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  • Thumbnail for The Chilean Catholic Church under authoritarianism : a study in strategic unity as exemplified by Archbishop Silva
    The Chilean Catholic Church under authoritarianism : a study in strategic unity as exemplified by Archbishop Silva by Stocker, Bernadette

    Pinochet gained power in 1973 in a coup that followed a period of rapid democratization that had culminated in Salvador Allende’s socialist democracy. In response to society’s new focus on equality during this period, the Church developed a progressive social doctrine that sided with the oppressed masses who had gained power for the first time. When the military junta took power, the Church suddenly had to choose between its new democratic ideals and its historic Latin American strategy of siding with the group in power. Its indecision resulted in a painfully divided compromise between two clearly opposed sides of the Church hierarchy. The upper echelon of the hierarchy, by remaining generally cooperative with the military regime, ensured institutional survival. The lower echelon of the hierarchy, by opposing the regime, kept the Church relevant to the masses that would someday regain power. The disunity within the Chilean hierarchy allowed for new and necessary flexibility that ensured both the Church’s institutional and popular survival under authoritarian rule. However, it was the careful strategy of Archbishop Silva that maintained the necessary unity that allowed the Church to utilize its internal factionalization to survive both the aggression of the dictatorship and the needs of its congregation, and ultimately maintain a critical degree of unity.