Speak for Venezuela, Pope Francis

Staff Columnist

“The first Latin American pontiff is harder on Trump than on Caracas’s despot.”

(Speak for Venezuela, Pope Francis,  by William McGurn,  The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, August 8, 2017)

“When Pope Francis wants to make the objects of his disfavor feel his sting, he’s never lacked for words – especially when it involves the U.S.

But when it comes to the brutality of Venezuela’s government against its own people, Pope Francis and the Vatican have mostly avoided calling  out Nicholas Maduro by name.  Until Friday, that is. That’s when a popular uprising in Venezuela finally pushed the Vatican to oppose the regime’s bid to tighten its grip by imposing an illegitimate super-assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Even this late in the day, the Vatican’s expression of ‘profound concern’  is better than nothing.  Particularly welcome is Rome’s call for Mr. Maduro to ‘suspend’ the new assembly.  Still, it’s hard not to notice that in sharp contrast to Venezuela’s bishops-  who recently tweeted a prayer to ‘free our homeland from the claws of communism and socialism’  – even the toughest Vatican statement on Venezuela has all the zing of a World Bank communique’ calling for more resources for a clean water project for Moldova.

How different the tone is when the subject is Donald Trump or Uncle Sam.  Whether suggesting that Mr. Trump is not Christian, warning on Mr. Trump’s inaugural day that populism can lead to Hitler, or implying that ours is an economy that ‘kills’, Pope Francis has an argot of displeasure all his own.

It’s absence here is particularly striking.  Because for an example of populism that leads to totalitarianism or an economy that kills, it’s hard to beat oil – and mineral-rich Venezuela, whose citizens have now been reduced to picking through garbage cans while their leaders ratchet up the repression.  Not to mention Ciba’s military-socialist colonialism.

As for the bishops, good ones are not given to criticizing their pope publicly, and Venezuela’s are no exception.  But they may be speaking more frankly in private.  In a June 11 article headlined ‘Stop being soft on our despot,’ Venezuela’s bishops tell Francis.

Two months earlier, the bishops put it this way:  ‘We have to defend our rights and the rights of others.  It’s time to very seriously,  and responsibly, ask if civil disobedience, peaceful  demonstrations, appeals to the national and international public power, and civic protest, are valid and opportune measures.”

McGurn goes on further:  “Defenders of the Francis approach have been assuring everyone the pope’s reluctance to speak forthrightly against the regime, and his preference for talking about ‘both sides’ as if they were morally equal, is part of a larger plan. The events of the past week have shattered any silly pretense about some master Vatican plan.  But the roots  of Pope Francis’ misreadings run deeper than Venezuela.  In some ways, it is but the latest reflection  of  a historic misunderstanding that often has led a poor and Catholic Latin America to blame its wealthy and Protestant neighbor to the north for all its woes.

Just last month, for example, Pope Francis fed his trope (figurative language) by accusing the United States of having  a ‘distorted view of the world.  At nearly the same time, a semiofficial Jesuit-run Vatican journal carried an article decrying an alliance between American Catholics and evangelical Protestants as an ‘ecumenism of hate.’ On top of it all rests the old idea, still popular on the religious left, that socialism represents the Gospel ideal. “

Even more:  “The ironies here are legion.  In the later half of the twentieth century, Latin American liberation theologians posited a ‘people’s church’ pitted against a ‘formal church’ whose hierarchy was aligned to the military dictatorships  that prevailed in much of the continent.  Before he was elected pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio faced precisely this claim in the accusation that he did not adequately criticize the military regime that ruled his native Argentina.”

McGurn pleads:  “Today Catholic priests and bishops are courageously defying a Venezuelan regime that has hijacked what was once the richest  nation in Latin America and driven it to poverty and despotism.  At this dark hour, don’t the struggling people of Venezuela deserve some public inspiration from the first Latin American pope?


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1 Response for “Speak for Venezuela, Pope Francis”

  1. Brian Duggan says:

    The dislike for any form of socialist leaning in America is well understood, ask Bernie Sanders. The Catholic Church is considered a hierarchical authoritarian system which is solely male dominated. Has America presented a contrasting economic theory fairly (without prejudice)? “Das Kapital” is a resource that might well be rediscovered in light of the dominance of the corporation in present affairs. The Pontiff is human, not divine. We have seen a Divine Emperor fall in Japan and history is replete with dynastic authority figures seeking this status. The present turmoil in Venezuela didn’t occur in a vacuum. The stereotypical American view of the beleaguered Banana Republic once controlled by the United Fruit Company may not apply or does it? Ask Big Oil, the CIA, and others.

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