April 11, 2005


Part of the Flock Felt Abandoned by the Pope (Chris Kraul and Henry Chu, April 10, 2005, LA Times)

Half a world away, millions of people came together last week to mourn Pope John Paul II, but you'll hear no tearful elegies from believers such as Nery Amaya, a Catholic for all of her 28 years.

As she made the rounds as a CARE volunteer in this impoverished town, she remembered the time she offered to start a parish program to help gang members. Her priest suggested that she devote her energies to Easter week decorations instead.

Amaya charges that under the late pope, the church was too timid in its ministry to the needy, and maintains that John Paul's efforts to put the brakes on social activism cost the Latin American Catholic Church membership as well as momentum in the fight against poverty and injustice.

"The church has to come down from heaven to the reality on Earth," Amaya said. "It's not filling my spiritual needs, and I am looking for an alternative."

Former priest Miguel Ventura doesn't much mourn the pope's passing, either. The diocesan cleric left the church during El Salvador's 12-year civil war, in which he was captured and tortured by military forces because he had organized peasants to demand social justice.

"The arrival of Pope John Paul II was a step backward for El Salvador," said Ventura, who has married and now practices his own, unsanctioned brand of Catholicism as a pastor in poor eastern El Salvador. "He imposed the authoritarian model on the Latin American church and didn't have an open vision."

In this rare interregnum before the College of Cardinals meets to select John Paul's successor, Amaya and Ventura spoke of a disenchantment felt by many Catholic lay people and clergy in Latin America.

Although the late pope promoted freedoms and denounced war and globalization, he clamped down on a movement called "liberation theology" — and in so doing alienated Catholics who wanted the church to take a more active role in "liberating" the poor from misery and oppression.

The Pope had seen the results of liberation theology in Poland from 1939-89.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2005 12:00 AM

Liberation theology is Leftist in origin and socialistic in practice. How were the Nazis, who ruled Poland from 1939 to 1944 followers of leftist ideology?

Posted by: daniel duffy at April 11, 2005 8:36 AM

They were atheist, Darwinist, and Socialist.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2005 8:45 AM