May 20, 2007

The Church and Evo Morales

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The 5th General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops has began, and with it, the controversy between the Bolivian government and the Catholic Church. The controversy started by the words the Pope and the Bolivian Cardinal spoke in the conference.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his remarks in the inaugural session, made an allusion about the region and he said that "Latin America and the Caribbean, as other regions, has evolved to democracy, even though there are motives to worry over certain forms of authoritarian forms of government or subject to certain ideologies thought gotten over with and which do not correspond with men's and society's christian vision, as the Church teaches us." (translation from Spanish: En América Latina y el Caribe, igual que en otras regiones, se ha evolucionado hacia la democracia, aunque haya motivos de preocupación ante formas de gobierno autoritarias o sujetas a ciertas ideologías que se creían superadas, y que no corresponden con la visión cristiana del hombre y de la sociedad, como nos enseña la Doctrina social de la Iglesia.)

Moreover, in his intervention on May 15, Cardenal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, said: "In general, this beginning (that of the government's agenda) caused happyness and hope in some and suffering and disillusion in others. In less than a year it can be detected that some sectors of society and regions are pushing to demand the much advertized economic benefits, multiplying that way pressures and conflicts. To this can be added the awakening of an Andean indigenism, which denies the strong mestizo facton in Bolivia. There is talk of revenge, confrontations and armed resistance. (translated from the Spanish: En general este inicio causó gozo y esperanza en unos, sufrimientos y desilusiones en otros. A un poco más de un año de este proceso, se constata en diversos sectores sociales y regiones un cierto apresuramiento para exigir los beneficios económicos profusamente publicitados, multiplicando de esta manera presiones y conflictos. A esto se añade el despertar de un indigenismo sobre todo andino, desconocedor del fuerte mestizaje boliviano. Se suscitan posturas revanchistas, la incitación a las confrontaciones y hasta se habla de resistencias armadas.

The Morales government did not like the two remarks and is asking, as we speak, clarification to the Pope's representative in Bolivia. Morales said that the Church should decide whether it should pray or do politics.

This is the latest tension between the church and the Morales government. It really started when some administration officials were suggesting to reform religion education by including indigenous or Andean religion in the curriculum.

It is unclear, at this point, why has the church chosen to publically critisize Morales. They were in good terms until this week.


Jonathan D. Lord said...

I don't really see why this is considered "political". It is the church saying we are not political or we are not in line with your politics that are authoritarian and opressive to anyone not of the christian faith. To me what is occurring in Bolivia is the Pachakuti is Politicized via Tiawanaku and the rest of the "disenchanted" americans who buy into a "pop" culture of Psuedo spirtuality and new age enviornmentalism; many of which believe to be on the same level of indegenious peoples of the third world.

One of the defining characteristics of Medieval religion(inquisition) was that it encompased, and or was part of other spheres of influence such as law, politics, and other logic. It is because of this fact that today in Bolivia we are able to say that Pachakuit has approached on the same essence as in the middle ages. The insistence that religion has an autonomous essence, not to be muddled with politics, law, and science, invites us to define religion as a transhistorical phenomenon. A product of peace, religion (Modern Catholicism/Anglicanism) is an outcome of post reformation history and a spirtual demand in our time to keep the essence of religion separate from politics and law---spaces in which varieteis of power and reason articulate a distinctively modern life. This definition is part of a strategy to keep the confinement and defense of religion. THe opposite, or liberation Theology was once upon a time (say 1950's civil rights MLK jr era) a movement for secular liberals and so called liberal christians,it has now morphed into some other kind of entity in america and it can be traced to forces set in motion effecting the global; seen in the violence for every desire to be accepted and fufilled, but also this same desire for attention, the so called first cry as a baby, but has also forced it's way into the global arena and onto others lives where such values have no common place. I find no commonality with hippie spirituality ala greatful dead and indigenous peoples of the world, many of which are actually quite conservative.

A defining characteristic of modern secular society was that religion was de-politicized. Here, culture and politics are what is discursively important not religion. National Culture is unity in diversity, cultural difference is a sign of national unity, a positive blending of ethnic cultures as heterogeneous elements that all contribute equally to the national culture. On one hand though there is a negative side, the fear of contamination, the separatist search for clear boundaries and origins.

This is of course a point that some one like Arthur Schelsinger would call attention to as the "dis-uniting" of America(Globalization??). When Cultural difference, much like religious difference, is practiced in the margins of social life and private, as something transcendent and spirtual, one might say that it is depoliticized. But as soon as difference is emphasized in curriculm and law, especially on a religious sphere, it becomes part of a world political issue.

Pantheisism, world religion, or so called natural religion, is something that everyone has in different cultural canopy's, but these differences are private matters without political consequence. One can still maintain that religion provides one with an absolute truth, but this claim is a private matter that should not operate on society at large.

Has the effect of the pachakuti in Bolivia politicalized something characteristic of a pre-enligtenment era where politics, power, and other forces were not separated from religion?

Anny thoughts Yall?

miguel said...

Dear Lord!

Sorry, I am a little confused. If I understand it correctly, you are attempting to argue that politics and religion are historically, and thus, intimately related. And that Bolivia is no exception. Right?

One other question, to whom are you referring when you say Pachakuti?

On the other hand, the Catholic Church in Bolivia has just issued a response to the government saying that it doesn't want to just pray.

That would be signaling a rip between the church and the government. That is something that hasn't happened in Bolivia for a long time. In fact, it would brake with tradition.

Now, whether that is good or not is up to discussion.

Amen! :-)

Jonathan said...

Yes, well Pachakuti was not well defined nor do I wish to define it more than saying the traditional way of life for original inhabitiants of Bolivia. The second connection I see major problems in North American society, universities, with "drug cultures" and psuedo spirtual movements that think they are actually on the level of original people from Bolivia. I find it very upsetting and degrading to their culture.

Yes I am arguing that religion and politics have always been linked, but that the more political religion becomes, the more the essence and moral teaching can be corrupted with power. One reason is that when all sides have failed at negotiation, we can only hope that the church would bring people together to discuss alternatives to violence. That is why I think it is important for the defense of religion as a separate entity than political. When I read of revolts and movements uprising to protest opressive regimes, I see it as something with biblical inspiration, not neccsisarily political. No doubt, the original people and language of Bolivia has been marginalized since 1615 by religion that was used for power and dommination systems.

miguel said...

Sorry, I wasn't aware of that definition. I thought it made reference to El Mallku's party, MIP.

I agree. I think there is politics in every aspect of life that has to do with human interactions. Even religion. In fact, some of the most political people are priests. We just have to look at history to find plenty of examples.

But, coming back to the post, I thought it was interesting to see the attempts of the church to keep its status of mediator in Bolivian politics, and even take one step forward and insinuate that the church too has a saying in political affairs.

The Bolivian Church has had a lot of influence historically and does not want to relinquish it just yet.

On the other side, the government seems to be wanting to drive a clear divide between church and state. But, I am afraid not because it wants to secularize the state but rather because it considers the church a non indigenous entity. Many of the religious values of the church are not the values of the indigenous peoples. Also, of course, if the church starts critisizing the government, then the government is going to want to neutralize it.