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Catholicism and Human Rights in Haiti: Past, Present, and Future

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This article surveys the relationship between Catholicism and human rights during four periods of Haitian history: (1) the colonial era of plantation slavery; (2) the 'antisuperstitious' campaigns from 1898 to 1943; (3) the dictatorship of François Duvalier from 1957–1971; and (4) the rise and fall of liberation theology in Haiti from the mid 1970s to the present. My primary argument is that despite a generally deplorable Catholic track record vis-à-vis human rights, there has also been a consistent ethical tributary of Catholic struggle for social justice in this poor Caribbean nation. Its strongest current fed the church-based activism that helped topple the dynastic Duavlier regime in 1986—a current that has since weakened in part due to the emergence of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Prospects for a liberationist renewal within the Renewal, however, could dictate the future of the Haitain Catholic Church's engagement in the struggle for human rights.

Affiliations: 1: Temple University


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