It is a fact we know intimately, and in this article from Our Sunday Visitor (subscription may be required) focusing on the faith in Latin America, the impact the secular friendly liberation theology had on the faith commitment of Catholics is very corrosive; as it continues to be in the hard pockets still clinging to its socialistic elements in the American Church.
“Until the late 1990s, the fad among Catholic bishops and scholars was to focus on the “threat” posed by the growing number of evangelical “sects” in the region. Extremely influential in fueling this concern was David Stoll’s book “Is Latin America Turning Protestant? The Politics of Evangelical Growth.”
“The Stanford graduate, an evangelical, argued that evangelicalism’s spiritual appeal is that it “calls into question the claims made for its great rival, the Marxist-tinged liberation theology that was the hope of the Catholic left.” By all appearances, wrote Stoll, “born-again religion has the upper hand.”
“In his 1991 book, Stoll assembled statistical extrapolations that led him to predict that evangelicalism would be the majority religion in countries such as Guatemala, Chile and Brazil by 2000.
“Thus tremendous attention was paid to the increase of Protestantism, a phenomenon many blamed not only on the lack of sufficient priests in the region, but also on the influence of liberation theology and its highly sociological message. The late Peruvian Jesuit theologian Francisco Interdonato noted in the same year that Stoll’s book was published that “there is no doubt that a map of where liberation theology has been most successfully promoted almost perfectly overlaps with a map of evangelical growth.”
“Stoll’s observation appears to be confirmed by a decrease of Catholics and an increase of evangelicals in Guatemala, Brazil, El Salvador, Peru and Bolivia; the countries where liberation theology had strong supporters among the clergy and religious....
"Brazil is the largest Catholic nation in the world: Some 159 million out of 189 million, according to the 2010 Catholic Almanac.
“Nevertheless, since the late 1980s, evangelical Protestantism has become the second-leading religion in Brazil. According to the 2000 census, the different evangelical denominations have grown from 9 percent to 15.1 percent in 10 years, while the number of Catholics has dropped from 83.7 to 73.7 percent.
“Since 2000, secularization has become the greatest challenge for all denominations. Recent polls show the number of self-proclaimed nonbelievers is growing at a faster pace than any other religious affiliation, especially in the wealthy and heavily populated southeast.
“Sao Paulo, for example has grown at a rate that has dramatically outpaced the construction of parishes. In the 1980s, the late Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, a strong supporter of liberation theology, chose promoting “ecclesial base communities” over building new Catholic churches, leaving Brazil’s largest and richest city devoid of parishes.
“At present, one can travel several miles in any direction in some neighborhoods before finding any Catholic parish. And because of high property values and increased construction costs in the city, there is no prospect of building any, thus turning Sao Paulo into the largest “churchless” urban area in Latin America.”