Dados n. 11 Rio de Janeiro 1973

Sobre a lógica do Catolicismo Popular

Guimarães, Alba Zaluar


This article discusses some of the ideas prevailing in sociological studies on popular catholicism in Brazil. These studies define popular catholicism as a religion characterized by an utilitarian and practical attitude to the saints in which a moral attitude is absent. This opposition between utilitarian vs moral orientation derives from the classical distinction between magic and religion which is particularly marked in Weber's studies on religion. Following the Durkheimian perspective prevailing in modem anthropology, the author tries to understand the internal logic of popular Catholicism using data collected in several community studies realized in the 1940s and 1950s in rural Brazil. ln these communities, the assymetrical relationships between the members of the different social classes, and the relationships between the individuals and the saints, presented similar characteristics: the unequal distribution of power and resources, especially of the land, made the underprivileged dependent upon the privileged. Tenants, rural workers and rubber gatherers maintained relationships of personal dependence with their patrons, to whom they owed loyalty and obedience and from whom they expected protection. This personal dependence repeats itself in the relationships between the individual and the saint: he gives devotion to the saint and respects his laws, and he expects the saint's protection. ln other words, the structural positions occupied by the saints and their faithful devouts, on the one hand, and by the powerful patrons and their dependents on the other, are homologous. Through the analysis of some basic categories of popular catholicism namely evil, punishment, promise and miracle - the author intends to consider this religion as a cosmology, i. e., as a system oi interpretation of ordinary and extraordinary events in which the social order is fused to the natural order itself of the universe. Within the cultural schemes of these communities, all events containing an element of indetermination have their solution remitted to a moral system, to the fulfillment of obligations to the saints. This is in its turn the fulfillment of ritual obligations to the neighbours. It is because the saints symbolize the ties that unite people and because they are the mediators between people, that the obligations of men to the saints are in fact the obligations of men to each other. On the other hand, considered as rituals, festivities in honour of the saints symbolically express the ideal relationships between those who are locally categorized as rich and poor, thus legitimizing such divisions. Social differences and the relationships which maintain them are then presented as natural and sacred.

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Sobre a lógica do Catolicismo Popular