Friday, March 5, 2010

The Catholic Church of Trujillo responds to La Prensa

As we reported in a previous post, the Honduran newspaper La Prensa published an unsourced and completely dubious set of claims, supposedly based on a military intelligence report, accusing campesinos in the Bajo Aguan of being guerrillas and communists. The report, we noted, was incendiary and is the kind of media that leads to and pre-emptively justifies violence.

Included in that press report were frankly incoherent accusations against the Catholic Church in general, and the Jesuit order in specific. Now, thanks to John Donaghy, we can point to a response by the Catholic Church in Trujillo, the diocese that includes the Aguan valley.

It is worth reflecting on the historic position of Trujillo in Honduran Catholicism. Founded in 1525, the town of Trujillo was the first Spanish capital of Honduras. It is widely identified as located where in 1502, Christopher Columbus first set foot on the mainland of the Americas, and where his expedition practiced the first Catholic Mass.

On August 14, 2002, the 500th anniversary of that history was commemorated with a mass on the beach at Trujillo, celebrated by the Archbishop of Santo Domingo and others. The miraculous image of the Virgin of Suyapa, patron saint of Honduras, was brought from Tegucigalpa to solemnize the ceremony.

The document issued by the Diocese of Trujillo specifically objects to passages in La Prensa supposedly citing the "intelligence report" blaming violence on
priests of the Jesuit order who hawk liberation theology in every community
and concluding that
the dominant Catholic order in the department is the Jesuits, followers of liberation theology which is a Marxist vision of the Gospel. Out of this order have come all the guerrilla priests of the Church including Guadalupe Carney.

Father James Carney, priest of the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus, was killed in 1983 in Honduras by members of the right-wing Battalion 316. The reference to him, in this context, is one that anyone familiar with Honduran history should find extremely disturbing.

Thus, it is heartening to see the Trujillo Diocese write that the Jesuits
have accompanied the poorest families of the department of Colon who for the most part comprise the campesino population, to assist them in the defense of their rights and to attain the goals of their own development.
and that
Integral liberation for which the Jesuit priests and the whole Catholic Church work is not Marxist action nor an action which belongs to a political ideology. It is action inspired by the Gospel which demands that we work against every ideology which manipulates the people. And this is what the Jesuit priests do in our diocese of Trujillo. We are clear about the effort the Jesuit priests make and which the whole diocese does for some eighteen years so that the campesinos do not sell their lands which now are the reason for this violent conflict.

The Trujillo Diocese also objects to the statement in La Prensa, attributed to the apparently fictional "military intelligence" report, that
Authorities of the Catholic Church in the area have strong ties with campesino groups in the department, officially to promote environmental and indigenous groups but it is believed that they are also to strengthen their party (the Christian Democrats).

It should go without saying that the Christian Democrat Party is not an arm of the Catholic Church. But the Diocese considers this statement serious enough to respond to it:
no member of the Hierarchy of the Catholic church in the Diocese of Trujillo, which is composed of the departments of Colón and Gracias a Dios, has any commitment with any political party and therefore not with the Christian Democratic Party

and quoting Pope Benedict notes that
The church is the advocate (lawyer) of justice and the poor precisely by not identifying itself with politician nor with party interests

According to contemporary news reports, in 2002 the representative of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Nicolás López, spoke directly to a group of 1000 members of Honduran indigenous groups who participated in the commemorative mass at Trujillo, telling them
You are specially beloved by God, who is in heaven, and by Christ, our savior... The Pope admires, defends, and makes his own the interests of the ethnicity sprung up here in the beginning of the 16th century... and appreciates your identity and demands that you be recognized by all, principally by those that might hold public power.

The sentiment is one equally appropriate for the campesinos today seeking justice in their search for land from which to support themselves in the Bajo Aguan, many of whom are undoubtedly descendants of the indigenous peoples of Honduras, supported by Catholic clergy who have historically been targets of violence by right-wing forces in Honduras. Let us pray this is not the overture to a repetition of history.

1 comment:

John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

Thanks for pointing out the quote from Cardinal López in Trujillo in 2002 and the article.