Latin America

The Pope’s "mission" in Brazil

May 17, 2007

Displaying his past as a member of the Hitler Youth, Pope Benedict XVI
took the opportunity to conclude his visit to Brazil with a too-long
speech against Marxism. The leaders of the Catholic Church in Latin
America received precise instructions to intervene in the phenomena of
the class struggle that has been confronting neo-liberalism in the
region during recent years. "The Marxist system, where it has
governed, ... has left behind a sad heritage of economic and ecological
destruction," he warned his subjects. He also took the opportunity to
echo typical statements from the US State Department against the
government of Hugo Chávez: "There has been a development towards
democracy, although there are reasons for concern in the face of
authoritarian forms of government or forms of government subject to
ideologies that it was believed had been overcome," he said,
displaying the right-wing, pro-imperialist character of his message.
What follows is an article by the LER-QI (Revolutionary Strategy
League), on the Pope’s visit.

What was the reason for the Pope’s visit to Latin America? According
to the Pope, his main goal was to preside over the opening session of
the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean
Episcopate in Aparecida:

"This country should serve as the cradle for the ecclesiastical
proposals that, if God wills, will be able to give new missionary
energy and impetus to this continent" (Folha de São Paulo, May 10).
However, his agenda was not limited to that. His meetings with
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and with the Governor of São
Paulo, José Serra, expressed the need for the Catholic Church to
intervene in the Latin American political scene to safeguard its
interests, owing to burning questions, like legalization of abortion
and euthanasia; a bigger presence of the Church in Brazil, above all
in the indigenous territories and, in the religious field, the battle
for the faithful, today in a fight with the Pentecostals (a Christian
movement with a big impact within Catholicism). The Pope is trying to
promote Catholic values, in the private domain (of the family) as in
the public domain (Congress). Under a discourse of promoting "peace,"
Joseph Ratzinger defended the role of the Church in providing public
assistance, as a way of responding to the immense exploitation and
misery to which the majority of the Brazilian people and workers are
subjected. "If people are in a situation of poverty, it is necessary
to help them, as the first Christian communities did, by practicing
solidarity, in order that they may truly feel loved." With that, he is
trying to get the Church to fulfill its role as the pacifier of class
struggle more effectively.

As he could not fail to do, Joseph Ratzinger came to defend the
reactionary values of the Church, that condemn homosexuality, oppose
the right to abortion and the use of contraceptives (claiming that
these rights lead to promiscuity), are against divorse and defend
chastity as a moral principle. They say they are in favor of life, but
they condemn the use of stem cells to save lives; they defend helping
the poor, but collect tithes from their faithful, most of whom come
from the exploited classes, while the Church enjoys incalculable
wealth throughout the world, as symbolized by the Vatican, where every
cross is dipped in gold.

Lula welcomed the Pope with a red carpet and great diplomacy, in an
attempt to rise above polemical questions. In his statement, he said
he was personally against abortion, but as President of the Republic,
he regards the question as being in the sphere of public health,
trying to avoid friction with the most reactionary and the most
progressive sectors, in favor of abortion. Meanwhile, the Pope said
what he wished, criticizing abortion and euthanasia in his speeches,
claiming "to respect life, from its conception to its natural decline"
(Folha de São Paulo, May 10). With regard to Mexico, where abortion
was recently legalized in certain cases, and the Church threatened to
excommunicate the legislators who voted for the legalization, the Pope
was blunt, stating that he supported the excommunication not only of
the politicians but of anyone involved in the practice of abortion.

According to a survey published in 2006 by the World Health
Organization, every year around 6,000,000 women obtain secret
abortions in Latin America; 1,400,000 of these women are Brazilian,
and 1 in a thousand die as a result of abortion.

These numbers deflate the demagogy behind the values extolled by the
Church, which condemns abortion "in defense of life," while thousands
of women die from secret abortions, especially women who live in
misery and hunger and could not support more than one child.

In spite of our understanding of the right to religious worship as a
democratic right, we cannot fail to remark that in the framework of
this system which enslaves workers in order to enrich the tiniest
minority, we are against the reactionary role which the Church plays
and has always played throughout history, by introducing intolerant
values and having a big influence in an allegedly secular state.