Open Letter to the Permanent Council of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil -Excellences:
The Time Has Come to Turn the Page on Liberation Theology!
“To err is human, but to persevere in error out of pride is diabolical.” (Saint Augustine)
According to press reports, on August 5 the CNBB Permanent Council will discuss the “Letter to the People of God” that was leaked to a columnist for Folha de S. Paulo and is presumably signed by 152 bishops.
The document is a stinging attack on the current government, based much more on a leftist ideological position than on the social doctrine of the Church.
The first names of its signatories, which have become public, are representative of an episcopal current whose doctrine has clearly inspired the writing of the document. They are prelates of German descent, now retired, who in their youth were thrilled with the Marxist revolution promoted by the standard-bearers of Liberation Theology. After the collapse of the USSR, these prelates – and others of the same ideological current – recycled themselves into environmentalist and indigenous utopians. Last October, they promoted the scandalous cult of Pachamama in the Vatican gardens.
While still active and in charge of their dioceses, these prelates were the mentors of Brazil’s Workers’ Party (PT) and its greatest promoters through the Base Ecclesial Communities (CEBs). They became the party’s main allies when it came to power and began to implement their dreamed-of socialist regime in Brazil.
Unhappy with the increasingly soft, “bourgeois” Workers Party cadres and their delay in carrying out the structural reforms required for the transition to socialism, these prelates allied themselves with the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and other radical “popular movements” of the extreme left.
Through their Pastoral Land Commission, the Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI) and other ecclesial organizations, they encouraged and blessed invasions of land and urban buildings, the destruction of scientific research fields, strikes and street disturbances, mass muggings and impunity for criminals to bring political pressure to bear on public opinion and the government, which they saw as not being radical enough in its reforms.
However, despite their displeasure, these prelates maintained their support for the PT when it compensated its relative slowness implementing economic reforms with a quick and radical agenda to corrupt morals by legalizing some types of abortion, recognizing out of wedlock unions and homosexual partnerships, gradually introducing gender ideology in children’s education, financing immoral and blasphemous “art” exhibits, etc.
Finally, when people’s discontent exploded as the PT infiltrated and took over the state apparatus, setting up the most extensive system of financial corruption in the history of Brazil and perhaps of humanity, these prelates did everything they could to save the PT government which they saw as a lesser evil. But they did it above all to prevent the conservative wave sweeping the streets from becoming a movement of moral restoration in our country. Accordingly, they quickly withdrew all clerical support from those who stood up against the process of socialization in Brazil.
However, the strenuous efforts of this left wing of the episcopate did not prevent the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff or the subsequent election of Mr. Jair Bolsonaro to the Presidency.
Already angered by the electoral defeat and the resounding failure of Mr. Guilherme Boulos and other extremely leftist leaders with which they best identified themselves, these prelates also witnessed a majority of Brazilians elect a man who ideologically represented the opposite of what they advocated.
Faced with the gradual dismantling of the failed land reform settlements and of indigenous ghettos, the new government’s fight against impunity, etc., this minority of retired bishops now voice their frustration by turning angrily against the federal authorities on the pretext of they are doing a poor job with the sanitary crisis.
As they are about to leave the stage and join the long series of “woke” clerics who failed in their mission to move Brazil to the left, this letter is likely the prelates’ last attempt to persuade the Brazilian people of the justness of their utopias (it would be incongruous to call it a ‘swan song’).
These defeated bishops, keenly aware of the chasm between them and the aspirations of the majority of Brazilians, in the message reproaching the government did not even muster the courage to affirm loud and clear the communist principles that inspire them. With circumlocutions and verbal pirouettes, they tried to express their thoughts with groundless claims such as Brazil is a “structurally unequal, unjust and violent society” or that the current government makes “an intransigent defense of the interests of an ‘economy that kills’ centered on the market and profit at any price.” Its disdain for education and culture is supposedly visible “in its ignorance and depreciation of pedagogical processes and important thinkers in Brazil” (wouldn’t it have been simpler and more transparent to say “Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed”?), etc.
These prelates’ ideological fanaticism leads them to see the speck in the eyes of others and not to perceive the beam in their own. “Even religion is used,” they unwisely claim, “to manipulate feelings and beliefs, provoke divisions, spread hatred, create tensions,” as if this was not what they did for decades through the CEBs and their pastoral support for incendiary activities of the so-called “popular” movements.
Because these prelates are responsible for promoting class struggle and communism for decades, they deserve this conclusion which they address to President Bolsonaro and his government: “How can we not be indignant at the use of the name of God and his Holy Word, mixed with biased speeches and postures that incite hatred instead of preaching love to legitimize practices unfitting the Kingdom of God and his justice?”
In reality, what the bishops who signed the “Letter to the People of God” reject is, above all, the support President Bolsonaro receives from conservative Catholics and Pentecostal leaders whose electorate support traditional customs.
Paradoxically, those mainly responsible for the defections from Catholic ranks and the growth of Pentecostal churches highly active in politics are the same bishops of the “Catholic left” who now complain about the result of their own folly.
Protestants themselves do not hesitate to acknowledge that their exponential growth occurred during the period when these prelates, supporters of liberation theology, ran the CNBB.
By supporting the PT, the MST, and other leftist movements, and giving politically biased pastoral care, these Catholic bishops displeased millions of faithful who, feeling orphaned from real religious assistance, migrated to Protestant sects.
In 2001, the then-leader of the Baptist Convention of Brazil, Pastor Nilson Fanini, summed up for Time magazine how and why this happened – in a comment not lacking a note of sarcasm: “The Catholic Church opted for the poor, but the poor opted for the Evangelicals.” Why? Because “these people were hungry for more than just food. The Evangelicals met the peoples’ emotional and spiritual needs better,” said Mr. Henrique Mafra Caldeira de Andrada, head of the Protestant program at Rio’s Institute of Religious Studies.
Latin America’s bishops’ conferences supported the leftist revolutionary agenda in the name of liberation theology’s Marxist interpretation of the “preferential option for the poor.” As a result, millions of souls, especially the simplest people, were abandoned in the hands of Protestant pastors.
In the late 1990s, a study by the Latin American Bishops’ Council – CELAM – revealed that 8,000 Latin Americans per day left the Catholic Church in those years and became evangelical.
In just four decades – taking into account Brazil’s population growth – the misunderstood and left-leaning “preferential option for the poor” meant that Protestants gained 30 million adherents, and the Catholic Church lost more than 50 million faithful to them or various sects, or even to atheism.
That is the sad evidence of the facts. It is a blatant proof that the Catholic Church discredited itself among the poor and excluded because it supported revolutionary and demagogic currents, thus losing the same “marginalized” people that these ‘hammer-and-sickle’ bishops purportedly wish to liberate.
In a 1975 letter to the then-archbishop of São Paulo Cardinal Arns, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, inspirer of this Institute that bears his name, recalled that the population of this State, although continuing to attend the sacraments and fill churches, refused to join the leftist clergy’s subversion. What he noticed at that point in our history may well apply to the current situation. He wrote: “Attitudes like those of the signatories of the Itaici document are opening a widening gap, not between Religion and the people, but between the Episcopate of São Paulo and the people.” “The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, to the degree that it shrinks from the fight against communist subversion, is becoming isolated in the national scene. And it seems to us indispensable that someone tells them that subversion is profoundly and unalterably unpopular among us and that the more it favors subversion, the less the São Paulo Catholic Hierarchy is venerated and cherished.”
Your Excellences are not of the same generation as the frustrated and failed bishops who signed the infamous Letter to the People of God. Like the young Israelites born in the captivity of Babylon, you can justifiably murmur: “The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the teeth of the children are set on edge” (Jer. 31:29). In other words, the current CNBB leadership has inherited a catastrophic situation created by its immediate predecessors. It is now up to you to repair the damage.
It is for this purpose that you were consecrated bishops of the Holy Church, called by God, to the very high mission of restoring Catholicism in Brazil. To fulfill it, you can count on the support of the Catholic faithful who attend the sacraments and are far more numerous than the dwindling troops of CEB activists.
If Your Excellences do not resolutely leave the wrong path trodden by your predecessors and become clearly consonant with the profound religious aspirations of the Brazilian people, and particularly of your Catholic flock, the psychological chasm that now separates the sheep from the shepherds will only grow, with the additional loss of millions of souls!
Latin had already been abandoned in the academic curriculum when you studied at the Seminary. But you will easily understand Saint Augustine’s once-famous phrase: “Humanum fuit errare, diabolicum est per animositatem in errore manere”.
In the current national emergency, which requires the union of all Brazilians in a project that attracts the vast majority of the population, it would be really diabolical to obstinately stick to the human error that led to the tragic loss of countless believers and severely damaged the entire nation.
We, therefore, call on the common sense of the Permanent Council of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, asking Your Excellences to utterly and forcefully repudiate the scandalous document signed by 152 of your brothers in the episcopate and make it known from atop the pulpits. You must make clear to the conservative majority of the Brazilian public that your confreres’ minority position does not correspond to that of the bishops of Brazil.
The most important reform that Brazil very badly needs — and hopes to see adopted by her bishops – is moral reform: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
It is with these hopes that we respectfully address your Excellencies, asking for your blessing.
In Jesu et Maria,
Eduardo de Barros Brotero
INSTITUTO PLINIO CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA
São Paulo, August 4, 2020
Liturgical Feast of St. John Marie Vianney, the Cura of Ars
Translated by the staff of Fatima Today.
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 Sermons, 164:14.