13 May 2007

Pope Tells Priests: Leave Politics To The Vatican

We're just so much better at it, obviously:
The Pope said both Marxism and capitalism had done great harm in Latin America, home to nearly half of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics, and that people were losing their dignity through "drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness"...

Indigenous peoples welcomed the arrival of European priests as they were "silently longing" for the Christian faith, and embracing it purified them, the Pope said in the last major speech of his trip before leaving Brazil on Sunday night.
In the past 50 years, the Catholic Church has stood firmly behind the rightwing regimes of Chile's Pinochet, the Argentine Generals who "disappeared" their opponents, and many other US-backed dictatorships. Not surprisingly, Church numbers have been dwindling rapidly ever since.

Now, as the continent embraces anti-US socialist governments, local priests have turned to "liberation theology" as a way to make the Christian message relevant to South America's impoverished masses. The current Pope has been a leading opponent:
Former Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, strongly opposed certain elements of liberation theology. Through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led by Ratzinger, the Vatican twice condemned the liberationist acceptance of Marxism and violence (first in 1984 and again in 1986). Leonardo Boff, for example, was suspended, while others were reputedly reduced to silence. However, Ratzinger has also praised those strands of the movement which reject violence and instead "[stress] the responsibility which Christians necessarily bear for the poor and oppressed." [3]

In March 1983, Cardinal Ratzinger made "ten observations" on aspects of Gutiérrez's theology, including accusing Gutiérrez of politically interpreting the Bible and of supporting a temporal messianism. Ratzinger also declared that the influence of Marxism was proven by the predominance accorded to orthopraxis over orthodoxy. Finally, this document states that these conceptions necessarily uphold a similar class conflict inside the Church, which logically leads to a rejection of hierarchy. During the 1980s and 1990s, Ratzinger continued his condemnation of these strains within liberation theology, prohibiting some dissident priests from teaching the doctrines in the Catholic Church's name and excommunicating Tissa Balasuriya in Sri Lanka for doing exactly that. Under his influence, theological formation schools were prohibited from using the Catholic Church's organization and grounds to teach these condemned theological formulations.
Hmmn, looks like lots of anti-Marxist statements, but precious little about the evils of Capitalism. No wonder Ratzinger's speech drew a crowd of only 100,000 rather than the predicted half a million. Many Brazilians may be poor and uneducated, but that doesn't mean they are stupid.

I wonder what Tony Abbott thinks?

PS: Anyone interested in this story might also be interested in this post from my blogged travel adventures in South America, circa 1990, Gandhi's Journey:
We finished eating and returned the way we had come. The doorways were now filling with beggars, shapeless lumps of cardboard, cloth and newspaper lined the streets. A toothless woman on the dirt patch of a traffic island had built a small fire and was cooking something which looked like a skinned rat. She hobbled down to the gutter, scooped some water into a tin can, and began to boil it. Between the branches of a wasted bush behind her, a piece of plastic was propped up with sticks to provide shelter.

"Would you have some money for a candle, Señor?"

We were standing outside a church. I gave Herminia a few coins and followed her inside, feeling awkwardly intrusive in my tourist garb. Herminia lit two candles and handed me one.

It was the week before Easter and the church was crowded with worshippers. They stood in silence, many holding candles. Most were dressed in beggar´s clothes, but their faces now possessed saintly dignity, glowing in the reflected candlelight. The church was ancient, its red brickwork crumbling, yet the walls danced with the light and the cieling was alive with the energy of a thousand flames. This was their refuge and their hope. When we stepped outside again, the darkness was momentarily overwhelming.
The Church has a lot to answer for. And not just the anti-Muslim Crusades.