Country Listing

Portugal Table of Contents


Roman Catholic Church

Like the armed forces, the Roman Catholic Church in Portugal had also declined in influence during the 1980s. The church, along with the military, had been one of the historical corporate units in society, long predating the state and existing parallel to it. As a result, Portugal was historically a Roman Catholic nation. Roman Catholicism was not only the sole religion of the country, but Roman Catholic beliefs also permeated the culture, the legal system, the society, and the polity. Salazar derived many of his corporatist beliefs from the papal encyclicals, and during his long rule the church served as an indispensable pillar of the regime.

In recent decades, however, the church came to play a lesser role in people's lives as society became more secularized. During the 1974-76 period, the church helped turn the population away from the appeals of communism and radicalism, but since those tumultuous years the church has been quiescent politically. The church has, however, expressed itself on some issues, such as the legalization of abortion, on which it felt morally obliged to take a public stance. Polls of Portuguese showed that the church's ranking among main interest groups had fallen from second- or third-most influential to seventh- or eighth-most influential.

Data as of January 1993