It has been said that no place on the globe has had a greater influence on the “social teaching” of the Catholic Church than Latin America. The powerful institutional structure of the Church, the startling contrast between affluence and poverty, and the vibrant sense of popular activism and religion have combined to make the countries of Central and South America a testing ground for new and bold theological ideas concerning freedom, peace, and justice.

This paper is a study of how the term “development” has influenced Catholic social teaching and its implementation in Latin America. I argue that despite its limitations and the hesitation to apply it to the Latin American situation in the past, the term “development”, understood broadly, continues to offer a framework for understanding how economic, cultural, and spiritual elements can combine to promote justice and peace in Latin America. I consider the various economic, cultural, and theological nuances of the term as they emerge through the documents of the Second Vatican Council, papal social encyclicals, and writings of the various conferences of Latin American Bishops, including the meetings of the General Council at Medellín (1968) and Puebla (1979).


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pp. 49-74
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