With the departure of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti lost more than just another in a long line of political despots. It also lost an aging icon of a brand of Christian socialist theory that was once hugely influential in both North and Latin American seminaries. As a former priest of the Salesian order, who studied theology in England, Canada, Italy and Israel, Mr. Aristide was a proponent of Liberation Theology, which attempted to weave Marxian dialectics into the Gospels in the name of helping the poor.
He had been ordained in 1982, in the last decade of the Cold War, when Latin America became the focus of many would-be revolutionaries. In the regional political struggles of the period, many clerics ended up playing an important and tragic role, giving cover to violent revolutionaries and would-be left-wing dictators, or advocating violence.
As pastor of a poor parish in Port-au-Prince, Father Aristide was one of their number. He preached the moral necessity of violent politics. In sermons later published in his book "In the Parish of the Poor," he called for forming "battalions" to perform "acts of deliverance" and for overthrowing the regime by "any means necessary" and pined for a Haitian version of the Sandinista Revolution. He did not hide his sincere devotion to Christian communism, which preferred its humanitarianism soaked in blood.
Father Sirico is president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich.
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