Sunday, December 03, 2006

Flashback> The War Against Christian Liberation Theology


"The murder of Jesuit priests in El Salvador, the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the invasion of Panama, the "war on drugs," and changing East/West relations add urgent weight to our need to confront the U.S. strategy of "low-intensity conflict" (LIC).

The murder of six Jesuit priests and the escalating violence in El Salvador was a predictable outcome of U.S. LIC policies.

Throughout 1989, as the FMLN and the popular movements gained in strength, prospects for a negotiated settlement improved. This hopeful situation was ripe with danger because the increased strength of popular movements signaled the failure of U.S. LIC strategy in El Salvador. The alternative to meaningful negotiations and reforms was escalating violence. The U.S. and its ally, the right wing ARENA party, responded to the strength of the opposition by managing terror in an upward spiral."


Excerpt from The Ratzinger Report:

As head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office for twenty-five years,
Ratzinger protected the Vatican’s authority against social movements inside and outside the Church. In the process, he allied closely with the Reagan Administration’s Catholic conservatives and neo-conservatives in their first term in power. He promoted militant right-wing movements in the church including Legionnaires for Christ, an integral part of the military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina in the seventies, and the secretive and ascetic Opus Dei (made infamous in The Da Vinci Codes) which was closely associated with the Franco dictatorship in Spain. Ratzinger ensured the fast-tracking of Opus Dei’s founder, Escriva de Balaguer, to sainthood in 2002.

excerpt from Pope John Paul II, the Reagan years & Liberation Theology

"Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador had pleaded fruitlessly with Carter to stop the US backing of repression - 6 weeks later, he was murdered in March 1980. Vatican commissions on JPII's orders had visited Romero two times demanding that he explain his outspoken criticism of El Salvador s military rulers. After his murder, the pope appointed Fernando Saenz Lacalle as archbishop, a member of Opus Dei and a starch opponent of liberation theology. The appointment came as a slap in the face to hundreds of peasant church members and religious workers in Latin America. Progressive advancements were reversed and old inequalities were restored.

Reagan took office in Jan 1981. He retained Brz as a consultant on Poland. Brz said: "We involved the Pope directly and he did whatever was to be done to sustain an underground effort. So Solidarity wasn't crushed." Reagan, son of a working-class Irish Catholic father and protestant mother, had won the lion's share of the Catholic vote. He was drawn to other Catholic working class types, like Bill Casey who became CIA Director. Like Reagan, they believed the Marxist-Leninist vision to be spiritually evil and had to be destroyed. Reagan openly forged ties with the Pope and Vatican. By spring 1981, Casey and others were dropping in at the residence of the pope's nuncio Archbishop Pio Laghi for breakfast and consultation. And Laghi visited the White House by the 'back door' for secret meetings with Casey and later the President.

Around 1982, Casey met with the pope at the Vatican and showed him a photo (taken a spy satellite) of the Pope's welcome when he visited Poland in 1979. The photo helped seal an informal secret alliance between the Holy See and the Reagan admin. Western agencies, notably the CIA, provided regular secret briefings on developments in the USSR, Poland, Chile, Argentina, China, on liberation theology, Middle East etc.

JPII & Liberation Theology
JPII's intolerance of left leaning movements arose from the conservative traditions of the Polish church and his experience with the communist regime. Even as Archbishop of Krakow, he was one of 251 bishops who voted agasint the final draft of Gaudium et Spes, the document that sought to reform and modernise the church. (It was passed with 2331 votes in favour.) Any collective initiative for social justice was associated with Marxism and he became a natural ally with the US capitalist government."

The Mixed Legacy of John Paul II:
Pope John Paul II leaves a mixed legacy for his flock. Conservatives in the Catholic Church hail him as a defender of the faith, while progressives criticise his `restorationist papacy' that has taken the Church back to pre-Second Vatican Council days.

Liberation Theology Resources page

Wikipedia Entry On Liberation Theology


Starrider said...

"Any collective initiative for social justice was associated with Marxism"

That is a pretty narrow view that automatically denigrates any kind of momentum towards social justice on any kind of scale. When I saw this line I thought WOW! Somehow it seems
very wrong for the Church to be in such a position of resistance to social justice. Couple that with the alliance with a man known as a great world leader and US president and its minbending. Now, I am not sure that I am onlkine with Liberation Theology in total...but I do some very appealing elements in the non-violent expression of its push for social justice and the type of communites that the early Church spoke of.

Starrider said...

I also think that Liberation Theology is closer to the truth of scripture than neo-conservatism.

Scott Starr said...

I think it necessary to also state that i do not condone or even care about the concept of the redistribution of wealth that is sometimes ascribed as part of liberation theology. So, liberation theology in its non-violent form that does not call for wealth re-distribution is something that I find intriguing and worthy- not the opposites. I believe that the socialist model may be well suited to some of those peasant communities in Latin America. At any rate, I do not believe it is the right or the business of the US to deal death and destruction on a people group out of its own xenophobia.

Archbishop 10-K said...

I know this post of yours is pretty old now, but I'm enjoying wandering around this site.

I just wanted to throw out the third opinion on the "mixed legacy of John Paul II" that the media often forgets: that Pope JPII was not conservative enough, or at least not hard enough on discipline.

Please bear with me when I throw out the following jumbled mass of thoughts:

The things that the media often complains about popes are like on artificial contraception, women's ordination, and basically anything that has to do with Catholics and sex. Regardless of what one thinks about on these issues, the Pope does not have the authority to change these teachings, anymore than he has the power to change whether Christ was born of a virgin or not or rewrite the Bible. In Catholic Christianity, the Pope is not actually a legislator, but a protector and preserver of (what Catholics believe to be) the gospel. Contrary to what many people think we believe, the Pope is not God; he has not the authority. He is only a "servant of the servants of God".

I love Pope JPII, don't get me wrong: however, now that the emotions have died down over his pontificate, I personally believe that his pontificate was too weak. From a look at history, it's kinda laughable to call JPII a reactionary pope when the 20th century also brought such popes as St. Pius X and Pius XII. Yes, JPII opposed liberation theology, which I'm glad for since I'm not a fan of it, but whenever the Church opposes something, she needs to promote the alternative, which is based on the Social Kingship of Christ. Everyone knows what the Church stands against, but what does she stand for? The Church's prelates have all-too-often squandered on the opportunity to preach about this.

Pope JPII's pontificate was weak because I think he was too afraid to really punish anyone. For example, look at the sexual abuse crisis. It's not solely a Catholic problem (it really happens in all denominations), but still Christ said that "But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea." In the old days of the Church, these sex abusing priests would be publicly degraded; see my blog entry on the Rite of Degradation of a Bishop, for example.

They would be tried in ecclesiastical court and stripped in public of their cross, vestments, crozier, and the gospel would be handed to them and then taken away, saying "Give us back the Gospel! Since thou hast spurned the grace of God and made thyself unworthy of the office of preaching, we rightly deprive you of this office." In the time of St. Thomas Becket, Becket would probably have also had these guys lashed.

But no, these abusing priests and the bishops who have hid them really got no punishment at all (what's especially scandalous is when JPII brought Cardinal Law to Rome). There has been this attitude since the Second Vatican Council that punishing wayward clerics is "pre-Vatican II", but now it's come to bite us in the butt. Example: a popular issue in the media is of over how some bishops are denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. I agree with this form of discipline; however, the Church not only needs to extend the ban to right-wing as well as left-wing issues, but she should have been doing this all along since 40 years ago, when abortion first came on the stage. The Church did nothing to stop a priest, Father Robert Drinan, from serving ten years in the House of Representatives, arguing for even partial-birth abortion (!!!) on the floor of Congress. Only now we're starting to really mobilize against it, and the media's calling us out on hypocrisy for it. She needs to condemn the errors of both parties, lest she become merely "an arm of the state", a phrase you coined elsewhere on your blog.

I was looking at the article on JPII that you linked to, and I was amused at how it called Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI a "doctrinal watchdog". Now that we've seen him as pope for a couple years, we know that this is far from the case. To read his papal documents, such as Sacramentum Caritatis which he just released, we can see that he's actually very gentle in his approach, even like a loving father, as my pastor says.

Finally, I'd like to share with you the unseen story of how, in the Catholic world, tradition-minded Catholics get pushed over just as much as, if not more than, "modernizing" ones. One can imagine how traumatizing the changes of Vatican II Council were for so many Catholics, where priests went straight from Latin Mass to contemporary Mass almost overnight; how high altars were smashed or relegated to being flower stands, how altar rails were ripped from their foundations, how priests sold their churches' old-style vestments and even relics of saints to "get with the times", even how some priests started to longer preach about hell or the Real Presence/transubstantiation. It was like a repeat of the 16th century iconoclasms in Britain. So many of these things have been done in the name of "the spirit of Vatican II" (they're not) and of helping the people "participate" in the Mass (walk into many Catholic parishes today, and you'll see how laughable the notion is that Catholics "participate" any more than externally in the modern Mass). Actually, "the people" were never consulted on these changes; they just happened, and many Catholics, like my stepdad, though that the devil had taken over and left.

The diocese of Orange County is getting infamous in conservative Catholic circles for allowing "Barney Masses" but excommunicating people who kneel instead of stand during the "Agnus Dei" part of the Mass, and for how Bishop Brown there denies Communion to people who kneel to receive instead of stand. I know lots of people who drive hundreds of miles just to go to a Latin Mass because the bishop in their home diocese doesn't allow it. I even know a guy who flies every month from Oslo, Norway to the European continent just because there aren't any Latin Masses in his entire country.

Anyway... just an opinion of mine for you: for all his faults, and whether for better or worse, JPII was most definitely NOT a restorationist pope. His failure to exercise papal authority has diminished the power of the papacy to act when it really counts; sort of like how Queen Victoria did nothing but sit in her palaces all day and thus diminished the power of the British monarchy to step in when it really mattered, like the Irish potato famine or the Opium Wars in China.

Scott Starr said...

Hey, thanks for your remarks. Again I agree with most of what you say here. I use the qualification "most" because on some of it I don't know enough to have a firm opinion.

When I wrote this piece I was trying to open a discussion about how the Church gets wrapped into worldly politics at its own peril. I was also interested to hear opinions about the doctrine of Papal infallibility. As an American Indian I can look back at history and see where the blend of Church and empire has detracted from the virtue of the Church. Some of the Papal bulls and so on turned out to be disastrous for Indian people- and Latinos as well.

The subject I touched on about el Salvador and the saga of Oscar Romero is a contemporary example.

Thanks again for your insight. Please stay around and comment to your heart's content.