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Catholicism, Central America, and United States Politics During the Cold War, 1943-1988

thesis
posted on 2011-12-09, 00:00 authored by Charles Thomas Strauss
This dissertation explores how religion shaped United States foreign policy on Central America during the second half of the twentieth century. Historians have convincingly shown how ideological considerations acquired a primacy over practical matters in the making of United States policy on Central America during the Cold War. However, discussions about ideology have overlooked how the religious commitments and affiliations of policy elites informed their positions on Central America. The dissertation argues that the Catholic missionary enterprise, in particular, shaped the discourse on United States relations with Guatemala. From the 1940s until the late 1960s, the United States Catholic Church and the United States government shared an anticommunist mission in Central America and collaborated on development projects. Beginning in the late 1960s and continuing through the 1980s, a subset of Catholic missionaries and their advocacy networks in Washington, D.C. took a more critical stance on United States military interventions and development programs. Some former missionaries led mass protests of United States policy that they saw as antithetical to Catholic teaching. Others engaged in traditional political advocacy and proposed alternative development strategies. Both groups lobbied politicians and were crucial players in the grassroots movement that opposed President Ronald Reagan's Central American policy. At the same time prominent Catholic conservatives challenged missionaries who opposed United States foreign policy. Thus, the dissertation explains the increasing politicization of the United States Catholic Church after World War II in regard to development in Central America and the role of the Catholic Church in the conservative shift in United States politics during the same period.

History

Date Modified

2017-06-02

Defense Date

2011-08-15

Research Director(s)

John T. McGreevy

Committee Members

Christian Smith Mark A. Noll Edward (Ted) Beatty

Degree

  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Language

  • English

Alternate Identifier

etd-12092011-022341

Publisher

University of Notre Dame

Program Name

  • History (HIST)

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