NEWS: November 15, 2002
Bird’s Eye View of the News
Atila Sinke Guimarães
SCAPEGOAT – At the Bishops’ meeting in Washington (November 11-13), Bishop Wilton Gregory, head of the USCCB, came up with a strange argument to explain the change of tone regarding the Charter of Dallas on pedophile abuses. The new document was imposed by the Vatican, which denied its approval to the Dallas decisions. The tonus of the first document was one of contrition on the part of the Bishops for covering for 325 pedophile priests. It also asked for forgiveness and made the promise to punish the guilty in an exemplary way. The tonus of the new document is one that presents the wave of just indignation of Catholic public opinion as the fruit of a surreptitious extremist maneuver to destroy the Bishops’ power in the Church and the reputation of the good clergy. This maneuver would have been executed by various progressivist organizations whose ultimate purpose is to change the Church.
These were the words of Bishop Gregory: “Sadly, even among the baptized, there are those at the extremes within the Church who have chosen to exploit the vulnerability of the Bishops in this moment to advance their own agendas. One cannot fail to hear in the distance – and sometimes very nearby – the call of the false prophet, ‘Let us strike the shepherd and scatter the flock.’ We Bishops need to recognize this call and to name it clearly for what it is” (Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2002). Even if Gregory did not mention the names of such organizations, it has been generally understood from his words that they would be the progressivist groups that are calling for the abolition of priestly celibacy, the participation of lay people in the decision-making process of the Church, the ordination of women and married men, etc. (ibid).
I must say that this melodramatic rhetoric of Bishop Gregory did not convince me at all.
I think that the main reason for the wave of reactions against the pedophile abusers should be attributed to the complacent Bishops. The conspiracy made by extreme forces pointed to by Bishop Gregory just seems to be an scapegoat to divert public attention from their change of position.
- First, because the crime of pedophilia is a crime that cries to Heaven for vengeance. Therefore it should produce an extraordinary indignation in a healthy public opinion. You don’t need a conspiracy theory to explain this very normal reaction of the Catholic people.
- Second, because many of the Bishops were guilty of connivance, as they acknowledged in Dallas, and thus they are quite deserving of the discredit they have earned from the faithful.
- Third, because in these scandals not only priests, but also Prelates were convicted of homosexuality or pedophilia. Archbishop Weakland acknowledged publicly his homosexuality and two Bishops in Florida were convicted of pedophilia. The three of them had to resign. If these were convicted, how many others are there who are guilty and still unrevealed? Who knows their names? Given such precedents, it is legitimate for the public to be suspicious of the Bishops.
- Fourth, the progressivist forces that Bishop Gregory implicitly mentioned as conspiring against the hierarchy of the Church are also favorable to homosexual priests. For this reason normally they would not be the first promoters of the wave of indignation. Certainly they took advantage of the scandal to further their agenda, but it seems to me quite exaggerated to say that they are responsible for the whole wave of reactions. Why should they “burn” Weakland, one of their principal supporters among American Bishops?
- Fifth, it is my personal opinion that the position taken by the American Bishops in Dallas was a good beginning, and with that they recovered a little of their credibility. On the contrary, I think that the step backwards they just took in Washington makes them look bad again. If I am correct, to whom should one attribute this diminishment of prestige? To a conspiracy or to the Bishops themselves who now have voluntarily changed their position?
SHOWING HIS COLORS – November 13, the current Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso, also a professor, delivered an aula magna (a lecture for all students) at Oxford University. He defended the position that the international community should unite and make an effort to end the concentration of power exercised by one single country: the United States. To reach that goal Mr. Cardoso suggested increasing the number of permanent members in the Security Council of the United Nations by admitting other countries, namely India, Mexico, South Africa, and Brazil. Without such a change, stated Cardoso, the present day Council is pressured to always agree with the decisions of the U.S. government. Cardoso, who is finishing his second term as Brazilian president, also criticized the International Monetary Fund as being unable to achieve the goal for which it was created, that is, to assist in the development of other countries. He also complained about the IMF’s insufficient resources (O Estado de São Paulo, November 14, 2002).
It is curious that only one month before leaving office, Mr. Cardoso took off his mask to show his real face. In his eight-year administration, he had always kept it concealed and maintained a cordial relationship with the U.S. It is also curious that he should make this unnecessary criticism of the IMF, especially when this organ recently promised $30 billion in aid to bolster the Brazilian economy, which this country was due to receive in around 60 days. Why would he make such statements? Were they meant to plant the first seeds of a new international campaign against the U.S.? Or were they meant to prepare the ambience for the most probable anti-American position of the next Brazilian president, Lula, a known admirer of Fidel Castro? Let us wait and see.
THE CAMPAIGN STARTS – At the same time Cardoso was making his statements in England, a “pilgrimage” was beginning in Brazil. Its participants are members of the Landless Movement, and the destination is the city of Alcantara, in the Northeastern state of Maranhão, where the Brazilian Air Force has a base for launching satellites. Recently Brazil agreed to rent this base to the United States for commercial purposes. The present day Defense Minister told the Brazilian Congress that the accord would not violate national sovereignty and emphasized its commercial advantages. Approval of the agreement now relies on a final signature of the president. This will be one of the first decisions of Lula, who will assume power January 1. The intention of the Landless “pilgrimage” is to pressure Lula to refuse to sign the agreement. The protest reaches its apex Saturday and Sunday, November 16 and 17, with a vigil and Mass for the “pilgrims” on a site near the Air Force base.
Fr. Carlos Ellena, representative of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the press that the event was being organized by the Catholic Diocese to which Alcantara belongs. A text inviting workers to the “pilgrimage” urges their participation so that they can help to prevent the United States from installing one of its “military bases” in Alcantara, which would violate the sovereignty of the country. The Catholic Church and the Landless Movement want to make it clear to Lula that they will demand a revision of three international accords – this one with the United States to rent the satellite base in Alcantara; a free commerce agreement among the three Americas, and the IMF accord. Brazil owes $260 billion to the IMF. To pay this external dept is intolerable for the Landless Movement (O Estado de São Paulo, November 14, 2002).
Right now the American media is presenting Lula as an “old” subversive who has “converted” to the Western mentality. I don’t believe this saga. The man is a puppet in the hands of the leaders of Liberation Theology, who, by means of the vast network of Basic Christian Communities, control the Workers Party, the Landless Movement, and other revolutionary organs. In my opinion, this new myth of a “converted” Lula will dissipate very soon with the events of the near future.
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