We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Costa Rican Catholic Church, Social Justice, and the Rights of Workers, 1979-1996

Dana Sawchuk

Publication Year: 2004

Provides a new understanding of the relationship between Church and State in 20th-century Costa Rica.

Understanding the relationship between religion and social justice in Costa Rica involves piecing together the complex interrelationships between Church and State — between priests, popes, politics, and the people. This book does just that.

Dana Sawchuk chronicles the fortunes of the country’s two competing forms of labour organizations during the 1980s and demonstrates how different factions within the Church came to support either the union movement or Costa Rica’s home-grown Solidarity movement.

Challenging the conventional understanding of Costa Rica as a wholly peaceful and prosperous nation, and traditional interpretations of Catholic Social Teaching, this book introduces readers to a Church largely unknown outside Costa Rica. Sawchuk has carefully analyzed material from a multitude of sources — interviews, newspapers, books, and articles, as well as official Church documents, editorials, and statements by Church representativesto provide a firmly rooted socio-economic history of the experiences of workers, and the Catholic Church’s responses to workers in Costa Rica.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Editions SR

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (37.2 KB)
pp. iii-iv


pdf iconDownload PDF (65.6 KB)
pp. vii-viii


pdf iconDownload PDF (42.0 KB)
pp. ix-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (53.1 KB)
pp. xi-xii

Many people in many places generously lent me their time, assistance, and support while I was writing this book. At the outset, I must thank the residents of Finca 11 and Finca 6 in Río Frío, Sarapiquí, Costa Rica. It was they who, long before I had the idea to undertake a formal investigation of the Costa Rican Catholic Church, introduced me to their beautiful country with warmth and hospitality. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (52.3 KB)
pp. xiii-xiv

In 1993, I spent a year working in the public schools of a banana plantation in Costa Rica. At that time, I had just defended a master's thesis on the Latin American Church—but had never been to Latin America. By that time, I could translate Church documents from Spanish to English—but could barely converse in the language. ...

read more

1: Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF (117.2 KB)
pp. 1-19

Since the 1960s, scholars have been fascinated by the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and politics in Latin America. The emergence of liberation theology, the conversion of certain national Churches and many individual members of the clergy to the “option for the poor,” and the participation of thousands of Church...

read more

2: Crisis in Costa Rica

pdf iconDownload PDF (91.2 KB)
pp. 21-32

During the 1970s, Costa Rica was often considered to be exceptional among Central and South American nations. Costa Rica was the suiza centroamericana (Central American Switzerland) without an army. It was a “showcase for democracy” without dictators. ...

read more

3: The Unions in the Face of the Crisis

pdf iconDownload PDF (96.8 KB)
pp. 33-45

The economic crisis in the late 1970s did not come at the best of times for the Costa Rican union movement. Having peaked in influence among workers, in organization, and in strike activity during the first half of the century, the movement entered into a period of decline in the 1950s and 1960s, experienced a slight resurgence (mainly in the banana sectors) in the 1970s...

read more

4: Official Catholic Social Teaching on Workers' Issues

pdf iconDownload PDF (179.1 KB)
pp. 47-80

Since Leo XIII issued his famous encyclical Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labour)1 over one hundred years ago, the theme of work has figured prominently in the Catholic social teaching tradition.2 While Catholic social teaching documents have routinely condemned the overly harsh or unjust conditions to which workers are often subjected...

read more

5: Monseñor Arrieta and CECOR

pdf iconDownload PDF (154.4 KB)
pp. 81-107

After the 1952 death of Monseñor Sanabria, the outspoken Church leader and vigorous proponent of social reform, the Costa Rican bishops (collectively known as CECOR) fell into a so-called long period of silence regarding social and political issues. This era, which spanned the tenures of both Monseñors Odio (1952–59) and Rodríguez...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (134.5 KB)
pp. 109-130

The Centro Coordinador de Evangelización y Realidad Social—better known in Costa Rica by its acronym, CECODERS—was created in 1984 by a decree of the Fifth Archdiocesan Synod.1 The centre was part of the archdiocese’s Vicaría de Pastoral Social, itself formed by synodal decree to co-ordinate the efforts of all of the Church’s social pastoral agencies...

read more

7: Limón Province

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.1 KB)
pp. 131-140

If one word were to describe both the Costa Rican province of Limón and the Catholic Church in Limón, that word would be “marginalized.” Limón province is the country’s poorest region; located on Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast, it stands apart from San José and the central valley politically and culturally as well as economically. ...

read more

8: The ESJ23

pdf iconDownload PDF (126.5 KB)
pp. 141-161

The Escuela Social Juan XXIII (ESJ23, John XXIII Social School) was established in 1963 by Monseñor Rodríguez (1960–79) as an official Church agency charged with the responsibility to “teach, defend and diffuse Catholic social doctrine and to coordinate all the works of Catholic Social Action in the Archdiocese [of San José].”1 ...

read more

9: The Official Church in Limón

pdf iconDownload PDF (140.9 KB)
pp. 163-185

The case of the official Church in Limón can be considered the opposite of that presented in the previous chapter. Where the pastoral obrera of the ESJ23 is conservative, that of the Limón Church is liberationist. In this chapter, I explore the forms that this official workers’ pastorate takes in Limón and seek to uncover the reasons for their progressivism. ...

read more

10: Liberationist and Conservative Catholicisms in Costa Rica and Beyond

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.2 KB)
pp. 187-197

In this study, I have analyzed the Catholic Church in Costa Rica and the variety of positions its representatives have produced on social justice and workers’ issues between 1979 and 1996. Against a background of contemporary Costa Rican social history, the institutional exigencies of the Church organization, and Vatican and Latin American Catholic social teaching...


pdf iconDownload PDF (197.4 KB)
pp. 199-235


pdf iconDownload PDF (130.4 KB)
pp. 237-258


pdf iconDownload PDF (130.2 KB)
pp. 259-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780889209343
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889204454
Print-ISBN-10: 0889204454

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Editions SR