Date: Tue, 31 Oct 1995 20:59:21 -0800 (PST)
From: Bob Corbett <>
To: Bob Corbett <>
Subject: Anne Greene Review from Dina Evans 1
Message-Id: <>

Review of Anne Green, The Catholic Church in Haiti: political and social change

Reviewed by Dina Evans, Fall, 1995

It is with great joy that I am able to pass on a review of Anne Green’s book, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN HAITI: POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CHANGE.

In 1989 Dina Evans, then an undergraduate in California, traveled first to Webster University in St. Louis to participate in my first study trip to Haiti, then the whole class spent the month of April in Haiti. Later Dina went on to get her Master’s Degree and now is working on her PHD in Florida, all in areas that encompase Caribbean Studies. Her Master’s thesis, which I hope to review here one of these days is quite an interesting paper about the role of the Ti Legliz in Haiti. Thanks to Dina for the review below.

Bob Corbett

From: Dina Evans <>

The review is published in the Caribbean Studies Newsletter, a publication of the Caribbean Studies Association, Volume 23, Number 1, Fall 1995. It is published by the Latin American and Caribbean Center and the Office of International Education, Programs and Activities at Florida International University.

The Catholic Church in Haiti: Political and Social Change
by Anne Greene.
Michigan State University Press, 1993
ISBN 0-87013-327-6, Cloth US$ 28.95. 312 pgs.

What role did the Haitian Catholic Church play in the downfall of Jean-Claude Duvalier? Anne Greene expertly answers this question in her recent book. She explores both the distant and recent history of politics and religion in Haiti to explain how the Church, which traditionally had a non-political, status-quo presence, fundamentally changed its mission to become an active political force. She comments, Although the Church was historically identified with the interests of successive governments in Haiti, in this instance it took an active role in the overthrow of a president. In her book, Greene illustrates both the motives and the methods in which the Church accomplished this goal.

Greene begins with an historical overview of the Church and the State in Latin America since the colonial period. The most important events during this time, for the purpose of this book, were the Vatican II conference in 1962-1965, the Latin American Bishops Meetings (CELAM) held in Medellin, Colombia (1968), and in Puebla, Mexico (1979), the emergence of liberation theology, and the creation of Christian Base Communities (CEBs). These events fundamentally changed the focus of the Church. The State in Haiti is the next section, in which Greene briefly describes crucial political events, beginning in pre-colonial Haiti and ending with Jean-Claude Duvalier’s ouster.

After setting a rather lengthy background, Greene turns to the topic at hand: the Church in Haiti. She gives an historical introduction to the role of the Church in Haiti since the colonial era, pointing out key differences from the Church in Latin America. Then, Greene divides the time since Haitian Independence into four periods: 1804-1860, when the Church was officially granted special status; 1860-1915, when the Church was further institutionalized; 1915-1934, the difficult period for the Church during the US occupation of Haiti; and 1934-1971, in which the Church suffered from the effects of the US occupation and the rule of Francois Duvalier. She points out that: Francois Duvalier made mockery of the Church by co-opting, arresting, and exiling bishops, a papal nuncio, and numerous clergy, as well as by confiscating its property. After all that, Francois Duvalier succeeded in getting Vatican approval to name his own hierarchy.... The approval and subsequent appointment of only native-born Haitians to the Church hierarchy ironically contributed greatly to Jean-Claude’s downfall.

The main part of the book (Chapters 4 and 5), investigates Jean-Claude’s relationship to the Church and the Church’s role in his demise. This is an interesting and harrowing tale, skillfully told by Greene. Is is during Jean-Claude’s rule that the Church changes its mission: The focus of Church evangelism had shifted from concern about spiritual and educational well-being of the urbana elite to the collective well-being of the nation, particularly its poor. Not only did the Church hierarchy change, but a split occurred in the Church itself, between the hierarchy and the growing practitioners of liberation theology. The two Churches were frequently split on goals and actions, but during the papal visit in 1983 in which Pope John Paul II made his famous Something must change here speech, the popular base of the Church had at least sufficient moral legitimacy from the hierarchy to carry out its struggle against Duvalier.

Greene concludes that the role of the Church in ousting Jean-Claude was a pivotal one of leadership. Despite the recurrent and often harsh repressive actions taken by the government against leaders of the Church and its supporters, the Church ultimately succeeded in leading the population to revolt. What has happened since, both politically and religiously in Haiti, is the subject of the last two chapters. Greene’s last statement of the book is an appropriate summation of these chapters: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. This old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same applies once again to Haiti.

What Greene accomplished in this book is highly commendable. It is an extraordinary compilation of sources, including books, journals, newspaper articles, reports, official governemnt documents, official Vatican documents, academic papers, seminars, and interviews, in four languages, English, French, Spanish and Creole. She reports having trouble in obtaining Vatican sources, but the information included is so rich, this does not seriously detract from the book. If the actual material in the book is its greatest strength, its greatest weakness is its organization. Greene attempts to accomplish much more than her central question, giving the reader extensive background about Haiti. Perhaps readers unfamiliar with the political history of Haiti since the colonial period will appreciate the time Greene devotes to this subject, but those familiar with Haiti will yearn more for the subject at hand, since superb books on the Church in Haiti are less numerous than excellent books on Haitian politics.

Dina K. Evans
Florida International University
Department of International Relations