The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's Happening in Latin America?

In Brazil, the ruling Workers' Party (PT) is strongly pro-abortion. The nation's president, Lula da Silva (photo at left), along with the current presidential candidate, Dilma Rousseff, both of the PT, have come out in favor of abortion. This has led the Catholic bishop of Guarulhos, Bishop Luiz Gonzaga Bergonzini, to defend life and denounce the party's position. It has also led to death threats against the bishop.

As a result of all this the president of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, held a press conference in which he came out strongly in support of his fellow bishop. In addition to supporting Bishop Bergonzini, he also denied that there is any disagreement among the bishops on life issues. He stated firmly that the Catholic Church defends life "in all its stages and dimensions, and especially when life is threatened, as in the case of the indigenous peoples, or the elderly. On this issue, there is no disagreement in the Episcopate. The bishops have a unanimous position of defense and respect for life," especially with regard to abortion. These threats against Bishop Bergonzini are not unique. Two other Brazilian bishops have also received death threats because of their outspoken support for life and condemnation of abortion.

It all leads me to wonder what's happened to Brazil, a nation with a Catholic majority that seems to have turned away from the Faith and the magisterial teachings of the Church. I suppose it's the same thing that has happened in both Venezuela and Bolivia, two other nominally Catholic countries in which the Church has already begun to experience subtle and not-so-subtle forms of persecution.

A few months ago Javier Legorreta, the head of the Latin American desk of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), stated that the Catholic Church in Bolivia is starting “to become a persecuted Church, a suffering Church in great need.” Just a few days before, Legorreta stated, a chapel and other buildings belonging to the Catholic parish in the town of Villa Ingenio in the Diocese of El Alto were forcibly demolished. And this, he explained, is not an isolated incident but symptomatic of the current Bolivian government's hostility toward the Catholic Church. In a speech in January at the world social forum in Brazil, the Bolivian president, Evo Morales (photo at left) described the Catholic Church as an “enemy of peace” in Bolivia and demanded for his country “another faith, another religion and another church.” President Morales plainly declared that the Catholic Church was his greatest enemy in the reform of the country and literally stated “We must replace it!” Comments like this are, of course, reminiscent of the kind of Catholic Church-bashing regularly engaged in by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The political far left -- and all three of these presidents are well established at that end of the political spectrum -- has always viewed the Catholic Church as a threat and has done its best (always unsuccessfully) to destroy the Church. The same, of course, is true of the far right. Indeed, when it comes to political extremists, right and left merge together in their hatred for the Church which is called to profess the Truth, the Good News of Jesus Christ, to an unrepentant, unbelieving world. And the extremists...well, they simply can't bear the Truth.

What this means for the future of Latin America only God knows. But we are blessed with some courageous bishops who haven't hesitated to challenge the errors of their nations' secular leaders. For example, the Archbishop of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, called for Bolivian Catholics to defend their faith. He also called on President Morales to note “the difference between a lay State and a secular State that is hostile to religions. …[the Catholic Church will defend] the universal right to profess a religion. This is unrenounceable and non-negotiable. This is the basis for helping to form a family that is much more united in the cause of the kingdom of justice and peace and to build a country that is not in constant turmoil."

Of course, in Venezuela things have moved even more quickly in the wrong direction. The late Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, of Caracas, Venezuela, when asked if he'd give Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (photo at left) a blessing, responded with, "More than a blessing. I'd give him an exorcism." It's a comment that pretty much sums up Church-state relations in Venezuela. As the cardinal said shortly before his death in 2007, "If the Venezuelan people fail to grasp the seriousness of the situation and fail to categorically speak out in favor of democracy and freedom, we will find ourselves subjected to a Marxist-style dictatorship." The accuracy of his prediction can be seen in the actions of President Chavez who has virtually shut down the free media and nationalized one industry after another.

I believe both of these courageous cardinals were correct. It is up to the Catholic laity to defend the faith daily whenever it comes under attack, whether that attack takes the form of bulldozers demolishing a chapel, police arresting priests and religious, or snide comments made in the company cafeteria.

1 comment:

  1. I Am happy about this post. Latin America is the future of the catholic church and we must be aware of what is happening!