"new" Churches of Latin America. The fact that the Churches of Latin America were hardly "new" compared to those in Africa and elsewhere did not register with some people-including the Church historian, Johannes Dollinger.

At Vatican II, the Latin American presence was much more substantial, even though it might well have been even greater in proportionate terms. Over six hundred Latin American bishops were present at the Council: i.e., 22 percent of the total. But the Catholic population of Latin America is 38 percent of the world Catholic population-hence considerably more than was proportionately the Co-uncil. The difference shows up even more clearly m the study commissions. There were only fifty Latin Americanperiti on the staff ofthese commissions. Europe, which has about the same Catholic population, had 219 periti. Rome had 318 periti, six times the number of periti from Latin America. Latin American influence disappeared almost completely in the executive organs of the Council.

There was one Latin American, Cardinal Antonio Cag-giano of Buenos Aires, on the presiding board of the Council. It was Cardinal Achille Lienart of Lille, however, who really got the Council started. He himself has described to me what happened. When he was presented with the agenda for the Council, he noticed that everything seemed to have been organized and fixed in advance. When itcame time for him to speak, he simply voiced what he felt without stopping to think about its possible impact. He said in Latin, "Mihi non placet." There was a thunderous burst of applause, and the Council began in earnest. It was the same sensitivity and awareness that Lienart had displayed back in 1930. He was in conflict with the business owners of Lille, and the latter requested that he be replaced. The Pope refused to do that; instead he made him a Cardinal when he was little more than forty-five years old.

Manuel Larram, the Bishop of Talca, was the Latin American who exerted the most influence at the Council. He was never made a cardinal, but this great Chilean bishop certainly should have been one by virtue of his longstanding invo.vement in Catholic Action and his work for land reform in Chile. Many other bishops made their presence felt at the Council, but I would say that the involvement of the Latin American bishops could have been much greater . At any rate they did get to meet each other and to talk things over; and they had a chance to meet with other bishops from underdeveloped countries. One very interesting result of such meetings anc;l conversations was the message issued by the bishops of the Third World to their peoples2 Dom Helder Camara of Brazil headed the list of signatories, and the message itself proclaimed that the peoples ofthe Third World were the proletariatoftoday's world. It also spoke on themes connected with the international imperialism of money. This text would subsequently have an impact on the Medellrn Conference. But the fact remains that Vatican II itselfwas a reflection of postwar European neocapitalism.


The Medellín Conference was the Second General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate. The first such conference had taken place in Río de Janeiro (1955), where the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) was formed. The Medellín Conference might well be copsid-ered the Vatican II of Latin America, even as the Third Council of Lima (1582-83) is often considered the Latin American Trent.

It was the Medellín Conference that gave concrete form and application to Vatican II. The resultwas somewhatofa surprise, because a previous meeting had not produced much in the way of results and an air of scepticism sur-

rounded the upcoming meeting. The visit of Pope Paul VI to Latin America, however, alerted public opinion and created an atmosphere of hopefulness. His speeches in Latin America touched upon some key ideas and also helped to stir the thinking of our own bishops. He noted that "broad and courageous vision" would be required to put through the reforms "necessary for a more just and efficient social arrangement." He exhorted the people of Latin America not to place their trust in violence and revolution: "That is contrary to the Christian spirit, and can even delay, rather than advance, that social uplifting to which you lawfully aspire." It was a theme to which he returned: "Many ...insist on the need for urgent change in social structures ...and some conclude that Latin America's essential problem can be solved only by violence. ...We must say and reaffirm that violence is not in accord with the Gospel, that it is not Christian."3

These texts were interpreted within the overall context of his other addresses and encyclicals, and commentaries were worked up by various figures: Father Alfonso Gregory of Brazil; Bishop Marcos MacGrath of Panamá; Bishop Eduardo Pironio of CELAM; Bishop Samuel Ruíz of Chiapas, Mexico; Bishop Pablo M uñoz Vega of Ecuador; Bishop Luis Henríquez of Venezuela; and Bishop Leonidas Proaño of Riobamba, Ecuador. In the discussions and preparatory documents of the Medellín Conference, the teaching of Vatican II and the popes was fleshed out1in terms of the Latin American situation. The Conclusions gave voice to a new tone and a new idiom in the language of the Latin American Church: "It is the same God who, in the fullness of time, sends his Son in the flesh, so that he might come to liberate all men from the slavery to which sin has subjected them: hunger, misery, oppression, and ignorance, in a word, that injustice and hatred which have their origin in human selfishness."4 And it went on to spell out some of the concrete implications of such a vision. Here is one example:

"As the Christian believes in the productiveness of peace in order to achieve justice, he also believes that justice is a prerequisite for peace. He recognizes that in many instances Latin America finds itself faced with a situation of injustice that can be called institutionalized violence. ...This situation demands all-embracing, courageous, urgent, and profoundly renovating transformations. We should not be surprised, therefore, that the 'temptation to violence' is surfacing in Latin America. One should not abuse the patience of a people that for years has borne a situation that would not be acceptable to anyone with any degree of awareness of human rights."5

These documents of the Me.delHn Conference speak in the idiom of liberation, talking about such matters as dependence, domination, and the international imperialism of money. Yet the thoUght of that Conference stands somewhere in the transitional phase between "develop-mentalism" and the "theology of liberation." Starting with the basic fact of a gap between the "developed" and the "underdeveloped" countries, the developmentalist approach suggests that the underdeveloped countries must catch up to the former countries by more or less imitating their way of doing things. This approach tended to dominate our thinking in the 60s, and it is still evident in the thinking o (the Medellin Conference. As time went on, however, it became evidef1t that the underdeveloped countries could never catch up with the develored nations by adopting that approach. The gap betweeri the two types grows greater every day. The belatedly industrialized countries cannot gain their economic independence simply by following in the footsteps of the "advanced" nations. The price of manufactured products increases steadily while the price of raw materials provided by the underdeveloped countries declines. The resultant economic and political problems have graduallymade their impact felt in the field of theology also.

If the underdeveloped countries are to attain liberation, they must break the cycle of dependence on advanced industrialized countries. This fact began to be seen more , clearly right after the Medellín Conference, and theologians began to talk about a new model for the underdeveloped nations. Tying in this model with biblical thinking, they began to talk about a "theology of liberation." It was Augusto Salazar Bondy, a Peruvian philosopher, who called our attention to the fact that the domination exerted over us was not only economic and political but also cultural in the broad sense. His work attracted the attention of Gustavo Gutiérrez, who has done much to spell out the basic underpinnings of liberation theology.6 W.e shall return to thlS whole matter m the next chapter. Rlght now I should like to sketch some of the reactions of the Church and Christians to recent events in Latin America.


Between 1962 and 1972 there have been significant political overthrows in Latin America. The coups in Brazil (1964), Argentina (1966), and Peru (1968) were major events because they affected more than half of the total Latin American population. Towards these events the Church adopted different and sometimes contradictory stances, and I should like to touch on those which occurred in Brazil and Peru as examples of what is going on.

The Church had organized various social mpvements in Brazil before Goulart was deposed and the ni.litary junta took over. One of the most interesting was the development movement in Natal, which was concerned with the growth of the northeast section of the country. This movement, known as SUDENE (Superinterulencia delDesenvolvimiento del N.E. ), eventuall y would end in failure, but basically it was a continuation of the peasant leagues (Ligas camponesas) of Francisco Juliao. There would also begin in Brazil the movement for basic education (MEB) based on the approach of Paulo Freire. The Church was progressively making its presence known in Brazilian sdciety. The weakness of the Goulart government paved the wí1y for the military coup of March 31, 1964, and a new phase began in the life of that nation.

Twelve days after the military coup Dom Helder Camara, a friend ofPaul VI, was nominated Bishop of Olinda and Recife. He had been in Rome when the bishop of a small diocese in Brazil died. Paul VI wanted to make him the bishop of a dioc.ese, but he also wanted him to take over a larger and more lmportant one. Right around that tlme the bishop of Olinda and Recife also died, and Camara was nominated to replace him.

On April 12, 1964, Dom Helder Camara delivered an address which, in my opinion, was one of the most forthright theological statements ever made in Latin American history. It was truly prophetic, in the tradition of men like Montesinos. Camara is a prophet and a poet who uses a dialectical approach which we shall explore in detail in the next chapter. He began this way: "I am a native of northeast Brazil, speaking to other natives of that region, with my gaze focused on Brazil, Latin America, and the world. I speak as a human being, in fellowship with the frailty and sinfulness of all other human beings; as a Christian to other Christians, but with a heart open to all individuals, peoples, and ideologies; as a bishop of the Catholic Church wlio, like Christ, seeks to serve rather than be served. May my fraternal greeting be heard by all: Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and non-believers. Praised be Jesus Christr"7

No clearer statemdnt has been made since Vatican II. Camara takes his standpoint as a native of his own region, and then lets his horizons open up to encompass broader realities. His is a truly "catholic" vision encompassing the whole world, the eschatological totality of the kingdom. The concluding remarks of his address are truly pro-

phetic ones: "It would be wrong to suppose that our opposition to atheistic communism implies a defense of liberal capitalism. It would be erroneous to conclude that we are communist because we as Christians vigorously criticize the egotistical position of economic liberalism." This is the classic stance of the Christian prophet. He will oppose the unjust use of power and bourgeois liberalism, but he will also oppose orthodox Marxism. The latter is unacceptable because it is atheistic -or rather, pantheistic, as we have noted earlier. It turns its own world into an absolute whole and dernes the Other. It ends up denymg God and proposing a fatal, egotistical totalitarianism.

The Christian is forced to move forward in history, buffeted by the storm around him and removed from the established order. As Jesus said to Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world." In other words, the Christian keeps moving into the future, drawing the whole process of history in his wake. He fights and struggles for the poor, and the poor do not have any institutions to defend them. Hence he must die as a martyr for the kingdom. It seems to me that there have been great figures in the various stages of Latin American Church history. In the early colonial period there was Bartolomé de Las Casas and Toribio de Mogrovejo. In the nineteenth century there was Bishop Mariano Casanova, and then the long line of great Chilean bishops which culminated with Bishop Larraín. In the last decade we have figures like Dom Helder Camara in Brazil and Sergio Méndez Arceo, the Bishop of Cuer-navaca, Mexico.

On May 7, 1964, Tristáo de Atayde spoke outin the pages of the Folha de Sao Paulo. In his youth he had been a great student of Maritain but, unlike the latter, he did not backtrack on his opinions in later years. Unlike the author of the Peasant of the Garonne, he continued to follow the process of history even in his later years. In his article, he spoke out against the cultural terrorism that had taken over in Brazil.

What else is it, he asked, "when men of international stature are deprived of their posts ...simply because they express opinions contrary to the new prevailing ideology; when purely metaphysical philosoph'ers are jailed ...along with young intellectuals simply because their methods of teaching literacy are regarded as subversive; when the organs of Catholic Action ...are exhorted to abstain from activities that are 'incompatible with the interests of the nation and its people' as if they were underi the tutelage of the State?"

My point here is a simple one. Our young people sometimes wonder where we will find martyrs to match those of old. Well, we may not have had them for awhile, but there have been many, indeed hundr,ds, in Latin America in the last ten years, And there probably will be many more. A clear case in point is the young priest of the diocese of Olinda y Recife in Brazil, who was assassinated at the age of twenty-eight. His life was threatened, but he continued his work as adviser to a Catholic Action group of university students. On the night of May 27, 1969, he was abducted, tortured, stripped, tied to a stake, and shot. This young priest, Henrique Pereira Neto, was a martyr as surely as any in the Roman empire. And there have been many others like him in Latin America. Something extraordinary and important is going on in our lands.

When the average European of today utters a prayer, he or she does it calmly and simply. Only once or twice in a lifetime is the European faced with a critical choice that will affect his or her whole life. The European decides to pursue a certain line of work, to get married, to enter the religious life. After that, life goes on for forty or fiftyyears without any life-or-death opqon entering the picture. The moral intensity of life is experienced in one or two moments. In Latin America, by contrast, we may be faced with life-or-death options over and over again. I t is ha ppening in Brazil, and we must face the reality of the situation. A military government also took over in Peru in 1968, but it began to tackle things in a very different manner. The Church, too, adopted a different posture when faced with the new scituation. The new military government adopted a nationalistic policy that entailed some degree of socializing the economic capacity of the country .A say in the government was granted to Christians and to others who have been traditionally anti-Christian: e.g., socialists and communists. Towards this policy the Church has adopted a very positive attitude-quite in contrast to the situation in Brazil.

Up to 1962, in short, the Church tended to defend its own rights and its own institutions vis-a-vis the State. Since then the Church has tended to defend the rights of the poor and the common people, the Other, and the ensuing conflicts stem mainly from that fact. A radical change in attitude has taken place, more akin to the pro-Indian attitude of some colonial bishops.

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