The Brazilian Conference of Bishops (CNBB) was founded in 1952 by a group of bishops who were deeply critical of the economic and political status quo. This perspective grew out of the bishops’ backgrounds, many of whom were from poorer, rural states, but was also related to independent funding received from European Catholic organizations that allowed for autonomy from the state. The CNBB advanced the adoption of Paulo Freire’s model of “critical consciousness,” an educational method that emphasizes awareness of social, economic, and political injustice and the imperative to act upon that awareness.
Over the coming years, the CNBB became the representative, authoritative, and respected voice for the church in Brazil, accepted by other ecclesiastical authorities and by Brazilians themselves, and also playing a role in the articulation and spread of Liberation Theology in Latin America. Additionally, the CNBB played a role in mediating between priests—arguably the most radical element within the Catholic church as a result of their daily involvement in the lives and struggles of impoverished Brazilians—and more conservative bishops.