Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An Argentine Dictator Talks About The Collusion Of Catholic Hierarchy In The Dirty War

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 disappeared

Tom 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 warThey 'were old friends' said GWas 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.


  1. It would seem so and it is "alarming that Cardinal Dolan seems to be working very hard to be the US version of Cardinal Primatesta."

    Dolan leads the Bishops in the USofA on a right-wing crusade against the people of the USofA. I have no doubt that Cardinal Dolan is as like-minded as Cardinal Primatesta and that our psychotic Pope Benedict is cheering Dolan on this campaign to try to destroy the left, any voice of concern for the human rights of others.

    Cardinal Dolan's stance against gays and their rights in a democracy to enjoy the same liberties of relationship & acceptance in the community, in the nation as heterosexuals says he does not care about their liberty and freedom as human beings and is willing to have them "disappear" from Catholic discussion and also have them "disappear" from jobs. His stance paves the way for further injustice against the human rights of these people.

    Cardinal Dolan's stance against the LCWR is similar in that he is willing to have these courageous Catholic women silenced, shut from dialogue, even banned from the Catholic Church.

    What happened in Argentina could very well happen here is the lesson. Furthermore, the hierarchy's alliance with a culture of death, increased money allotted to the military and military industrial complex that the Republican Party now represents and lobbies for means someone like Cardinal Dolan desires to bless this army of destruction.

    Cardinal Dolan is also used to being silent against abuse and would fit the shoes and walk of a Cardinal Primatesta very well.

    I am ashamed of this shadow and long darkness of suffering that the likes of Cardinal Dolan and Pope Benedict XVI bring into the world and into our Church. I do not know how they can sleep at night. And how can the laity support this kind of stuff in which children go missing, people are tortured, mothers are killed after giving birth..... ??? It is truly sickening to hear that those who deem themselves the spokespersons in persona Christi in the hierarchy are nothing more than the helpers and enablers and promoters of the terrors of evil.

    Fran Schultz

  2. Oh, and the tossing people out of helicopters is sickening!!!

    Fran Schultz

    1. One way to stop GOP fetal idolators from throwing leftist women out of helicopters is to claim they just had sex (with jailer rapists!) and therefore could be a couple days pregnant with rapists' sperm. That'll make their fascist heads explode!
      :-) HeilMary1

    2. Tossing LCWR nuns out of the Church is really a signal that the types who would favor this agenda for our religious women who are following the Gospels would act upon other hostile and abusive behaviors such as tossing people out of helicopters, if given the chance.

      I can't remember which Thomas Merton book in which he clearly states that in the era of the Vietnam War it was a war in which the US was trying to impose and enforce the beliefs of anti-communism, and as well he stated it was also a proxy war of discrimination and racism. Merton was right in saying that no one has the right to jam the ideas of their own conscience into another's conscience or beliefs & that ideas can not be killed. Killing people, the very notion, is anti-Christian. Killing people because they have leftist ideas is also anti-Christian. I'm so tired of all the insanity that passes for "religious" or "national security." As a Christian and one who tends to lean to the left, to the side of the victims of power elites many injustices, I don't feel a sense of security with massive arms build-up and the people who make these weapons gaining financially and politically.

      Then, with all that violence the right wing brings into the world and seeing the RCC hierarchy backing them up and their focusing on abortion as the worst evil when people don't even have access to health care, jobs that pay a living wage - well, dear Lord, deliver us from this evil.

      Fran Schultz

  3. Now that Monsignor Lynn has received his sentence in the clergy kiddie rape trial in Philly, Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Pennsylvania Province is free now to talk about the kiddie rape trial at Penn State with a prominent Catholic Community member like Jerry Sandusky and his comrade in arms in protecting first the prestige of the institution Joe Pa Paterno. Chaput was first consecrated bishop by Cardinal Laghi. Small world ain't it. And you can't silence your critics young enough these days? Right? No. Far right that is.
    So many valuable lessons to be learned from Argentina. Do you think that the bishops had the military hit lists first for approval or did the lists actually originate in the Papal Nuncio Palace first? Truth may indeed be stranger than fiction.

    1. Mike, your last paragraph brings up some interesting points in that there were a number of clergy and religious that 'disappeared'. I wonder if Laghi and Primatesta didnt' go to their graves with certain clerical names on their souls.

  4. Which American cardinal still lends his name and the prestige of his office to the School of the Americas where the latin american military officers were trained to create these atrocities?


  5. Bishop Morlino of Madison Wisconsin?


    And don't forget Cardinal Caggiano of Buenos Aires that set up the original Vatican ratline that fed former Nazis into the military in Argentina.


    1. Morlino is correct Mike. I find it ironic that my little diocese has had both Raymond Hunthausen and Robert Morlino. Archbishop Hunthausen got into all kinds of trouble over his dissenting against Reagan's nuclear build up, and then we get Morlino who sits on the board of the School of the America's. No wonder I have whiplash.

    2. That RCC cardinals think the Nazi Ustasha and the School of the Americas were/are "pro-life" is very chilling.
      :-( HeilMary1

  6. My question is what role Opus Dei and other personal prelatures had in the Argentine Dirty War. Conspiracy theories personally drive me cranky with aggravation, but I don't think it's beyond the scope of probability that OD and unaffiliated clerics have a lot of dirty linen to hide about that particular era in Argentina.

  7. It is interesting that the political right had a lot to do with the problems in El Salvador. Matthew Fox has shown that the disappearances of millions from the Vatican Bank were eventually spent in this country. Arch-Bishop Romero was murdered just prior to being relived of his job by JP the great enabler. This whole anticommunist thing that JP II had shows him to be not one of the better thinkers of our time. He attempted to destroy liberation theology in the guise of it being communistic. It only made the RCC a much worse institution. Yes, I am Catholic but drop the word Roman. dennis

    1. When I was an active member of the LCMS, my aging pastor told me that up until the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Lutherans actively called themselves Lutheran Catholics. With no reciprocation from the Vatican, the term died on the vine.

      Perhaps some disenchanted Catholics should identify themselves as Vatican Two Catholics to provide a depth gauge to their souls as opposed to the old Constantine Catholics now in power.

      Also, for too long, no one challenges the daily PR handouts by the Hierarchy. It is time to call a spade a spade in terms of the Great Heretic of John Paul II.


    2. The Second Vatican Council is only one Ecumenical Council of many. If you define your faith only by the one, to the exclusion of the others, then it would be misleading in the extreme to refer to oneself as a Catholic of any kind.

  8. It was the same in Spain ruled by Franco (1936-1975). Catholic hierarchy collaborated with the so called process of national "cleaning". It was Spanish people against Spanish people and thousands were killed because they were suspected communists. Opus Dei was born in Spanish Civil War (1939), they are the true and original fascists in the Catholic Church.

  9. How are Catholics supposed to stand up for a Church with such evil values, for crying out loud ?

    As Jesus said:

    "I was a political prisoner, and you pushed me out of an aeroplane; I longed for news of my family, and you used your moral authority to prevent my getting any; I was tortured, & you persuaded my torturers they were doing nothing wrong. Come, you blessed of my Father, & inherit the kingdom that has been prepared for you."

    Do the clergy seriously imagine that such behaviours show the Love of Christ ?!? If that is Christian love - what is hate ? What sort of religion messes with people's minds to make them tyranny's "willing excecutioners", and to call the works of the devil the works of Christ. These people are Satanists, because they do the works of their father. They are no more Christians than Osama bin Laden, Adolf Eichmann, or Pol Pot were. Murder & torture =/////= Christian values.

  10. aeroplane = helicopter