Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Growth of Protestantism
Denounced Over a Half-Century Ago
Catolicismo, São Paulo, May 2004
Juan Gonzalo Larrain Campbell
Protestantism has advanced in Brazil—in 1940, there were 491,000 Protestants, and in 2000, they reached 26,200,000. Conversely, Catholics were over 95% of the population in 1940 and only 73.8% in 2000. So, the question is how to explain this phenomenon? Has this growth been sudden, or has it been taking place for a long time? What are its remote and more recent causes?
The confusion created in people’s minds by the terrible crisis into which the Catholic Church has plunged, added to the other factors of disorder that the Revolution1 is continually spreading throughout the world, makes it difficult for many to answer these questions. We are publishing these lines to help clarify the issue.
Misusing the term “Christian”
The causes of the advance of Protestantism in Brazil are multiple. Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira pointed them out systematically in numerous books, articles and lectures. He also indicated the antidote against this growing danger.
In this article, we will deal with one of the causes: the skillful maneuver to distort the word Christian and the accompanying lack of vigilance that Catholics have shown in the face of this maneuver, which Prof. Plinio denounced in the texts below, selected from among many others.
While there are other even more substantial causes, we will only analyze this one because it is at the origin of the Protestant advance. The distinguished Catholic thinker and leader pointed it out over 65 years ago.2
In 1938, at the height of the rise of Nazi and Fascist leaders in Europe, who presented themselves as anticommunists, and of like ideologies in South America, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira denounced those political leaders as propagandists of a false Christianity:
“From the 19th century to our days, a lot of water has run into the sea. Problems became more and more acute, revolutions increasingly intense, and crises more profound. For this reason, and because impiety has clearly lost ground among the masses, today, no one or at least very few people in anticommunist camps call themselves anti-Christian.
“However, the old liberal phobia of Church discipline has not died. In the vocabulary of many modern politicians, moralists and sociologists, the word “Christian” has come to designate solidarity with the Gospel—not as an act of faith, but at best as a vague belief in some supernatural that one places on the Savior like a halo.
“The ‘Christianity’ of an important sector of Hitlerism is nothing but this; and the final analysis, this is nothing but the free examination of Protestantism.” 3
Christianity without Faith
After transcribing a defense of ‘Christianity’ by Plinio Barreto, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira concludes:
“As you can see, Mr. Barreto, at the urging of many nineteenth-century thinkers and contemporary European right-wingers, supports a Christianity without Faith and without Church, which is explicitly non-Catholic.
“What fruits can one expect from such ‘Christianity’?
“I will not discuss this point in detail but ask a single question: Where, outside the Catholic Church, do you find ‘Christian types’ in the fullness that the Church’s saints have attained? Where is a Francis of Assisi? Which Nazi or Fascist leader washes lepers’ wounds, as did St. Louis the King of France and St. Isabel? What benefactor of the poor burns with such compassionate love as a Vincent de Paul?
No matter how much they say, repeat or otherwise proclaim, the precious flower of the authentic Christian spirit can only blossom in the Church’s light and supernatural warmth. There is only one way to be Christian: the Catholic Church.”4
Either Catholic or Heretic
In 1940, based on a piece of news that an unwary person might see as trivial, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira discerned and denounced a Protestant maneuver to conquer unsuspecting Catholics. He warned them not to be deceived and indicated the necessary antidote.
“Among other noteworthy Protestant initiatives is the founding of a ‘Christian Association of Academics’ that called on its members to convene in the Mackenzie College Hall last Friday ‘to discuss bylaws planned by a committee of students.’
The association is not clearly Protestant, just as Mackenzie College is not officially Protestant—at least for publicity purposes in Brazil. At least in appearance, it is an association as purely and simply ‘Christian’ as the sadly famous ‘Young Men’s Christian Association.’
‘Christian’? If it’s a Christian association, it is a religious association. If it is religious, it is either exclusively Catholic or pan-Christian and therefore heretical. Does this reasoning not seem clear?”5
What Is the Antidote?
“It appears to be so, and it is: Protestants are immensely fond of hiding their anti-Catholic initiatives under the vague designation of ‘Christians.’ The motive behind this maneuver is obvious. No one is more entitled to call himself a Christian than a Catholic, who is Christian par excellence. Therefore, an incautious Catholic who sees something bearing the label ‘Christian’ identifies with it and supports it, making the first contact with this ‘thing.’ That is what Protestants want, as this first contact will suffice them to attempt a small proselytizing maneuver.”
What is the antidote for this maneuver? Let Catholics be convinced they should not get into the habit of calling their things exclusively by the word ‘Christian’ without immediately adding the word ‘Catholic.’ In this age of bold Protestantism recruiting, that is absolutely indispensable.
“Legionário has vigorously insisted on this matter. A few days ago, in an interesting article titled ‘The Abuse of Words,’ the Belo Horizonte newspaper Diário showed how true this is. The word ‘Christian’ is misused everywhere to designate ideas and institutions often clearly anti-Christian, namely, anti-Catholic, which is equivalent. So, as long as we work to lose the habit of using the word ‘Catholic,’ we will be working to facilitate the enemy’s game.”6
“The Devil has Made Himself Sacristan”
In 1942, in connection with a speech by Mr. Ataliba Nogueira at the headquarters of the Federation of Marian Sodalities in which he proclaimed that “the phase of open-field combat with raised visors against opponents is over for the Church,’ Prof. Plinio writes:
“The growing influence of Catholicism in Brazil imposes itself on the opponents of our faith with the relentless force of a fait accompli. The open struggle has ceased, and to continue fighting better the devil ‘has become a sacristan,’ opening among us the phase of insidious ‘approaches,’ perfidious infiltrations, mellifluous ambiguities.”7
He goes on to summarize parts of a speech by another speaker at the Metropolitan Curia:
“...he stated that, as happened on the banks of the Rhine, the most powerful adversary in Brazil’s religious life is not the one raining artillery fire and advancing with tanks at the front, but rather the sneaky, disloyal, deceptive fifth columnists who suggest wrong attitudes, provoke false maneuvers, raise extemporaneous questions between brothers of belief, and triumph through intrigue, slander and plotting.”8
Unmasking Heretical Doctrines
“Spiritualism and Protestantism have used this tactic. By adorning themselves with the undeserved title of ‘Christians’, heretics seek to spread their doctrines by hiding as much as possible from our good and pious people that they are words of destruction and death to the soul, and whoever culpably profess them breaks with the Church of God. Thus, it seems to us that no means is more adequate to repress the Spiritist and Protestant heresies than to unmask their real doctrines about our adorable Savior.”9
In a later article, he recommends:
“At the same time, no naiveté is more culpable than that of certain Catholic snobs10 who, to imitate I-don’t-know-what overseas writers, seem to have ostracized the word ‘Catholic’ from their vocabulary, replacing it methodically with the word ‘Christian,’ which is so abused among us. Let us be proud of our title as Christians—none is more beautiful—but for this very reason, let us always proclaims ourselves Roman Catholic and Apostolic. This is the sole title that brings with it the guarantee of unalloyed, unblemished, and unfalsified Christianity.”
In 1944, denouncing once again the crafty tactic of Protestants, Prof. Plinio says:
“It will never be enough to emphasize the tactic of confusion that Protestants use so willingly. Their fixed idea is to conceal their works’ anti-Catholic character as much as possible by calling them ‘Christian.’ Let us take this as a lesson to understand that, if we do not want to serve Protestants, we must insist on keeping our initiatives clear, positive, unmistakable, and fully Roman Catholic and Apostolic.”
This comment connects with the following news, published under the title ‘Christian Association of Academics.’
‘The São Paulo CAC is inviting all Christian students and their respective families to attend the celebrations of the Universal Day of Student Prayer, today, the 11th, at 4 pm on 772 Helvetia St. Several choirs will also sing as part of the program.’
If we did not know that the Helvetia St. address is a Protestant temple, how could we have guessed that the CAC is actually Protestant?”
1) We use the term Revolution here in the sense given by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in his renowned work Revolution and Counter-Revolution.
2) The main causes of the Protestant advance in Brazil relate directly to the crisis that began to shake the Catholic Church in the 1940s, first in Catholic Action circles; it has grown incalculably over the years to this day. From that time, a considerable number of churchmen and laity gradually gave up teaching important principles of the traditional doctrine of the Church and started encouraging the socio-political-cultural revolution that has been devastating Brazil. They thus increased confusion among Catholics to an untold degree. On the one hand, that led to the apostasy of the faithful, who joined revolutionary movements. On the other hand, it created a huge religious void and led to growing disinterest in the Catholic Religion. All this served as a fundamental cultural broth for the advancement of Protestant sects.
3) “Cristãos acatólicos,” Legionário, July 24, 1938.
4) Idem, ibidem.
5) “7 dias em Revista,” Legionário, September 1, 1940.
6) Idem, ibidem.
7) Idem, ibidem.
8) Idem, ibidem.
9) Idem, ibidem.
10) The author refers to members of Catholic Action, who already employed this tactic.