Pope faces German revolt as anger grows in Latin America

Ed. It’s the “Guardian” so make sure to read between the lines … Nevertheless, it’s an interesting article for several reasons: 1) it shows the internal rift still existing in Catholicism between liberationists (Marxism in Christian dress) and orthodox Catholics; 2) the war between Marx and religion in the person of Hugo Chavez (particularly the necessity of keeping the “colonial occupier” narrative alive to justify Marxism); 3) the difficulty Catholic intellectuals have with the concept of the Magisterium (subtle, but it’s there); and 4) the historical problem Catholicism faces because it tied its missionary endeavors too closely with national and commercial interests (Pope Benedict’s assertion that Catholicism contributed to the indigenous cultures is probably correct).

The Guardian | John Hooper in Rome and Rory Carroll in Caracas | May 25, 2007

Pope Benedict was in trouble on two fronts yesterday, struggling to contain anger over remarks he made in Latin America and facing a revolt by former colleagues in Germany.
Following criticism of his views on the spread of Christianity in Latin America, the Pope acknowledged to pilgrims in Rome that “shadows” accompanied the conversion of indigenous groups. He said it was impossible “to forget the suffering [and] injustices inflicted by the colonisers on the indigenous population”.

But his latest statement stopped well short of the apology demanded by, among others, Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, and he repeated his claim that Catholicism had shaped South America’s culture favourably.

On a tour of Brazil earlier this month, the Pope said indigenous populations had welcomed European priests, who arrived with the conquistadores, and claimed they had been “silently longing” for Christianity. The proclamation of the gospels, he said, “did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture”.

Mr Chávez, who has a fraught relationship with his country’s Catholic hierarchy, went on television to protest at the Pope’s remarks, saying: “There was a real genocide here and, if we were to deny it, we would be denying our very selves.” The episode was reminiscent of the row ignited last year by Pope Benedict’s references to Islam. And it appeared to indicate a surprising degree of insensitivity or indifference on the part of the Pope and his advisers to the views of others.

Latin America also lies at the root of the challenge facing Benedict in Europe. According to the Catholic news agency Adista, more than 100 German theologians have signed an appeal for an overhaul of the Vatican department that oversees their work.

Adista said the signatories included several contemporaries of Pope Benedict, who himself taught theology in his native Germany. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was head of the department, known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, so the document represents a direct attack on the Pope’s work.

It was originally written as an article by Peter Hünermann, a retired professor of the University of Tübingen, following a reprimand handed out by the Congregation this year to a Spanish Jesuit. Father Jon Sobrino, a liberation theologian who teaches at a university in El Salvador, was told his writings were “not in conformity with the doctrine of the church”.

But the Vatican’s verdict has since been challenged by leading European theologians who said it betrayed a “disregard of the theological developments of the last 50 years”.

Professor Hünermann said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was still organised in much the same way as when it was known as the Holy Inquisition, as a body for exercising censorship. He said there were “deficiencies” in the staff and that “intelligent restructuring” was needed.


18 thoughts on “Pope faces German revolt as anger grows in Latin America

  1. In my experience (as a Catholic seminarian), the younger and up-and-coming Catholic intellectuals do not have the problems with magisterial authority that the older generations do. It’s almost as if the generation under 50 is more intellectually honest–if they are going to think like Marxists or Protestants, then they just go ahead and become godless Marxists or subjectivist Protestants instead of wasting their time on a medieval institutional backwater like the Catholic Church. Alas, the ’60s Modernists lack suck courage.

    I think this “intellectual honesty”amongst the young will result in Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Evangelicals being the primary Christian churches in this century. Liberal Protestantism will crawl off into the quasi-gnostic hole that the Episcopal church has already broken ground on, while the churches that stand for Christ against a secular culture will gain members.

    Of course, it’s a fair question to ask how tolerant radical Islam will be of vibrant Christian communities…

  2. Brain, thanks for joing the blog. My question then: Won’t the erosion of magisterial authority change the character of the Catholic Church?

  3. Father, I think that the erosion of magisterial authority is isolated to a certain generation of Catholics. Most of the “theologians” that make the news are the same names from the ’70s and ’80s. They are not reproducing themselves intellectually and most of them are nearing retirement (or the cemetery.) If you look at groups that claim to be “Catholics for Choice” or “Democratic Church” and whatnot, they are inevitably grey-haired. They remain Catholic because they are cultural Catholics, not because they believe in Church teaching or Christian morals (which is a problem ethnic Orthodox churches in the U.S. also wrestle with). They want the Church to be made in their own image. Younger generations, raised post-Vatican2 and poorly catechized, do not have this “cultural” association. Most of these generations just simply stop going to church; the ones who continue to go are typically devout and faithful to the Magisterium. This is also very true in the young men who are studying to be priests. There are a few loosey-goosey types, to be sure, but I would say a healthy 75% are 100% in line with the Church.

    The tension in the Orthodox church in the U.S. is often between the cradle Orthodox and the new ‘on fire’ non-ethnic converts. The tension in the Catholic Church in the U.S. is between the older progressives and the “young fogeys.” I left a religious order because I got tired of the incessant battles between these two polarizations. I often felt like I lived with Arius and Athanasius in the same house!

    Maybe I am being overly optimistic, but I feel that the U.S. church is in the waning days of the “spirit of V2 overides all other councils” heresy. Like Arianism, it will keep popping its head up here and there like a whack-a-mole, but the new generation of clergy and seminarians are NOT sympathetic to it. But that doesn’t stop the press from quoting the dying gasps of theological dinosaurs.

  4. The remarks from Chavez require a little bit of context to be better understood

    First, the Pope did make a remark in Brazil, against governments that claim to be beyond the good and the evil, governments that define the rule of law

    In general, it was a comment against totalitarian governments

    Please validate @:
    a) http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/14/america/LA-GEN-Pope-Brazil.php
    b) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6651809.stm

    The answer from Chavez is never a direct answer

    He uses and abuses confrontational messages, to avoid a rational exchange of ideas, and divert the focus of the audience / issue

    These days, Venezuela is actually a circus

    Moreover, he is trying to divert attention of the issues that are taking place right now. The ‘democratic Venezuelan government’ has shutdown down the oldest TV station in Venezuela.

    Not only is being closed, but all its equipment is being confiscated

    The army is in the streets, and this issue has demonstrated who Chavez really is.

    With his challenge to the Pope, Chavez is trying to divert attention from the real issues.

    Last, but not least, Chavez style leads always to drama.

    Do you remember his speech in the United Nations, claiming that Bush was the Devil ?

    The rationale behind that speech was to polarize / leverage the anti-bush sentiment, so Venezuela could get a seat in the Security Council.

    So, next time you hear something from / about Chavez, remember the following:
    a) He is an authocratic dictator
    b) That wants total control of Venezuela
    c) To leverage the resources of all Venezuelans,
    d) To spread his “gospel” of “justice” (his justice)
    e) Around the world
    f) While his buddies buy Rolls-Royces / Hummers
    a. http://daniel-venezuela.blogspot.com/2007/05/rolls-royce-sales-soar-in-venezuela.html
    b. http://blogs.salon.com/0001330/categories/venezuela/2007/03/19.html#a3406

    In other words, you are witnessing the rape of a nation by a herd of thugs.

  5. Father: Was the Archbishop Oscar Romero, who spoke on behalf of the poor, and then later gunned down on the altar as he performed the Eucharist, a “Marxist in Christian dress”? Isn’t it more likely he was just a sincere Christian shocked by a brutal repression that took the form of death squads, torture, kidnapping and murder.

    Do you agree with former ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick that the U.S. nuns who were raped, mutilated, and murdered by Salvadoran security forces in 1980 were “not just nuns, they were political activists,” because they chose to help the poor?

    I am disturnbed by the grossly misleading dichotomy some apply to Latin American Roman Catholics, that they are either “liberationists (Marxism in Christian dress)” or “orthodox Catholics” . It suggests that you can’t be a good Catholic and care about the poor as our Savior taught us.

    Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they shall be satisfied.

    Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

    Let’s be real. First, we certainly would not consider the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few landowners, and the rest of the population reduced to landless serfdom, found in some Central America countries during the eighties, consistent with a healthy or just economy. Second, if what was happening in El Salvador during the 1980’s was happening in the United States today, most American clergy today would give sanctuary to those seeking escape from oppression rather than turn them over to the secret police, torture and death.

    These brave Catholic clergymen and women who stood up to oppression, and gave their lives for Christ are heroes and Christian martyrs. It’s shameful to denigrate their memory.

  6. Note 5. Your post is so tendentious I wonder if you even know what liberation theology really is. Liberation theology is Marxism in Christian dress. Marxist fellow travellers have always defended Marxism in the name of the poor. The historical record shows however, Marxist ideas create even more poverty and lot of blood. That some people, priests included, were deluded by the Marxist promise doesn’t change this fact, no matter how sincere their motives.

    Remember Pope John Paul’s scolding of the Nicaraguan priest? The Pope understood where the real danger lay.

  7. I certanly was not defending Marxists or thuggish left-wing demagogues like Hugo Chavez.

    I was defending those sincere Christians in Latin America who sought to help the economically disenfranchised, politically oppressed and socially abandoned, as directed by the Jesus Christ, and then were branded as Marxists by the Church for their efforts. Apparently they would have been considered much better Christians if they had just concentrated on buying more golden candlesticks for their cathedrals.

    Vatican II sought to restore a warm human face to a Church that was seen by many as cold, imperious and remote. Among other things, it wanted to make the worship service more meaningful and accessible to the layman. It wanted to do more to help the poor and disenfranchised. It wanted to explore ways in which women could play a greater role and discuss whether Priestly celibacy was absolutely neccesary. It even said sometimes Priest could put on a turtle-neck sweater and proclaim the glory of Our Lord while strumming a guitar.

    I don’t see how any of these things merit the scornfulness and smug superiority of detractors.

  8. Bless, Father!
    Father Hans!
    Its been a LONG time, too long. I found this article out on the sewer of USENET without your editorial. My first question was, “Why is this article on Orthodoxy Today?”. Well you answered that question before posting the article! Thank you.
    I hope your Pentecost was wonderful.

  9. Note 7.

    I was defending those sincere Christians in Latin America who sought to help the economically disenfranchised, politically oppressed and socially abandoned, as directed by the Jesus Christ, and then were branded as Marxists by the Church for their efforts.

    Not really. You were showing: 1) your ignorance of an internal debate within Catholicism; and 2) your gullibility about Marxism.

    Two points: 1) Good motives don’t justify bad ideas; and 2) Distinctions matter.

    The point you were arguing against, that all Roman Catholic liberationists (Marxists) are above reproach because they ostensibly care for the poor, was introduced by you and (reflexively) attributed to me. But your point is not mine thus my comment about the tendentiousness of your response.

    So, yes, of course not all people who care for the poor are Marxists. This should be self-evident but apparently is not. Nevertheless, Marxism is a creator of poverty and a lot of blood, and people who adopt it, even if intending to do good, enter a delusion. This is what Pope John Paul understood, and what Pope Benedict understands. You need to understand this as well.

  10. Dean, Rachmaninoff or Joan Baez, Guitar strumming and its consequences

    Dean writes:

    It even said sometimes Priest could put on a turtle-neck sweater and proclaim the glory of Our Lord while strumming a guitar.

    The Christian communities that rushed to “modernize” their liturgy are exactly those Christian communities that are losing members. Many American Christians who are leaving “mainstream” Protestant churchs are doing so in search of a meaningful liturgy that involves the deeply reverential and the deeply sacred prayers, music and rituals preserved across the centuries. I would question why someone would reject the challenge of studying, learning and understanding the depth and meaning of traditional liturgy and instead persue some passing musical fad. The “turtle neck and guitar” thing has proved to be shallow, vain and lacking in real spiritual sustenance. The informality of the “turtleneck and guitar” approach obscures the special role of the priest in Christianity and therefore is inappropriate. There is no reason why a priest cannot conduct a worship service of high solemnity and at a later time and different place be very approachable to parishioners. No need to water down the majesty of the liturgy. I believe that Rachmaninoff composed music for sacred liturgy, why pass that up for Joan Baez.

    Please note that if any local church decides to add less formal services or meetings at times other than Sunday morning, I have no objection. Many times music draws in teenagers and engages their imagination and I would fully support contemporary music concerts on weeknights as long as the sacred liturgy is offered on Sunday or other appropriate days. A local church near me as a big music program that provides a terrific activity for many young people in the church. I would be happy to support that whatever style of religious music the teens choose.

  11. I would agree with Brian, only those ’70s era theologians have a problem with the mag. The new up and coming theologians and priests from orthodox Catholic schools like U of Dallas and Ava Marie conform to the mag.

  12. A point I made Sunday at Church to counter some dissatisfaction with the length of the service because of the Pentecost Prayers:

    Why is that we think that the spiritual life should be easy? Everything else in life worth having, worth preserving, and that has endured throughout the generations, takes a lot of work and sacrifice to maintain. Why would the spiritual things be any different? Yet today we think they should not inconvenience us.

  13. Excellent post Father. I ask you prayers. I am finding the spiritual life as a divorced mother to be very hard.

  14. Prayer and perserverance, Olympiada. And St. John Maximovitch can be a great help alongside you.

  15. Thank you dear Father, I have not been saying my morning prayers nor anointing myself with Saint John’s oil, nor venerating his icons, nor singing his hymns. Perhaps you can post an edifying part of his biography for us?

  16. I don’t know enough about him yet. It came to me not too long ago though that a biography needs to be written about him. I do know however, that many miracles are attributed to his prayers, and that he acts quickly.

  17. Well please pray for me a sinner because I get in trouble with clergy that are outside the Church and they are most hurtful to me. Perhaps you could write that biography. I shall call upon his prayers for I am hurting today. Thank you for the reminder.

    “We sleep safe in our bed because rough men stand ready in the night
    to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” …George Orwell

  18. Note 7. Dean, guitar strumming priests in turtlenecks!!! Yikes

    Dean, I thought the country had finally lived through the entire “guitar strumming priests in turtlenecks” phase. I thought the long national nightmare was finally over and all those turtlenecked priests had retired somewhere. I hope that they and their weird rainbow vestments were gone. No more interpretive dance in the sanctuary. No “clown eucharistics” No more substituting cheezy Jonathan Livingston Seagull for the Church Fathers. No more Bob Dylan nasal wheezing crowding out Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Bach and Handel.

    By the way, can anyone explain why the absolutely worst homilies (sermons) are given by the female clergy? They usually deliver the intellectual equivalent of cotten candy. Grab for it and its gone, nothing left but a sickly goo all other your hands. Definitely not the spiritual sustenance one needs to get through the seriously hard times that come to all of us.

    When I attend a baptism, I don’t want some warmed-over, aging hippie presiding. When I got married I didn’t want to be distracted by psychedelia at the altar. When I need prayer I don’t want some narcissist in American Indian regalia reciting the Desirata. When I am ready to leave this world I don’t want somebody who is nostalgic for Haight Asbury’s glory days seeing me on my way out.

    Wouldn’t you rather be challenged intellectually and spiritually to rise to the altitude of a majestic liturgy then presented with today’s Top 40 hits?
    If not, why not?

Comments are closed.