Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis


Latin American, Latino & Caribbean Studies

First Advisor

Marcelo Borges




In this work I examine the relationship between the Chilean Catholic Church and the socialist government of Salvador Allende (1970-1973) as well as the military government of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). In the years preceding Allende’s election, an ideological current emerged in Chilean religion and politics that emphasized a focus on social justice. This swell of leftist ideas created a tension within both the Church and the country that continued into Allende’s presidency. These conflicts were further exacerbated by the military coup in 1973, and the attitudes of laypeople and clergy toward the dictatorship were varied. Scholarship written before the country’s return to democracy as well as in the decades following identifies the Catholic Church as one of the most vocal groups in opposition to the military Junta led primarily by Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez. I problematize this portrayal by investigating documents produced by the Church hierarchy at this time in order to better understand the Church’s stances and political objectives. I conclude that the Church’s relationship with Pinochet’s government paralleled their relationship with Allende’s government, and that the Church’s words and actions reveal a strategic balancing act between political involvement and neutrality. These carefully reasoned stances allow the Church to advance its roles as mediator and peacekeeper.