The church in Brazil: Folk Catholicism and ethnic assimilation
This chapter presents the ways in which Catholic universalism, manifested through the ideological and organizational-ritual structure of the Church, promoted the social and cultural integration of the population in the religious sphere proper, and, over the longer term, in the wider society. By contrast, the greater doctrinal and procedural flexibility of Luso-Brazilian Catholicism occasioned its greater receptiveness towards the cultural contributions of the various ethnic communities, leading to their eventual integration into the total culture. The chapter examines the way in which the hegemonic religious system and culture of the society worked to shape the material structures of the slavery institution. It considers the social impact of religion, by identifying its effects on the assimilation and acculturation of the African element, both slave and free. A ramification of the Portuguese colonial control of Brazilian society was the baroque quality of the dominant Catholic culture.