The State, Religious Institutions, and Welfare Delivery: The Case of Portugal
Mainly through the notable faith-based institution called the Misericórdia, whose origins lie in the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church has long played an important role in the delivery of welfare in Portugal. While it continues to have autonomous sources of funding, the church is also heavily reliant on funding from the state. In the wake of democratization in 1974, the Portuguese state enacted several laws, recognizing and promoting the development of non-profit social service actors, that could contract with the state. A reformulation of the relationship with the national Misericórdia network was a distinct element of this attempt to place the relationship between the state and civil society actors—including the church—on a new footing. More recently, the Eurozone crisis has resulted in markedly higher social need while placing significant budgetary pressure on the Portuguese state. Non-profits have been asked to do more with less and to diversify their funding streams. This chapter examines the areas of welfare services where faith-based organizations have been particularly active, the changing finances of these activities, and the evolving ecology of social service delivery, as new civil society organizations and market-oriented businesses have entered the field.