Church, While Slipping, Still Inspires Confidence in Chile

Evangelicals Making Inroads, Survey Finds

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SANTIAGO, Chile, AUG. 3, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Catholic Church is by far the most trustworthy institution in Chile, but it is losing members to evangelical Protestant groups, a new survey finds.



The 2001 Church National Survey found that the Catholic Church is the institution that inspires the most confidence in Chilean society (61.1% of the respondents gave it high marks), followed by private enterprise (25.1%), the armed forces (23.7%), and the evangelical churches (21.95%).

The institutions that garnered the least trust were the Courts of Justice (16.1%), television (15.9%) and Parliament (13.8%). Political parties were not even mentioned by those surveyed.

The survey was carried out in January in 87 municipalities, by the Sociology Institute of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

Catholicism continues to be the country´s principal religion, with 74.4% identifying with it. But evangelicals have grown considerably among the lower classes, now attracting 20% of this sector.

Meanwhile, some 20% of Chilean youth, between the ages of 18 and 24, say that they do not identify with any religion.

Within the 18-24 group, 49.3% of those surveyed said the Catholic Church should focus more on extreme poverty, 38% want greater emphasis on marital stability, 35% favor abortion, 34.4% want greater stress on the economic inequalities of the country, and 24.5% said the Church should speak out more forcefully on human rights.

According to the survey, the rest of the country is divided as follows: 13.9% are evangelicals, 3.3% profess other religions, and 8.4% are nonbelievers. Of those calling themselves evangelicals, 43% come from evangelical homes, and 30% come from families with Catholic parents.

In general, evangelicals go to church more often (56%) than Catholics (23%), and do so at least once a week. One out of every four evangelicals and Catholics say they never go to church. Half of the evangelicals say they were baptized in the Catholic Church.

The most condemned moral behavior, both by Catholics and evangelicals, is abortion, marijuana consumption, adultery and homosexual cohabitation, although evangelicals are more conservative than Catholics on these issues. For example, 91.1% of the evangelicals oppose abortion, compared with 84.2% of Catholics.

Behavior patterns that are least rejected include the use of contraceptives, premarital cohabitation and divorce.

On the latter point, 43.9% of Catholics approve a legal norm for divorce as opposed to 32% who reject the idea. Among evangelicals, the tendency is reversed: 53.4% reject the legalization of divorce; 27.7% support it.

The survey´s margin of error is 2.18%.