powerful as it once had been—an evaluation which for the purposes of this study serves as a rough measurement of such actors’ effect on the movements at large. Yet there is also meaning in the fact that the interviewees view their work in this way. Without even knowing the degree to which past liberation theology organizing may or may not have affected society at large, the secondary source research shows an overwhelming conviction on the part of those past theologians and organizers that their ideology was capable of causing wide-spread social change. From official Church documents to statements by priests in the countryside, the huge spectrum of Catholic leaders talking about the Church’s role in social movements appears to have created a self-supporting cycle of people who believed in their work because they knew other people did too. Although the organizers and Church leaders interviewed in this study still seem to be convinced of the importance of their work, they do not seem confident in the overall power of Church-based work at large. This lack of confidence seems partly due to an alienation from the Church, and a sense on the part of older organizers that there is little hope for a progressive Church in the future.
A comment from the staff member at Copserviços seems to encapsulate the situation well. This interviewee said that liberation theology is still very much alive, and a relevant part of history, but it no longer is talked about publicly. Social action is not discussed prominently as something that must be done, and is being done, as part of a Church mission to carry out the commandments of Christ, largely because it was the top Church leadership who spread this message. Secondary-source research suggests that the theory of liberation theology, when supported by the majority of the Catholic hierarchy, helped invigorate and inspire Church agents and gave them a sense of presence in part of an international movement with major capacity to create change. While organizers today still clearly are motivated to do the work they do for the sake of changing society, and their religious faith is built into this, they no longer have the sense that their work is part of a Church-wide movement. In a way, this brings the present-day significance of liberation theology into question because of the deep contrast between the lack of conviction today and the apparently powerful conviction of the past for people doing religiously-based organizing.
Apart from this insight into the current nature of liberation theology, the interview results also help clarify the difference between work done by Church leaders themselves, such as priests and nuns, and by Church-affiliated groups, such as the CPT. In describing both the past work that the Church did and his own work today, the priest who was interviewed frequently talked about raising parishioners’ consciousness about their lives’ connection to local and national politics. The description of CEBs given by both the priest and CPT workers suggests that while CEBs may have been a starting point for connections that led to community organizations, these events themselves focused discussion about life, the Bible, and political interpretations thereof. Furthermore, they were led by Church leaders, not political organizers. Organizers and CPT workers were, in the meantime, helping put together organizations outside the Church and supporting those
organizations already in place. That is what they continue to do today. The specific example of the CEBs as Sharp 18