Liberation Theology was the perfect blueprint for the Sandinistas. It incorporated the very aim of Marxist-Leninism. It presumed the classic Marxist "struggle of the masses" to be free from all capitalist domination. And above all, the Marxist baby was at last wrapped in the very swaddling clothes of ancient [Roman] Catholic terminology.
The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the
Roman Catholic Church
["Father" Martin, a prolific RC author, was a long time Jesuit and remains a Roman Catholic in good standing. JP ]
Published by Simon & Schuster, NY
page 56-62 . . .
THE TESTING GROUND
. . . by the early seventies, at least seven years before their grab for power, the Sandinista leaders openly proclaimed their ultimate aim: to create a Marxist society in Nicaragua to serve as the womb from which Marxist revolution throughout Central America would be born. "Revolution throughout the Americas" was the slogan.
From their beginnings as a group, when they were nothing more than rag-tag guerrillas, bank robbers, and hit-and-run terrorists, the Sandinistas understood full well that they had no hope of installing a Marxist regime in 91.6 percent Roman Catholic Nicaragua unless they could enlist - in effect, inhale - the active cooperation of the Catholic clergy, together with suitably altered [Roman Catholic] Church doctrine and [Roman Catholic] Church structure.
Mere passive connivance on the part of the clergy would not be enough. If the Sandinistas wanted the very soul of the people, they knew the road: [Roman] Catholicism was inextricably bound up in the warp and woof of Nicaraguan culture, language, way of thinking, and outlook, and was integral to all the hope of the people.
Here, Fernando Cardenal,
as [Roman Catholic] priest and Jesuit,
was a towering influence.
For some time, certain [Roman] Catholic theologians in Latin America - principally Jesuits of the post-World War II period - had been developing a new theology. They called it the Theology of Liberation, and based it on the theories of their European counterparts.
It was an elaborate and carefully worked out system, but its core principle is very simple: The whole and only meaning of Christianity as a religion comes down to one achievement - the liberation of men and women, by armed and violent revolution if necessary, from the economic, social, and political slavery imposed on them by U.S. capitalism; this is to be followed by the establishment of "democratic socialism."
In this "theological" system, the so-called "option" for the economically poor and the politically oppressed, originally described as a "preferential" option by Catholic bishops in Latin America at their conference in Medellin, Colombia, in 1968, became totally exclusive: There was one enemy - capitalist classes, middle and upper and lower, chiefly located in the United States. Only the "proletariat" - the "people" - was to be fomented by the imposition of Marxism.
Liberation Theology was the perfect blueprint for the Sandinistas.
It incorporated the very aim of Marxist-Leninism. It presumed the classic Marxist "struggle of the masses" to be free from all capitalist domination. And above all, the Marxist baby was at last wrapped in the very swaddling clothes of ancient Catholic terminology. Words and phrases laden with meaning for the people were co-opted and turned upside down.
The historical Jesus, for example, became an armed revolutionary. The mystical Christ became all the oppressed people, collectively. Mary the Virgin became the mother of all revolutionary heroes. The Eucharist became the bread freely made by liberated workers. Hell became the capitalist system. The American president, leader of the greatest capitalist country, became the Great Satan. Heaven became the earthly paradise of the workers from which capitalism is abolished. Justice became the uprooting of capitalist gains, which would be "returned" to the people, to the "mystical body" of Christ, the democratic socialists of Nicaragua. The Church became that mystical body, "the people," deciding its fate and determining how to worship, pray, and live, under the guidance of Marxist leaders.
It was a brilliant synthesis, ready-made and just waiting for the activists who would set about erecting a new sociopolitical structure on its basis, as a building rises from a blueprint.
The Nicaraguan people were the first guinea pigs on whom the theory was experimentally tried. And the priests who were charter members in the Sandinista leadership - Jesuit Fernando Cardenal Ernesto Cardenal, Miguel D'Escoto Brockman of the Maryknoll Fathers, Jesuit Alvaro Arguello, Edgar Parrales of the Managua diocese - made the experiment doubly blessed and likely to succeed.
If such men, duly ordained as priests, could successfully get this new "theological" message across - that the Sandinista revolution was really a religious matter sanctioned by legitimate Church spokesmen - they would have both the [Roman] Catholic clergy and the people as allies in a Marxist-style revolution by armed violence.
[no R. C. was ever excommunicated for engaging in violent revolution ..... JP ]
Without a doubt, the plan had been carefully thought out and elaborated, based on a profound analysis of the Nicaraguan people and of its clergy.
No doubt, too, the first connivers in the scheme were the priests themselves; there are even those in Managua today and among prominent Nicaraguan exiles in Panama, Honduras, and Miami, Florida,who point the finger at Fernando Cardenal as the prime architect of the scheme. But what evidence there is does suggest that he was not the only Jesuit involved.
In any case, the Sandinista undertaking was ever more brilliantly explained, refined, and dinned into the ears of seminarians, nuns, university students, and the popular mind by increasing numbers of their Jesuit, Franciscan, and Maryknoll teachers and lecturers throughout the schools of Central America. The seeding time was well spent in the view of ultimate Marxisation. The pathetic court testimony of the young Nicaraguan Edgard Lang Sacasa told the world as far back as 1977 that it had been his priest educators who had persuaded him and thousands like him to join the Sandinista guerrillas.
Hand in hand with this new Theology of Liberation went, of necessity, the establishment of a new and "pliant" Church structure to replace the old one.
In the traditional Roman Catholic structure, knowledge about God, Christ, Christian salvation, personal morality, and human destiny derived from the hierarchic pastors of the Church - namely, the Pope and his bishops.
They were the only authentic source of knowledge about the faith; apart from them, there was no accurate knowing possible about Christianity. Submission to them and acceptance of their teaching and laws were necessary for salvation.
It was precisely this structure, in which ultimate control is Rome's, that stood between the Sandinistas and the people. And it was precisely this structure that the earlier, European-based architect-theologians of Liberation Theology had criticized. This structure was, Liberation Theologians said, dictated by "a view from above" and "imposed from above" on the people "below."
Franciscan Liberation Theologian Leonardo Boff, teaching in a Brazilian seminary, put it in terms Fernando Cardenal and his clerical colleagues could champion: "There has been a historical process of expropriation of the means of production on the part of the clergy to the detriment of the Christian People." Boff was not talking about industry or commerce, but about theology and religious doctrine; the means of production - the "plant," as he called it - was the preaching of the Gospel.
Tccording to the new theologians, "Roman" and therefore "alien" imposition of religious doctrine was the very reason social injustice and political oppression flourished in lands where this hierarchic [Roman Catholic] Church flourished. In lands such as Latin American countries. In countries such as Nicaragua. On top of that, the argument went on, Christianity and specifically [Roman] Catholicism was not merely alien in and of itself, but had always accompanied actual invasion by alien European cultures. "Alien" - that was the key word.
To counter that alien, imposed structure, the new theologians looked "from below." From the level of the people. From the perspective of oppression and injustice - because that, they said, was all they found "below" among the people. The task, in other words, was to impose the "preferential option" on all the people, rich and poor alike. Immediately, as Fernando Cardenal and the other Sandinista priests quickly realized, a new concept of "Church" was born.
The ordinary body of believers, by revised definition, would become the very source of revelation. The faith of believers would "create" communities among those believers. Base Communities, they are called in Nicaragua and elsewhere in Latin America - "comunidades de base" . And those Communities taken together would form the new "Church," the "People's Church."
These Communities began to form years before the Nicaraguan revolution stormed onto the stage of geopolitics in 1979. Groupings of laymen and laywomen would gather regularly to pray, to read the Bible, to sing hymns, to discuss their local concrete problems in economics and politics; to choose not only their political leaders but their priests as well; and to determine not only the solutions to their secular problems, but how best to worship and what to believe.
It was a dream come true. A dream put into clear words by the same Father Boff: "The sacred power must be put back in the hands of the people." No teaching or directing authority would be allowed "from above," from the alien, hierarchic [Roman Catholic] Church. In fact, the very symbols of that Church must be firmly rejected.
Symbols and all else must only come "from below." From the people. From their Base Communities - nearly 1000 of them in Nicaragua alone, in time; and nearly 300,000 in Latin America at large. The idea of Base Communities spread to the United States, where they are sometimes called "Gatherings."
Fernando Cardenal, Ernesto Cardenal, Miguel D'Escoto Brockman, Edgar Parrales, and Alvaro Arguello were the showcase priests of the Sandinistas, the intended and willing legitimizers of this new "People's Church" that would appropriate