Rios et al., “The Catholic Church, moral doctrine, and HIV prevention in Recife, Brazil: Negotiating the contradictions between religious belief and the realities of everyday life”

December 8, 2011

Rios, Luis Felipe, Francisca Luciana de Aquino, Miguel Muñoz-Laboy, Laura R. Murray, Cinthia Oliveira, & Richard G. Parker (2011) “The Catholic Church, moral doctrine, and HIV prevention in Recife, Brazil: Negotiating the contradictions between religious belief and the realities of everyday life” Culture and Religion 12(4):355-372.

Abstract: Religious beliefs have had a key role in shaping local responses to HIV and AIDS. As the world’s largest Catholic country, Brazil is no exception. Yet little research has been conducted to document how religious doctrine is enacted in practice among its lay leaders and followers. In this article, we present ethnographic research from Recife, Brazil, conducted to understand the way in which religious doctrines are interpreted at a local level. Contextualised within the sociology of contemporary Brazilian Catholicism, we draw on interviews with clergy members, lay leaders, and parishioners to discuss how the Catholic Church’s vision of sexuality translates into everyday lives of its followers. We explore the disjuncture between the Catholic ideals of fidelity and delaying sex until marriage with the everyday reality of the Church’s followers, highlighting the role that gender plays in defining sexual roles and expectations. We conclude by posing questions for future research and HIV prevention strategies considering the formal institutional response of the Brazilian Catholic Church to AIDS on the one hand, and the social and cultural contexts in which Catholics live their daily lives on the other.

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