people are camped out for weeks, months, even years on a piece of land waiting to be given legal access to it—when they sense that they need faith in order to carry out and achieve what they want. In general, it’s in the most difficult situations they encounter that faith is the strongest.
Are the movements suffering?
Given all the mixed statements from CPT, movement, and Church leaders regarding the nature of progressive organizing today and how it has or has not been affected by the Church changes, interviews in the research process began to point specifically towards the question of whether or not the Church changes have had a decisively negative effect on the movements—if the movements are less capable of doing their work because of conservative shifts in the Church. While this question rarely received decisive or precise answers, one clarifying statement came from the youngest CPT leader interviewed. This leader said that Church changes have definitely had an effect on the movements, though not a totally disempowering effect. It’s not that the movements would weaken without the Church, but they might advance more with the support of the Church. However, as he explained, the CPT is part of the Church, and by continuing the CPT work they continue this strengthening of the movements. Yet the movements could certainly be even stronger if the whole Church was on board.
In a slightly more pessimistic tone, the former priest who works for Copserviços described current movements as “subterranean,” and maintained that they have become significantly weaker without support of the Church.
Concerns for the next generation
One interesting concern that came through in several interviews, though it was not specifically asked about, had to with what will happen for the next generation of movement leaders. The leader at Copserviços, the older leaders of the CPT, and the priest all expressed doubt for future Church support for social movements based on the fact that older, generally more progressive priests and nuns are leaving their posts and being replaced by new Church members who were formed in a totally different, and more conservative, theology than they themselves were trained in. All these men received some training to become priests, one has been a priest, and one still is; all remember well the days when liberation theology was part of a new padre’s training course.
6. Discussion and Analysis In order to discuss the significance of these results, it is necessary to first review the three-part significance of liberation theology defined above. Liberation theology can be seen as a theory, a practice, and
an element of history. Looking at it as a theory means recognizing how Church leaders and affiliates talk Sharp 16