Aiming to provide a complete history of the Catholic Church in modern Peru, this detailed study examines the roots of the Peruvian church from the post-colonial period of the 1820s to the Pope's first visit in 1985. This social history explores the different ways in which the church has responded to political and social movements in Peru since its independence in 1821. Jeffrey Klaiber, analyzes the church's role as a conservative force in 19th-century politics, as well as its special place as a symbol of tradition and the role it has served among the poor. Klaiber also chronicles the growth of religious orders: why they were established in Peru, what social role they filled, and what impact they had on Peruvian society. Describing the church's reaction to new movements of the 20th century, such as workers, Apristas, and the reformist military under Velasco, the author uncovers key themes in contemporary history and probes the origins of liberation theology and the emergence of the progresssive church. "The Church in Peru" also undertakes a thorough discussion of the full array of other new movements including the development of both the charismatic and Marriage Encounter movements.
Based upon 19th-century documents located in church archives, letters, pamphlets, newspapers, and numerous interviews with contemporary actors such as the founders of Catholic Action and liberation theology (including Father Gustavo Gutierrez), "The Church in Peru" demonstrates that Peru's social and political history cannot be understood apart from the Catholic Church. As Peru becomes increasingly engulfed in terrorist violence, religion and the church remain the only vital forces that lend cohesion and strength to the poor of the country. Klaiber here explains why, in the midst of turmoil, the poor continue to carry on and to resist terrorism and military violence as a means of improving their lot and why the church legitimizes grassroots democracy.