|In Argentina it was the Mothers of Plaza De Mayo whose voices made all the difference in exposing the 'dirty war'.|
The following article is taken from the Irish Times. It should make any Catholic, at least Catholics who believe in Christ and not the hierarchy, sick to their stomachs. For those of us who lived through these times, late 70's through early 90's, this should not be news. Most of it was chronicled to some extent at the time it was happening, although from the perspective that such was necessary to root out communists and/or cells of liberation theology in the Central and Latin America. From the mid seventies to the late eighties communism was a crusade for JPII in both Latin America and Eastern Europe. In the early 80's he had a very willing partner in US President Ronald Reagan, but he also had an earlier ally in Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during the Ford Administration, and a wishy washy Jimmy Carter in between. Unfortunately, what happened in Latin America is not at all what happened in Eastern Europe. Latin America was about raising fascist dictators to power through corrupted democratic channels and eliminating opposition without resorting to pesky court proceedings. Eastern Europe was about pushing over a failed governmental system.
The following article describes how this played out in Argentina with the collusion of the highest levels of the Church hierarchy. It is a story that needs retelling in today's current poisonous atmosphere.
Former Argentinian dictator says he told Catholic Church of disappearedTom Hennigan - Irish Times - 7/24/2012
ARGENTINA’S FORMER military dictator said he kept the country’s Catholic hierarchy informed about his regime’s policy of “disappearing” political opponents, and that Catholic leaders offered advice on how to “manage” the policy. (I'm sure they did, masters of secrecy that they are.)
Jorge Videla said he had “many conversations” with Argentina’s primate, about his regime’s dirty war against left-wing activists. He said there were also conversations with other leading bishops from Argentina’s episcopal conference as well as with the country’s papal nuncio at the time, Pio Laghi. (Laghi was subsequently posted the USA with an apparent mandate to push through conservative US clergy to US dioceses. Some of these appointments were Bernard Law in Boston, John O'Connor in New York, and Anthony Bevilacqua in Philadelphia.)
“They advised us about the manner in which to deal with the situation,” said Videla in a series of interviews conducted by the magazine El Sur in 2010 but published only on Sunday.
He said that in certain cases church authorities offered their “good offices” and undertook to inform families looking for “disappeared” relatives to desist from their searches, but only if they were certain the families would not use the information to denounce the junta.
“In the case of families that it was certain would not make political use of the information, they told them not to look any more for their child because he was dead,” said Videla. He said the church “understood well . . . and also assumed the risks” of such involvement.
The confession confirms long-held suspicions that Argentina’s Catholic hierarchy collaborated with the military’s so-called process of national reorganisation, which sought to root out communism. In the years following the 1976 coup led by Videla, thousands of left-wing activists were swept up into secret detention centres where they were tortured and murdered. Military chaplains were assigned as spiritual advisers to the junior officers who staffed the centres. (Here's a link to a Vatican Insider story which confirms that confessors were assigned to the torturers to help them deal with tossing people out of helicopters.)
In contrast to the Catholic hierarchy in Brazil, where church leaders denounced that country’s military dictatorship and provided sanctuary to its victims, in Argentina bishops were prominent defenders of the regime against accusations of human rights abuses from abroad.
At the height of the state’s offensive, Cardinal Primatesta refused to meet with mothers of the disappeared who, in the face of violent intimidation and media silence, were seeking help in finding out what had happened to their missing loved ones. He also prohibited the lower clergy from speaking out against state violence, even as death squads targeted Catholic priests critical of the regime.
The cardinal’s defenders said he believed a break with the regime would be counter- productive and that in private he characterised disappearances and torture as against the Christian spirit. On his death in 2006 human rights campaigners in Argentina said he took to the grave many of the junta’s secrets after they failed to force him to testify about his dealings with it.
Accusations of collaboration with the junta also dogged the subsequent career of Laghi, who had been a regular tennis partner of the navy’s representative in the junta, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, when in Buenos Aires.
The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo human rights group tried to prosecute him in Italy for his involvement with Argentina’s dictatorship but the effort failed.
Videla is serving life in prison for human rights abuses committed while in power. Earlier this month a court sentenced him to 50 years for orchestrating the theft of babies born in captivity to women subsequently murdered by their military captors.
He gave the interview to El Sur on condition that it be published only after his death, saying he did not want to cause any more pain. But the magazine said it was released from its obligation after Videla subsequently gave a series of interviews to other journalists that were published.
I think it's important for American Catholics to meditate on this disgusting collusion of a national hierarchy with it's national political leadership. The current USCCB campaign is designed by bishops who were and are closely linked to the men that Laghi vetted for JPII, and whose conservative politics were as important to their promotion as their loyalty to the papacy. The Argentina of Jorge Videla, Cardinal Laghi, and Cardinal Primatesta is a perfect example of the perfect storm the alliance of right wing politics with like minded Catholic clergy can create for innocent people.
Pio Laghi continued his diplomatic career and penchant for rubbing shoulders with politicians in the US. He was a frequent dinner guest of the first George Bush, which could be why the second George Bush felt free to blow him off when as JPII"s Special Ambassador Laghi presented JPII's objections to the Iraq war. They 'were old friends' said GW, as the US went to war and Laghi went back into retirement.
I find it quite alarming that Cardinal Dolan seems to be working very hard to be the US version of Cardinal Primatesta. Dolan's problem is the wrong president sits in the White House, but he and his USCCB bretheren are doing all they can to change that little stumbling block. Perhaps Dolan should study the career of Pio Laghi because Laghi's silence about the atrocities committed by his Argentine friends destroyed any chance Laghi had of becoming pope---all those Brazilian bishops probably had something to with that.
Silence is not golden when it concerns atrocities and abuse. For some reason this seems to be a very difficult lesson for some men to learn, whether they lead multimillion dollar football programs or wear cardinal red with their white collars.