Venezuelan bishops still talking out the bottom of their cassocks

And the odds are that the major media, like the Catholic news site that published this, will eat that right up…

The Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela has announced its official position regarding the constitutional reform undertaken by President Hugo Chavez, who seeks to turn the country into a Socialist state.

In their exhortation, the bishops warn that the reform plan "harms the fundamental rights of the democratic system and of the human person, endangering freedom and coexistence. We consider it unacceptable in light of the Social Teachings of the Church."

The bishops went on to note that the Chavez proposals, "due to the radical and profound changes they would bring to the structure of the State, go way beyond reform." They emphasized that the proposal of a "Socialist State" would violate Venezuela’s Constitution, exclude those with opposing views from the political process and restrict freedoms.

"In this proposed Socialist model, the State and the government would be led by a president who could be continuously re-elected, with extremely wide powers that would allow him control over institutions, property and resources. A Socialist, Marxist, Leninist, Statist model is contrary to the thinking of the liberator Simon Bolivar and is also contrary to the personal nature of the human being and the Christian vision of mankind, because it establishes absolute dominion of the State over the person."

The bishops pointed out that the experience of other countries that have adopted such systems has led to oppression and the loss of personal freedoms, as well as economic hardships and increased poverty. They also reiterated that the "solution to the drama of poverty, to social injustice and hurtful inequalities is found neither in unrestrained capitalism nor in Marxists Socialism, but in the practice of social justice and effective charity."

Of course, this completely glosses over the fact that the Catholic church hierarchy is too often on the wrong side of the social justice issue. The Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference is squarely in the rich right-wing oligarchy’s corner, as has the Vatican been throughout Latin America. Isolated priests and nuns, and even the occasional honorable bishop like Juan Gerardi or Oscar Romero, have been killed for striving at real social justice, while liberation theologians have been silenced by the Vatican. Not to mention the church hierarchy’s shadowy role in the Dirty Wars of South America, particularly those of Argentina and Chile. And now, we have the same pope who, as head of the Inquisition (which is no longer called that), silenced the dissident voices in an effort to re-medievalize the church and pull Latin America back from the brink of actual progress. What a stellar track record.

As for “effective charity”, that’s a laugh. They’ve had what–2000 years?–to use charity to solve the world’s problems, and the poor are still with us, in greater numbers than ever. This even though charitable foundations have mushroomed, and some are very effective–at least in lining their own pockets. And sometimes the church’s own poor box gets pilfered. (Hey, charity begins at home! Besides, those people need jobs, it’ll trickle down to those who need it eventually, yadda yadda.)

Maybe, if the Vatican were to rethink its idea that every pregnancy, even if caused by rape or incest, is “God’s will”, and to accept that birth control and medical abortions are Good Things when you can ill afford another mouth to feed, there would not be so many poor with us…and consequently, not as much need for the church and its less-than-effective charity. Mind you, that would also spell fewer tithe payers, and might put a lot of right-wing bishops out of work, but I could live with that. Seems a small price to pay when you consider what some of them have done to children outside of their mothers’ wombs. (Could this be why they hate the notion of a stronger state? They certainly had no problem with statist rule when they associated with Nazis and defended fascism. Are they afraid the Vatican itself could one day be subject to prosecution, say by Italy, instead of going on enjoying its current levels of impunity as a state-within-a-state?)

Finally, I would like to bring it to the attention of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference that both Canada and Sweden are socialist countries, and not only have we not gone to the dustbins of “Socialist, Marxist, Leninist, Statist” history, we are thriving. That’s because we know the difference between mixed-economy socialism and state capitalism (a.k.a. “communism”). We even have Catholic bishops and right-wing nuts, all of whom can go their merry way not the least bit inconvenienced by the fact that we have a socialist system (except some clergy who are saying that Catholic politicians who don’t do the church’s bidding should be excommunicated or denied communion). That’s one where everyone chips in a bit, according to means, so everyone benefits, according to needs. That, by definition, is not just socialism but communism, as preached by none less than Jesus himself.

Are they going to call their own professed lord and savior a totalitarian? Because that’s what this rhetoric basically amounts to.

I think what they’re really afraid of is that what Chavez is paving the way for–greater self-rule by communities, and greater access by communities to federal monies (power and wealth redistributed, in other words, from the rich to the poor)–will edge the church out of the picture altogether. If these constitutional changes are voted into permanence by the people, they will still be in effect after Chavez is gone from power; some totalitarianism!

No, forget the pretense–the church doesn’t give a damn about totalitarianism. The fact that it never excommunicated Hitler, even on Mussolini’s request, should tell you all you need to know about that. What it does care about, is erosion of its own unquestioned authority. That’s why they’re raising t
he usual bogus concerns about “dangers to democracy” in Chavecito’s Venezuela. Those reforms are dangerous. The people will be making their own decisions, and where will that leave the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference? Out of power along with the rest of the old oligarchy–that’s where!

And heaven forfend that the will of the people ever override that of the church. Must keep talking out of the bottom of that cassock, lest the public catch on to the merits of that crazy Chavez’s ideas and keep electing him of its own free will.

PS: Don’t miss Carlos Pietri’s scorching article on the hypocrisy of the bishops at I think he nailed ’em to their own cross.

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