Separation of Church and State in Latin America
Throughout Latin American history, the Roman Catholic Church has played a tumultuous role, from passive "soul saving" to aggressive revolutionary actions. As the countries have turned toward democracy the Catholic Church has had to recognize that along with modernization comes the promotion of two democratic ideals: the separation of Church and State and the endorsement of secularization. While many countries are still working toward a separation of Church and State, Costa Rica, a long-time democratic country, has continued to recognize Roman Catholicism as the official religion of the country and to look to church and clergy for support. Though the Costa Rican Church is removed from the political spotlight, it has not backed down from its doctrine and goals, and the Church and State have created a unique relationship that seems to benefit all peoples.
Although the Catholic Church has varied somewhat throughout different parts of the world, the fundamental doctrines regarding social and behavioral expectations have remained relatively untouched. The ideals of tradition and purity still resound within the walls of Catholic churches everywhere. Catholicism is a religion based on ritual with precise words that are to be recited at every mass, baptism, communion, confession, and marriage ceremony. The only ingredient a good Catholic needs in order to share in these traditions and gifts of God is faith. Fortunately, the Church has formulated a number of rules to guide its followers down the difficult path to true faith. Like most Christian religions, the Catholic faith centers its beliefs on the Bible and the teachings of the early Church fathers. Certain parables are extracted from the Bible to be read on special holy days. These parables teach lessons that are to be incorporated into the Christian life, lessons such as piety, trust in God, honesty, purity, love, humility, hope, and selflessness. One must love ones enemy and not judge others. A true Christian must repent of his/her sins and constantly struggle to do the will of God. Catholics believe that a person is born sinning and will die sinning; the only hope for redemption is by confessing ones sins, praying for forgiveness, and continuously trying to live in the way God commands. The reward for this struggle is not in life, but in the life to come, the life after death. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, society as we know it will always be in a state of chaos, will always be sinful, even if the entire world converts to Catholicism. Within the Catholic Church, there is no goal comparable to that of reaching the Kingdom of Heaven. In order to reach that goal, rules and regulations, established by God and the Church, must be followed. The rules cannot be changed or voted out by the people.
In contrast to the authoritarian structure of the Catholic Church, democracy means to be ruled by the people (Webster, 206). A democratic...