Monday, November 30, 2009


Last night before going to sleep I was thinking about the elections. The National Party candidate, Pepe Lobo, won. He is the more conservative candidate of the more conservative of the two major parties. (By the way, lobo is the Spanish word for “wolf.”)

Will this make a difference, I wondered. Leaving aside questions of whether most nations will recognize the election, I am not sure it will make a major difference for what I do – at least in the short term.

I recalled how the church in our diocese has been critical of the government since I’ve been here. Though the church saw some of Zelaya’s initiatives as worthy - e.g., raising the minimum wage, that didn’t stop the church from being critical of the corruption found in both parties, the lack of responsiveness of both parties to the needs of the poor, the close ties of many members of congress with special interests and the economic elite, and the bureaucracy that rewards people for belonging to a party rather than for their qualifications and service to the people.

I recalled how Caritas program for citizenship participation works on the local level, empowering the local civil society to demand transparency and foster participation. Responding to the crisis, Caritas will begin a series of “schools for popular formation” in the seven deaneries of the diocese but this is, in some ways, more an extension of the work that has been done in three municipalities.

But will the election really affect the lives of the poor in our area – the poorest diocese of the country? I have my doubts. But it would have probably been the same if Elvin Santos had won.

The problem is the structural injustice which seems endemic here, where the desires of the rich are more important than the needs of the poor. This is in direct contradiction to what Pope John Paul II said several years ago in Canada, “The needs of the poor have priority over the desires of the rich.”

As I reflect on this I recall part of Padre Fausto’s homily yesterday. He asked, rhetorically, if there would be so many candidates for Congress here in Honduras if they were paid the minimum salary.

He also mentioned, referring to the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 Constitution of the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes, 66), the need “to remove as quickly as possible the immense economic inequalities which now exist.”

That concern was echoed, 44 years later, in Pope Benedict XVI’s address on November 16 to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:
In the current situation there is a continuing disparity in the level of development within and among nations that leads to instability in many parts of the world, accentuating the contrast between poverty and wealth. This no longer applies only to models of development, but also to an increasingly widespread perception concerning food insecurity, namely the tendency to view hunger as structural, an integral part of the socio-political situation of the weakest countries, a matter of resigned regret, if not downright indifference. It is not so, and it must never be so! To fight and conquer hunger it is essential to start redefining the concepts and principles that have hitherto governed international relations, in such a way as to answer the question: what can direct the attention and the consequent conduct of States towards the needs of the poorest? The response must be sought not in the technical aspects of cooperation, but in the principles that lie behind it: only in the name of common membership of the worldwide human family can every people and therefore every country be asked to practise solidarity, that is, to shoulder the burden of concrete responsibilities in meeting the needs of others, so as to favour the genuine sharing of goods, founded on love.
(Italics mine)
The continuing and growing gap between rich and poor is not some Marxist ideology about class struggle. It is a reality here in Honduras - as in many places in the world, including the US. It has been a continuing ethical concern that is not being addressed. But I don't think it will be addressed until the haves support the struggles of the have-nots to change structures of injustice.


Anonymous said...

By the way, lobo is the Spanish word for “fox.”

No, wolf. Zorro is fox. It seems very fitting that the political shepherd of the Honduran people is Sr. Wolf.


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Thanks, Charles, for catching my error. "Even Homer nods."

This makes me think of the story of how St. Francis of Assisi tamed the Wolf of Gubbio.

We might need some more people like St. Francis here in the next few months.

Anonymous said...

Very inspiring, Brother John.

There are probably many saints in Honduras. I can't imagine how otherwise they would be able to endure that much violence without striking back.


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Here's a quote from Salvadoran Jesuit Jon Sobrino:
“Saintliness does not have to be accompanied by heroic virtues – which are required for canonization; it is also expressed in a life of everyday heroism. We don’t know whether these poor who cry out to live are saints-intercessors or not, but they have the power to move our hearts….
“What we call primordial saintliness is the will to live and to survive amid great suffering, the decision and effort that it requires, the unlimited creativity, the strength, the constancy, defying innumerable problems and obstacles. Even in the midst of catastrophe and daily hardship, the poor and the victim – especially the women, and their children – put into practice and fulfill with distinction God’s call to life and give life to others.
“This is the saintliness of suffering for the will to live…”

Jon Sobrino, S.J., Where is God? Earthquake, Terrorism, Barbarity, and Hope, 73

Anonymous said...

I think that committing to non-violence goes beyond the will to live, Brother John. The will to live can include striking back at oppressors, even if only defensively.

The way that physical torture/terror works is by imprinting on a person a vision of themselves, wounded or in some way altered or diminished. They broke the hands of Victor Jara because so much of himself was in his hands. He resisted by singing. They raped Sister Dianna Ortiz because she was invested in a chaste marriage with God. She has resisted by accepting the change in self-image and speaking out, instead of being ashamed. They disappear people because it severs them from relationship to community. If, in the process of torture, they betray a secret, their own shame does more damage to themselves than the information does to anyone else.

Terror carries power not so much because of the reality of the wounding, though that is bad enough, but because of things that happen inside the mind of the one who is tortured.

One who commits to non-violence against a dictatorship implicitly commits to permanent disability, to sexual violation, to separation from family and community, and to many other changes in self-image. It takes a lot of faith to believe that in Christ we are perfected, even if we have been wrenched from the comfort of self-image.


John (Juan) Donaghy said...


You are right - and I know this, having lived in El Salvador for a few months in 1987 and 1992, and having visited there often since 1985.

I think Sobrino, who knows the reality of the costs of witness (being a member of the community of the Salvadoran UCA Jesuits), but I think he is also pointing to something that many miss - the roots of the courage and resistance in the people's daily will to live, their daily heroism.

It is going to be a long struggle and there have been many courageous people who have risked their lives. And, despite the provocation, they have not resorted to arms as both Padre Efraín and you note.