Friday, December 16, 2011

Politics and the Church in Honduras

Here in Honduras, as in much of the world, the role of the Church in political concerns has been a matter of intense debate.

Some people want a church that is just concerned with what they call the “spiritual,” not recognizing that in the biblical sense the spiritual embraces the whole person and the whole world. Such a view, I believe, is non-Christian, because it ignores a central belief – Jesus is God made flesh, made human. Jesus is a God who intervenes in human history – and calls people to be good news for the poor.

A disembodied spirituality is no spirituality.

And so the Church and the faithful need to address issues of justice from the perspective of the scriptures and the social teaching of the Church.

As Pope John Paul II wrote in Christifideles laici, no. 42
A charity that loves and serves the person is never able to be separated from justice. Each in its own way demands the full, effective acknowledgment of the rights of the individual, to which society is ordered in all its structures and institutions.
Therefore the Church has a right and a duty to be involved, not in partisan politics, of course, but in speaking up for justice and the cause of the poor. But that can be controversial.

Here in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, our bishop, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, has been an outspoken advocate of the poor, calling political leaders to account, even accusing a prominent member of the economic elite of being responsible for killings by members of his security guards. He has also spoken out against the mining industry in Honduras which exploits the land, pollutes rivers, and pays almost nothing in taxes. he also was the only bishop to openly criticize the 2009 coup. For all this he has been castigated by many.

Tomorrow Monseñor Santos will be replaced as bishop, because he reached 75 years, the mandatory age for “retirement” as a bishop for a diocese.  Monseñor Darwin Andino, former auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, will be installed as bishop of the diocese tomorrow morning.

Someone obviously doesn’t like the diocese’s advocacy of justice. Sometime overnight graffiti was spray painted on a wall near the diocesan radio station and on the park fence across the road. Interestingly it’s in both Spanish and Italian (sort of).

No politics in the Catholic Church.

On the park fence it reads, in Spanish,

Catholic church without politics

No more -> politics

Perhaps someone is desperate and hopes to influence the new bishop by this type of graffiti. The fact that part of the graffiti is written in Italian is puzzling. Maybe it's for the apostolic nuncio who will be here for the installation.

But the diocese has long taken a stand at its diocesan assemblies and in its third pastoral plan to stand with the poor in their struggles for justice and for the integrity of creation.

The work of the diocese, according to the general objective set out in the Third Pastoral Plan of the Diocese, is 
to work for a diocese organized in church base communities – in solidarity, prophetic, missionary, and transforming, contributing to the formation and the integral liberation of the human being, with a preference for the most needy, so as to make present the Reign of God. 
 I pray that we continue to be a sign of the presence of that Reign here, in the poorest diocese in Honduras.

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