Latin America and the Catholic Church - Case Study Example

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Capitalism, Communism, and Communion Your Due In March 1983 Pope John Paul II visited Nicaragua, where he was to hold Catholic Mass in the city of Managua. The papal visit was eagerly anticipated by Catholics who traveled many miles, in hot weather and immense crowds, to be present when the Pope spoke. The country suffered from great poverty and civil unrest. The impoverished were desperate for the leader of their faith to speak some words of condolence for their lost loved ones, to support the poor in their efforts, and offer some words of peace. Many Catholics in attendance were very disappointed, because the Pope, in truth, did none of those things. At the conclusion of the lackluster oration, a BBC reporter stated, that the Pope gave,”…the most unusual mass of his career.”(qtd in Hoyt,1983) Why were so many Catholics so disappointed? What were the reasons for the Pope’s behaviors? What were the consequences in Nicaragua after the papal visit? These are all issues that will be discussed in the course of this essay.
Nicaragua in the late 1970s and 1980s was a land of revolution. Many citizens felt that their existing leader, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, was a tyrant. They saw the immense poverty, the hunger, the poor living conditions, the lack of employment available was directly related to the exploitation and oppression by their government; that this is the reason the poor suffered without relief. The plight of the poor Christians brought them to the rebel militias formed by the Sandinistas, who opposed Somoza, encouraged rebellion, and promoted the teaching of “liberation theology.”(Dillon,1999) This, sometimes, controversial interpretation of Christianity, relies heavily on the need to care for the poor and heavily rebukes traditional capitalist economic systems. These differing spiritual interpretations and differing political perspectives left Nicaragua, as a whole, at odds. Many, likely, thought that the Pope’s visit would aid in resolution and more potential peaceful outcomes.
Just one day before the Pope’s arrival in the country 17 members of a Sandinistas Youth Group riding a bus were ambushed and killed. Many people cried out for him to say something in regards to the young lives lost, but he did not. Generally speaking whenever a foreign head of state visits another country, where youths have been tragically killed, regardless of the reasons,”…he is expected to say SOME sympathetic remarks.”(Hoyt,1983) Not only did he refrain from such condolences, he, in fact, had scolded members of the clergy for participating in the concepts of liberation theology and for allowing themselves to become involved in politics in this way. Instead, he spoke of the necessity of Church unity and not fighting against perceived oppressors. The Pope’s lackluster mass, his cold disdain for the pleading crowds, and his nonexistent support of the “rebels” can be attributed to the belief that the liberation theology is a promoting socialism. In truth, some of the concepts in the ideology do share similarities with Marxist ideals, but with the world’s fear of communism this made those ideals an actual threat, at least that is how it was perceived. In fact, the Pope reacted quite strongly after his visit to Latin America. Within a short time, the Pope mounted what some call, full-scale counterrevolution. The Vatican removed and punished many known liberation theology ideologists within the clergy and closed reformist churches, then promoted more conservative Catholic clergy to lead the churches throughout Latin America.
Revolutions have happened, and will continue to happen, all over the world. When people are in need of change, and that need becomes overwhelming, the means will likely be found. The Pope spoke of church unity as a solution, but unity should not be used an as excuse to deny change. The Pope’s words, the Vatican’s actions, and the powerful means of wealthier conservative Catholics diminished the rebellion. By the 1990’s the fervor of the Sandinistas had, for the most part, been burnt out. A ban was placed on teaching liberation theology in and its most outspoken Latin American promoters silenced. Many would say that Nicaragua presently is far worse off than it was years ago. The church has withdrawn from activism and no longer involves itself heavily in social issues.(Hogan,2005) There are no guarantees that Nicaragua would have benefitted from liberation theology had the revolution been successful; no promise that it was the ideal solution, but it was a solution. Instead the needs of the people were lost in the games of religion and politics, and that is all too common reality of the world we all live in today.
Dillon, S. (1999, January 21). Ecatepec journal, a rebel creed, stifled by the pope, flickers still.
The New York Times. Retrieved from
Hogan, M. (2005, November 23). Latin america- an historical perspective of the politics of the
catholic church in latin america. Retrieved from
Hoyt, K. (1983, March). The 1983 visit of john paul II to nicaragua. Retrieved from Read More
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