Europe. Censorship had previously prevented the publication of such analyses in Brazil, and, in consequence, Dr. Krischke fills a major gap in the professional literature by giving us these contemporary evaluations of the complex factors that determined at each moment Church-state relations.

Given the primary role played today by the Catholic Church in defense of the masses against the elitist economic policies of the national security state, this book is essential reading for all interested in the future of Brazil. It should be complemented by Rubem Alves’s Protestantismo e Repressão (Editora Vozes, Petrópolis, R.J.), a magnificent evaluation by a Brazilian Presbyterian theologian of the failure of the Protestant churches in Brazil to live up to their vocation to protest when people are treated as manipulatable things.